New Mexicans stand strong with Bears Ears and national monuments across the Land of Enchantment

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2017

Contact: Ben Gabriel, ben@organmtnfriends.org, 575-639-4384

 

New Mexicans stand strong with Bears Ears and national monuments across the Land of Enchantment

Following Bears Ears Report, communities voice support for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte National Monuments  

Las Cruces, New Mexico (June 12, 2017) –  Small business owners, Tribal leaders, sportsmen and women, veterans, and others across New Mexico today condemned Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to President Trump on the Bears Ears National Monument. The report recommends that the boundaries for Bears Ears be “revised.”

The Executive Order and review issued by President Trump could also threaten the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte National Monuments. The order “directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.” An ongoing comment period allows the public only 60 days to comment on national monuments that were decades in the making.

As with Bears Ears, the process to protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte National Monuments involved extensive conversations and gatherings with Tribal leaders and representatives.  The comment period, which relies heavily on electronic input, puts Tribes at a disadvantage as 80 percent of New Mexicans who live in Indian Country do not have access to fixed broadband internet. Together, the two New Mexico national monuments safeguard many sacred cultural tribal sites, ruins and petroglyphs.

“With their actions related to Bears Ears, President Trump and Secretary Zinke have deeply disrespected the five sovereign tribes of the Inter Tribal Coalition who have spiritual and cultural ties to and have advocated for protection of Bears Ears,” said Rafael Gomez, Jr. Tribal Councilman from the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.  “Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, and other tribes were driving forces behind protecting our national monuments. These lands are where our ancestors walked and where we hold ceremonies today so these designations are essential to protecting our culture. An attack on one monument is an attack on all. I pray that Secretary Zinke sees how important these national monuments are to us and changes the course he has taken.”

The two national monuments in New Mexico have also proven to be an economic asset for surrounding communities. One year after President Obama designated the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, there was a 40 percent increase in visitors and a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue.  Additionally, a recent study from Headwaters Economics found that local economies surrounding the national monument had grown, with per capita income increasing as much as 27 percent.

In southern New Mexico, visitation to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument increased by 102% from Fiscal Year 2015 to 2016 and the Las Cruces Lodgers tax revenues increased by 6.5 percent over the same period. New businesses specifically based on tourism in the national monument have sprung up in surrounding communities. In fact, Las Cruces was recently included in Lonely Planet’s “Top 10 Places to Visit,” due in large part to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The Headwaters Economics analysis of communities near the national monument found the population in these areas had grown by 21 percent, with personal income increasing by 42 percent.  Additionally, service jobs increased 41 percent from 2001-2015.

“The success of my business is directly linked to the designation of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument,” said Chris Lang, owner of Organ Mountain Outfitters.  “I recently traveled to our nation’s capital to let our elected officials know that New Mexico’s national monuments mean business.  Rescinding or shrinking our national monuments would hurt our small businesses that drive New Mexico’s local economies.”

 Like Bears Ears National Monument, the two New Mexico national monuments serve as critical wildlife habitat for diverse species. Elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, birds of prey, otters, and more call Río Grande del Norte National Monument home.  The monument also provides cool waters for trout, pike and smallmouth bass.  The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument preserves habitat for pronghorn antelope, desert mule deer, javelina, birds of prey, and three species of quail.

Nick Streit, a life-long fisherman and hunter from Taos, was alarmed that wildlife habitat was not taken into account in Secretary Zinke’s Reivew. He added, “Wildlife is only as healthy as its habitat, and I hope that Secretary Zinke understands that as a fellow sportsman.  For decades, my family has been hunting and fishing in what is now preserved by the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.  After decades of community dialogue, we all came together to preserve the places where we learned to fish from our fathers, and where we will teach our children to fish.”

 The two national monuments are managed by the National Conservation Lands, and make up a network of lands and waters that are owned by all Americans, no matter their political, economic, or social background.  New Mexico’s national monuments, along with the other monuments threatened by President Trump’s executive order, represent an ideal that is uniquely American and is recognized by people across the world who come here to experience America’s natural legacy.

“As a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I fought to protect not just my family and our country, but the ethics and ideals that represent our nation.  Our shared lands and waters and how we care for them define who we are as a country.  Our national monuments in New Mexico are also where veterans we go with our families and friends to reconnect and find strength and healing,” said Army Veteran Julian Gonzales, Jr. of La Cienega, who regularly hunts and fishes in Río Grande del Norte National Monument.

The Department of the Interior is accepting comments until July 10th from the public on the national monuments under review including Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.   People can go to organmountains.org or riograndedelnorte.org to tell Secretary Zinke and President Trump to preserve Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte national monuments with the full size encompassed by the monument declarations.

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