Commentary: Critics claim that creating the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument amounted to a massive overreach of federal power. When signing the executive order to re-evaluate the Monument, President Trump said that it would “end another egregious abuse of federal power and give back that power to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”
Sounds catchy, but the suggestion that the feds imposed the OMDP Monument on Dona Ana County in an act of oppression turns history on its head. In fact, the feds created the monument at the community’s request. When Congress failed to heed popular proposals to protect Dona Ana County’s most notable natural and cultural assets, our community organized to ask the President to do it instead. This was not an abuse of authority. It was government at its best - effectively responding to the people’s wishes.
Local advocates, sportsmen’s groups, businesses, environmental groups and individual citizens all pitched in to help design a monument that would best preserve our unique treasures. Both the city of Las Cruces and the Dona Ana Board of County Commissioners endorsed the proposal.
New Mexico’s US Senate offices, the Department of the Interior, and the State Land Office worked closely with stakeholders to ensure that ranching, border patrol and national security activities could continue unimpeded by the new designation.
By the time the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel visited to inspect the proposed monument, the proposal enjoyed overwhelming support in polling, from stakeholder groups throughout Dona Ana County, and at a massive event held for the community at large.
It is an outrage for the Trump administration to second guess such a fully articulated expression the will of Dona Ana County’s citizens.
Meanwhile, our local Congressman Steve Pearce derides the monument by inventing a new elite and falsely claiming the monument tramples them. “In the West,” Pearce says “the custom and culture is ranching. It’s something that the law was not supposed to change, our custom and culture, and it is.”
The assertion that the “custom and culture” of the twenty some odd Dona Ana County ranchers is more important than the desires of two hundred thousand other residents is downright insulting. And there is not one shred of evidence that the monument has created new burdens on ranchers, or changed their culture, or that it ever will. There is only an abiding rancher’s paranoia that anything federal must be bad – except for their subsidized grazing rights of course.
So let’s set the record straight. The federal government acted according to the will of our community by creating the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. The only federal officials disregarding the public’s wishes are office holders bent on lopping off 90% of the lands Dona Ana County residents successfully fought to include.
Those “egregious abusers” of power would be Donald Trump and Steve Pearce.
Steve Fischmann is a former state senator and one of the many Dona Ana County residents who helped shape and support the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.