New Research Study Highlights Scientific and Archeological Value of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Press Release

CONTACT: Ben Gabriel, Executive Director
Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
(575) 639-4384 |

160 known sites, thousands of yet undiscovered sites, represent over 13,000 years of important historic and cultural resources

LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO – A new study released today supports the need for significant protections to the Desert Peaks Complex of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, pointing to hundreds of known prehistoric and historic sites and the likelihood of thousands more sites yet to be discovered.
“The Desert Peaks Complex’s known sites are incredibly rich and diverse, including ancient hunting and gathering villages dating back several millennia, through Apache Conflict sites, right up to aerial bombing practice targets used in World War II. These are cultural resources that record our history as a state, as a country, and as a people,” said Archaeologist Myles R. Miller, chief researcher and author of the study. “And we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of the number of sites that have been discovered, yet alone given a proper archaeological investigation.”

Earlier this year, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing the Department of the Interior to review national monument designations since 1996, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. This report was delivered to the Department of the Interior during the public comment period that closed on July 10, generating more than 2.7 million comments, including over 100,000 relating to national monuments in New Mexico.

Support for not changing Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has been widespread, including from the vast majority of Dona Ana County residents, nearly all of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, the Dona Ana County commission, and the city and town councils of Las Cruces, Mesilla, and Anthony. Yet Representative Steve Pearce, who represents the congressional district that contains the monument, has called to reduce its size by 88 percent, including removing the entire Desert Peaks Complex from the monument, the exact area that is highlighted in this report.

“It’s uninformed and narrow-minded,” said Lawrence Loendorf, archaeologist, renowned rock art expert, and another author of the report, speaking of Pearce’s wishes to remove protections for the Desert Peaks. “We have already witnessed damage to several rock sites, irreplaceable records of our history and past beliefs, because sufficient protections didn’t yet exist. This is precisely the purpose of the Antiquities Act – to preserve these sites for future generations. Removing the national monument designation would present a very real danger to these sites, many of which haven’t even been discovered yet.”

The team of researchers, archaeologists, and volunteers who investigated and drafted this report have been working in New Mexico for several years, including joint projects with New Mexico State University, culminating in the American Rock Art Research Association’s yearly convention being held in Las Cruces in May 2016, which was attended by more than 300 people.

“When you begin to piece together all the things that happened here, over thousands and thousands of years, you understand exactly how special this place really is,” said rock art researcher Margaret Berrier, who contributed to the report.

“We’ve had modern astronomers looking through telescopes on Magdalena Peak, the exact spot where New World hunters gazed up at the same stars,” observed Miller. “There are places that were used as hideouts by Geronimo and Billy the Kid. So much has happened here and it’s our duty to properly understand and record, and to protect this history, which is part of our American heritage.”

The full version and executive summary of the report can be found on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks website: