Push to make White Sands a national park renewed - Albuquerque Journal

Push to make White Sands a national park renewed

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are pushing again to make the much-visited monument a national park. (Richard Pipes/Journal)

The push to elevate a vast expanse of shifting white sand dunes in New Mexico to national park status was renewed Tuesday as members of the state’s congressional delegation reintroduced legislation aimed at boosting the profile of the already popular tourist destination.

“Like no place on earth” is how the National Park Service describes the world’s largest gypsum dune field.

White Sands National Monument has hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, more than any other park service location in New Mexico. In 2017, White Sands logged more than 600,000 visits and spurred more than $31 million in spending for the local economy.

“By designating White Sands a national park, we have the potential to make it an economic powerhouse in southern New Mexico, creating new jobs and bringing much needed services to our rural communities,” U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said in a statement.

The federal legislation, first introduced last year by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., comes as New Mexico formalizes its effort to join other Western states in tapping into the lucrative outdoor recreation industry. State lawmakers recently passed – and the governor is expected to sign – a measure that calls for the creation of a dedicated division in state government that would focus on expanding outdoor recreation and related economic development.

Acknowledging competition from neighboring Colorado, Arizona and Utah, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said that New Mexico has just as much natural beauty and can be a beacon for people looking to explore.

New Mexico’s effort also will focus on closing the gap among those who have the opportunity to experience the outdoors through programs for low-income families and other underserved populations.

From the village of Tularosa to Las Cruces, elected leaders throughout the region have voiced their support for national park status.

However, the Otero County Commission suggested in a letter sent last year to Heinrich that making White Sands a park wouldn’t necessarily increase visitation and that there were still questions about the proposal.

The legislation includes provisions for a land exchange between White Sands and the U.S. Army, which operates the adjacent and much larger White Sands Missile Range.

Efforts to establish a national park in the area go back more than a century. Some locals wanted to protect the dunes from commercial interests that were attempting to mine the gypsum. They argued the dunes could be profitable in other ways.

It took three decades before 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.

“Making it a national park is a super-smart move. It’s the next level,” said state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, one of the sponsors of the outdoor recreation bill.

Today, supporters say the monument contains a more diverse set of archaeological and scientific resources than were first known, including recently discovered 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 prehistoric camels. Thousands of hearth sites where early inhabitants built campfires also have been preserved in the dunes in ways not found elsewhere.

Home » News » New Mexico News » Push to make White Sands a national park renewed

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

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

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Hamill: Tax administration is not the right venue for ...
ABQnews Seeker
COLUMN: We should expect that AI ... COLUMN: We should expect that AI tools have significant deficiencies in administering tax laws if their decisions are not human-reviewed.
Annual South Valley Pride Day celebration opens application for ...
ABQnews Seeker
South Valley Pride Day opens applications ... South Valley Pride Day opens applications and nominations for April event.
FBI raid nets fentanyl, meth, guns and cash
ABQnews Seeker
An FBI raid of two Albuquerque ... An FBI raid of two Albuquerque area homes on Thursday led to the discovery of around 1 ...
Hobbs police officer shoots and injures teenager in stolen ...
ABQnews Seeker
Hobbs police were called to a ... Hobbs police were called to a fight involving several people at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday. An officer shot a 17-year-old who was driving a ...
A basketball decision: Josiah Allick opens up on opting ...
ABQnews Seeker
Josiah Allick, a fan favorite who ... Josiah Allick, a fan favorite who many assumed would be back for the Lobos, entered the transfer portal. In his own words, he tells ...
'They made a statement by hiring a guy like ...
ABQnews Seeker
"I think they made a statement ... "I think they made a statement when they hired a guy like me," said Jason Hooten, who came from Sam Houston State and was ...
At 41, Holly Holm continues to evolve as a ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque's Holm, who at age 41 ... Albuquerque's Holm, who at age 41 has signed a six-fight contract extension with the UFC, soundly defeated Yana Santos — a mere kid of ...
APD reviewed every 2022 police shooting. Here are the ...
ABQnews Seeker
New equipment and training are among ... New equipment and training are among the actions proposed by the Albuquerque Police leadership group.
Meteorologists say El Niño typically brings wetter weather to ...
ABQnews Seeker
With the departure of La Niña, ... With the departure of La Niña, New Mexicans can expect to see lower temperatures and wetter weather in wintertime, a meteorologist said.