2014

  • By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post
    May 19, 2014

    President Obama will declare the largest national monument in his tenure Wednesday, setting a nearly 500,000-acre swath of southern New Mexico off-limits to development.

    Many community leaders had pressed the president to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region — which has petroglyphs from three American Indian societies in its canyons, as well as desert grasslands and a petrified forest — under the Antiquities Act rather than waiting for Congress to act. But some in the area near Las Cruces, including cattle ranchers and Rep. Steven Pearce (R-N.M.), opposed a presidential designation on the grounds it was too far-reaching and represented an overreach on the administration’s part.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president was working “to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for all Americans,” and that it would spur tourism. Carney added that the signing of the designation, which will take place at the Interior Department, was part of a week-long effort aimed at “helping businesses invest here in America” to spur job development.

    Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who had pressed for the presidential designation, said in a phone interview that it reflected the hard work of local and community advocates.

    “Anytime you have a recognition of that work that reaches all the way to the White House, that’s pretty special,” he said, adding it will also spur outside interest in the region. “It will be a huge source of pride for Doña Ana County.”

    “This designation is a long time coming, and we are excited that Doña Ana County is finally going to be able to reap the economic benefits of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument,” said Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

    The area is twice as big as the largest national monument previously established by Obama.

  • By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times
    May 19, 2014

    In a western land debate that has pitted ranchers against environmentalists, President Obama this week will designate nearly half a million acres in southern New Mexico as a national monument.

    Mr. Obama is expected to sign a proclamation Wednesday designating the vast tract as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, to be managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It includes historic sites such as the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail and training sites for the Apollo space program.

    Activists and some local officials hailed the pending move Monday as a victory for preservation.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help protect our way of life while allowing for responsible development and expanding opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the beauty and multicultural history of this unique landscape,” said Billy Garrett, Dona Ana County Commissioner chairman, in a statement.

    But the plan has angered ranchers and other opponents who say it’s yet another intrusive federal land-grab. A town-hall meeting in Las Cruces, N.M., in March drew a standing-room-only crowd of opponents, including ranchers who said the plan would be too restrictive and cover too much territory.

    Mr. Obama’s executive action will follow the contours of a Senate bill proposed by Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who want to protect nearly 500,000 acres.

    A House bill proposed by Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, would set aside 54,800 acres for protection as a national monument.

    In March, Mr. Obama designated 1,600 acres in the Point Arena-Stornetta region to be part of the California Coastal National Monument established by President Bill Clinton in 2000. House Republicans said the action wasn’t necessary because they had passed similar legislation.

  • By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times
    May 19, 2014

    In a western land debate that has pitted ranchers against environmentalists, President Obama this week will designate nearly half a million acres in southern New Mexico as a national monument.

    Mr. Obama is expected to sign a proclamation Wednesday designating the vast tract as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, to be managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It includes historic sites such as the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail and training sites for the Apollo space program.

    Activists and some local officials hailed the pending move Monday as a victory for preservation.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help protect our way of life while allowing for responsible development and expanding opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the beauty and multicultural history of this unique landscape,” said Billy Garrett, Dona Ana County Commissioner chairman, in a statement.

    But the plan has angered ranchers and other opponents who say it’s yet another intrusive federal land-grab. A town-hall meeting in Las Cruces, N.M., in March drew a standing-room-only crowd of opponents, including ranchers who said the plan would be too restrictive and cover too much territory.

    Mr. Obama’s executive action will follow the contours of a Senate bill proposed by Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who want to protect nearly 500,000 acres.

    A House bill proposed by Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, would set aside 54,800 acres for protection as a national monument.

    In March, Mr. Obama designated 1,600 acres in the Point Arena-Stornetta region to be part of the California Coastal National Monument established by President Bill Clinton in 2000. House Republicans said the action wasn’t necessary because they had passed similar legislation.

  • By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times
    May 19, 2014

    In a western land debate that has pitted ranchers against environmentalists, President Obama this week will designate nearly half a million acres in southern New Mexico as a national monument.

    Mr. Obama is expected to sign a proclamation Wednesday designating the vast tract as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, to be managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It includes historic sites such as the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail and training sites for the Apollo space program.

    Activists and some local officials hailed the pending move Monday as a victory for preservation.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help protect our way of life while allowing for responsible development and expanding opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the beauty and multicultural history of this unique landscape,” said Billy Garrett, Dona Ana County Commissioner chairman, in a statement.

    But the plan has angered ranchers and other opponents who say it’s yet another intrusive federal land-grab. A town-hall meeting in Las Cruces, N.M., in March drew a standing-room-only crowd of opponents, including ranchers who said the plan would be too restrictive and cover too much territory.

    Mr. Obama’s executive action will follow the contours of a Senate bill proposed by Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who want to protect nearly 500,000 acres.

    A House bill proposed by Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, would set aside 54,800 acres for protection as a national monument.

    In March, Mr. Obama designated 1,600 acres in the Point Arena-Stornetta region to be part of the California Coastal National Monument established by President Bill Clinton in 2000. House Republicans said the action wasn’t necessary because they had passed similar legislation.

  • Public News Service – NM | May 20, 2014 | Download audio

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

  • Public News Service – NM | May 20, 2014 | Download audio

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

  • Public News Service
    May 20, 2014

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

    Troy Wilde, Public News Service – NM

  • Public News Service
    May 20, 2014

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

    Troy Wilde, Public News Service – NM

  • Public News Service – NM | May 20, 2014 | Download audio

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

  • Public News Service
    May 20, 2014

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following years of work by many people in New Mexico, President Barack Obama will designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

    The president is expected to formalize the designation Wednesday.

    Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, says his group is among a broad coalition of organizations and people that worked together over the past decade to get the monument designation.

    “It really represents years of work and broad-based community support and a very diverse coalition of folks that include business leaders, faith community, scholars, sportsmen and conservationists,” he says. “And I think it’s been described as a national model.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney says by establishing the monument the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans.

    Allison agrees, noting that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves and protects an immense area of wilderness, mountains, Native American culture and New Mexico history for generations to come.

    “Industrial uses – oil, gas, mining – things like that will be prohibited,” he points out. “And the area will be protected for traditional uses including grazing, but also recreation, and obviously the wildlife and habitat and biodiversity, and all those important resources as well.”

    The national monument designation is expected to create millions of dollars of economic gain through new tourism in Southern New Mexico.

    Troy Wilde, Public News Service – NM

  • By Michael Coleman/Journal Washington Bureaualbuquerque-journalMay 19, 2014

    President Obama on Wednesday will use his executive power to designate about a half-million acres of the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces as a federally-protected monument.

    The White House made the announcement this morning.

    “On Wednesday, President Obama will host an event at the Department of the Interior, where he will sign a proclamation establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico,” the White House said in a statement provided to the Journal. “By establishing the monument, the President will permanently protect nearly 500,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans. A recent independent study found that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers, and recreational users.”

    The announcement comes on the heels of legislation that Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced in December.

    That bill, part of a long-standing grass-roots and legislative effort to protect the rugged mountain landscape near Las Cruces, would have established eight wilderness areas and conserve land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains. The bill would establish 498,815 acres as part of a national monument. It would create eight wilderness areas, which carry more restrictive rules for use, totaling 241,067 acres.

    Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced a scaled-down bill in the House that would provide monument protection to about 58,500 acres of the Organ Mountains from development.

    “Protecting the beautiful Organ Mountains is important – I’ve been working closely with diverse groups of New Mexicans on this issue for years, and introduced a bill in March that came directly from their input, ideas, and concerns,” Pearce told the Journal at the time. “My proposal achieves our shared conservation objectives and ensures economic health by making sure that this national treasure is protected without threatening local jobs. I am carefully reading (the senators’ bill) with interest, but I do have concerns.”

    Critics of such far-reaching conservation efforts in the Organ Mountain region have questioned whether it would preserve access to hunting and grazing areas, or interfere with law enforcement efforts along the Mexican border.

    The area proposed for protection by Obama is home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, such as the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus.

  • By Michael Coleman/Journal Washington Bureaualbuquerque-journalMay 19, 2014

    President Obama on Wednesday will use his executive power to designate about a half-million acres of the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces as a federally-protected monument.

    The White House made the announcement this morning.

    “On Wednesday, President Obama will host an event at the Department of the Interior, where he will sign a proclamation establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico,” the White House said in a statement provided to the Journal. “By establishing the monument, the President will permanently protect nearly 500,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans. A recent independent study found that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers, and recreational users.”

    The announcement comes on the heels of legislation that Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced in December.

    That bill, part of a long-standing grass-roots and legislative effort to protect the rugged mountain landscape near Las Cruces, would have established eight wilderness areas and conserve land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains. The bill would establish 498,815 acres as part of a national monument. It would create eight wilderness areas, which carry more restrictive rules for use, totaling 241,067 acres.

    Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced a scaled-down bill in the House that would provide monument protection to about 58,500 acres of the Organ Mountains from development.

    “Protecting the beautiful Organ Mountains is important – I’ve been working closely with diverse groups of New Mexicans on this issue for years, and introduced a bill in March that came directly from their input, ideas, and concerns,” Pearce told the Journal at the time. “My proposal achieves our shared conservation objectives and ensures economic health by making sure that this national treasure is protected without threatening local jobs. I am carefully reading (the senators’ bill) with interest, but I do have concerns.”

    Critics of such far-reaching conservation efforts in the Organ Mountain region have questioned whether it would preserve access to hunting and grazing areas, or interfere with law enforcement efforts along the Mexican border.

    The area proposed for protection by Obama is home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, such as the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus.

  • By Michael Coleman/Journal Washington Bureaualbuquerque-journalMay 19, 2014

    President Obama on Wednesday will use his executive power to designate about a half-million acres of the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces as a federally-protected monument.

    The White House made the announcement this morning.

    “On Wednesday, President Obama will host an event at the Department of the Interior, where he will sign a proclamation establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico,” the White House said in a statement provided to the Journal. “By establishing the monument, the President will permanently protect nearly 500,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans. A recent independent study found that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers, and recreational users.”

    The announcement comes on the heels of legislation that Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced in December.

    That bill, part of a long-standing grass-roots and legislative effort to protect the rugged mountain landscape near Las Cruces, would have established eight wilderness areas and conserve land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains. The bill would establish 498,815 acres as part of a national monument. It would create eight wilderness areas, which carry more restrictive rules for use, totaling 241,067 acres.

    Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced a scaled-down bill in the House that would provide monument protection to about 58,500 acres of the Organ Mountains from development.

    “Protecting the beautiful Organ Mountains is important – I’ve been working closely with diverse groups of New Mexicans on this issue for years, and introduced a bill in March that came directly from their input, ideas, and concerns,” Pearce told the Journal at the time. “My proposal achieves our shared conservation objectives and ensures economic health by making sure that this national treasure is protected without threatening local jobs. I am carefully reading (the senators’ bill) with interest, but I do have concerns.”

    Critics of such far-reaching conservation efforts in the Organ Mountain region have questioned whether it would preserve access to hunting and grazing areas, or interfere with law enforcement efforts along the Mexican border.

    The area proposed for protection by Obama is home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, such as the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus.

  • Obama Signs OMDP 250x141Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014

    After designating his largest national monument to date, President Obama yesterday said he’s far from finished using his executive powers to protect public lands.

    Over the howls of several Republican leaders, Obama signed a proclamation at the Interior Department setting aside 496,000 acres of southern New Mexico mountains and grasslands from future oil and gas development, mining claims and new roads.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, he said, will preserve towering 9,000-foot monoliths east of Las Cruces as well as habitat for deer, antelope, falcons and rare plants, and archaeological treasures documenting more than 10,000 years of human history, from American Indians to Apollo astronauts.

    “Anyone who’s ever seen the Organ Mountains that overlook Las Cruces, New Mexico, will tell you that they are a spectacular sight,” Obama said alongside Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrats whose legislation the monument is modeled after. “You can see it today, and I want to make sure that future generations can see it, as well.”

    Obama touted the lands’ importance to American Indians, hikers, hunters and scientists and cited an independent study estimating that the designation would generate more than $7 million in additional economic activity annually in the region.

    But Obama also promised more monument signing ceremonies before he leaves office in January 2017, a statement that is sure to embolden conservation groups as much as it angers some congressional Republicans.

    “I’ve preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations, and I am not finished,” Obama said, drawing loud applause. “I’m searching for more opportunities to preserve federal lands where communities are speaking up, because wherever I see an opening to get things done for the American people, I’m going to take it.”

    Obama, who walked to the signing ceremony from the White House alongside his counselor, John Podesta, the former president of the Center for American Progress, blamed an absentee Congress for failing to enact all but one wilderness bill over the past five years.

    He cited a report co-authored by CAP last March that highlights 10 conservation bills that have been introduced in Congress a combined 52 times over the past 30 years — but have yet to be signed into law.

    Those bills include proposals to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of Idaho’s Boulder and White Clouds mountains, along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and at Nevada’s Gold Butte, the site of Interior’s recent standoff with rancher Cliven Bundy.

    Udall and Heinrich’s S. 1805, which evolved from earlier legislation from Bingaman, has yet to receive a hearing in the Democratic-controlled Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    “As I’ve said before, I want to work with anyone in Congress who is ready to get to work and shares these goals, but recently they haven’t gotten the job done,” Obama said. “I’m here to pick up a little bit of the slack.”

    Yesterday’s proclamation met a chorus of protest from Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Steven Pearce (R-N.M.), who represents the monument area and has sponsored his own bill to designate a vastly smaller area.

    Critics claimed the designation could hamper the U.S. Border Patrol’s ability to secure the Mexican border — a charge U.S. Customs and Border Protection denies — and called it an abuse of executive powers that undermines the wishes of the local congressman.

    “If he is comfortable making his largest national monument with the opposition of local representatives, what does that mean for the rest of us?” Murkowski said yesterday in a statement. She said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reneging on her promise last October to not pursue monument designations in places where there is significant opposition.

    Bishop accused Obama of showing a “total disregard” for the threat of human and drug trafficking in the border region and said a monument designation could do nothing but exacerbate the risk. “For that, the president should be held personally accountable,” he said.

    But CBP in a statement this week said the designation would “in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility.”

    Whether that remains true depends in large part on how the Bureau of Land Management administers the lands, something that won’t come into focus for years as it crafts a new management plan.

    But the proclamation does state plainly that it does not affect a 2006 memorandum of understanding between federal lands agencies and the Department of Homeland Security to cooperatively combat security threats along the border.

    While the proclamation closes no roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles — although it makes exceptions for public safety or to protect monument resources.

    It also orders BLM not to interfere with military flight training and to continue administering grazing leases and permits under existing law and policies “consistent with the protection” of the monument.

    Notably, the proclamation does not, and cannot, release lands along the Mexican border from their current protection as wilderness study areas, a designation enabled by Congress that limits motorized access and, some would argue, inhibits Border Patrol. Only the Udall-Heinrich bill could release those areas to enhance patrols.

    The monument designation was hailed by numerous conservation, sportsmen’s, tribal and green business leaders as well as Democrats and local elected officials.

    The Organ Mountains “tell the story of centuries of conflict, boundary disputes and reconciliations with Mexico,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “Many Latino families in the Southwest trace their roots to the region, and its natural beauty continues to draw people today.”

    The monument, Obama’s 11th, follows his designation in late 2012 of the César E. Chávez National Monument in California, which also recognized Latino history.

    Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the conservation Lands Foundation, called yesterday’s proclamation “one of the most important conservation actions” of Obama’s presidency.

    The monument is more than twice as big as Obama’s second-largest monument, northern New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, which he designated just over a year ago.

    “He demonstrated strong conservation leadership and gave an enduring gift to America,” O’Donnell said. “Our children will benefit from unspoiled natural areas and places that honor the diverse cultures and heritage that make America great.”

    Yet Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act still trails President Clinton’s.

    Clinton used the 1906 law nearly two dozen times, designating 19 national monuments and expanding three existing monuments to protect more than 5 million acres, according to National Park Service data.

  • Obama Signs OMDP 250x141Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014

    After designating his largest national monument to date, President Obama yesterday said he’s far from finished using his executive powers to protect public lands.

    Over the howls of several Republican leaders, Obama signed a proclamation at the Interior Department setting aside 496,000 acres of southern New Mexico mountains and grasslands from future oil and gas development, mining claims and new roads.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, he said, will preserve towering 9,000-foot monoliths east of Las Cruces as well as habitat for deer, antelope, falcons and rare plants, and archaeological treasures documenting more than 10,000 years of human history, from American Indians to Apollo astronauts.

    “Anyone who’s ever seen the Organ Mountains that overlook Las Cruces, New Mexico, will tell you that they are a spectacular sight,” Obama said alongside Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrats whose legislation the monument is modeled after. “You can see it today, and I want to make sure that future generations can see it, as well.”

    Obama touted the lands’ importance to American Indians, hikers, hunters and scientists and cited an independent study estimating that the designation would generate more than $7 million in additional economic activity annually in the region.

    But Obama also promised more monument signing ceremonies before he leaves office in January 2017, a statement that is sure to embolden conservation groups as much as it angers some congressional Republicans.

    “I’ve preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations, and I am not finished,” Obama said, drawing loud applause. “I’m searching for more opportunities to preserve federal lands where communities are speaking up, because wherever I see an opening to get things done for the American people, I’m going to take it.”

    Obama, who walked to the signing ceremony from the White House alongside his counselor, John Podesta, the former president of the Center for American Progress, blamed an absentee Congress for failing to enact all but one wilderness bill over the past five years.

    He cited a report co-authored by CAP last March that highlights 10 conservation bills that have been introduced in Congress a combined 52 times over the past 30 years — but have yet to be signed into law.

    Those bills include proposals to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of Idaho’s Boulder and White Clouds mountains, along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and at Nevada’s Gold Butte, the site of Interior’s recent standoff with rancher Cliven Bundy.

    Udall and Heinrich’s S. 1805, which evolved from earlier legislation from Bingaman, has yet to receive a hearing in the Democratic-controlled Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    “As I’ve said before, I want to work with anyone in Congress who is ready to get to work and shares these goals, but recently they haven’t gotten the job done,” Obama said. “I’m here to pick up a little bit of the slack.”

    Yesterday’s proclamation met a chorus of protest from Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Steven Pearce (R-N.M.), who represents the monument area and has sponsored his own bill to designate a vastly smaller area.

    Critics claimed the designation could hamper the U.S. Border Patrol’s ability to secure the Mexican border — a charge U.S. Customs and Border Protection denies — and called it an abuse of executive powers that undermines the wishes of the local congressman.

    “If he is comfortable making his largest national monument with the opposition of local representatives, what does that mean for the rest of us?” Murkowski said yesterday in a statement. She said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reneging on her promise last October to not pursue monument designations in places where there is significant opposition.

    Bishop accused Obama of showing a “total disregard” for the threat of human and drug trafficking in the border region and said a monument designation could do nothing but exacerbate the risk. “For that, the president should be held personally accountable,” he said.

    But CBP in a statement this week said the designation would “in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility.”

    Whether that remains true depends in large part on how the Bureau of Land Management administers the lands, something that won’t come into focus for years as it crafts a new management plan.

    But the proclamation does state plainly that it does not affect a 2006 memorandum of understanding between federal lands agencies and the Department of Homeland Security to cooperatively combat security threats along the border.

    While the proclamation closes no roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles — although it makes exceptions for public safety or to protect monument resources.

    It also orders BLM not to interfere with military flight training and to continue administering grazing leases and permits under existing law and policies “consistent with the protection” of the monument.

    Notably, the proclamation does not, and cannot, release lands along the Mexican border from their current protection as wilderness study areas, a designation enabled by Congress that limits motorized access and, some would argue, inhibits Border Patrol. Only the Udall-Heinrich bill could release those areas to enhance patrols.

    The monument designation was hailed by numerous conservation, sportsmen’s, tribal and green business leaders as well as Democrats and local elected officials.

    The Organ Mountains “tell the story of centuries of conflict, boundary disputes and reconciliations with Mexico,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “Many Latino families in the Southwest trace their roots to the region, and its natural beauty continues to draw people today.”

    The monument, Obama’s 11th, follows his designation in late 2012 of the César E. Chávez National Monument in California, which also recognized Latino history.

    Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the conservation Lands Foundation, called yesterday’s proclamation “one of the most important conservation actions” of Obama’s presidency.

    The monument is more than twice as big as Obama’s second-largest monument, northern New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, which he designated just over a year ago.

    “He demonstrated strong conservation leadership and gave an enduring gift to America,” O’Donnell said. “Our children will benefit from unspoiled natural areas and places that honor the diverse cultures and heritage that make America great.”

    Yet Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act still trails President Clinton’s.

    Clinton used the 1906 law nearly two dozen times, designating 19 national monuments and expanding three existing monuments to protect more than 5 million acres, according to National Park Service data.

  • Obama Signs OMDP 250x141Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014

    After designating his largest national monument to date, President Obama yesterday said he’s far from finished using his executive powers to protect public lands.

    Over the howls of several Republican leaders, Obama signed a proclamation at the Interior Department setting aside 496,000 acres of southern New Mexico mountains and grasslands from future oil and gas development, mining claims and new roads.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, he said, will preserve towering 9,000-foot monoliths east of Las Cruces as well as habitat for deer, antelope, falcons and rare plants, and archaeological treasures documenting more than 10,000 years of human history, from American Indians to Apollo astronauts.

    “Anyone who’s ever seen the Organ Mountains that overlook Las Cruces, New Mexico, will tell you that they are a spectacular sight,” Obama said alongside Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrats whose legislation the monument is modeled after. “You can see it today, and I want to make sure that future generations can see it, as well.”

    Obama touted the lands’ importance to American Indians, hikers, hunters and scientists and cited an independent study estimating that the designation would generate more than $7 million in additional economic activity annually in the region.

    But Obama also promised more monument signing ceremonies before he leaves office in January 2017, a statement that is sure to embolden conservation groups as much as it angers some congressional Republicans.

    “I’ve preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations, and I am not finished,” Obama said, drawing loud applause. “I’m searching for more opportunities to preserve federal lands where communities are speaking up, because wherever I see an opening to get things done for the American people, I’m going to take it.”

    Obama, who walked to the signing ceremony from the White House alongside his counselor, John Podesta, the former president of the Center for American Progress, blamed an absentee Congress for failing to enact all but one wilderness bill over the past five years.

    He cited a report co-authored by CAP last March that highlights 10 conservation bills that have been introduced in Congress a combined 52 times over the past 30 years — but have yet to be signed into law.

    Those bills include proposals to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of Idaho’s Boulder and White Clouds mountains, along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and at Nevada’s Gold Butte, the site of Interior’s recent standoff with rancher Cliven Bundy.

    Udall and Heinrich’s S. 1805, which evolved from earlier legislation from Bingaman, has yet to receive a hearing in the Democratic-controlled Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    “As I’ve said before, I want to work with anyone in Congress who is ready to get to work and shares these goals, but recently they haven’t gotten the job done,” Obama said. “I’m here to pick up a little bit of the slack.”

    Yesterday’s proclamation met a chorus of protest from Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rep. Steven Pearce (R-N.M.), who represents the monument area and has sponsored his own bill to designate a vastly smaller area.

    Critics claimed the designation could hamper the U.S. Border Patrol’s ability to secure the Mexican border — a charge U.S. Customs and Border Protection denies — and called it an abuse of executive powers that undermines the wishes of the local congressman.

    “If he is comfortable making his largest national monument with the opposition of local representatives, what does that mean for the rest of us?” Murkowski said yesterday in a statement. She said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reneging on her promise last October to not pursue monument designations in places where there is significant opposition.

    Bishop accused Obama of showing a “total disregard” for the threat of human and drug trafficking in the border region and said a monument designation could do nothing but exacerbate the risk. “For that, the president should be held personally accountable,” he said.

    But CBP in a statement this week said the designation would “in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility.”

    Whether that remains true depends in large part on how the Bureau of Land Management administers the lands, something that won’t come into focus for years as it crafts a new management plan.

    But the proclamation does state plainly that it does not affect a 2006 memorandum of understanding between federal lands agencies and the Department of Homeland Security to cooperatively combat security threats along the border.

    While the proclamation closes no roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles — although it makes exceptions for public safety or to protect monument resources.

    It also orders BLM not to interfere with military flight training and to continue administering grazing leases and permits under existing law and policies “consistent with the protection” of the monument.

    Notably, the proclamation does not, and cannot, release lands along the Mexican border from their current protection as wilderness study areas, a designation enabled by Congress that limits motorized access and, some would argue, inhibits Border Patrol. Only the Udall-Heinrich bill could release those areas to enhance patrols.

    The monument designation was hailed by numerous conservation, sportsmen’s, tribal and green business leaders as well as Democrats and local elected officials.

    The Organ Mountains “tell the story of centuries of conflict, boundary disputes and reconciliations with Mexico,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “Many Latino families in the Southwest trace their roots to the region, and its natural beauty continues to draw people today.”

    The monument, Obama’s 11th, follows his designation in late 2012 of the César E. Chávez National Monument in California, which also recognized Latino history.

    Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the conservation Lands Foundation, called yesterday’s proclamation “one of the most important conservation actions” of Obama’s presidency.

    The monument is more than twice as big as Obama’s second-largest monument, northern New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte, which he designated just over a year ago.

    “He demonstrated strong conservation leadership and gave an enduring gift to America,” O’Donnell said. “Our children will benefit from unspoiled natural areas and places that honor the diverse cultures and heritage that make America great.”

    Yet Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act still trails President Clinton’s.

    Clinton used the 1906 law nearly two dozen times, designating 19 national monuments and expanding three existing monuments to protect more than 5 million acres, according to National Park Service data.

  • Scott Streater, E&E reporter

    Nearly a year after President Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, residents and business leaders in north-central New Mexico say the monument is fulfilling its promise as an economic driver in the region.

    Business leaders in the Taos, N.M., area near the 243,000-acre national monument site released economic data today showing that, in only 12 months, the monument has drawn more visitors who have brought increased spending and revenue with them.

    “One year in and we have already seen some positive economic data,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, during a conference call with reporters.

    President Obama in March 2013 used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to bypass Congress and designate the rugged river gorge and plateau as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. “The protection of the Río Grande del Norte will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the historic and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans,” Obama said in his proclamation establishing the monument (E&ENews PM, March 25, 2013).

    Environmentalists have called the area one of the most ecologically significant in the state, citing its importance to elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls. But hunters, rafters and hikers also use the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau extensively, and the increased notoriety of a national monument has driven business to the region.

    The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce economic numbers show the national monument has increased the town of Taos lodgers’ tax revenue by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.

    The chamber attributes this boost to the increased number of visitors to the newly designated monument. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the monument as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, has reported a 40 percent increase in visitors to the site in less than a year, rising to 182,501 visitors from 130,000, according to the chamber.

    The spike in visitors to the area “has been great for my business,” said Cisco Guevara, president of Los Rios River Runners in Taos, which leads white-water rafting trips down the Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers.

    “The effect it has had on my business is quite profound,” Guevara said during the call. “Even though we had low water levels in recent years, my business experienced the busiest fall season ever in 2013. I attribute this in large part to the monument’s ability to attract new people to the area.”

    The effort to tout the economic benefits of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument come as conservation groups and residents in “The Land of Enchantment” are pushing the Obama administration to designate another national monument in the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico.

    New Mexico’s Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in December introduced S. 1805, which would designate the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, including 240,000 acres of wilderness. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the area in January with both senators (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

    But if the legislation does not work, the president should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Organ Mountains region as a national monument, Sanchez said.

    “As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte, we are excited about the possibility of having another new monument in southern New Mexico,” she said, pointing to the positive economic numbers for the Rio Grande del Norte.

    “When special places like Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks receive monument status and are properly promoted, visitors will come. And that visitation creates jobs and grows our economy,” she added. “National monuments are good business for New Mexico.”

    Arianna Parsons, the owner of Beck’s Coffee in Las Cruces, N.M., near the Organ Mountains site, said she agrees.

    “It is very encouraging to hear the positive responses from Taos business owners on the first anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” Parsons said. “Those of us in southern New Mexico are hopeful that Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will become a national monument so we can experience the same kinds of economic benefits in our own community.”

  • Scott Streater, E&E reporter

    Nearly a year after President Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, residents and business leaders in north-central New Mexico say the monument is fulfilling its promise as an economic driver in the region.

    Business leaders in the Taos, N.M., area near the 243,000-acre national monument site released economic data today showing that, in only 12 months, the monument has drawn more visitors who have brought increased spending and revenue with them.

    “One year in and we have already seen some positive economic data,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, during a conference call with reporters.

    President Obama in March 2013 used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to bypass Congress and designate the rugged river gorge and plateau as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. “The protection of the Río Grande del Norte will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the historic and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans,” Obama said in his proclamation establishing the monument (E&ENews PM, March 25, 2013).

    Environmentalists have called the area one of the most ecologically significant in the state, citing its importance to elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls. But hunters, rafters and hikers also use the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau extensively, and the increased notoriety of a national monument has driven business to the region.

    The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce economic numbers show the national monument has increased the town of Taos lodgers’ tax revenue by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.

    The chamber attributes this boost to the increased number of visitors to the newly designated monument. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the monument as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, has reported a 40 percent increase in visitors to the site in less than a year, rising to 182,501 visitors from 130,000, according to the chamber.

    The spike in visitors to the area “has been great for my business,” said Cisco Guevara, president of Los Rios River Runners in Taos, which leads white-water rafting trips down the Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers.

    “The effect it has had on my business is quite profound,” Guevara said during the call. “Even though we had low water levels in recent years, my business experienced the busiest fall season ever in 2013. I attribute this in large part to the monument’s ability to attract new people to the area.”

    The effort to tout the economic benefits of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument come as conservation groups and residents in “The Land of Enchantment” are pushing the Obama administration to designate another national monument in the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico.

    New Mexico’s Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in December introduced S. 1805, which would designate the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, including 240,000 acres of wilderness. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the area in January with both senators (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

    But if the legislation does not work, the president should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Organ Mountains region as a national monument, Sanchez said.

    “As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte, we are excited about the possibility of having another new monument in southern New Mexico,” she said, pointing to the positive economic numbers for the Rio Grande del Norte.

    “When special places like Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks receive monument status and are properly promoted, visitors will come. And that visitation creates jobs and grows our economy,” she added. “National monuments are good business for New Mexico.”

    Arianna Parsons, the owner of Beck’s Coffee in Las Cruces, N.M., near the Organ Mountains site, said she agrees.

    “It is very encouraging to hear the positive responses from Taos business owners on the first anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” Parsons said. “Those of us in southern New Mexico are hopeful that Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will become a national monument so we can experience the same kinds of economic benefits in our own community.”

  • Scott Streater, E&E reporter

    Nearly a year after President Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, residents and business leaders in north-central New Mexico say the monument is fulfilling its promise as an economic driver in the region.

    Business leaders in the Taos, N.M., area near the 243,000-acre national monument site released economic data today showing that, in only 12 months, the monument has drawn more visitors who have brought increased spending and revenue with them.

    “One year in and we have already seen some positive economic data,” said Laura Sanchez, CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, during a conference call with reporters.

    President Obama in March 2013 used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to bypass Congress and designate the rugged river gorge and plateau as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. “The protection of the Río Grande del Norte will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the historic and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans,” Obama said in his proclamation establishing the monument (E&ENews PM, March 25, 2013).

    Environmentalists have called the area one of the most ecologically significant in the state, citing its importance to elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls. But hunters, rafters and hikers also use the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Plateau extensively, and the increased notoriety of a national monument has driven business to the region.

    The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce economic numbers show the national monument has increased the town of Taos lodgers’ tax revenue by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.

    The chamber attributes this boost to the increased number of visitors to the newly designated monument. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the monument as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, has reported a 40 percent increase in visitors to the site in less than a year, rising to 182,501 visitors from 130,000, according to the chamber.

    The spike in visitors to the area “has been great for my business,” said Cisco Guevara, president of Los Rios River Runners in Taos, which leads white-water rafting trips down the Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers.

    “The effect it has had on my business is quite profound,” Guevara said during the call. “Even though we had low water levels in recent years, my business experienced the busiest fall season ever in 2013. I attribute this in large part to the monument’s ability to attract new people to the area.”

    The effort to tout the economic benefits of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument come as conservation groups and residents in “The Land of Enchantment” are pushing the Obama administration to designate another national monument in the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico.

    New Mexico’s Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in December introduced S. 1805, which would designate the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, including 240,000 acres of wilderness. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the area in January with both senators (Greenwire, Jan. 22).

    But if the legislation does not work, the president should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Organ Mountains region as a national monument, Sanchez said.

    “As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte, we are excited about the possibility of having another new monument in southern New Mexico,” she said, pointing to the positive economic numbers for the Rio Grande del Norte.

    “When special places like Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks receive monument status and are properly promoted, visitors will come. And that visitation creates jobs and grows our economy,” she added. “National monuments are good business for New Mexico.”

    Arianna Parsons, the owner of Beck’s Coffee in Las Cruces, N.M., near the Organ Mountains site, said she agrees.

    “It is very encouraging to hear the positive responses from Taos business owners on the first anniversary of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument,” Parsons said. “Those of us in southern New Mexico are hopeful that Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will become a national monument so we can experience the same kinds of economic benefits in our own community.”

  • Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain West Coordinator of the Vet Voice Foundation
    Huffington Post

    This week veterans all over the nation applaud President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to protect the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region in Southern NM. Creating this new national monument ensures the preservation of a scenic public landscape rich with history, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. Included in the protected area are six of the historical Deming Bombing targets used by the Army Air corps for training missions during World War II. These “bulls-eye” targets were used to test equipment that greatly improved the accuracy of high-altitude bombing for U.S. warplanes, and were a major factor in ending World War II in Europe.

    Today the sites are an important window into our nation’s past. The new Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument ensures their protection, and that future generations will remember the sacrifices made by our men and women in the military who served here and better understand the history of our country.

    Protected public lands like the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument also serve as a great healing aid for soldiers returning home, who suffer from debilitating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, trauma, anxiety and depression. So many men and women, who have fought bravely for our independence, make great sacrifices and often pay a steep price. In fact, almost 40% of veterans who have served in Iraq are diagnosed with a mental health issue. Places of natural beauty are perfect locales for fighting pain and mental stresses, and this has been borne out by scientific studies.

    The natural setting of phenomenal scenery, wildlife habitat for a fabulous array of birds and mammals, and many opportunities for outdoor recreation, makes the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks a wonderful place where veterans with PTSD symptoms can experience a temporary sanctuary — free of stresses and uncertainties, a place with no worries where they can relax, enjoy themselves and their surroundings. Men and women, who deal with chronic pain or horrific flashbacks every day, can find a peace they haven’t known for a long time. In my own transition from being a U.S. Army sniper to civilian life, access to public lands helped me tremendously to navigate the way back.

    But healing outdoor opportunities like those provided in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks may not survive unless we work to protect them. And it appears we must work hard. Earlier in the year, House Republicans took aim to curtail the President’s ability to protect our nation’s rich military and cultural heritage and limit his ability to use the Antiquities Act to conserve national parks and monuments. I do not understand this. Conservation — like support for military budgets, veterans’ benefits, and other critical issues – should never be a partisan affair.

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture, filled with natural wonders and incredible hunting and recreational opportunities. Veterans across America thank New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich for introducing legislation to help call attention to this wondrous land, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for taking the time to visit the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region and listening to the input of Las Cruces area veterans. Above all we are grateful for President Obama’s leadership in working with a wide variety of communities and constituents who wanted so much to see this place they love protected.

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