12/18/2012 08:56 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

Senator Bingaman's Legacy

As a lifelong resident of New Mexico who has hunted and fished on public lands all over New Mexico and the West, I would like to thank our retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman for his decades of support of sportsmen and all citizens through his stewardship of our nation's natural gifts and wild places.

Over the course of Senator Bingaman's career he has introduced or supported dozens of bills that protect New Mexico's public lands -- where the vast majority of the public recreate and sportsmen hunt and fish. Public lands belong to all of us. They're important to New Mexico because they support thousands of jobs and a multi-million-dollar outdoor recreation economy. In addition, our public lands are important to maintaining the health of our state's residents and children, providing us with clean air and clean water. We have been blessed to have Senator Bingaman watching out for our interests over the last 30 years.

His legacy is long, touching almost every corner of the state. But throughout his career he has been an advocate for healthy public lands, for wildlife, and public that depend on them. He has accomplished much because when an issue comes up, he brings everyone to the table, he listens, and then he works to get things done. It's quite an accomplishment, and it's one reason why New Mexico continues to be a world-class destination for outdoors recreation.

Thanks to the Forest Landscape Restoration Act, for instance, New Mexicans will ultimately restore 210,000 acres in the Southwest Jemez Mountains to sustainable forest conditions. Another important achievement is the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, which has allowed New Mexicans to restore more than 30,000 acres of public land, create more than 700 jobs and greatly reduce the risk of forest fires.

He has been a champion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided more than $240 million to help protect New Mexico's most special places, such as the Valles Caldera and Gila National Forest, and to ensure access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. In 2009 he shepherded the Omnibus Public Land Management Act through the Senate, establishing several wilderness areas and national monuments in New Mexico.

And now along with Senator Tom Udall and Congressmen Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich, he has asked President Obama to declare two sites in New Mexico as national monuments -- Rio Grande del Norte near Taos and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region near Las Cruces. These designations would not only protect these iconic vistas, their wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities, it would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in new, sustainable economic activity.

From the Valle Vidal and Valles Caldera in the north to Broad Canyon and the Organ Mountains in the south and many places in between, Senator Bingaman has left his mark by helping to protect many of our most treasured public lands for present and future generations. As he retires as our Senator, it is a fitting time for all of us to thank him for his positive impact on our state.

Senator Jeff Bingaman may leave office but he is not leaving New Mexico. As evidenced by his effort to create new monuments in New Mexico in his last weeks in office, he will continue to work to make New Mexico a great place to live and explore. And his rare devotion to New Mexico and public lands ensures that his legacy will last for generations.