Designation of New National Monument Caps Years of Work

Sportsmen, wildlife advocates applaud President Obama’s decision to protect southern New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

05-21-2014 // Judith Kohler
Organ Mountains

Sportsmen and women joined business owners, political and civic leaders and New Mexico residents from diverse backgrounds in celebrating President Barack Obama’s decision to make the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a national monument.

Wednesday’s proclamation follows years of work by the public to protect the southern New Mexico site that includes the quartz spires of the Organ Mountains, volcanic mountains and cliffs, box canyons, ancient rock carvings and historic ranching sites. The nearly half-million-acre area is home to a broad array of wildlife, including, mule deer, mountain lions, golden eagles and peregrine falcons. 

"The designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a National Monument is a great historic action by President Obama. It preserves this iconic area for future generations and allows continued traditional uses of the land, helping maintain the local economy and wildlife habitat," said Kent Salazar an Albuquerque, N.M., resident and member of the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors.

Obama is establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument under the Antiquities Act, which has been used by presidents of both parties since 1906 to conserve such American treasures as the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon and Muir Woods. Last year, Obama used his authority under the act to establish the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.

New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced a bill to designate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument, but the proposal, like similar bills, has been stalled by congressional gridlock. Hundreds of supporters of establishing a national monument turned out in January when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the site and attended a public meeting.

"Together with local businesses, Native American tribes, and ranchers, sportsmen and wildlife advocates applaud the leadership of Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, who championed the efforts leading up to President Obama’s designation," said John Gale, NWF’s national sportsmen campaigns manager.

"The Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument is a shining illustration of how collaboration and local leadership can yield meaningful outcomes for public lands stewardship."

Gale noted that a bill by Sen. Mark Udall to make Browns Canyon in southern Colorado a national monument while maintaining current land uses has widespread support, but its fate in Congress is uncertain.

Beyond its historic and natural values, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area is seen as an important part of the regional economy, providing a sustainable source of revenue from tourism, recreation, hunting and other outdoor activities. A 2013 report by an independent economics firm said a monument designation is expected to boost the economic benefits by $7.4 million to $17.6 million yearly.

"We’ve been working on this for more than a decade. Sportsmen, many of whom own local businesses, have been diligently reaching out to community leaders and elected officials to make permanent protection of these important lands a reality,” John Cornell of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation said. "We have all been committed because of what these lands and wildlife mean to us and will one day mean to our kids’ outdoor opportunity and potential livelihood."

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