Joins Public Meeting hosted by Senators Udall, Heinrich to Hear from Community on Proposals to Protect and Enhance Public Lands in Doña Ana County and to Boost Tourism, Outdoor Recreation Economy
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell wrapped up a two-day visit yesterday to south central New Mexico where she joined Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for a public meeting to hear from the community about its vision for the management of public lands in Doña Ana County. The visit builds on the Secretary’s work to support locally driven efforts to preserve and protect places that hold special meaning to communities across the country.
“This morning I had the opportunity to hike part of Broad Canyon and look back over Las Cruces, and it’s immediately clear why New Mexico is known as the ‘Land of Enchantment,’” said Jewell. “Doña Ana County is a place rich with history, culture, wildlife and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors – whether that’s hunting or hiking. Over the past few years we’ve seen a groundswell of support from many in the community to ensure that these landscapes are celebrated and passed on to the generations of New Mexicans to come. Those efforts also have the potential to drive significant economic benefits to the region through a boost in tourism and outdoor recreation.”
Jewell visited New Mexico at the invitation of Senators Udall and Heinrich, who have introduced legislation to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The proposal would conserve and enhance scenic, recreational and culturally significant lands that are managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management – including the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains surrounding Las Cruces.
A recent independent study estimates that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities.
“Passing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act would help create jobs and build a stronger economy here in Southern New Mexico. I’m very glad we had the opportunity to show off this special area for Secretary Jewell,” Udall said. “The Organ Mountains Desert Peaks region is beloved in the community, and it was important for the Secretary to hear from a diverse group of people here in Las Cruces about their vision for the future of this region. I thank the Secretary for taking time out to learn more about this incredible asset and to hear directly from New Mexicans.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to host Secretary Jewell in our state and to hear directly from the community about their vision for managing our treasured public lands,” said Heinrich. “New Mexicans have a deep connection to the outdoors – whether for hunting or hiking or other traditions both new and old. The Organ, Sierra de Las Uvas, Potrillo, and Robledo Mountains are among some of the most scenic landscapes in our state and define Doña Ana County’s rich culture. Designating this natural treasure a national monument would help promote tourism in the region, foster recreational opportunities, and preserve our outdoor heritage for us now and for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”
Jewell also participated in a meeting with senior officials at the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Border Patrol yesterday to underscore Interior’s continued commitment to cooperate in providing law enforcement and border security in the area.
“We appreciate the productive working relationship we have with our colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement,” BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze said. “I applaud Senators Udall and Heinrich for ensuring that access, flexibility and cooperation with federal and local law enforcement officials are a cornerstone of their proposal.”
The BLM Las Cruces District Office currently manages over 500,000 acres in the proposed monument for multiple uses, including conservation of natural and archeological resources and outdoor recreation, such as hiking, biking, camping and hunting. State-wide, BLM-New Mexico hosted 2.9 million visitors at 28 recreation sites in fiscal year 2013. Recreation on BLM-managed lands and waters in New Mexico supported more than 1,600 jobs and contributed more than $140 million to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2011.
The Organ Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop for the City of Las Cruces, with steep, angular rock outcroppings reminiscent of organ pipes rising to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation
and extending for 20 miles, running generally north and south. This high-desert landscape within the Chihuahuan Desert contains a multitude of biological zones – mixed desert shrubs and grasslands in the lowlands ascending to piñon and juniper woodlands, and finally to ponderosa pines at the highest elevations.
The area is home to a high diversity of animal life, including deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, peregrine falcons and other raptors as well as rare plants, some found nowhere else in the world, such as the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus. The area also contains more than 5,000 archeologically and culturally significant sites, including a site containing the earliest known cultivated corn in the United States, Geronimo’s Cave, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Spanish settlement sites, and numerous petroglyphs and pictographs, some dating back 8,000 years. The Organ Mountains are a popular recreation area, with multiple hiking trails, a popular campground, and opportunities for hunting, mountain biking, rock climbing, and other recreation.
On the west side of Las Cruces, the Desert Peaks area contains mountain ranges and peaks of the Robledo Mountains and Sierra de las Uvas. These landscapes contain many mesas and buttes interspersed with deep canyons and arroyos. Prehistoric cultural sites of the classic Mimbres and El Paso phases are located throughout this region along with historic sites associated with more recent settlements, including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail. This area is also home to the unusual Night-blooming Cereus, with a one-night-a-year bloom.
To the southwest of Las Cruces is the Potrillo Mountains Complex, characterized by cinder cones, volcanic craters, and basalt lava flows in the open desert landscape. They too have abundant wildlife, significant prehistoric cultural and historic sites, and serve as a popular destination for outdoor recreation.
The Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands contain some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes. They include more than 887 federally recognized areas comprising approximately 27 million acres of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.
Information about the Organ Mountains and other public lands administered by the BLM in southern New Mexico can be found at www.blm.gov/nm/lascruces