News Column

Obama OKs Rio Grande Del Norte Monument, are the Organs Next?

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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."

Victor Gallegos, owner of Nopalitos Restaurant and Nopalitos Galeria, added, "As a family-owned business located along the Camino Real del Adentro Historic Trail, we know firsthand how historical preservation can help a local economy and strengthen cultural identity. We strongly believe protecting the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument will be good for business, drawing more people to Las Cruces and our surrounding region."

John Cornell, president of Dona Ana County Associated Sportsmen, said Obama's formal designation Monday is encouraging for many outdoors enthusiasts.

"With today's action, the president brings hope to southern New Mexico sportsmen who have worked for decades to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Region, like our prized public lands in the Sierra de Las Uvas and Potrillo Mountains," Connell said.

Heinrich said he and Sen. Tom Udall, both New Mexico democrats, will continue to encourage Obama to consider using his authority through the Antiquities Act. But they also intend to pursue federal legislation to enhance the chances of a national monument designation for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

"It's very much a legislative priority," said Heinrich, of efforts to obtain that designation. "Senator Udall and I are still engaged to introduce legislation. It will help build support. We have to be diligent."

Marissa Padilla, Udall's spokeswoman, said legislation from New Mexico's two senators would likely be reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by this summer. The past two years, Udall and Bingaman co-authored legislation for the Organ Mountains.

"There is very broad support for this proposal, extensive support," said Padilla, referring to southern New Mexico residents who would like to see the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks proposal become reality. "The Department of Interior is aware of that, and that is very important. It's a huge sign of strength when the local community can show it is behind a proposal like that. Senators Udall and Heinrich will continue their efforts to support this designation."

But there has been some opposition, or disagreement, about the national monument proposal. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced federal legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that reduces the size of the land that would be protected, from the approximately 600,000 acres supporters of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peak proposal want.

Also, in recent weeks, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, has demanded that its name be stricken among supporters of the monument proposal. Hispano Chamber officials have said the legislation now being considered is substantially different than what was initially proposed.

Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRamirez6

National monuments

-- President Obama signed a proclamation Monday to establish the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.

-- The monument was among five that Obama designated as national monuments through his authority to use the Antiquities Act.

-- Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument becomes the 11th national monument in New Mexico.

-- In southern New Mexico, there are three national monuments: Gila Cliff Dwellings (established in 1907), Carlsbad Caverns (1923), and White Sands (1933)

-- Organizers in southern New Mexico also want Obama to use the same authority to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

-- Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, are preparing legislation that will be introduced into the U.S. Senate later this year. Visit the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument website. Read President Obama'sproclamation establishing the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents to preserve extraordinary landscapes. (Source: National Parks Service)

Theodore Roosevelt

Sept. 24, 1906: Devils Tower, Wyo.

Dec. 8, 1906: El Morro

Dec. 8, 1906: Montezuma Castle, AZ

Dec. 8, 1906: Petrified Forest, AZ

March 11, 1907: Chaco Canyon

May 6,1907: Cinder Cone, Calif.

May 6, 1907: Lassen Peak, Calif.

Nov. 16, 1907: Gila Cliff Dwellings

Dec. 19, 1907: Tonto, Ariz.

Jan. 9, 1908: Muir Woods, Calif.

Jan. 11, 1908: Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Jan. 16, 1908: Pinnacles, Calif.

Feb. 7, 1908: Jewel Cave, S.D.

April 16, 1908: Natural Bridges, Utah

May 11, 1908: Lewis and Clark Cavern, Mont.

Sept. 15, 1908: Tumacacori, Ariz.

Dec. 7, 1908: Wheeler, Colo.

March 2, 1909: Mount Olympus, Wash.

William Howard Taft

March 20, 1909: Navajo, Ariz.

July 12, 1909: Oregon Caves, Ore.

July 31, 1909: Mukuntuweap, Utah

Sept. 21, 1909: Shoshone Cavern, Wyo.

Nov. 1, 1909: Gran Quivira (now Salinas Pueblo Missions)

March 23, 1910: Sitka, Ark.

May 30, 1910: Rainbow Bridge, Utah

June 23, 1910: Big Hole Battlefield, Mont.

May 24, 1911: Colorado, Colo.

July 6, 1911: Devils Postpile, Calif.

Woodrow Wilson

Oct. 14, 1913: Cabrillo, Calif.

Jan. 31, 1914: Papago Saguaro, Ariz.

Oct. 4, 1915: Dinosaur, Utah-Colo.

Nov. 30, 1915: Walnut Canyon, Ariz.

Feb. 11, 1916: Bandelier

July 8, 1916: Sieur de Monts, Maine

Aug. 9, 1916: Capulin Mountain (now Capulin Volcano)

Oct. 25, 1916: Old Kasaan, Alaska

June 29, 1917: Verendrye, N.D.

March 18, 1918: Zion, Utah (incorporated Mukuntuweap, Utah.)

Aug. 3, 1918: Casa Grande (now Casa Grande Ruins), Ariz.

Sept. 24, 1918: Katmai, Alaska

Dec. 12, 1919: Scotts Bluff, Neb.

Dec. 12, 1919: Yucca House, Colo.

Warren G. Harding

Jan. 24, 1922: Lehman Caves, Nev.

Oct. 14, 1922: Timpanogos Cave, Utah

Oct. 21, 1922: Fossil Cycad, S.D.

Jan. 24, 1923: Aztec Ruin (now Aztec Ruins)

March 2, 1923: Hovenweep, Utah-Colo.

March 2, 1923: Mound City Group, Ohio

May 31, 1923: Pipe Spring, Ariz.

June 8, 1923: Bryce Canyon, Utah

Calvin Coolidge

Oct. 25, 1923: Carlsbad Caverns

April 18, 1924: Chiricahua, Ariz.

May 2, 1924: Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Oct. 15, 1924: Castle Pinckney, S.C.

Oct. 15, 1924: Fort Marion (now Castillo de San Marcos), Fla.

Oct. 15, 1924: Fort Matanzas, Fla.

Oct. 15, 1924: Fort Pulaski, Ga.

Oct. 15, 1924: Statue of Liberty, N.Y.

Dec. 9, 1924: Wupatki, Ariz.

Feb. 26, 1925: Glacier Bay, Alaska

Feb. 26, 1925: Meriwether Lewis, Tenn.

Sept. 5, 1925: Father Millet Cross, N.Y.

Nov. 21, 1925: Lava Beds, Calif.

Herbert Hoover

April 12, 1929: Arches, Utah

May 11, 1929: Holy Cross, Colo.

May 26, 1930: Sunset Crater (now Sunset Crater Volcano), Ariz.

March 17, 1932: Great Sand Dunes, Colo.

Dec. 22, 1932: Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Jan. 18, 1933: White Sands

Feb. 11, 1933: Death Valley, Calif.-Nev.

March 1, 1933: Saguaro, Ariz.

March 3, 1933: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colo.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

April 26, 1933: Channel Islands, Calif.

Aug. 22, 1933: Cedar Breaks, Utah

Jan. 4, 1935: Fort Jefferson, Fla.

Aug. 10, 1936: Joshua Tree, Calif.

Jan 22, 1937: Zion, Utah

April 4, 1937: Organ Pipe Cactus, Ariz.

Aug. 2, 1937: Capitol Reef, Utah

July 16, 1938: Fort Laramie, Wyo.

May 17, 1939: Santa Rosa Island, Fla.

July 24, 1939: Tuzigoot, Ariz.

March 15, 1943: Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Harry S. Truman

Oct. 25, 1949: Effigy Mounds, Iowa

Dwight D. Eisenhower

July 15, 1956: Edison Laboratory, N.J.

Jan. 18, 1961: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Md-W.Va.

John F. Kennedy

May 11, 1961: Russell Cave, Ala.

Dec. 28, 1961: Buck Island Reef, Virgin Islands

Lyndon B. Johnson

Jan. 20, 1969: Marble Canyon, Ariz.

Jimmy Carter

Dec. 1, 1978: Admiralty Island, Alaska (Forest Service)

Dec. 1, 1978: Aniakchak, Alaska

Dec.1, 1978: Becharof, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Bering Land Bridge, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Cape Krusenstern, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Denali, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Gates of the Arctic, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Kenai Fjords, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Kobuk Valley, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Lake Clark, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Misty Fjords, Alaska (Forest Service)

Dec. 1, 1978: Noatak, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska

Dec.1, 1978: Yukon-Charley, Alaska

Dec. 1, 1978: Yukon Flats, Alaska

William J. Clinton

Sept. 18, 1996: Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan.11, 2000: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Ariz. (Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 10, 2000: Pinnacles National Monument, Calif. (Expansion)

Jan. 11, 2000: Agua Fria National Monument, Ariz. (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 11, 2000: California Coastal National Monument, Calif. (Bureau of Land Management)

April 15, 2000: Giant Sequoia National Monument, Calif. (Expansion -- USDA Forest Service)

June 9, 2000: Hanford Reach, Wash. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

June 9, 2000: Ironwood Forest, Ariz. (Bureau of Land Management)

June 9, 2000: Canyons of the Ancients, Colo. (Bureau of Land Management)

June 9, 2000: Cascade-Siskiyou, Ore. (Bureau of Land Management)

July 7, 2000: President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument (Armed Forces Retirement Home)

Nov. 9, 2000: Craters of the Moon, Idaho (Expansion of Existing Monument)

Nov. 9, 2000: Vermillion Cliffs, Ariz. (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Carrizo Plain, CA (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Minidoka Internment, Idaho

Jan. 17, 2001: Pompeys Piller, Mont. (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Sonoran Desert National Monument, Ariz. (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Mont. (Bureau of Land Management)

Jan. 17, 2001: Virgin Islands Coral Reef, Virgin Islands

Jan. 20, 2001: Governors Island-Castle Williams and Fort Jay, N.Y.

George W. Bush

Feb. 27, 2006: African Burial Ground National Monument, N.Y.

June 15, 2006: Papahanaumokuakea Hawaii Islands Marine National Monument. Hawaii

Dec. 5, 2008: World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Incorporated USS Arizona Memorial), Hawaii

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