Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
October 27, 2005

John Wright - (202) 208-6416


Interior Secretary Norton Praises Designation of Ojito Wilderness Area

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton issued the following statement regarding President Bush's signing of legislation to create the Ojito Wilderness Area in New Mexico.

"I am delighted that President Bush has signed the legislation to establish the Ojito Wilderness Area in New Mexico. This important designation protects 11,183 acres of undeveloped federal land, diverse plant and animal populations, and extensive cultural resources. This action has been a long time in the making and I commend the support of the New Mexico congressional delegation for their hard work and determination to complete the Ojito Wilderness Act for the President's signature.

"This legislation also serves important purposes for the people of the Pueblo of Zia, the Native peoples who have made their homes here for generations beyond count. The Pueblo of Zia's present reservation comprises two non-contiguous tracts of land that largely surround the new wilderness area. The Pueblo has long desired to acquire some adjacent federally-owned aboriginal lands in order to unite the two parts of its reservation. This new law allows for the Pueblo to acquire 11,514 acres of those lands from the federal government at fair market value, while at the same time guaranteeing public access to those lands, which are also are valued by the public for recreation.

"I am pleased that we are striking a balance to protect the precious natural and cultural resources of this area. I look forward to working with the State of New Mexico in managing this wild area and unique landscape."


The Ojito Wilderness is located 40 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The area provides a respite from the city and offers a world of steep canyons, multi-colored rock formations and sculptured badlands. Rugged terrain and geologic anomalies attract an array of visitors. This area is home to a diverse community of plant and animal populations including mule deer, a small band of antelope, feline predators, and a wide range of raptors who nest in the steep cliffs.