Obama to designate national monument in New Mexico

By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times
May 19, 2014

In a western land debate that has pitted ranchers against environmentalists, President Obama this week will designate nearly half a million acres in southern New Mexico as a national monument.

Mr. Obama is expected to sign a proclamation Wednesday designating the vast tract as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, to be managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It includes historic sites such as the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail and training sites for the Apollo space program.

Activists and some local officials hailed the pending move Monday as a victory for preservation.

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help protect our way of life while allowing for responsible development and expanding opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the beauty and multicultural history of this unique landscape,” said Billy Garrett, Dona Ana County Commissioner chairman, in a statement.

But the plan has angered ranchers and other opponents who say it’s yet another intrusive federal land-grab. A town-hall meeting in Las Cruces, N.M., in March drew a standing-room-only crowd of opponents, including ranchers who said the plan would be too restrictive and cover too much territory.

Mr. Obama’s executive action will follow the contours of a Senate bill proposed by Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who want to protect nearly 500,000 acres.

A House bill proposed by Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, would set aside 54,800 acres for protection as a national monument.

In March, Mr. Obama designated 1,600 acres in the Point Arena-Stornetta region to be part of the California Coastal National Monument established by President Bill Clinton in 2000. House Republicans said the action wasn’t necessary because they had passed similar legislation.