Secretary Zinke Supports Acceptance of 3,595 Acres of Wilderness for Sportsmen's Access to Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico

TV Use: B-roll of the Secretary at Sabinoso can be downloaded here.

Secretary Zinke and a group of people ride on horseback through the rocky Sabinoso Wilderness.

Date: August 9, 2017

WASHINGTON – Following a ​trip to New Mexico, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced he and the Department - through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - intend to finalize the process to consider whether to accept the donation of 3,595 acres (formerly known as the Rimrock Rose Ranch) that are adjacent to Sabinoso Wilderness to be included as part of the wilderness​.

If approved, the donated land will provide public access to the 16,000-acre Sabinoso Wilderness, which is wholly surrounded by non-federal land. By adding the donated land, the Sabinoso will connect with neighboring BLM land and make the Sabinoso accessible to the public for the first time ever.

"I'm happy to announce today the Department intends to finalize the process to consider whether to accept 3,595 acres to make the Sabinoso Wilderness area accessible to hunters and all members of the public for the first time ever," said Secretary Zinke. "Expanding access to hunting, fishing, and recreation on federal lands is one of my top priorities as Secretary. I originally had concerns about adding more wilderness-designated area, however after hiking and riding the land it was clear that access would only be improved if the Department accepted the land and maintained the existing roadways. Thanks to the donation of a private organization, we we continue to move toward delivering this nonpartisan win for sportsmen and the community."

The Sabinoso Wilderness is some of the most pristine elk habitat in the country. Sportsmen from all over the world have expressed interest in gaining access to the area.

"The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation congratulates Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, New Mexico Senators Heinrich and Udall, the Wilderness Land Trust and the many sportsmen and women who helped make this incredibly important access project happen," said David Allen, President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. "The Interior Department’s acceptance of the 4,000 acre Rimrock Rose Ranch will provide public access to the 16,000 acre Sabinoso Wilderness and its premier habitat for elk, mule deer and other wildlife—and just in time for hunting season!"

​“On behalf the NRA’s five-million members, I want to thank Secretary Zinke for his leadership in opening access to the Sabinoso Wilderness Area for hunters and sportsmen,” said Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Secretary Zinke continues to champion the rights of America's hunters and sportsmen by increasing access to our nation’s public lands.”

Secretary Zinke and New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich toured the Sabinoso by horseback and hike on Saturday, July 29. Photos are available here.

"Sabinoso is the only American wilderness without public access, so I am heartened that Secretary Zinke is moving to finalize an agreement with the Wilderness Land Trust that will allow hikers, sportsmen and others to enjoy this pristine New Mexico landscape. This collaboration is a testament to how beautiful this land is and the tremendous opportunity it holds for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and our state's growing recreation economy," said U.S. Senator Tom Udall. "Enabling access to this wilderness is something that many New Mexicans have worked toward for years, and while there are some details to work out to ensure the property is managed in accordance with the Wilderness Act, I want to thank Secretary Zinke for coming to New Mexico to see this stunning land for himself and for moving quickly to accept the donation of the Rimrock Rose Ranch property."​​

“The Sabinoso is the only legally inaccessible wilderness area in the entire nation. Surrounded by private land and without a legal road or trail to get there, the public has effectively been locked out of this stunning landscape that we all own. By accepting this land donation as part of the wilderness, the Department of Interior will finally unlock the Sabinoso to the public,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. “This is a major gain for New Mexico and would not be possible without the generosity of the Wilderness Land Trust and the dedication of the local community and sportsmen who have championed this effort for many years. I am grateful that Secretary Zinke visited our state and recognizes just how special the Sabinoso truly is. Traditions like hunting, hiking, and fishing are among the pillars of Western culture and a thriving outdoor recreation economy. Through this collaborative effort to create public access to the Sabinoso we will ensure that outdoor enthusiasts from near and far can finally experience all that this special landscape has to offer and that it will be protected for our children and all future generations.”

The Sabinoso Wilderness is some of the most pristine elk habitat in the country. Sportsmen from all over the world have expressed interest in gaining access to the area.

The area offers exceptional opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, backcountry camping, and hunting. Public interest in accessing the wilderness for hunting and fishing has been significant. The donated lands include a large portion of Cañon Largo, a scenic canyon that would also become legally accessible to the public for the first time through donation. ​

The BLM will now prepare a number of realty actions that are expected to take three-to-four months to complete.