Key New Mexico public lands get second chance at wilderness protection
ALBUQUERQUE — A few important places in New Mexico are getting a second chance at protection with the U.S. Senate's passage on Thursday of a massive public lands bill that would set aside millions of acres as protected wilderness, conservation areas and national monuments.
The Senate first approved the measure in January, but it was defeated last week in the House amid a partisan dispute over gun rights.
The legislation, which includes nearly 170 separate bills, would confer federal protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to some of New Mexico's natural wonders.
The package would designate as a conservation area the Fort Stanton cave system, which includes Snowy River — believed to be the longest continuous calcite formation in the world. Tiny white crystals flow for more than 4 miles like a river between the cave's muddy walls.