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Bill would designate Organ Mountains as national monument
By: Bill Melugin
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico --
A new bill put forward by New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich would designate Doa Ana county's Organ Mountains as a national monument.
The senators say the bill, called the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, would preserve some of the county's most iconic landscapes, boost tourism and the outdoor economy, create around 90 jobs, and bring in $7.4 million in new revenue.
"Designating a national monument would put the Organ Mountains and other spectacular areas of Doa Ana County on recreation maps around the world, attracting tourists to Southern New Mexico, creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars in tourism revenue, Udall said. "The Organ Mountains and surrounding area form a beautiful and iconic backdrop for Las Cruces and are beloved by New Mexicans. Our bill would help ensure local families and visitors will continue to be able to hike, hunt, and learn from the thousands of significant historic sites throughout the hills for generations to come."
The new monument would be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and would include eight new wilderness areas.
According to Udall, the bill conserves land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doa Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains, home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, including the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus. It encompasses Broad Canyon, Sleeping Lady Hills, Rough and Ready Hills, Picacho Peak, Mount Riley, Pea Blanca and Bishop's Cap. And it contains over 5,000 archeologically and culturally significant sites, including Geronimo's Cave, Billy the Kid's Outlaw Rock, Spanish settlement sites, and numerous petroglyphs and pictographs.
Heinrich told KFOX14 the bill would be different than any previous bills, including Rep. Steve Pearce's.
"We think this monument status can tell a story about Doa Ana County that includes so much history and cultural background, including things like the Butterfield Trail, like Geronimo's cave, the Apollo space mission sites, and all of the Native American rock art," Heinrich said. "Those things add a special overlay to this legislation that wasn't as obvious in the previous legislation
The senators told KFOX14 the proposal is the result of many years of research and conversations with the surrounding communities, as well as White Sands Missile Range, Fort Bliss, and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The senators say the bill preserves existing grazing rights and vehicular access to 100 percent of roads leading to currently used water wells, troughs and corrals, and it enhances hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. They say it will also strengthen border security in the region by releasing wilderness study areas within five miles of the international border, creating a buffer area for Border Patrol activities, and adding an additional road for border security purposes.
The senators told KFOX14 polls have shown 83 percent of people in Doa Ana county support the bill.
The bill now goes to a vote before the Natural Resource Committee of the Senate.