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Obama Protects New Mexican Mountains and Continues American Tradition of Conservation

Frances Beinecke

Posted May 21, 2014 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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America has gained another crown jewel in our extraordinary collection of wild, beautiful, and historic public places. Today President Obama is designating nearly half a million acres in New Mexico as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

This designation is part of a noble tradition: nearly every president in the past 100 years has declared national monuments. These monuments ensure America’s special places are accessible to all people and preserved for all generations to come. President Obama’s executive action guarantees this tradition of conserving our natural and cultural heritage will continue uninterrupted.

Now people from all walks of life will be able to explore the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The monument encompasses a remarkable sweep of history—from pre-historic Native American art to remnants of the Camino Real to training sites for the Apollo Mission.

97 Organs, Fall Color - photo credit Lisa Mandelkern.Smaller.jpg

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Photo: Lisa Mandelkern

These events unfolded against a stunning backdrop of rugged ridgelines, granite pinnacles, and desert grasslands. Today the landscape nurtures big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, javelina, and desert mule deer, and is home to rare examples of Chihuahuan desert grasslands and sky islands—isolated mountain ranges rich in biodiversity.

With so many natural and cultural wonders, it’s no surprise the monument designation has garnered overwhelming support from local residents, business groups, Native American communities, and Latino leaders.  They want to conserve this special place for all to enjoy.

President Obama has made that possible. He drew on authority granted by the Antiquities Act—the same law past presidents used to protect the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Olympic National Park.

It’s hard to imagine our country without these special places preserved in their wild or historic condition. They are gifts left to us by previous generations, and we must return the favor by expanding the natural inheritance we leave our children and grandchildren.

President Obama has vowed to do this. In the State of the Union Address he pledged to protect more public lands, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation is a welcome sign of his commitment. I hope in the coming months, he will show similar leadership in protecting the Arctic, Greater Canyonlands, and other special places. We owe this to the Americans who come after us.

Organs, Under the Oak Tree-1 - photo credit Lisa Mandelkern.SMALLER.jpg

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Photo: Lisa Mandelkern

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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