News

Honoring the Antiquities Act

By Nick Streit, Toby Basil, and Rafael Gomez, Jr. For The Hill

A sportsman, veteran and tribal council member walk into a national monument.

The sportsman looks around and says, “I bet this is a great place to hunt.”

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The veteran looks around and says, “I would love to come here and reconnect with my family and friends.”
The tribal council member looks around and says, “I would love to bring my grandchildren here to see our native lands and waters.”

While we all come from different places with diverse backgrounds, we all have something in common: We want to safeguard our cultural, historical, and natural treasures for future generations to enjoy. As our country celebrates the 109th anniversary of the Antiquities Act this month, we are telling our stories because each of us has a unique and special bond to a national monument created through the Antiquities Act.

But the sad truth is that a time-honored tradition of setting aside public land for its natural or cultural significance is under attack in Congress.

As a business owner and sportsman in northern New Mexico, I – Nick Streit – value national monuments for the quality wildlife habitat they protect and the tourism and recreation dollars that they bring to my community. The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is prime wildlife habitat for bears, cougars, elk, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. But let’s not forget the fish, and big fish, to boot. That is my bread and butter. The waters of the Rio Grande are home to wild brown, rainbow and Rio Grande cutthroat trout – an angler’s paradise. Luckily for me and the thousands of small business owners who depend on protected public lands, national monuments are proven economic drivers for local communities.

Being a veteran, I – Toby Basil – view national monuments as place to find strength and resilience. Places like Pullman National Monument in Chicago connect us to our national past and future. It tells a story about who we are as a nation, how far we’ve come, and where we can go from here. As someone who fought for our country, I feel strongly about what makes America great, and our conservation ethic is a big part of that. Preserving our shared natural and cultural heritage is patriotism and democracy at its best. Our service does not end when we come home, which is why I fought to protect Pullman for future generations to enjoy. I am proud to stand up for the Antiquities Act and fight for places like Pullman in Illinois, Browns Canyon in Colorado, and Fort Monroe in Virginia.

As a tribal council member of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in West Texas, I – Rafael Gomez, Jr. – can tell you that many tribes have a special love for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and are humbled by its natural and cultural gifts. Our new national monument recently marked its one-year anniversary, but its role in Native American history extends well beyond that. This is where our Pueblo ancestors walked, and raised their families, and these sacred lands are critical for our future. That is why our community of sportsmen and ranchers, small business owners and elected officials, and Native Americans and Latino groups came together to make sure that this special place was conserved for future generations.

It does not matter that we are from New Mexico, Texas, or Illinois. The work to safeguard the places we love – be it through legislation or the Antiquities Act — has always started with us, an engaged citizenry.

But recently some members of Congress have introduced proposals that would undermine the Antiquities Act. This goes against what our communities want and worked for, and would silence our voices. National monuments are designated to preserve our public lands so that every American can benefit from their protection. As a nation, we should not be abdicating our responsibility to act in the best interests of our country by allowing state and local officials to veto decisions to protect places that matter to entire cultures and our nation as a whole.

Whether we walk into Río Grande del Norte, Pullman, or Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments, we know these are special places that belong to all us. Likewise, local communities are asking Congress and the President to set aside places like Basin and Range in Nevada, Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho, and the Birthplace of Rivers in West Virginia.

So for us, this really isn’t a joke. The sportsman, veteran and tribal council member would simply end their story by saying, “Thank God these monuments are protected. Let’s leave the Antiquities Act alone.”

Streit owns Taos Fly Shop in Taos and The Reel Life in Santa Fe New Mexico. Basil is a veteran from Springfield, Illinois. Gomez is a Tribal Council member of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in West Texas.

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Earth Matters / Aldo Leopold Eco Monitors

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In this week’s edition of Earth Matters, co-producer Nathan Newcomer interviews students from the Aldo Leopold Charter School’s Eco-Monitoring Program.

Based in Silver City, Aldo Leopold Charter School launched their Eco-Monitoring program several years ago to give students the opportunity to participate in gathering data in the U.S. National Forest. They discuss much of the important work that the students do, including collecting data on soils, aquatics, range, forest, and wildlife.

They also discuss the importance of educating youth on the importance of conservation work, and how that translates into healthier communities and thriving local economies.

Tune in to this week’s Earth Matters to learn more.

Comment period extended to June 26th for possible geothermal leasing in the Santa Fe National Forest

Listen To Staff Attorney, Judy Calman

talk about the dangers of geothermal exploration near our water sheds

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The Santa Fe National Forest recently announced a public scoping period for a Forest Plan amendment which would consider making over 194,000 acres available for leasing for geothermal production immediately to the north and west of Valles Caldera National Preserve.

The area being considered for leasing includes portions of nine Inventoried Roadless Areas and countless water sources, including all the springs visited and loved in the Jemez Ranger District. Inventoried Roadless Areas are places the Forest Service has determined contained wilderness characteristics, but which have not yet been permanently protected as wilderness by Congress.

Not only is the timing wrong with the Santa Fe already going through a Forest Plan revision, it is also inappropriate and out of step with the agency’s mission to consider such a large impact to a forest which is so intensely used by sportsmen, hikers, and backpackers, and which contains wilderness-quality lands.

Goal now is to get the most from monument – LCSN

Editorial: Goal now is to get the most from monument

Las Cruces Sun-News

POSTED:   05/15/2015 01:00:00 AM MDT

There was so much bitter debate leading up to the decision, that it seems hard to believe a full year has passed since President Barack Obama used his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on May 21, 2014.

The year since then has not brought the calamity monument opponents had warned that it would. The Potrillo Mountains have not been turned into a corridor for illegal drug smuggling. Nor has the year brought us much in terms of tourism growth or enhanced economic development, as had been promised by supporters. Those benefits will come in time, we believe.

There has been some work done on the monument in the past year. New signs were erected by the Bureau of Land Management to designate the new national monument. But, we won’t fully know about the monument’s impacts and benefits until the BLM completes its land use plan, and that is still expected to be years away.

In the meantime, a number of celebrations have been planned for next week to mark the monument’s anniversary. This Saturday and Sunday, the BLM will waive day-use fees at Aguirre Spring Campground and all fees, excluding the group site fee, at Dripping Springs Natural Area/La Cueva. The $7 campsite fee will remain in effect.

Tonight, a celebration will be held at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum with a tribal blessing and the unveiling of the OMDP Achievement badge for Girl Scouts. On Saturday, a hike will be held at the Dripping Springs Natural Area, followed by a big game cookout at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. An interfaith service is planned for Sunday at Dripping Springs.

The Las Cruces City Council is expected to declare today through May 22 as OMDP Celebration Week at its meeting Monday. Other events include a safety talk Tuesday, fiesta at the Mesilla Plaza on Wednesday, art show Thursday at the West End Art Depot and OMDP Monumental Opening Night next Friday for the opening game of the season for the Las Cruces Vaqueros baseball team.

There will also be a focus throughout the week on the potential economic opportunities the new national monument may bring for local businesses, said Carrie Hamblen of the Green Chamber of Commerce.

It took a lengthy effort to persuade the president to declare the monument, and the process was often quite contentious. We appreciate that not everybody in our community will be celebrating next week.

But the monument has been declared. The goal now should be to make the most of it.

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