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The Organ Mountains of New Mexico, now designated a National Monument. Photo: Bob Wick / BLM California.
The Organ Mountains of New Mexico, now designated a National Monument. Photo: Bob Wick / BLM California.
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A new National Monument for New Mexico

Ted Zukosjy

31stth May 2014

The stunning landscape of the Organ Mountains in New Mexico is now permanently protected as a National Monument following a Presidential Proclamation, reports Ted Zukosjy of Earthjustice.

The proclamation protects the iconic, jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains, cinder cones, rare desert grassland, and petroglyphs ...

President Obama has designated half-a-million acres of Chihuahuan desert ecosystem as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

The Organ Mountains range from 4,600 to just over 9,000 feet, and are so named because of the steep, needle-like spires that resemble the pipes of an organ.

The proclamation protects the iconic, jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains, cinder cones, rare desert grassland, and petroglyphs of peoples who lived in this stark environment millennia ago, and its caves, and habitat for eagles, falcons, mule deer, cougar and javelina.

It's also good news for local businesses that hope the designation will draw tourists to the lands near Las Cruces, New Mexico's second-largest city.

Broad popular support for the measure

The monument has broad support from conservationists, sportsmen, tribal governments, businesses, Latino leaders and local governments, who had worked for a decade to preserve the natural and historical legacy of the area.

Its protection was also championed by the state's two US Senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, who had introduced a bill to create the monument.

And, if you dig deep enough, there's even a little Earthjustice history here. One of the mountain ranges protected in the new monument - the Robledos - was under siege from extreme jeepers and dirt bikers 15 years ago.

At that time, the Bureau of Land Management closed 12 miles of routes in part of the Robledos proposed for wilderness protection because illegal off-road vehicle abuse was degrading the area's wild character and destroying wildlife habitat.

Extreme off-highway vehicle groups sued to overturn BLM's closures, hoping to turn the damaging routes into permanent 'highways'.

Earthjustice intervenes

Earthjustice, unsure whether the new Bush Administration would strongly defend the trail closures, intervened to oppose the off-roaders' suit.

On behalf of The Wilderness Society and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, we helped defeat the suit in US district court and again at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, keeping the closures in place and allowing the land to heal.

So in part thanks to determined conservationists (and BLM staff with backbone), there was wilderness worth protecting when a President arrived with the vision to protect these lands for future generations.

 


 

Ted Zukosjy is Staff Attorney for Earthjustice and works in its Rocky Mountain regional office to protect wilderness, roadless areas and the planet's climate on behalf of conservation groups in the Four Corners' states.

This article first appeared on the Earthjustice blog.

 

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