U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman have submitted a letter to the White House requesting President Obama consider designating two special areas in New Mexico as National Monuments - the Rio Grande del Norte, and the Organ Mountains and additional public lands down in Dona Ana County. The senators themselves have sponsored legislation that would elevate these two areas to National Conservation Area or Wilderness Area status, but acknowledged in their letter how difficult it has been to pass legislation in this Congress.
Udall and Bingaman‚Äôs letter to the President stated:
New Mexicans on every level, from grassroots campaigns to Mayors and County Commissioners, have expressed their support for the protection of these special places. Community leaders, business owners, student groups, and conservation advocates from across New Mexico have traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with your staff and representatives at the Department of Interior to lend their support for the protection of the Rio Grande del Norte in Taos County and the Organ, Potrillos, Robledo Mountains and related areas in Dona Ana County. Still, there is much work to be done to ensure these areas are protected this year.
We will continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of the legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archeological and cultural resources in these two regions.
In their subsequent news release, Sens. Udall and Bingaman stressed that by designating the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains as National Monuments, the lands and their wildlife habitat could be protected while preserving existing uses such as hunting, fishing and grazing.