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Las Cruces Sun News

In a little more than two weeks, S1024 — the Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act — will die when the second session of the 112th Congress comes to an end.

At the same time, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the sponsor of the bill, will step down after serving in the Senate for three decades. While his replacement, Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich, has expressed support for the proposed local national monument and could pick up the cause, he will do so as a freshman, not as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

All of which suggests a legislative solution to the issue of federal public lands protection in Doña Ana County is simply out of reach, and will likely continue to be for some time. Bingaman will go down as one of the Senate’s great champions for the preservation of public lands. But even with his leadership, this Congress will recess without adding a single acre of wilderness protection to federal lands.

It is becoming increasing clear that if the public lands in and around Las Cruces are to be granted national monument status, it will have to come from President Obama using his authority under the Antiquities Act to do so without the participation of Congress.

In a letter sent to Obama in October, Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall both urged him to do just that. They weren’t giving up on the legislation, Udall said at the time, but they understood the realities of our current divided government.

Backers of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument released poll results recently showing that 83 percent of all voters support the planned monument and only 10 percent oppose it. While those numbers were likely skewed by the wording of the question, there is little doubt as to the widespread support for preserving our most scenic and historically significant lands for future generations to enjoy.

That preservation effort should start with the Organs, but it should not end there. The petroglyph sites in Valles Canyon and spread throughout the Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains; the Aden Lava Flow and Aden Crater; Kilbourne Hole; the Butterfield Stage Trail and other areas around Las Cruces should be included as well.

National monument status would not close off these lands, as some have feared. Nor would it prevent Border Patrol officers from doing their jobs to secure the border. Existing land protections legislated by Congress would still remain in place, but new protection would be added for areas not now covered.

Exact boundaries of the monument would be laid out by the president, with input from the secretary of the Interior and local stakeholders.

Along with protecting and preserving the lands, a national monument would also draw new attention to the sites, creating an economic benefit as well.

The Doña Ana County Commission and Las Cruces City Council are both on record in support of the monument. Obama should give great weight to that local support as he considers this request.


Wilderness Protection Campaigns

  • Rio Grande del Norte

    Rio Grande del Norte The Rio Grande del Norte has shaped the lives of the people who have lived and visited the area for so many generations. Read More
  • Organ Mountains

    Organ Mountains The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects a New Mexico legacy spanning Pre-American, New Mexican, and American history. Read More
  • Pecos Wilderness

    The Pecos Wilderness, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, encompasses 223,637 acres spanning the Carson and Santa Fe national forests in northeastern New Mexico, and is the source of the Read More
  • Gila Campaign

    Gila Campaign The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has been busy working on many fronts in and around the Gila Wilderness, the birthplace of the wilderness protection movement and our state’s largest wilderness. Read More
  • Victories

    Victories The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has had several major victories since the organization was founded in 1997. Read more about our conservation victories below. Read More
  • Outreach and Education

    Outreach and Education In 2013, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance launched a pilot Wilderness Education project to test a model of environmental education. We tested a three-tiered approach for environmental education that begins in Read More
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News About the Organ Mountains - Desert Peaks Campaign

  • OMDP turns 3 — is it bringing visitors, money to the area! +

    LAS CRUCES - Three years ago, President Barack Obama declared the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument  after decades of grassroots efforts

    Read More
  • NM Mayors: Wilderness designation preserves important lands +

    NM Mayors: Wilderness designation needed

    Printed in the El Paso Times and Las Cruces Sun News

    Ken Miyagishima, Nora Barraza,

    Read More
  • Diverse coalition praises effort to preserve special lands in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (2) +

    Legislation introduced by Sens. Udall and Heinrich would protect wilderness within the national monument

    Las Cruces, New Mexico (June 10,

    Read More
  • Help Us Protect the Organ Mountains +

    2015 10 22 15 15 27

    Read More
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Testimonial – Angel Pena +

    Testimonial – Angel Pena 

    Read More
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