Alamogordo Daily News Report
Published 6:11 p.m. MT Dec. 4, 2017
Las Cruces – Following President Donald Trump’s actions Monday in Utah to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, New Mexicans are reasserting their support for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte National Monuments, and imploring President Trump to leave the Land of Enchantment’s national monuments alone, according to a New Mexico Wildlife and Las Cruces Green Chamber press release.
According to the release, President Trump’s actions are unpopular with Americans across the country and in New Mexico, but are also illegal. According to legal scholars, the Antiquities Act does not grant the president the authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or national monument.
Additionally, the recommendations that Secretary Zinke gave to President Trump were factually inaccurate, according to the majority of New Mexico’s delegation of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham. For example, grazing continues while hunting and fishing has not been impacted.
“Sportsmen have been on the front lines of conserving wildlife habitat like Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte,” Alamogordo public lands sportsman Rod Sims stated in the release. “Hunting and fishing is a time-tested tradition in the United States, and we need vast backcountry to support healthy wildlife populations. Shrinking, breaking apart, or changing the management of national monuments can fragment habitat and harm wildlife migrations and populations.”
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribal Council member Rafael Gomez Jr. said he stand united with his fellow Native American Tribal members.
“We stand with all of our fellow Native American Tribes who have lost something extraordinary with President Trump’s unprecedented actions on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments today,” Gomez stated in the release. “Tribal Council member for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. “These sacred lands are where all of our ancestors walked, and President Trump has trampled upon our history and culture today. I pray that he does not replicate these egregious actions in New Mexico.”
The two Presidential Proclamations signed on Monday by President Trump are expected to shrink Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante in half. Both national monuments would be split into smaller ones, leaving natural, cultural, and historical treasures open to mining, drilling, and other development that would forever ruin these incredible areas.
“For generations, the Taos Pueblo has lived off of, and given back to, the land that now encompasses Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” Taos Pueblo War Chief Curtis Sandoval said. “The petroglyphs, sacred sites, and wildlife define our people and our heritage. Our nations just celebrated Native American Heritage Month, and now more than ever we stand with Bears Ears and all of the national monuments under attack.”
New Mexicans worked together for decades to preserve Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte for future generations to enjoy. And since the designations, the national monuments have proven to be popular assets for the Land of Enchantment. This support was on full display when President Trump first ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a review of certain national monuments.
Of the over 2.8 million comments submitted to the department during the review, 99 percent expressed support for maintaining/expanding national monuments. Of those that specifically mentioned Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte, 93 and 98 percent of them, respectively, requested that those monuments not be altered, according to the release.
“Nearly every local elected official, including myself, supported the designations of our national monuments,” Questa Mayor Mark Gallegos said. “That’s because Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte are good for business, enhance our quality of life, and provide a place for our residents to hike, camp, bike, hunt, fish, and more. President Trump should think twice before illegally changing our national monuments that are supported by the majority of New Mexicans.”
Should President Trump attempt to alter New Mexico’s national monuments, businesses could be the first to suffer. Both Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks have proven to be an important part of northern and southern New Mexico’s economies, respectively.
The release states, after Río Grande del Norte was designated in 2013, Taos County quickly experienced an increase in visitation and local tax revenues, benefits that continue to be felt today. Additionally, visitation is up 45 percent compared to before the monument was designated, according to Bureau of Land Management data. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was designated in May 2014, and by September 2016 annual visitation had increased by 152 percent. Furthermore, New Mexico broke record tourism numbers again in 2016, with the state’s public lands being one of the largest draws.
“Altering our national monuments would undermine our bottom line,” Taos Mesa Brewing Company spokesman Dan Irion stated in the release. “We are seeing more people come to our Land of Enchantment, thanks to places like Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte. We stand with our fellow small business owners in Utah, and hope President Trump doesn’t harm our livelihoods next.”
According to the release, sportsmen, veterans, small business owners, ranchers, Native American Tribes, and community members stand in solidarity with Utahans and Americans across the country who love and cherish our country’s natural heritage and are outraged by President Trump’s actions today.
“Our national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, are an important part our country’s identity, and we are known the world over for our protected lands and waters,” U.S. Marine veteran Jeff Swanson stated. “Veterans return from war find strength and resilience from our lands and waters, and are able to heal and grow. Attacking any of our national monuments is an attack on our country’s values and natural heritage.”