Published: Tuesday, 06 October 2015 18:02
October 8, 2009
Las Cruces Sun-News
Our view: Our wilderness around Las Cruces deserves protection
For some three decades now, the most pristine areas of the Organ Mountains and other natural treasurers just outside Las Cruces have been regulated under a federal designation that was intended to be temporary — a wilderness study area.
It seems to us there has been plenty of time for study, now it’s time for action. Last week, New Mexico’s two senators, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, introduced a bill that would designate 259,000 acres as wilderness and place another 100,000 acres as a national conservation area. And on Tuesday, the Doña Ana County Commission threw its support behind the measure.
The land to be protected includes the Organ Mountains Wilderness and the Organ Mountains National Conservation Area west of Las Cruces; the Potrillo Mountains Wilderness, the Aden Lava Flow Wilderness, the Cinder Cone Wilderness and the Whitehorn Wilderness, all in southwestern Doña Ana County; and the Sierra de las Uvas Wilderness, the Broad Canyon Wilderness, the Robledo Mountains Wilderness and the Desert Peaks National Conservation Area, all south of Hatch and northwest of Las Cruces.
Introduction of the bill elicited the same arguments from the same adversaries that we’ve been hearing for years. Ranchers who work leased land in the designated areas are concerned that a wilderness designation could hamper their operations. They worry that they would restrict water projects, limit access to their herds and stock tanks and prevent them from making needed improvements to their operations.
We fully appreciate the importance of ranching to a diversified county economy and have no desire to see those operation diminished. If we believed a wilderness designation would have the dire consequences that have been predicted, we’d have second thoughts about offering our endorsement.
In fact, we see no reason why wilderness and ranching can’t co-exist. The federal designation has specific provisions designed to carve out the exemptions ranchers need to run their operations. We believe local ranchers would be better-served working with Bingaman and Udall to ensure that their needs are protected under the bill now being considered, rather than fighting to defeat the bill.
Without protection, these precious lands will be lost to the urban sprawl that will surely come to our area in the years ahead. With wilderness protection, they will be preserved to be enjoyed by future generations.
We commend Bingaman and Udall for introducing this important legislation, and urge all those who treasure these special areas to make your voices heard.