President Obama on Wednesday, May 21, will designate his 11th national monument in a ceremony at the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., creating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico. This is the president's second landscape scale designation in New Mexico at nearly 500,000 acres, and comes in response to years of effort by local communities and lawmakers to see the area protected.
"We’re thrilled that President Obama will use his authority to protect this important piece of America. As the crown jewel of the southern Rockies, there is no place quite like it on Earth,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who visited the area with his family last fall. “Thanks to this designation, families will be able to experience the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks’ cultural sites, rugged landscape, and wildlife for years to come.”
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument includes beloved places like the Robledo Mountains, Broad Canyon, and the Valles Canyon Petroglyphs. Its designation will preserve irreplaceable archaeological and prehistoric sites, which span thousands of years of human history and chronicle New Mexico’s history and culture. It will also safeguard outdoor recreation areas that are so important for tourism and the quality of life in New Mexico. A recent economic study found that national monument designation would give a $7.4 million boost to the economy and double the number of jobs supported by outdoor recreation.
This designation is a product of tireless efforts from the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, national Sierra Club staff, and countless volunteers and activists. In addition, more than 15,000 people submitted public comments supporting a monument designation, adding their voices to those of national business leaders, elected officials, and recreation and conservation groups, including more than 35 local Hispano leaders, Native American communities including Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, U.S. Senators Udall and Heinrich, and retired U.S. Senator Bingaman.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is the crown jewel of the Southern Rockies and is one of the most deserving iconic places in America to receive this designation. The monument is filled with majestic mountains, big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, rare plant species, petroglyph-lined canyons, the Apollo Mission training sites and historical events in western history that include people like Billy the Kid and Geronimo. For more information, see the coalition's media center here
On Friday, Sierra Club's New Mexico based staff and volunteers will celebrate with Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, White House CEQ Acting Chair Mike Boots, and BLM Director Neil Kornze for a local proclamation event in Las Cruces, with the beautiful Organ Mountains as our backdrop. The president's protection of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as our newest national monument demonstrates his commitment to safeguarding vast landscapes.
The Sierra Club is hopeful that this will lead to other large scale proclamations, for places such as Boulder White Clouds in Idaho, Greater Canyonlands in Utah, Grand Canyon Watershed in Arizona, and more before the end of his term.
Photo: Sunset at the Rock House by Lisa Mandelkern.