Over the past few weeks there has been a groundswell of support for establishing a national monument in Doña Ana County. And for good reason: the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would protect our region’s iconic mountain views, preserve our community’s heritage and showcase the national significance of these special places.
Responding to public requests from local businesses, local elected officials, community leaders, sportsmen and veterans, U.S. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Steve Pearce both recently endorsed proposals to create a national monument in Doña Ana County. While the proposals differ, Pearce noted that community support was the key. “A very important element of this is that local groups are calling for it,” he said when announcing his support for a monument.
So what exactly are local groups calling for? Put simply, the community has asked President Obama to protect our public lands in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area that define who we are as New Mexicans. This week the Town of Mesilla unanimously passed a resolution in support of this proposal, and Doña Ana County and Las Cruces will be considering resolutions of support shortly.
The vision is to protect the places where we hunt, the areas where take our families on hikes and picnics, and the spectacular mountain views that frame Las Cruces and inspire us every day. These are the lands we have inherited from past generations, the lands that have helped shape our way of life, and the lands that we in turn want to leave for our children and grandchildren.
Community leaders like state Sen. Steve Fischmann, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagashima and Doña Ana County commissioners Billy Garrett and Scott Krahling have joined groups including the High Tech Consortium of Southern New Mexico, Communities in Action and Faith and Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen in calling on the president to protect not only the Organ Mountains, but also parts of the nearby Potrillo, Robledo and Doña Ana mountains, the Broad Canyon area and Sierra de las Uvas. Hundreds of business owners support this vision, as well as dozens of sportsmen, conservationists, archeologists, veterans and cultural preservation experts.
The comprehensive monument proposal is about more than simply protecting our backyard. Every stage of North American history can be found here, and the proposal would preserve this history for all Americans.
The Robledo Mountains contain pre-dinosaur footprints and a petrified forest buried in the strata. Stories of Native American cultures are literally written on the walls as petroglyphs in the twisting canyons in the Broad Canyon complex. The Needles in the Organ Mountains were a significant landmark for travelers on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Our country’s path of westward expansion is seen in the Butterfield Stagecoach Route that runs through the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains. Geronimo and Billy the Kid both sought refuge in the Robledo Mountains. And to the south, Aden Lava Flow was used a training ground for Apollo 12 astronauts when the west was settled and our country took to exploring the next frontier: space.
These areas define our frontier heritage and our country’s character. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal would protect this varied history and these hidden gems. Individually these stunning public lands provide the best hunting, the best hiking and the best scenery in Doña Ana County. But together these areas help tell the story of who we are as New Mexicans and as Americans. For our community and our country, all of these cherished lands should be protected for continued benefit for future generations.