News Column

Hispano Chamber Opposes Wilderness Designation

March 12, 2013

Steve Ramirez

Organ Mountains (Creative Commons)

The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces has made it clear the organization is not a supporter of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance's efforts to have the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks designated as a national monument.

Hispano Chamber President Kirk Clifton sent a sternly worded email Monday, followed by a news release that demands supporters of the national park to quit listing the Hispano Chamber as a supporter of the proposal to set aside 600,000 acres for a national monument. Television ads and a website supporting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks designation have included the Hispano Chamber as a supporter the past two years.

But Clifton said that isn't correct.

"The (Hispano Chamber) board of directors requested the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA) to cease publishing and verbalizing our name as supporters in late 2011," Clifton said. "The NMWA continues to utilize our name in a slanderous manner and we are demanding (they) immediately cease and desist from naming the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces as a supporter.

"We are not in support of this particular legislation nor has the board of directors approved any supporting documentation and will publicly disclose that immediately."

Clifton added the proposed federal legislation "is far over reaching in terms of its critical areas of protection" and many of the areas within the proposed designation are either owned or protected by the federal government and have added protections such as Wilderness Study Area designations.

"This excessive take under this legislation will restrict the Las Cruces region from realizing its full potential as an economic hub of business and industry in the United States," Clifton said. "Furthermore, it is imperative that we protect many of these lands from restricting access to the generations to come and preventing the preservation of our cultural heritage."

Nathan Small, a Las Cruces city councilor who is also a member of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Coalition, said the Hispano Chamber's request has been honored.

"While the HCCLC was not listed as supporters of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and only as "local conservation supporters,' they have been removed from this listing in light of the personal feelings of Mr. Clifton," Small said.

But Jud Wright, of Del Valle Printing and Design, a Hispano Chamber member and former HCCLC business of the year winner, said he would continue to back the coalition.

"The proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will be good for business," Wright said. "This plan will continue to strengthen our community's economy with the protection our incredible natural resources and cultural heritage. I am proud to be part of the diverse coalition of citizens and organization who support this important plan."

Small said land conservation advocates in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico have enjoyed a long relationship with the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, going back to three of the Hispano Chamber's boards of directors. Small added the Hispano Chamber was a primary sponsor of "Wilderness Economics," and was active in seeking protection for multiple Dona Ana County natural landmarks.

"Hispanic leaders across Dona Ana County and New Mexico are part of the effort to protect the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, including former governors, attorney generals, state senators and representatives and numerous local organizations," Small said. "Recent polling has shown that a strong majority of local citizens support protecting places like the Organ Mountains, the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, and unique historic sites including the Butterfield Trail and the Apollo Mission testing site. The same poll showed over 80 percent of Hispanics polled supported the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument."

Not in support

-- The Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces released a statement Monday saying that organization is not in support of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance regarding the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

-- The Hispano Chamber has sent an email to supporters of national monument proposal demanding them to cease listing the chamber as supporters.

Source: (c)2013 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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