Order could threaten national parks, monuments, and public lands across the country
Las Cruces, New Mexico (April 26, 2017) – President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order on Wednesday that could threaten the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The order “directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”
Efforts to protect federal public lands in Doña Ana County began in the early 1970s, with community support growing steadily over decades. Legislation to protect the area was first introduced by Republican Senator Pete Domenici in 2005, with subsequent bills introduced until President Obama designated the area as a national monument in 2014 after Congress was unable to move legislation. More than a dozen local government support resolutions passed during this time.
“As Mayor of the New Mexico’s second largest city, I have seen first-hand the dramatic benefits created from the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. In just the last year visitation to the Monument has more than doubled. It has garnered international attention and really helped put our City on the map. We have even created a new “Monuments to Main Street” celebration to promote exciting new tours in the Monument and boost tourism. It would be tremendously shortsighted to undermine our National Monument,” said Mayor of Las Cruces Ken Miyagishima.
“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument celebrates so much of the history and tourism that Mesilla is known for. From hideouts used by Billy the Kid and Geronimo to the famous Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks protects thousands of years of history in our region. Any reduction of this special monument would undermine our rich legacy, and the tourism that we are growing because of it.” said Town of Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza.
The Executive Order represents not only a threat to the protection of the lands and cultural sites within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, but a negative potential impact to surrounding communities and small businesses that have benefitted from it. New business and tourism opportunities connected to National Monument have been created including the City of Las Cruces’s new “Monuments to Main Street” promotion. Tourists have visited the monument from across the world since its establishment, contributing to the 102% increase in visitation in the last year alone. Las Cruces was recently included in Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 Places to Visit,” due in large part to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
“Our community celebrated after our spectacular lands and cultural treasures were protected through national monument designation,” said Rafael Gomez, Tribal Councilman from the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. “For years we had been working with our elected officials to protect our culture and way of life, and we were able to do so, thanks to the Antiquities Act. Any effort to change the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would go against the will of our people.”
A recent study found that outdoor recreation alone drives a $887 billion economy and supports 7.6 million jobs. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that communities located near monuments and other protected public lands have stronger economies, and that the outdoor and recreational opportunities they provide increase residents’ quality of life, making areas near monuments more attractive to new residents, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and investment.
Since it was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has been used on a bipartisan basis by the majority of U.S. presidents (16, 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats) to protect America’s most iconic natural, cultural, and historic places including: Río Grande del Norte, White Sands, Gila Cliff Dwellings, and more.
Groups representing sportsmen, cultural heritage organizations, evangelicals, conservation, recreation businesses, historic preservation, and many others all oppose efforts to undermine the Antiquities Act because of the widespread historic, cultural, and natural treasures that have been protected through its use.
“Protected public lands like Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument have always been a source of strength and resilience for veterans returning from war,” said Nate Cote, past commander, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 10. “Our shared natural heritage is ingrained in our American ideals, and an attack on our lands and waters is an attack on our values. I fought for our country, I fought to protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument, and I would it again without hesitation.”
The public overwhelming supports national parks, monuments, and public lands and oceans. A 2014 Hart Research poll showed that 90% of voters supported Presidential proposals to protect some public lands and waters as parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness. In the 2017 Conservation in the West poll, only 13% of western voters supported removing protections for existing monuments while 80% supported keeping them in place.
In Doña Ana County, a broad coalition of Hispanic leaders, veterans, Native Americans, sportsmen, small business owners, faith leaders, conservationists, and local elected officials have worked to preserve, and now protect, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.