An E&E Publishing Service
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
April Reese, E&E reporter
SANTA FE, N.M. — Protecting a mountainous, historically significant area of southern New Mexico as a national monument would benefit the local economy, according to a study released today by a consulting group.
The analysis, commissioned by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and conducted by BBC Research and Consulting, says that designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County would have a “significant positive effect” on the local economy.
“With the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks permanently protected, we will be better equipped to promote Las Cruces as a city where businesses and individuals can prosper,” said Philip San Filippo, director of the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a statement. “Just as important, this action will help establish our reputation as a community that’s involved in protecting its unique heritage.”
Specifically, federal protection for the area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, would pump about $7.4 million into the local economy each year and create 88 new jobs — twice as many as those public lands support now in outdoor recreation and tourism. On top of that, another $562,000 could be generated in combined state and local government tax revenue from such a designation, the study suggests.
The monument proposal has widespread support among local officials and residents, many of whom want to see historic sites such as the Butterfield Stage Trail, American Indian petroglyphs and Apollo Mission training areas protected.
“There are sites located inside the proposed national monument that are sacred to New Mexico’s history,” said Nora Barraza, mayor of Mesilla. “Whether we are discussing the historic Butterfield Stage Trail, the Gadsden Purchase former international boundary or the Camino Real Trail, this region is a symbolic and important crossroads for the entire continent.”
The cities of Las Cruces and Mesilla, as well as Doña Ana County, have passed resolutions urging President Obama to declare the area a national monument (Greenwire, July 31, 2012). Veterans groups also support a monument designation.
The area, located north of the U.S.-Mexico border, encompasses twisting canyons that shelter petroglyphs from three American Indian cultures; historical wagon tracks along the Butterfield Stage route; “Outlaw Rock,” where Billy the Kid once hid from his pursuers; Geronimo’s Cave; bomb testing grounds from World War II; and 243 known archaeological sites, according to a report released this year outlining the area’s historical and archaeological features.
Its natural features include rare Chihuahuan grasslands, old lava flows and cinder cone mountains. Rocks that were once a practice ground for the Apollo astronauts provide habitat for three species of quail, mountain lion, desert mule deer, javelina and the endangered Aplomado falcon. Eight wilderness study areas lie within the boundaries of the proposed monument (Greenwire, April 30, 2012).
New Mexico’s two Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, have urged Obama to designate the monument using his powers under the Antiquities Act.
But Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), whose district partly encompasses the lands that would become part of the monument, opposes such a move (Greenwire, Oct. 26, 2012).
He introduced a bill last year that would create a national monument in the area with a smaller footprint. The congressman’s version is favored by the Las Cruces Hispano Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, due to concerns about a larger monument designation adversely affecting growth, according to letters from both provided by Pearce’s office.