New National Park in NM!
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in south-central NM has been proclaimed a National Monument. The local -driven effort to bring this about will conserve, protect, and enhance some of the public lands in Doña Ana County.
“Today is the culmination of a community-led effort to conserve, protect, and promote these public lands, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the businesses that will benefit from the tourism and recreation, and the wildlife that rely on this unique habitat,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding Desert Peaks are steeped in culture, history, wildlife and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors— from hunting to hiking to gazing at ancient petroglyphs and fossils.”
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will join other popular national monuments in New Mexico, including Aztec Ruins, Bandalier, Petroglyph, Rio Grande del Norte, White Sands and others. Following the designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in March 2013, the BLM reported a 40% increase in visitors to the area in less than one year. A recent independent study by BBC Research & Consulting estimates that the new national monument designation could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities.
In January a meeting with senior officials at the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Border Patrol underscored the Interior’s continued commitment to cooperate in providing law enforcement and border security in the area. The proclamation supports the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding between the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Agriculture regarding “Cooperative National Security and Counterterrorism Efforts on Federal Lands along the United States’ Borders.”
The proclamation also allows watershed restoration and small-scale flood prevention projects if they are consistent with the care and management of the monument’s resources.
“The creation of New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument helps celebrate the nation's newest and most exciting conservation system, the Na- tional Conservation Lands,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said.
The BLM currently manages all of the public lands within this new national monument for a range of multiple uses which will continue, including grazing, conservation of natural and archeological resources and outdoor recreation, such as hunting, hiking, biking, and camping. Statewide, BLM-New Mexico hosted 2.9 million visitors at 28 recreation sites in fiscal year 2013. Recreation on BLM-managed lands and waters in New Mexico supported more than 1,900 jobs and contributed more than $172 million to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2012.
The Organ Mountains provide a spectacular backdrop for Las Cruces, with steep, angular rock outcroppings reminiscent of organ pipes rising to nearly 9,000 feet and extending for twenty miles. This highdesert landscape within the Chihuahuan Desert contains a multitude of biological zones— mixed desert shrubs and grasslands ascending to piñon and juniper woodlands, and finally to ponderosa pines.
The area is home to a high diversity of animal life, including deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, peregrine falcons and other raptors, as well as rare plants, some found nowhere else in the world. Hundreds of archeologically and culturally significant sites are found within the new monument, including some Paleo-Indian artifacts, extensive rock art sites and the ruins of a ten room pueblo.
More recent history is memorialized with Geronimo’s Cave, Billy the Kid's Outlaw Rock, and sites related to early Spanish explorers. The Organ and Doña Ana Mountains offer multiple hiking trails, a popular campground, as well as opportunities for hunting, mountain biking, rock climbing, and other recreation.
On the west side of Las Cruces, the Desert Peaks area contains mountain ranges and peaks of the Robledo Mountains and the Sierra de las Uvas. These landscapes contain mesas and buttes interspersed with deep canyons and arroyos. Significant cultural sites of the Mogollon, Mimbres, and Jornada cultures are located throughout this region along with more recent settlements, including the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Trail. This area is also home to the unusual Night-blooming Cereus, with a one-night-ayear bloom.
To the southwest of Las Cruces is the Potrillo Mountains Complex, characterized by cinder cones, volcanic craters, and basalt lava flows in the open desert landscape. There too is abundant wildlife and significant scientific finds, including an 11,000-year old skeleton of an extinct ground sloth. Apollo astronauts trained in a section of the Potrillos because of its resemblance to a moonscape.
Information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument can be found at blm.gov/nm/omdp.