New Mexico

The Trust transferred the last remaining private land within the El Malpais National Wilderness Study Area to federal ownership in 2009. Underlain with lava fields, this rugged land is home to unique plants and wildlife. It could have been developed as a cabin site. Instead the land will remain forever wild.

New Mexico

New Mexico hosts 25 federal wilderness areas totaling 1.6 million acres. Many private inholdings are relics of the 19th century mining law.

El Malpais National Conservation Area

Cibola County (Bureau of Land Management)

80 acres purchased

The El Malpais National Conservation Area is a federally protected conservation area in the of New Mexico. The El Malpais National Conservation area was established in 1987. The 263,000-acre El Malpais NCA includes two wilderness areas — the West Malpais Wilderness and Cebolla Wilderness Area. In addition to the two wilderness areas, the NCA includes dramatic sandstone cliffs, canyons, La Ventana Natural Arch, the Chain of Craters Back Country Byway and the Narrows Picnic Area. There are many opportunities for photography, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing within this unique NCA.

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Gila Wilderness

Catron County (USDA Forest Service)

41 acres transferred

The Gila Wilderness was the first designated wilderness anywhere in the world. It is New Mexico’s largest wilderness area—more than half a million acres, stretching for 27 miles near the southwest corner of the state.  The Mogollon Mountains traverse in an arc across the wilderness. High mesas, rolling hills and deep canyons distinguish the eastern portion. Ponderosa pines blanket the central portion where sheer cliffs outline the Gila River. The west and southwest portions boast highest mountains with elevations up to 10,895 feet.  Backpackers consider the Gila one of America’s best wilderness destinations in the country.

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El Malpais National Monument Wilderness Study Area

Cibola County (National Park Service)

320 acres transferred

A million years ago, lava flowed across this jagged high desert creating an eerie world of lava tube caves, cinder cones, pressure ridges and bridges. El Malpais means “the badlands” in Spanish, a fitting name for the lava fields, inactive and potentially active volcanoes here. In the 1940s El Malpais was considered for the first nuclear test, which ultimately occurred at White Sands. Today, El Malpais is protected by the National Park Service. Prehistoric ruins, ancient cairns and abandoned homesteads reveal the human relationships to this primeval place.

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Sabinoso Wilderness (COMPLETE)

San Miguel County (Bureau of Land Management)

4,176 acres purchased

The United States Congress designated the Sabinoso Wilderness (map) in 2009 and it now has a total of 16,030 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Sabinoso Wilderness is a remote area in the northeastern portion of New Mexico. The wilderness includes a series of high, narrow mesas surrounded by cliff lined canyons. Elevations range between 4,500 and 6,000 feet above sea level. The rugged country primarily supports piñon pine and juniper woodlands and occasional clusters of ponderosa pine, with a perennial warm season grass savanna on the mesa tops. Streams periodically flow in the canyon bottoms, supporting riparian vegetation including willow and cottonwood. The large deep canyon area surrounded by the wide open New Mexico plains is unique for this region. The deep incisions cut by Cañon Olguin, Cañon Largo, and Lagartija Creek create a striking topographical and geological contrast in this otherwise flat terrain.

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El Malpias National Monument Wilderness Study Area




On June 3, 1924, at Aldo Leopold's insistence, the Gila became the world's first designated wilderness area. With 558,014 acres, the Gila is New Mexico’s largest wilderness area.