New Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in the Land of Enchantment today, the latest stop on his save-it-or-shrink-it monument tour.
And if historical, cultural, geographical and environmental importance don’t convince him to keep Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument west of Questa just the way they are, then the wide and deep groundswell of public support should. Because in this highly partisan world, it’s hard to argue with something that has the backing of 16 local government bodies; multiple chambers of commerce; several Indian tribes and pueblos; 375-plus businesses; hunting, fishing and environmental groups; and dozens of civic organizations.
Designation as a national monument adds protections that aren’t as stringent as national parks, but include limits on mining, timber cutting and recreational activities, such as riding off-road vehicles. Both N.M. monuments had broad public support even before they were formally designated by former President Obama in 2013 and 2014.
In fact, there has been little public opposition to Rio Grande del Norte, which, at 242,500 acres, includes the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge and Ute Mountain, as well as petroglyphs, archaeological sites, rare plants and wildlife habitats, vast recreation and hunting areas, and cultural resources ranging from ancient inhabitants to Spanish settlers.