The Wilderness Society Hails Monument Designation for New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

May 19, 2014

Below: petroglyphs found within the new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument are testament to the rich cultural heritage found on the land and among its people. 

 

Credit: Wayne Suggs.

Credit: Wayne Suggs

Contact: Michael Casaus, 505-247-0834, michael_casaus@tws.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 19, 2014) President Obama today announced plans to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area in New Mexico as America’s newest national monument.  The Wilderness Society praised the President for using his authority to protect public lands for future generations. The White House plans to hold a signing ceremony for the new monument on Wednesday.

“With this designation, President Obama has shown great leadership in protecting public lands and vigorous support for the New Mexico communities that have long advocated for this national monument,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.  “This national monument will conserve the cherished cultural, historic and recreational values as well as the priceless wildlife habitat of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.”

“We also praise New Mexico’s Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for their leadership in Congress on behalf of preserving the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks,” Williams added.

The President’s use of the Antiquities Act came about after open public discussion and thorough collaboration with the local New Mexico communities that want to protect these lands for their historic and cultural values. In recent years, sites honoring America’s military and outdoor heritage as well as African American and Hispanic leaders have been designated under the Antiquities Act, including the World War II Valor in the Pacific, Fort Monroe and Fort Ord, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad and the César E. Chávez National Monuments.

“This national monument designation is the result of a decade-long community-driven effort supported by ranchers, Hispanic leaders, Native Americans, veterans, hunters, small business owners, faith congregations and conservation groups,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico director of The Wilderness Society.  “I grew up hiking and exploring these public lands, and this new monument status preserves the outdoor heritage of the area and ensures continued access for hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will boost southern New Mexico’s economy and protect our culture and way of life for generations to come.”

According to an August 2013 study by BBC Research and Consulting for the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, national monument status is also expected to produce economic benefits from additional tourism and outdoor recreation, including creation of more than 80 new jobs and an increase of approximately $7.4 million annually in regional economic activity.   The designation of New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument one year ago produced a 40 percent increase in visits over the previous year along with corresponding local tax revenue and business receipts increases.

Continued Access to the Public Lands

The national monument preserves access to public lands for hunting, which would continue to be managed by the state. Existing roads will remain open to motorized access.  Livestock grazing will not be affected and issuance of grazing permits will continue.  Law enforcement jurisdiction will not change nor will Border Patrol or other law enforcement operations be impeded due to the national monument designation.  In fact, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol issued a letter of support as have several local ranchers.

Historical Significance

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects significant historical and cultural landmarks along the Camino Real, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, the Gadsden Purchase Boundary, Apollo astronaut and World War II Army Air Corps training sites, and thousands of petroglyphs and archeological sites.

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