March 25, 2015

Vet Voice Foundation Celebrates Two Years of Rio Grande del Norte

On the two-year anniversary of President Obama designating the Rio Grande del Norte as a protected national monument by using his authority under the Antiquities Act, the Vet Voice Foundation (VVF), which had pushed for the designation, is celebrating.  
The rugged river gorge and plateau has a cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintains a diverse array of natural and scientific resources. The historic and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans.
Conservationists and other community leaders have called the area one of the most ecologically significant in the state, citing its importance to elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls. But hunters, anglers, rafters and hikers also use the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau extensively, and the increased notoriety of a national monument has been embraced by the local business community.
In 2013, Lawrence Vargas, a Vietnam-era veteran and member of VVF’s New Mexico Steering Committee said, “This is a big win for veterans, not only the protection of our natural resources but the economic impact that is associated with it. Having a national monument in the area will help boost the economy. This is good news for veterans in the Taos area.”
Not only is the Monument great for the local economy and preserving wildlife, but it is also a benefit to all the local veterans in the region. Findings from a University of Michigan study in 2013 suggest that "..extended group-based nature recreation can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems," said Jason Duvall, a research scientist at the U-M School of Natural Resources & Environment.
The Gorge and connecting river system are lush with opportunities for veterans to share an adventure rafting or climbing with friends, enjoying a camping trip to reunite with family members or get lost by themselves fishing it the rich streams that flow into the valley. 
Area Vet Voice Foundation member Larry Sanchez said, "Our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans need these lands to find a place to recuperate and find peace. These lands hold an intrinsic value to America's heroes."
Founded in 2009, the mission of Vet Voice Foundation is to mobilize veterans to become leaders in our nation's democracy through participation in the civic and democratic process. VVF seeks to harness the energy and drive of the dedicated men and women who have fought for their country, and put it to work at home and in their communities on the important issues they face, such as health care, jobs, the environment, and housing.
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