For more than a decade, opposing factions in our community have been fighting over what a national monument might be. Now, we have the opportunity to come together to determine what the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will be.
Today, President Barack Obama will use his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate nearly 500,000 acres in Doña Ana County as a national monument. It is a moment to celebrate. The president of the United States has agreed that these lands are unique and deserving of special designation.
For supporters of the monument effort, the president’s decision represents victory in what was a long, hard-fought battle. But opponents of the monument would be badly mistaken to take this as a defeat and give up the effort.
We have long believed that the horror stories related from other national monuments in other states need not happen here. There is no reason a national monument can not coexist with private grazing, with watershed management and flood control, and with border security.
But to ensure that happens, those who have been most vocal in the past in opposing the monument must be just as vocal now in the process of helping to shape the monument.
The Bureau of Land Management will be in charge of that effort, through creation of a management plan. We know from past experience to expect a lengthy, exhaustive process, with ample opportunity for public comment at every step along the way.
Leaders of the effort to gain monument designation have made assurances throughout the process that grazing rights, access for land management and border security will not be hampered. We expect they will now work just as hard as the monument’s opponents in ensuring that those promises are kept.
Because of the size and diversity of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, there will be a number of decisions that will have to be made in the coming years. This isn’t the traditional monument, with an entrance gate leading to a museum and gift shop leading to a single attraction. Here, there will be numerous attractions, some easily accessible, some not.
How do we market and promote these sites while still protecting them? How do we increase the number of visitors without impacting traditional uses of the lands such as grazing and hunting?
There will be no shortage of stakeholders at the table clamoring to be heard. It will likely be a noisy, contentious process. Which is how it should be.
But we have always believed that supporters and opponents of the monument both want many of the same things. It’s time to start finding that common ground.