Diverse coalition praises bill that would preserve Southern New Mexican culture, boost economy

Contact: Chris Cervini, 505-980-6110, chrisc@strategies360.com

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Legislation introduced by Sens. Udall and Heinrich would protect the

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument


Las Cruces, New Mexico (December 12, 2013) – Sportsmen, Native Americans, business leaders, veterans, civic groups, current and former local elected officials, archeologists, historians, and conservation organizations applauded today’s introduction of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act.  A broad coalition of these groups has been advocating protection of this area for nearly a decade.

The legislation, introduced by New Mexico’s U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, would protect areas of natural and cultural significance to New Mexicans and all Americans.  The Bureau of Land Management national monument would allow hunting, livestock grazing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, firefighting, law enforcement, and motorized vehicle access.

Rafael Gomez, Jr., Tribal Council member of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, said, “Many tribes, including ours, have a special love and respect for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County. These are the lands of our native Pueblo ancestors, lands of rich history and beauty, and lands critical to our future.  It is our responsibility to protect and care for these sacred lands for our children and their children to come.”

Measures to safeguard this area from development were introduced in the 111th and 112th Congresses.   That legislation would have designated portions of the area as wilderness and a national conservation area.  Despite wide public support, the measure stalled in the polarized Congress.

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is rich with Hispano heritage and culture that is significant to our community across the country,” said Ralph Arellanes, New Mexico State Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “The area keeps us and our Doña Ana County members connected to our families, traditions and the land itself.  Throughout the generations, we have depended on the land, and protecting Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument will protect and honor our state’s Hispanic culture and heritage.”

Due to inaction in Congress, New Mexico’s former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman and current U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with a diverse locally based coalition, have called on President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to safeguard Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

“An Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would protect what makes America great,” said Bernie Digman, a military veteran and local business owner from Las Cruces. “Our great outdoors, like the lands in Doña Ana County, symbolize what we fought to protect for future generations to enjoy.”

A 2012 poll by Third Eye Strategies found that 83 percent of Doña Ana County residents support an Organ-Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.  An economic study found that a national monument designation in Doña Ana County would contribute more than $7.4 million in additional annual economic activity and create 88 new jobs, doubling the number of jobs that these public lands support in outdoor recreation and tourism.

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area in Doña Ana County is the crossroads of New Mexico’s cultural and natural history,” said Town of Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza.  “People come here for our storied culture and amazing scenery, and protecting Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument will boost our local economy through recreation and tourism in the area and especially in Mesilla.”

In addition to protecting outstanding natural treasures like the Organ Mountains, the Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains, and the Potrillo volcanic field, the monument would protect: American and New Mexico history including key landmarks along the Camino Real, Apollo Mission Training site at Kilbourne Hole, 22 miles of the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, thousands of Native American archeological sites, Gadsden Purchase International Boundary, rare examples of Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands and Sky Islands, historic ranch houses, and more.

To learn more about community driven effort to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument, visit OrganMountains.org.