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Designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Only the President of the United States has the authority to use the Antiquities Act to designate a new national monument, and this Earth Day, I join a rising chorus of New Mexicans by asking President Barack Obama to designate the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument.

{mosads}This proposed monument includes part of the original route of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which took settlers and traders from Mexico City through Las Cruces and continuing north all the way to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. For more than 300 years, this road served as the sole route from Mexico City into New Mexico. Some of the most vivid characters in New Mexico’s history were active in this area, including Geronimo and Billy the Kid. The Butterfield Stagecoach Route ran right though the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, which also contain some of the most distinctive Native American petroglyphs and pictographs in the Southwest. The Organ Mountains continue to provide critical cultural resources for the growing Mesilla Valley population.

The mountain ranges in the proposed monument include some of the most important wild game habitat in New Mexico. Mule deer, mountain lion, dove, quail, and many other species call the Sierra de las Uvas home. The Potrillo Mountains are especially significant with their ecological links to northern Mexico, and the Organ Mountains provide critical water resources to local wildlife. As proposed, the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument proclamation would make access by sportsmen a central part of the area’s management and protection in perpetuity. That would ensure that when my sons are my age, they will be able to enjoy hunting for mule deer in the Las Uvas, or quail in the Robledos.

Because of their proximity to the fast-growing Las Cruces metro area, these places are threatened by increased development pressures, invasive species, and off-road vehicle abuse. By designating these areas as a new national monument, we can make sure that they are protected for us and future generations of Americans to enjoy.

Rep. Heinrich (D-N.M.) is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

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