Sportsmen had cause to celebrate on May 21 when President Obama designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
The President's move follows introduction of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act last December, a bill sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich that aimed to ensure that sportsmen have good opportunity now and in the future to hunt and enjoy the scenic beauty of some 500,000 acres near the state’s second-largest city, Las Cruces. (Click here for links to the bill, maps and other information.)
“We’ve been working on this for more than a decade,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Sportsman Organizer John Cornell. “Sportsmen, many of whom own local businesses, have been diligently reaching out to community leaders and elected officials to make permanent protection of these important lands a reality. We have all been committed because of what these lands and wildlife mean to us and will one day mean to our kids’ outdoor opportunity and potential livelihood.”
His words were echoed by lifelong Las Cruces sportsman Jim Bates. “To many, this national monument effort has mainly been about protecting the iconic view Las Cruces residents and visitors enjoy on a daily basis. But for hunters and outdoorsmen like me, much more was at stake. We knew how much we stood to lose if the Potrillos, Robledos or Sierra de Las Uvas were covered in wind turbines or big box stores.”
Sportsman-oriented businesses also applauded the designation. “Permanent protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will help ensure that my business has a strong foundation into the future,” said Jacob Ellis, a taxidermist and owner of the Archery Hut in Las Cruces. “Today’s designation will benefit not just businesses like mine, but the entire local economy by protecting hunting as well as grazing, historical sites and cultural treasures that everyone can enjoy.”
A report produced earlier this year (click here to read it) confirmed substantial economic benefit to the region will occur when the senators’ Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks legislation is enacted, including as much as $7.4 million a year in additional economic activity and an increase in permanent jobs.
The national monument designation also will protect watersheds, the increasingly rare grasslands of the Potrillo Mountains and the area’s many cinder cones and lava flows, all of which provide critical habitat to a range of wildlife including mule deer, javelina, cougars, quail and dove.
“As a longtime resident of this area and as a biology professor, I have real concerns about the future of our native rangeland without some sort of permanent protection,” said Sanford Schemnitz, a retired NMSU professor, wildlife professional and chairman of Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen. “We need this protection so that as Las Cruces develops, future generations will have abundant, healthy natural areas to enjoy close to town.”
Click here for links to more information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.