April 9, 2014
Contact: Sister Joan Brown, (505) 266-6966, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Citing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region’s spiritual significance, historical and ecological importance, and positive impact on the southern New Mexico economy, 50 faith leaders from throughout New Mexico this week sent a letter to President Obama endorsing the plan to establish a new national monument in the area near Las Cruces.

Signers of the letter include leaders from a broad range of faith communities including Catholic, Episcopal, Protestant, Islamic, and Jewish congregations across New Mexico.

New Mexico’s U.S. Senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, introduced the “Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act” this past December to preserve the area and its rich historic, recreational, and environmental value.

Their action was followed by a tour of the area by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in January to meet with the community and gain their input on the monument proposal. President Obama has the power under the Antiquities Act to create the monument.

Faith leaders who signed the letter, such as The Rt. Rev. Michael Vono, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, expressed optimism about the prospects for the potential new national monument.

“Senators Udall and Heinrich deserve our gratitude for listening to broad-based community input about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks proposal and the need to preserve the area for future generations,” Bishop Vono said. “Our tradition views such areas as very significant for the spiritual inspiration and nourishment of people into the future. As Stewards of God’s creation, it is up to us to protect these precious places. We hope that President Obama remembers the future generations and creates a an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.”

The letter to the President says, in part:

“We do not approach this subject on the ground of policy or politics. Rather, we know the sacredness of this land and the need to protect it. All of our religious traditions hold land, water, air, and wilderness as sacred and the meeting place of God or the places of Holy and numinous experiences. Places such as the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks have been prayerful retreat and renewal places for people of all spiritual traditions throughout the ages. It is important to us to protect such places for the inspiration of future generations; for cherishing water sources and our watersheds as we move deeper into climate change; and for reverencing the Holy speaking through irreplaceable gifts of creation…

In addition, the public lands in Doña Ana County contain many sacred sites for Native Americans. The Organ, Potrillo, Robledo, Doña Ana and Uvas Mountains are key fixtures of the entire region and national treasures that must be preserved…

We want to ensure a heritage of place that inspires future generations and touches their souls as they face life’s challenges. May we always protect sacred places. We also realize as pastors and faith leaders that our people continue to face economic challenges and that protecting gems, such as Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region assists with local employment and economic benefits through tourism, amenity migration and service industry growth that offer sustenance to our communities during difficult economic times.”

“The lands in the proposed monument are precious gifts from God that deserve to be protected,” said Rev. Donna McNiel, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches. “I was honored to have the opportunity to be one of the signees of this letter letting President Obama know that the people of New Mexico want an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.”

Sister Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, said that the area nurtures the spirit and carries spiritual sites which are significant throughout history.

“When I lived and worked on the border in Sunland Park, other Catholic sisters and I went to this area for prayers and renewal time, and today there are people of various traditions that come to this region to pray, to take part in religious ceremonies and to connect with God’s natural gifts,” Franciscan Sister Brown said. “The area is also important as we face increasing devastation of land and watersheds in light of climate change. I look forward to Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks becoming a national monument soon so people into the future can enjoy God’s creation without fear of the land, water, and life being destroyed by overdevelopment and disrespect.”

Read the entire letter.

###
New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light (NMIPL) engages faith communities and individuals in caring for the earth and responding to climate change.