Washington, D.C. – Today, President Obama permanently protected the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks outside Las Cruces by designating them a national monument. This is a major victory for New Mexicans including the thousands that called on the administration to protect the region.
The Organ Mountains are the steepest mountain range in New Mexico, which can be seen from more than 100 miles away on a clear day. The region is home to mountain lions, pronghorn antelope, and peregrine Falcons, as well as more than 10,000 years of human history and culture.
“Permanent protection for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is a huge victory for all New Mexicans that want our natural landscapes protected forever,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico. “We are thrilled President Obama worked diligently with Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to listen to the tens of thousands of New Mexicans that signed petitions, came to town hall meetings and made a phone call to make sure this incredible landscape is protected for our children and future generations.”
Environment New Mexico helped demonstrate this widespread support for the national monument in March when they joined other conservation groups in delivering more than 15,000 petition signatures in support of a national monument.
Earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and saw firsthand why New Mexicans want to protect this area from development. She held a public listening session in Las Cruces, where an overwhelming majority of attendees supported permanent protection of the mountains.
In addition to the conservation community, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, the mayors of Mesilla and Las Cruces, New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell, and more than 50 New Mexico state legislators, tribes, ranchers, and business owners all support the national monument and expressed their support to President Obama.
“I want to thank President Obama for protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, one of our state and national treasures,” said New Mexico state Senator Bill Soules. “They are the crossroads of New Mexico’s diverse history and culture and are home to flowering cacti, bald eagles and pronghorn antelope as well as over 10,000 years of human history. This designation is good for New Mexico’s economy, environment, and cultural history.”
“I hike with my daughter and family in the Organ Mountains on a regular basis. I feel very fortunate to have this amazing place in my backyard,” said Amy Simpson, who grew up in the shadow of the Organ Mountains. “Thanks to President Obama, future generations will be able to enjoy this area as we do today.”
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was designated as a national monument under the Antiquities Act. Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Act has been used by nearly every president since to permanently protect federally owned land from development. Currently, only about one-third of New Mexico’s public lands are permanently protected as wilderness, parks, refuges, or other protected areas.
Environment New Mexico is also working to protect Otero Mesa, the largest and wildest grassland left on public lands in the United States, from drilling and mining and the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from fracking.
“We look forward to continuing our work with President Obama to keep all the places that are too special to develop in New Mexico off-limits to development, mining, drilling and pollution,” said Moore.