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Press Release: Hispano, Green Chambers of Commerce Applaud Reintroduction of Wilderness Protection Bill

For Immediate Release
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contact: Gabe Vasquez, Executive Director, Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces
Phone: 575-532-9255
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: Elisa Cundiff, Executive Director Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 575-649-7694
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hispano, Green Chambers of Commerce Applaud Reintroduction of Wilderness Protection Bill

Las Cruces, N.M. – The Las Cruces Hispano and Green Chambers of Commerce joined today to applaud the reintroduction of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act – now known as the Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act – into Congress.

The Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, seeks to create wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks and foothills of the Organ Mountains, as well as the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.

“This legislation will be a tremendous asset in our ability to recruit good companies and jobs to Doña Ana County,” said John Munoz, President of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces. “Entrepreneurs want to live in an area with a high quality of life for them and their families. Protecting Doña Ana County’s incredible wilderness areas will play an important role in securing our quality of life and our economic future.”

When the bill was introduced during the last session of Congress, the bill was given a unanimous “voice vote” approval, clearing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both Bingaman and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall were sponsors of the bill.

“Numerous studies have shown that communities with protected lands nearby have higher than average personal income growth and job creation. The reason is simple – people are attracted to the high quality of life associated with beautiful views, undisturbed wild lands, recreation, cultural and historical landmarks, clean air and water, and diverse wildlife. If passed by Congress, this legislation will be a boost to businesses in Doña Ana County, creating more jobs in the recreation and tourism industries and continuing to attract people who want to live and work here. We can’t thank Senators Bingaman and Udall enough for their efforts.” said Renee Frank, President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.

Much of the wilderness area targeted for protection by the new legislation has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area,” a Bureau of Land Management designation, since the 1980s when the Reagan Administration set it aside for protected status. If passed, the bill would create about 241,400 acres of wilderness and 99,150 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). These areas would then be managed in ways that protect the landscape and environment from development while preserving existing uses – such as hunting, hiking and grazing.

About the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces: The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, through its diverse membership, advocates for business growth in the community and promotes Las Cruces and Hispanic business owners through economic development, education, community service, and cultural awareness. The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces was initiated in 1992 as the Hispano Chamber of Doña Ana County, and in 1994 incorporated as The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces. The original founders consisted of a group of businesspersons interested in developing a support organization for small, Hispanic businesses.

About the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce: The Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, a chapter of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, is a network of businesses dedicated to building a healthy, vibrant, and diverse local economy in Las Cruces and the surrounding areas. The mission of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce is to foster the success of the local economy and to promote businesses committed to environmental and social responsibility.

 

Dona Ana County Wilderness Bill Reintroduced!

For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contact: The Office of Senator Jeff Bingaman
Phone: 1-800-443-8658

Contact: The Office of Senator Tom Udall
Phone: (202) 224-6621

From the Offices of Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall

BINGAMAN & UDALL RENEW EFFORT TO PROTECT ORGAN MOUNTAINS WHILE IMPROVING BORDER SECURITY

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today renewed their push to protect the scenic landscape of the Organ Mountains in Doña Ana County.

The legislation, called the Organ Mountains – Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024), creates wilderness and conservation areas in the county that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.  A map of the proposal can be found here.

Much of the area has been managed as a “Wilderness Study Area” since the 1980s when the Reagan administration first set it aside for protected status.  It was later recommended by the George H.W. Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan to be elevated to full wilderness status.

The legislation would bring President Bush’s recommendations to fruition by creating 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA).  These areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses – such as hunting and grazing.

As before, the bill also contains the modifications developed with the Border Patrol to enhance the flexibility of Border Patrol and law enforcement to operate in the border area above and beyond existing law.  Because of the way the West Potrillos Wilderness Study Area boundary was originally drawn by the Reagan Administration, the Border Patrol has a buffer of only 1/3 of a mile from the international border and is currently limited in its ability to conduct routine vehicle patrols north of Highway 9.

The bill introduced today expands this buffer to a total of 5 miles – 3 miles of non-wilderness buffer area and an additional 2-mile “Restricted Use Area.”  This area would prohibit motorized access by the general public, but it will permit the Border Patrol to conduct routine patrols and construct communication and surveillance infrastructure as it would on regular multiple-use land.  The bill proposes to un-designate over 30,000 acres of land currently designated as wilderness study area.  Here is a link to maps that show the current Wilderness Study Area as compared to the new proposal.

In addition to the nearly five mile buffer, the new proposal also provides an east-west route for Border Patrol to travel between the Potrillo Mountains Wilderness.  And it underscores current law by expressly stating that the wilderness designation does not affect Border Patrol’s ability to conduct overflights above the wilderness areas or other border security activities in the wilderness areas, including the use of motorized vehicles while in pursuit of a suspect. The commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who oversees Border Patrol, wrote a letter last year in strong support of the strengthened proposal.  In the letter Commissioner Alan Bersin states that the bill, as modified, “would significantly enhance the flexibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate in this border area.”

“While illegal activity is very low near the Potrillo Mountains because of the rough terrain, I remain convinced the 1/3-mile buffer is insufficient for the Border Patrol and law enforcement to adequately operate in this border area,” Bingaman said.  “This bill not only enhances our border security flexibility in the area, it also benefits the quality of life in the region by protecting its iconic landscapes.”

“This bill strikes the right balance between securing our border and protecting treasured landscapes like the Organ Mountains for generations to come,” Udall said. “I’m proud to once again join with Senator Bingaman in introducing this important legislation.”

In the 111th Congress, the bill received a hearing before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee both in Washington D.C. as well as at a field hearing in Las Cruces.  The measure was then approved unanimously last year by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but was not considered by the full Senate in the 111th Congress.

Introducing the bill today will begin the process anew in the 112th Congress.

Press Release: Local Sportsmen and Back Country Horsemen Organizations Call for Protection of Wilderness

For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Contact: Jim Bates, Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen Vice President
Phone: 575-644-7751
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: Don Patterson, Back Country Horsemen of America, Lower Rio Grande Chapter
Phone: 575-649-5584
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Local Sportsmen and Back Country Horsemen Organizations Call for Protection of Wilderness

For Immediate Release: May 18, 2011

backcountry horsemn NM logo

With the introduction of the Organ Mountains/ Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act today in Congress, local sporting and horse riding organizations are calling for the final protection of Doña Ana County’s wild lands.

“We are thrilled to see Senators Bingaman and Udall renew our community’s efforts to permanently protect our natural treasures, like the Organ Mountains and Broad Canyon.  Efforts to protect these places have been going on for over 30 years.  Its time we get on with it, and pass this bill now for the future of Doña Ana County,” stated Don Patterson, Vice-President of the Lower Rio Grande Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America.

DAC sportsmen logo 222x250“Sportsmen applaud the tremendous leadership of Senators Bingaman and Udall.  With the rapid loss of open space and high quality habitat, it’s so important that we secure the natural treasures that are left. We need to do this for our heritage, our families, our wildlife, and for our future.  This legislation is very well thought out, and we are proud to support it,” stated Jim Bates, Vice President of the Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen.

CONTACT :

Jim Bates, Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen Vice President: (575) 644-7751 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Don Patterson, Back Country Horsemen of America, Lower Rio Grande Chapter: (575) 649-5584 – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Release: Mining Claims in Otero Mesa Nearly Triple

For Immediate Release
Date: May 5, 2011

Contact: Nathan Newcomer, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
Phone: 505-2504225
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact: John Cornell, New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Phone: 575-740-1759

 

New Mexico Wilderness Alliance* The Wilderness Society*
Southwest Environmental Center* New Mexico Wildlife Federation*

National Wildlife Federation* Sierra Club* The Audubon Society*
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership* Restoring Eden*
Environment New Mexico* Apache Advocates for Otero Mesa*

Mining Claims in Otero Mesa Nearly Triple
Geovic Mining Corp goes from staking 68 mining claims to 183 in the heart of America’s wildest grassland


For nearly a decade, the Coalition for Otero Mesa has worked to safeguard the fragile grasslands, abundant wildlife, and freshwater resources of this rare landscape from full-scale oil and gas drilling. Now, the volatile threat of hardrock mining in the region has grown exponentially.

In January of this year, the Coalition discovered 68 mining claims had been staked in the heart of Otero Mesa, but now that number has nearly tripled to 183 claims. Denver-based Geovic Mining Corp, also majority owner of the largest cobalt-producing operation in the world (based in Cameroon, Africa), is the lead company seeking to mine for zirconium and other rare earth minerals. This type of mining operation could destroy Otero Mesa’s rare and fragile ecosystem, seriously damaging wildlife habitat, soil composition and underground aquifers in the region.

“Otero Mesa is an extraordinarily rare landscape, and if this project moves forward, we could ultimately see the poisoning of our groundwater and the complete removal of the iconic mountains in this beautiful grassland,” said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Hardrock mining has absolutely no place in the heart of Otero Mesa.”

On April 21st, Geovic Mining Corp filed for a “Minimal Impact Exploration Permit Application” with the State Mining and Minerals Division. However, obtaining a state mining permit does not necessarily satisfy the obligation to obtain other federal, state and local permits. The company is proposing to drill 10 test wells, with the majority of them on the slopes of the iconic Wind Mountain. All of the pending mining operations are either within proposed wilderness areas or proposed Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).1

“To us Apache, Otero Mesa is our cathedral,” said Ted Rodriguez, speaking on behalf of the Apache Advocates for Otero Mesa. “This hardrock mining plan for so-called “rare earth” minerals has the potential to significantly alter the landscape, but what is more rare than this earth that we N’de hold so sacred?” Mr. Rodriguez is also the Headman of the Mescalero Apache Traditional Elders Council and serves on various tribal committees.

Otero Mesa is an ecologically rich area home to 1,000 native wildlife species, including mule deer, mountain lion, black-tailed prairie dogs, golden and bald eagles, over 200 species of migratory songbirds, and boasts the state’s healthiest and only genetically pure herd of pronghorn antelope. Otero Mesa sits above the Salt Basin Aquifer, which is suspected to be the largest, untapped, fresh water aquifer left in the state of New Mexico. The area also has a long history of cultural use and significance, which includes the estimated 20,000 petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain, historic ruins of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach, and numerous archeological sites.

“Otero Mesa has been a special place for Southern New Mexico Sportsmen for many generations,” said John Cornell of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Hard rock mining, in any form, would have a serious negative impact on wildlife, habitat and the salt basin aquifer.”

Protection for Otero Mesa enjoys broad support locally and nationally. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson previously proposed a more than 600,000-acre National Conservation Area and has called on the BLM to conduct a new inventory of the area’s wilderness potential. Resolutions of support have come from the cities of Las Cruces and El Paso, Dona Ana County, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribe. Permanent protection has also been endorsed by former Lt. Governor Diane Denish, former State Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Joanna Prukop, and many state representatives, state senators, county commissioners, city councilors, archaeological societies, religious leaders, and local residents. Furthermore, Governor Bill Richardson asked the Obama administration to designate the area a national monument before leaving office.

For more information on the values of Otero Mesa and efforts to ensure its protection for future generations, visit www.oteromesa.org

###

[1] Citizens participating in the BLM’s preparation of a resource management plan governing millions of acres in Southern New Mexico found portions of Otero Mesa to meet the criteria for designation as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964, and asked the BLM to protect these values. In addition, citizens have proposed protection of the grassland ecosystem through designation of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which the agency uses to protect lands with special scientific, natural, cultural and scenic resources. Otero Mesa has been highlighted from acreage encompassing three counties for its incomparable values because it not only merits special protection, but also needs to be safeguarded.

Nathan Newcomer
Associate Director
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
142 Truman St. Suite B1
Albuquerque, NM 87108
505-843-8696, ext. 106
505-843-8697 fax
www.nmwild.org

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