January 24, 2014
Mark Allison, 505-239-0906
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), backed by its more than 5,000 members, joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today as she visited Las Cruces for a town-hall meeting about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area.
At the public meeting, business owners, local elected officials and residents joined the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and other conservation groups in urging Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration to safeguard the Chihuahuan desert grasslands, sky island peaks, dramatic canyons, historic ruins and wildlife that are integral to the area’s character, economy and quality of life.
“We are so pleased that Secretary Jewell took the time to personally visit this magnificent area to see for herself what a rare and important place it is and to have the opportunity to hear directly how overwhelming the community support is to preserve it. The secretary saw today how proud New Mexicans are of this national treasure,” Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance said. “We call on the Secretary to take this experience back to President Obama and to urge him to designate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument so that this special landscape receives the national recognition it deserves and the additional protection it needs.”
On Dec. 12, 2013, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, which would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.
NM Wild applauded the senators for their work to protect this important landscape.
“New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Allison.
The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.
The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, nearly three-fourths of Doña Ana County voters favor a national monument to protect its special characteristics.
Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is committed to a similar future for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.