Bill seeks to elevate White Sands to national park status - Albuquerque Journal

Bill seeks to elevate White Sands to national park status

A vast expanse of shifting white sand dunes in southern New Mexico would be elevated from a national monument to a national park under legislation proposed Friday by one of the state’s senators.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, made the announcement while visiting the state as part of a multiday tour that also included looking at the potential for more outdoor recreation elsewhere as New Mexico and other western states promote their wide open spaces in hopes of attracting more tourists and more money.

White Sands already brings in about a half-million visitors each year, and Heinrich said designating the area as a national park has been something that community leaders and local elected officials have been pursuing for years.

Visitors hike the shifting dunes of White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo in this 2011 photo. White Sands was established as a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933, but a bill introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich would elevate the natural wonder to national park status, potentially boosting the local economy. (Susan Montoya Bryan/Associated Press)

“Everyone who visits White Sands marvels at its remarkable geology, spectacular scenery and outstanding recreation experiences,” he said in a statement. “And the broad regional support we’ve received for what could be our state’s second national park demonstrates the endless opportunities this designation would offer to communities and local businesses across southern New Mexico.”

With national park status, supporters hope to bring more recognition. Entrance fees and access would remain the same.

A study released Friday by the nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics found that re-designation of White Sands could result in more than $6 million in new spending and dozens of additional jobs.

The group looked at eight re-designated national parks in California, Colorado, Arizona and Utah and found that visits increased on average by about 20 percent within five years. The parks also had more overnight visits and spending per visitor than monuments.

The study also suggests that the uptick in visitation at national parks following the recession will persist as long as the national economy continues to grow.

White Sands was established as a monument in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover to preserve the dunes and additional features of scenic, scientific and educational interest.

Supporters have said the monument contains a more diverse set of archaeological and scientific resources than were first known, including the recent discovery of Ice Age fossilized footprints and sloth tracks.

The monument has the largest collection of fossilized tracks in gypsum in the world, from saber-toothed cats and woolly mammoths to ancient camels.

Thousands of hearth sites where early inhabitants built campfires have also been preserved in the dunes in ways not found elsewhere, and scientists are finding new species and subspecies of insects and reptiles that have adapted to the unique conditions.

White Sands is bordered by a military missile range. The bill clears the way for a land trade with the U.S. Army that has been in the works since the 1970s.

An additional 9 square miles would be transferred to White Sands, and park officials would take over management of another area currently within the monument’s boundary. Nearly 6 square miles would be transferred to the Army.

Situated in the Tularosa Basin, the monument currently spans 224 square miles with the dune field stretching across parts of the monument and the missile range.

Under the proposal, existing agreements would remain in place between the military and the National Park Service to protect use of airspace and testing grounds for the missile range, nearby Holloman Air Force Base and Fort Bliss.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Lobo/Aggie basketball rivalry returns after 2 years
ABQnews Seeker
After two years, the Lobo/Aggie men's ... After two years, the Lobo/Aggie men's basketball rivalry is back Tuesday night in Las Cruces.
2
New trial begins for Rio Arriba sheriff
ABQnews Seeker
James Lujan is charged with helping ... James Lujan is charged with helping a friend avoid arrest in 2017
3
Elk poached at Bandelier National Monument
ABQnews Seeker
Park rangers are seeking the public's ... Park rangers are seeking the public's help in finding those responsible for that killing, as well as the death of a mule deer
4
Sunport has second-busiest stretch in 20 months
ABQnews Seeker
65,000 holiday travelers reported over 5-day ... 65,000 holiday travelers reported over 5-day period
5
NMSU has nutty idea for citations
ABQnews Seeker
Donations of peanut butter will be ... Donations of peanut butter will be accepted in lieu of some parking fines
6
Cloud seeding company retracts application
ABQnews Seeker
Proposed project drew opposition from locals, ... Proposed project drew opposition from locals, organizations over 'potential for environmental damage'
7
UNM women to show what they've learned
ABQnews Seeker
Mike Bradbury is willing to count ... Mike Bradbury is willing to count his team's latest Texas road trip as a learning experience on one condition: His team had to actually ...
8
Pre-winter warmup brings highs 10-20 degrees above average
ABQnews Seeker
Rain chances for state expected to ... Rain chances for state expected to be slim until early next week
9
Five killed in June balloon crash died of blunt ...
ABQnews Seeker
A toxicology report on late pilot ... A toxicology report on late pilot Nick Meleski found he had marijuana and cocaine in his sy