Lucky animals and plants on 500,000 acres are about to be forever protected as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico.
With his signature, President Obama is about to designate the 11th National Monument of his presidency, this one is by far the largest.
Located in southern New Mexico, the Organ Mountain range contains Native American petroglyphs and is among the most biodiverse in the state, with habitats varying from mountains to juniper woodland, from grasslands to desert. It is home to pronghorn, mountain lion, bobcats and many rare animals and plants – 875 different plant species and 200 species of birds, including peregrine falcons, bald and golden eagles.
When nature is left intact, it attracts tourism. Estimates are $7.4 million a year for the local economy and $560,000 in state and local tax revenue. Traditional cattle grazing will continue, but no exploitation of oil, gas or minerals is allowed. Citizens – including the business and faith communities – have been working for Monument designation for a decade.
The designation is part of President Obama’s promise to use his authority to protect more land at a time when Congress has pulled back, ignoring land conservation for the first time. The only legislation passed since Obama became President happened this year – the 32,500 acre Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. Also this year, the Republican majority in the House voted to abolish the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the ability to designate national monuments.
Several months ago, Obama added 1660 acres to the California Coastal National Monument by including the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands.
Although Obama has created 11 national monuments, that’s less than most presidents, other than GW Bush, who designated only four monuments. The Interior Department established 10 new national parks and 10 new national wildlife refuges during his first term.
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