Big Step Forward for Conservation in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Udall, Heinrich Introduce Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act - Wilderness bill completes community's vision for protection within the national monument
On May 21, 2014, President Obama designated the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument by use of the Antiquities Act. (View the signing ceremony on YouTube).
Check out our Spring 2014 edition of New Mexico Wild newsletter, featuring information and great photos on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Sec. Jewell’s visit to Las Cruces. View the newsletter.
Press release and timeline of NM Wild’s involvement in the campaign.
Follow the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Join us in thanking President Obama.
For ten years, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has led the charge for conservation in Doña Ana County. Over the past year, we helped mobilize incredible community support for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks proposed national monument in Doña Ana County. In a recent survey, 83 percent of local citizens expressed their support for the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will protect this rare American landscape and its abundant history. National monument designation also will help secure significant long-term economic benefits for Doña Ana County and Southern New Mexico (for example, visitors to the nearby White Sands National Monument spent $15.7 million in the local economy in 2008).
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance acknowledges President Barack Obama, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their work to make the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument a reality. Heinrich and Udall introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act on December 12, 2013, and on January 25, 2014, hosted Sec. Jewell in Las Cruces for a tour of the proposed national monument and a townhall meeting with the local community. With the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument by President Obama on May 21, 2014, nearly 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County will be permanently protected. The national monument includes the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.
In addition to getting the local community on board with the proposed monument, NM Wild also garnered support from local officials, hundreds of local businesses and the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, we earned media endorsements from the El Paso Times, Las Cruces Sun-News, The Albuquerque Journal, Deming Headlight and the Santa Fe New Mexican. Between April and October 2012, the Town of Mesilla, the cities of Sunland Park, Las Cruces and El Paso, and the Doña Ana County Commission all passed resolutions supporting a national monument. View full list of supporters here.
View a testimonial from a local archaeologist.
NM Wild staff at the national monument signing ceremony in May 2014.
ABOUT THE ORGAN MOUNTAIN-DESERT PEAKS REGION
Organ Mountains: Our Organ Mountains define the Mesilla Valley. From picnickers to horsemen, family outings to day hikes, they offer great recreation, important wildlife habitat, critical watershed protection, and the natural backdrop to New Mexico’s second largest city: Las Cruces. The Organ Mountains encompass three wilderness study areas, each unique and worthy of permanent protection.
Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains: These volcanic mountains support outstanding high desert grasslands. The Uvas sustain thriving populations of quail, deer, javelina and other wildlife. In addition, three different Native American cultures left their marks in various sites throughout these scenic mountains. The Uvas have been managed as a wilderness study area since 1984.
Broad Canyon: A secluded gem, Broad Canyon shelters hidden water pools, flat topped mountains and ancient cultural sites. Only 45 minutes from Las Cruces, this area has some of the most beautiful views that stretch across Southern New Mexico and into Mexico, and is a vital watershed draining over 75 square miles of land.
Potrillo Mountains: Extinct volcanoes, black lava fields, and mile after mile of desert grassland combine to give the West Potrillo Mountains qualities found nowhere else in New Mexico. Just 45 minutes from El Paso and Las Cruces, the Potrillos could be New Mexico’s 4th largest wilderness.
Robledo Mountains: The Robledo Mountains house the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. They have worldwide significance and bring wonderful recognition to the Mesilla Valley Region. The Robledo Mountains unit has been managed as a wilderness study area since 1984.
Cultural Resources: The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects a New Mexico legacy spanning Pre-American, New Mexican, and American history that includes training sites for the Apollo Space Mission, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Geronimo’s Cave and thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs. Download the archaeological report.
Timeline of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s Involvement
1972: Former NM Wild Board Chairman Wesley Leonard and board member Dave Foreman start working on a proposal to protect BLM lands in Doña Ana County.
1984: BLM identifies six Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) in Doña Ana County. NM Wild co-founders are involved in advocating for the protection of local mountain ranges.
1991: BLM identifies two new WSAs in Doña Ana County.
2004: NM Wild opens and staffs Las Cruces Field Office.
2005: NM Wild organizes a community coalition to begin working towards protection of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks area.
2005: Senator Pete Domenici begins work on Doña Ana County conservation legislation. Bill would protect all local WSAs, but also include a large 65,000 acre land sell off component.
2006: NM Wild forms community coalition and helps pass resolutions from local communities urging adoption of a Citizen’s Land Protection Proposal with more proposed wilderness areas and National Conservation Areas, which opposes a land sell off element.
2007: Community Memorandum of Understanding signed, including an agreement on vehicular access and boundary adjustments for citizens conservation proposal. More than 20 local business organizations, sportsmen organizations, and community groups agree to comprehensive boundaries.
2008: Rep. Steve Pearce introduces HR 6300, proposing to remove WSA protection from mountains throughout Doña Ana County. Community coalition and newspaper editorial oppose Rep. Pearce’s legislation.
2009: Sens. Bingaman and Udall introduce Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act (S.1689) to protect WSAs and additional citizen proposed lands in Doña Ana County. The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces (HCCLC) and NM Wild hold wilderness economics forum, which brings in economic development leaders from across the country who discuss the economic benefits of protected public land near communities.
2010: U.S. Senate field hearing draws more than 600 supporters of S.1689. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passes S. 1689 out of committee. Legislation dies when no action is taken before Congress adjourns.
2011: Sens. Bingaman and Udall introduce Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act, S.1024. The legislation closely mirrors S.1689. All land protection legislation in Congress dies to due to inaction, making it the first Congress in more than 40 years to not protect public land in America.
March 20, 2012: NM Wild, along with diverse community of supporters, announces proposal calling for the designation of a national monument.
December 12, 2013: U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduce the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
January 25, 2014: United States Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell visits Las Cruces for a town hall to gauge support for the proposed national monument and tour proposed monument areas. Support for the national monument at the forum was overwhelming.
May 21, 2014: Obama designates the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
We still need your help to save the historical, cultural and ecological gems in Doña Ana County. Please consider giving to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance to help us continue our efforts to protect wilderness areas within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument. Your generous contributions help us fund our Las Cruces staff members who are working on the ground every day to conserve Doña Ana County’s most special places.