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Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to be Protected

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2014

Contact:
Jeff Steinborn, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 575-635-5615

LAS CRUCES, NM (May 19, 2014) –President Obama today announced plans to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico on Wednesday. This move will protect 496,000 acres in Doña Ana County, including the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, and Greater Potrillo Mountains volcanic field. The new monument protects some of Doña Ana County’s most iconic mountains on the local skyline including the Organ, Doña Ana and Robledo mountains, and Picacho Peak. NM Wild Southern New Mexico Director Jeff Steinborn and Conservation Coordinator Nathan Small have been invited to attend the signing ceremony this Wednesday with President Obama in Washington D.C.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) cheered the designation, and applauded President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for their preservation of this unique Chihuahuan Desert landscape. NM Wild also lauded U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their work to develop the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, and for their leadership protecting this landscape for generations to come.

NM Wild has been working for 10 years to permanently protect this southern New Mexico landscape.

Steinborn, who is also a state representative in addition to his role with NM Wild, applauded the president’s action. “With the historic establishment of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, our nation achieves a truly significant conservation milestone. This new monument will enable countless generations of citizens to enjoy and learn from our diverse Chihuahuan Desert wildlands, and the rich history and archaeological sites that exist in them. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to President Obama and Sens. Udall and Heinrich for their visionary leadership.”

On January 25, 2014, Secretary Jewell visited Las Cruces and held a town hall event to seek input from a standing-room-only group of supporters that overwhelmingly supported the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal.

The national monument proposal was broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, more than 70 percent of people said they supported an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Doña Ana County landscape conservation efforts began in the early 1980s when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began granting temporary protections for eight local Wilderness Study Areas across the county within the Organ, Potrillo, and Robledo mountains. NM Wild opened and staffed its field office in Las Cruces in 2004, and in 2005 organized a community coalition to work toward the permanent protection of these lands along with other areas identified that possessed outstanding ecological and historical importance.

In the last 10 years, diverse members of the community including elected officials, business owners, historians, tribal governments, sportsmen, conservationists, and thousands of citizens have urged New Mexico’s federal delegation to move forward to protect this landscape. This Wednesday, under the authority of President Obama, these efforts will come to fruition with the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

“We are proud to have helped organize the dynamic coalition of community members to permanently protect many of our most important natural and historic resources in Doña Ana County,” said Small, who is also a Las Cruces city councilor in addition to his role with NM Wild. “NM Wild is made up of local leaders and thousands of members in every corner of our state and beyond, who are actively involved in protecting the best of the Land of Enchantment.”

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument possesses a vast array of unique plants and animals, some only found in this region.

It also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites including the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Apollo Space Mission training site at Kilbourne Hole, World War II bombardier training targets, and thousands of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation caps a historic year and a half period in New Mexico that also saw the designation of the 242,455 acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument outside Taos in 2013.

NM Wild Executive Director Mark Allison noted the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as an important step in protecting New Mexico’s natural heritage. “New Mexico is blessed with rich public lands, and iconic landscapes that make us ‘the Land of Enchantment.’ Given the importance of our diverse public lands ecologically, and in many cases culturally, we must continue to work towards their protection. This designation is a result of a decade-long effort and is ultimately a testament to New Mexicans’ love of their land and its people, past, present and future.”

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

RELEASE: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Legislation Introduced

For Immediate Release
December 12, 2013

Contact:
Jeff Steinborn, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 575-635-5615

NM Wild applauds Senators Heinrich and Udall for introducing bill that would protect 500,000 acres in Doña Ana County

LAS CRUCES, NM (December 12, 2013) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) and its 5,000 members applauded U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall for their Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act. The legislation would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.

“New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild. “The breadth of community support for this legislation is truly inspiring and NM Wild is proud to stand with hunters, faith-based groups, youth organizations, area businesses and our conservation partners to make sure this land secures the protection it deserves. NM Wild and our 5,000 members thank Senators Udall and Heinrich, and stands ready to assist them in any way we can.”

The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.

The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, more than 80 percent of people said they support the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proposal.

“On the precipice of permanent protection, the community-supported Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument enjoys exciting momentum because of diverse supporters, creative partnerships and its intersection of natural and cultural landscapes,” said Nathan Small, NM Wild wilderness protection coordinator.

Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County as a National Monument. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is also hopeful for a similar fate for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

“As we celebrate the introduction of this legislation, we invite Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel to visit this land and to walk, see and experience it personally,” said Allison. “We’re confident that she’ll immediately understand why these places need to be protected for future generations.”

For more information about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks campaign, please visit www.organmountains.org.

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

New Mexicans Send Clear Message to Sec. Jewell: Protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2014

Contact:
Mark Allison, 505-239-0906

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), backed by its more than 5,000 members, joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today as she visited Las Cruces for a town-hall meeting about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area.

At the public meeting, business owners, local elected officials and residents joined the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and other conservation groups in urging Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration to safeguard the Chihuahuan desert grasslands, sky island peaks, dramatic canyons, historic ruins and wildlife that are integral to the area’s character, economy and quality of life.

“We are so pleased that Secretary Jewell took the time to personally visit this magnificent area to see for herself what a rare and important place it is and to have the opportunity to hear directly how overwhelming the community support is to preserve it. The secretary saw today how proud New Mexicans are of this national treasure,” Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance said. “We call on the Secretary to take this experience back to President Obama and to urge him to designate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument so that this special landscape receives the national recognition it deserves and the additional protection it needs.”

On Dec. 12, 2013, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, which would protect 500,000 acres of culturally and ecologically rich Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Doña Ana County.

NM Wild applauded the senators for their work to protect this important landscape.

“New Mexico is fortunate to have two senators with such vision and commitment to permanently protecting these very special places,” said Allison.
The national monument would include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and Greater Potrillo Mountains. Among the wildlife that call this their home are golden eagles, many hawk species, owls, desert mule deer, three quail species, mountain lion, pronghorn, javelina, bobcat, coyote, bats, rock squirrels and other rodents, and numerous other birds.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is not just important for its biological features—it also contains important archaeological, geological, and historical sites. Places like Conklin’s Cave in the Organ Mountains and Shelter Cave in the Robledo Mountains have yielded artifacts dating the area’s human history back more than 8,000 years. Archaic petroglyphs in areas like Providence Cone and parts of the Sierra de Las Uvas are tantalizing signs of likely habitation sites that, if properly and respectfully studied, could open new windows into the movements of ancient cultures that called these areas home.

The national monument is broadly backed by the local community—in a recent survey, nearly three-fourths of Doña Ana County voters favor a national monument to protect its special characteristics.

Last year, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County. After more than seven years of working on the campaign, NM Wild is thankful to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, congressmen Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and President Obama for their work on the permanent protection of Rio Grande del Norte. NM Wild is committed to a similar future for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

Columbine Hondo is key step closer to protection

For Immediate Release
November 22, 2013

Contact:
John Olivas, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-379-5551

NM Wild applauds U.S. Senate committee for taking up locally supported bill

TAOS, NM (November 20, 2013) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) applauded the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining for holding a hearing on the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776). The legislation would protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

The Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) introduced a House companion (H.R. 1683) that is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

“It’s amazing how a diverse community in Taos County has come together to speak to protect the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “The legislation would protect 45,000 acres of land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico.”

On the heels of a newly designated Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, a diverse group of Taos County citizens has asked the New Mexico federal delegation to protect the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area as true wilderness. The coalition working on the Columbine Hondo and Rio Grande del Norte campaigns has been recognized by our federal delegation as a model for conservation campaigns throughout the country.

“Taos County has unique and diverse groups of individuals and organizations who have stepped up to ask our federal delegation to move to protect this valuable resource,” said Olivas. “S776 does exactly that, by protecting the land, water and providing an economic engine for Taos County.”

Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its highest point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

“Water is life here in New Mexico, and Columbine Hondo protects two of the Rio Grande largest tributaries,” said Esther Garcia, President of San Antonio Del Rio Colorado Land Grant and Mayor of the Village of Questa. “We are grateful that Senators Udall and Heinrich recognize the importance of this area for our traditional agricultural communities, and have acted to safeguard our culture and well-being.”

Congress formally recognized the wilderness values and character of the Columbine Hondo area in 1980 and gave it interim protection as a WSA. Designation as wilderness is the highest form of protection, and bars any development. Former Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation to protect Columbine Hondo in the 112th Congress, but it stalled, along with dozens of other conservation bills.

NM Wild and the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition are hopeful that Congress follows Sen. Udall and Heinrich’s lead and protects New Mexico’s wilderness.

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild)  is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

 

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