A Green Light for New Mexico’s White Peak
12,000 acres of access improved
Just south of Philmont Scout Ranch, White Peak would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the fire lookout tower capping its summit. That structure provides a commanding view from this tiny cone on Ortega Mesa across hundreds of square miles of incredible elk country. Aspens skirt its slopes before giving way to a sprawling mixture of grasslands, rich ponderosa pine savannahs and pinyon-juniper stands. In other words, the type of high desert elk county that has a knack for growing huge elk and mule deer, both of which this hunt unit is renowned for.
But getting to the 12,000-acre block of state trust lands south of White Peak has been the subject of legal fights over public access for more than two decades. That is until RMEF paid to have a new 2½-mile road built, working in partnership with the New Mexico State Lands Office (SLO), and purchased a 35-year right-of-way lease, which the SLO then granted to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The new road provides access to the northwest stem of this large and otherwise isolated block of public land. Camping is allowed in a designated area at the start of the new road where it turns off Halls Peak Road. That camping area is open to licensed hunters during hunting season. The spot features no amenities, but makes a fine base camp and launching point. The road has also opened up new opportunities for habitat enhancement work near White Peak, which has the state considering a $100,000 meadow maintenance project to benefit elk and other wildlife.
So far, RMEF has secured public hunting access to more than 1.2 million acres of outstanding elk country in 23 states, and this is just the latest chapter in that push.