Richardson Urges Protection For Otero Mesa

Las Cruces – Gov. Bill Richardson says he would support an effort to consider national monument status for southern New Mexico's Otero Mesa.

The governor's comments come in a letter sent Thursday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

An internal Interior Department document lists 14 sites, including Otero Mesa, that could be designated as national monuments through the federal Antiquities Act. The act gives presidents the authority to designate monuments without congressional approval.

The agency has insisted the document is a product of brainstorming and nothing more.

Otero Mesa is the largest publicly owned expanse of undisturbed Chihuahuan Desert grassland in the United States. The area has become a battleground for environmentalists and the oil and gas industry.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.