There could be a link between the Oval Office and the Organ Mountains, or so organizers of a proposed national monument in Dona Ana County hope.
Monday, President Obama, through his ability to use the Antiquities Act, designated the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, near Taos, in northern New Mexico. Organizers seeking the same designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument are optimistic Obama will soon do the same.
"It helps us," said Jeff Steinborn, who has helped lead the cause to get the Organs established as a national monument, of Obama's proclamation Monday. "It recognizes the president is ready to using his authority, through the Antiquities Act, to protect important landscape. And, there's no question that people believe the Organ Mountains are, indeed, important landscape."
The 240,000-acre Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument becomes the 11th such designation of land in New Mexico since 1906. The designation was widely welcomed by Taos and Rio Arriba county residents.
Retired U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Martin Heinrich, Questa Mayor Esther Garcia and Taos Pueblo War Chief Samuel Gomez joined the president for the signing ceremony in the Oval Office.
"This is a great day for New Mexico," said Bingaman, who worked on securing the designation since 2007. "I'm glad that President Obama found northern New Mexico's landscape so compelling that he was willing to make the Rio Grande del Norte his largest
monument designation to date. There is no doubt in my mind that the community, which has strongly supported this effort, will benefit from the conservation and cultural protections that come with this designation."
Dona Ana County supporters of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks designation reiterated the proposal still has broad-based community support and would protect iconic landscapes with diverse cultural heritage.
"The proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is pivotal and anchoring legislation that will protect all that New Mexicans hold sacred: land, mountains, sky, animal, plant and mineral life," said Las Cruces author and Border Book Festival director Denise Chavez. "It is up to us as caretakers of La Tierra Encantada -- our magical, miraculous, enchanted and dearly loved New Mexico -- to protect and respect the legacy of our ancestors. We see in their petroglyphs a world, a people, a culture that is so intrinsically 'Lo Nuestro' -- our own. As we follow the tracks of those who came before -- and imagine our grandmothers grinding their seeds and corn in the metates and storing their food in the huecos, the hollows of rock found in these places to be honored and protected -- we truly divine that we are but another traveler on the great road. And that road is ours to respect to love and to protect."
Five local governments -- Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Dona Ana County, city of Las Cruces, town of Mesilla, and city of El Paso, have unanimously supported the proposed national monument. A recent poll showed more than 80 percent of registered voters in Dona Ana County support the creation of a national monument to protect natural and cultural heritage.
"President Obama's designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a win for all New Mexicans," said Renee Frank, president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. "National monuments are proven job creators for nearby communities. We're hopeful that President Obama will help bring the same economic boost to our region by protecting the iconic Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region."
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