Sombrillo Area of Critical Environmental Concern
In 1988 8,865 acres of the Nambé Badlands were designatedResource Management Plan, March 1987, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District, Taos Resource Area, BLM-NM-PT-87-006-4410 as the Sombrillo Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in order to protect the internationally significant paleontological resources (fossils) found in the area. Significant paleontological resources found north of the 1988 Sombrillo ACEC, and identification of cultural resources, resulted in the BLM expanding the Sombrillo ACEC to 18,190 acres in 2010Draft Taos Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, June 3, 2010, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District, Taos Resource Area, … Continue reading.
Beginning in 2011, illegal mountain bike trail construction and irresponsible mountain bikers initiated significant damage to these resources and ecologically sensitive soils in this ACEC. The protections defined by the Sombrillo ACEC designation require official geological, paleontological, and cultural assessments prior to any surface disturbing activity. The illegal mountain bike trail construction, ongoing since 2011, includes using tools to carve out trails on sensitive ridgelines, cut trees (both pinyon and juniper), and cut new trails across virgin areas of biological soil crusts and stratigraphic layers.
The illegal trail building has accelerated in the area. What once was a beautiful area to hike, bike, and ride horseback is quickly becoming destroyed.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, or “ACEC” designations, define areas where special management attention is needed to protect important historical, cultural, and scenic values, or fish and wildlife or other natural resources.
The 1987 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Taos Resource Management PlanTaos Resource Management Plan, US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District, Taos Resource Area, March 1987, BLM-NM-PT-87-006-4410 called for the protection of “significant paleontological resources” by designating the Sombrillo Special Management Area as an ACEC.
The Sombrillo ACEC was officially designated in 1988 with the mandate to protect significant and internationally recognized paleontological, geological, and cultural resources.
The paleontological resources in the Sombrillo ACEC (8,600 acres) are so important that they were specially called out in the 1987 Resource Management Plan for the entire Taos Resource Area (594,000 acres):
“Any surface disturbance within the Sombrillo area would seriously compromise the integrity and usefulness of these areas as internationally recognized bio-stratigraphic reference sections. This would cause irreversible and irretrievable damage to important paleontological resources.“Taos Resource Management Plan, US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque District, Taos Resource Area, March 1987, BLM-NM-PT-87-006-4410, Section 4, pp. 20-21
The illegal mountain bike trail, “North Arroyo Loop” (BLM trail segment #2P) was cut using tools into sensitive ridgelines containing paleontological resources in the Sombrillo Area of Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 2019. The BLM designated this area an ACEC in 1988 specifically to protect areas like this from surface disturbances! (Photo 12/11/2021)