Letter to Obama Builds on Public Support for Protecting Otero Mesa in New Mexico
ALAMOGORDO, NM— In a letter to President Barack Obama, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson called for a National Monument declaration for Otero Mesa, building on growing grassroots support for further protection of this valuable region. The letter builds on continued dialogue in the local community and a ten year campaign by Richardson to ensure public lands receive the protection they deserve.
Recent public events, including an economic forum in Alamogordo and a highly attended Department of Interior listening session in Albuquerque, have created a groundswell of support for further protection of the public lands that are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The recent economic forum brought in experts who helped citizens understand the economic benefits a national monument can bring to the local communities.
“There has been a continuing process to better understand how national monuments benefit our pocketbooks,” said Marie Vallejos of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “The local hunters, supply stores, outdoor enthusiasts, and motels all benefit from a tourist destination being in our backyards.”
Otero Mesa represents the largest and wildest Chihuahuan desert grassland remaining on public lands in the United States. This expansive landscape is home to mule deer, black-tailed prairie dogs, mountain lion, golden and bald eagles, 200 species of migratory songbirds, the endangered Aplomado Falcon, and the state’s healthiest herd of pronghorn antelope. Thousands of ancient archeological sites can be found in Otero Mesa, including on Alamo Mountain, where petroglyphs date back 1500 years. Furthermore, the Salt Basin aquifer, which underlies Otero Mesa, is considered to be the state’s largest, untapped freshwater resource.
“For years citizens have been calling for increased protection of these public lands to ensure they are set aside for future generations to enjoy and future needs in our communities,” said John Cornell of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “The grasslands in Otero are more than a habitat for endangered species. They contain important archeological finds, and are home to the Salt Basin Aquifer which could provide drinking water for major population centers in southern New Mexico.”
Governor Richardson’s letter calls for the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, an act that has been utilized by all but 3 Presidents in history. Under this act the President has the authority to create a National Monument in Otero Mesa.
“The President should recognize that Otero Mesa is a place where there has been lots of public conversation and planning unlike other places in America where folks are concerned about use of the Antiquities Act,” said State Senator Stephen Fischmann. “These lands are already being managed by the US Government but deserve better protection. We welcome the idea that after years of public debate and input, we can move towards ensuring these valuable lands are set aside for uses that will not threaten the value they bring to our communities.”
You can learn more about the coalition to protect Otero Mesa at: www.oteromesa.org