The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area is located in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost chain of the Rockies. These mountains were pushed up around 20 million years ago, and are one of the youngest mountain ranges on earth. The northern boundary, along the Red River, sits at the base of a now extinct super volcano known as the Questa Caldera, which is said to have erupted 26 million years ago.
The Columbine Hondo shares a long multi-cultural history with the people of New Mexico. Paleo-Indians walked these mountains 11,000 years ago, and evidence of the earliest stone tools come from nearby Folsom and Clovis , NM. The Ancient Pueblo Cliffdwellers  of the Four Corners region migrated to the Taos Area roughly 1,100 years ago, making Taos Pueblo  the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in North America. Nomadic Kiowa, Ute, and Apache explored and hunted the area for almost as long. Spanish settlers since the 16th century used the area for seasonal sheep grazing and depend on the area's surface water for traditional agriculture. The trails of the Columbine Hondo are part of an historic trail system to commemorate the New Mexico Gold Rush from the late 1800s into the turn of last century. In the 1930s artists like Georgia O'Keefe  and writers like DH Lawrence  moved the area for its outstanding natural beauty and solitude. Today the area is a favorite destination for hikers and backpackers, sportsmen and anglers, wildlife viewers, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts of all ages.
New Mexico, The Birthplace of Wilderness
Aldo Leopold , considered to be the father of wilderness and one of the founders of The Wilderness Society , was the first Supervisor of the Carson National Forest from 1912-14, just as New Mexico entered statehood. Leopold was so enamored with New Mexico that he established the Gila Wilderness  in 1924, as the first designated wilderness in the world!
The Wilderness Act of 1964
It took Leopold and the framers of The Wilderness Act  more than 30 years to see it pass Congress and establish our National Wilderness Preservation System . The Wilderness Act is the first legislation on the planet to address human beings' spiritual need to have places to reconnect to nature. Our wilderness areas are the most highly protected places on our public lands. Wilderness Areas are designated by an act of Congress to be protected and preserved in their most pristine condition.
Motorized vehicles and mechanized transport are prohibited in Wilderness Areas and WSA's. The Wilderness Act states, "...no use of motor vehicles , motorized equipment... no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation, within any such area." Read a great article on Mountain Biking and Wilderness , from Campaign for America's Wilderness , to understand more about the philosophy of wilderness, as well as the historical context and perspective, in regard to bicycles in wilderness.
New Mexico Wilderness Act
The New Mexico Wilderness Act of 1980 was the result of many years of hard work, on the part of local residents and concerned New Mexicans. It established the Cruzes Basin and Latir Peaks Wilderness Areas. It added environmentally sensitive areas to the Wheeler Peak and Pecos Wilderness Areas, and it established "...approximately 46,000 acres... shall be known as the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area." The Act authorizes the Carson National Forest to manage the WSA as wilderness, "...in furtherance of the Wilderness Act."
The Act also mandates the Secretary of Agriculture to "...report his findings to the President... no later than January 1, 1986." This critical final step in the permanent protection of the Columbine Hondo was never completed, and the area has sat in limbo as a WSA for more than 30 years. As a result, the area's protection is hanging by a thread. Current legislation before Congress is now threatening to remove wilderness protections from over 60 million acres of Roadless Areas and Wilderness Study Areas across America.
Formed in 2008, the Columbine Hondo Coalition has been raising awareness and gaining the support of the local community , while working with the Carson National Forest and our elected officials , to introduce wilderness legislation that would permanently protect and preserve the area for future generations through wilderness designation  for the enitre 46,000-acre WSA . It's been more than 30 years, and the Columbine Hondo WSA deserves to be protected now, for future generations of New Mexicans, and Visitors to the Land of Enchantment.
Time is Running Out - Act Now
Senator Jeff Bingaman has been a champion for the Columbine Hondo and is considering introducing Legislation in the Senate. Senator Bingaman is retiring this year, and there may not be another chance for the Columbine Hondo. There is currently harmful legislation  before Congress that would remove wilderness protections from over 60 million acres of Roadless and Wilderness Study Areas across the nation. Call, write, or email our  Elected Officials today and urge them to support/introduce legislation to permanently protect the entire 46,000 acres of the Columbine Hondo WSA as a designated Wilderness Area .