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Las Cruces-Area Leaders Tell Feds: Don't Touch Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

Jul 10, 2017

Commentary: Since President Trump issued his Executive Order on April 26th, 2017, directing “the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations” there has been a broad local demonstration of support for keeping the Monument intact. Thousands of comment cards have been sent in to the Department of the Interior from Doña Ana County residents, and four local governments have passed resolutions opposing any changes to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. 

Additionally the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce commissioned a poll that showed almost 70% of local residents, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, support the Monument and only 16% hold an unfavorable view of it.

“With the level of support we have once again seen for our National Monument, it’s clear our citizens have spoken and they would like our National Monument to stay protected the way it is. I hope Secretary Zinke and President Trump listen to our communities, and they listen to our citizens’ desire to keep these lands protected,” said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima.

“There have been four resolutions passed by our local government opposing any changes to our National Monument since President Trump issued his Executive Order. At the County Commission meeting it was the largest attendance we have ever had. The support for the Monument was as overwhelming then as it has been in all the communities in Doña Ana County for years. Our people love the Monument and want these lands protected, “said Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett.

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has been very successful for our community. Visitation to the Monument is rapidly growing with a 102% increase in tourism in the last year alone.  We are also receiving excellent publicity from international media including Lonely Plant, the Los Angeles Times, and Readers Digest.  The City has just launched a major “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a huge attraction for our region. We have seen a five-fold increase in visitors to our website searching for the national monument, and our new “Monuments to Main Street” initiative has become one of the top priorities for promotional events to help bring  more tourism dollars to Las Cruces” said Jennifer Bales, Executive Director of the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The comment period for this review officially closes today and currently more than 2.3 million Americans across the country have spoken out in support of maintaining current protections for our national monuments, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

At the time of press, regulations.gov posted 1.2 million individual comments.  However, a survey of dozens of concerned organizations gathering public comments to submit to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump as part of the monuments review reveals more than 2.3 million public comments have already been gathered on the final day of the comment period. When uploaded to regulations.gov, however, each bundle will display as a single comment understating the number of comments that been submitted. We are not aware of any anti-monument groups engaged in similar submissions of large bundles of comments.

Renee Frank, a real estate agent in Las Cruces added, “Small businesses stand in strong support of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.  People come to visit and then want to stay thanks to our incredible historic sites and natural resources that we are blessed to have in Doña Ana County.  The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has drawn people here, and I hope Secretary Zinke does not undermine our bottom line.”

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument conserves critical hunting grounds valued by sportsmen across New Mexico. Rescinding or resizing the national monument would take hunting places like the Sierra de Las Uvas and the Potrillo Mountains out of public hands and our time-tested traditions in this area could be gone forever,” said John Cornell, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership New Mexico Representative.

Twenty-seven national monuments across the country, including the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, are subject to this review which could result in losing its current protections or having its boundaries drastically reduced.  For decades, a broad coalition of local elected officials, business owners, sportsmen, Hispanic Leaders, veterans, Native American Tribes, Faith Leaders, and countless others worked to preserve the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area for future generations to enjoy.

Ralph Arellanes, New Mexico State Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said, “Hispano and Latino leaders came together and worked for years with many other constituencies on behalf of our newly-established national monuments, including the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments in New Mexico.  President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke would do a tremendous disservice to our nation if any of these monuments were to be rescinded or altered.  With land agencies being stretched and their budgets being slashed, it’s shameful that tax dollars and valuable time is going into this monuments review.”

And Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director of LULAC said,  “LULAC has  long advocated for our federal network of protected public lands and sites to recognize our Latino cultural heritage as part of our nation’s heritage.  We’re concerned that the progress we’ve made in recent years in New Mexico is being senselessly threatened as part of Secretary Zinke’s monuments review.”

“Having grown up in Vado and working with so many local residents, I believe we are entrusted with defending the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.  We worked as a community to ensure that this area was protected for future generations, and we pray that Secretary Zinke honors our years of dialogue and reflection,” said Sarah Silva, Executive Director of CAFÉ. 

Pastor Robert Reed of Sonoma Springs Covenant Church added, “Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is full of God inspired meaning.  The mountains, the water, the wildlife—declare the glory of God and are gifts from God (Psalm 148). Scripture also says, 'I make you trustees of My estate, so care for My creation…' (Genesis 1:28 The VOICE). We have been given the holy call to be trustees of the earth. It is our responsibility to care for and defend places like the Organ, Potrillo, and Robledo Mountains for the glory of God and the sake of past, present and future generations.”

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument safeguards an irreplaceable piece of our nation’s history including thousands of petroglyphs, historical sites like Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, and World War II Military Training Targets. 

Now, these supporters are rallying behind their national monument and urging Secretary Ryan Zinke to keep the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument as it is today.    

It is clear that New Mexicans have spoken: The cities of Las Cruces, Mesilla, and Anthony and the Doña Ana County Commission have all passed Resolutions supporting the Monument and opposing any reduction to it.