Community Sends Clear Message to Sec. Jewell: Protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

Environment New Mexico

Las Cruces, NM– At a public meeting today held by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, groups announced the collection of more than 14,000 public comments supporting permanent protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area.  Business owners, local elected officials and residents joined conservation groups in urging Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration to safeguard the steep mountain cliffs and wildlife that are integral to the area’s character, economy and quality of life.

“As a local group made up from a cross-section of public land users, the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks could not have been more pleased with the turnout of support from our community,” said Lucas Herndon, director for the non-profit group. “It’s clear that Cruceños and folks from across New Mexico support preserving our public lands for future generations.”

“We are so pleased that Secretary Jewell took the time to personally visit this magnificent area to see for herself what a rare and important place it is and to have the opportunity to hear directly how overwhelming the community support is to preserve it.  The Secretary saw today how proud New Mexicans are of this national treasure.  We call on the Secretary to take this experience back to President Obama and to urge him to designate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument so that this special landscape receives the national recognition it deserves and the additional protection it needs,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

The steep-sided crevices, canyons and majestic spires of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks host stunning views, great recreation opportunities, archaeological sites and native plants found nowhere else in the world. The public meeting follows years of effort by local communities and lawmakers, including Senators Udall and Heinrich, to see the area protected.

“We have spoken to tens of thousands of New Mexicans about protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument and have seen overwhelming support. Without a doubt, this landscape is one of our most iconic in the state,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico. “From the jagged peaks to the diverse wildlife, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks should be protected now and for future generations.”

“In this 50th anniversary year of the Wilderness Act, public engagement in conservation is more important than ever,” says Michael Casaus, New Mexico director with The Wilderness Society. “The Organ, Robledo, and Sierra de las Uvas Mountains remind our communities every day how much our public lands and watersheds give back to us, and the supportive signatures we collected from neighbors across the region are testament to the love and appreciation that New Mexicans feel for this special place. We encourage the Obama Administration to honor the hard work and commitment these communities have made to take care of and protect these mountain ranges.”

A recent economic study found that a national monument designation would give a $7.4 million boost to the economy and double the number of jobs supported by outdoor recreation and tourism on public lands.

“Protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is good for the short and long-term health of our region– for our economy, our families, and the environment. We look forward to seeing the area’s rich cultural and natural heritage recognized and preserved as a national monument,” said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.