Guest columnist

Ten years on, OMDP deepens pride in southern NM public lands


It’s hard to believe that it has been a decade since we celebrated President Obama’s

historic designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

I first got to know these incredible public lands back in the 1990s. I remember clearly

what it was like to first see what folks from this region have long known: Southern New

Mexico is home to amazingly intact Chihuahuan Desert habitat, unique volcanic

geology and some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth.

For a long time, many of us would never have dreamed that these places would be

protected as part of a national monument. And we certainly could never have imagined

the magnitude of the positive impact monument designation has had on the local


A report released last year by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce found that

visitation to this region has more than tripled since 2012, before the monument was

designated. This new visitation has supported hundreds of new jobs. And it’s fueled

more than $234 million in economic impact.

According to the report, three out of four of the nonlocal visitors to this area cited the national monument as the reason they traveled to southern New Mexico. Those visitors are generating important economic activity in communities like Las Cruces, Hatch, and


But I’m even more excited that more than 60 percent of the total visitors to the monument have been local residents — proof that monument designation did more than show the world how amazing this region is, but also encouraged more New Mexicans to get outside and explore our own public lands.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has deepened the pride and sense

of shared ownership of the mountains that have always been these communities'

backdrop. Thanks to all of the continued community engagement surrounding the

monument, many more local families have felt invited to make new memories on these

public lands that belong to all of us.

That enhanced and authentic connection to this place has been such a special

phenomenon to watch develop. And it has driven my work to keep building on what we

achieved ten years ago.

That includes passing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act five years

ago to establish 10 new wilderness areas within the monument and helping unlock more

public access to areas like Achenbach Canyon in the Organs. Last month, the BLM Las Cruces District Office released its proposed draft Resource Management Plan for the Monument. I encourage everyone to participate in the public comment period that is open now to inform how our local BLM managers plan for our monument’s future.

With the right long-term vision, we will dramatically improve visitor infrastructure,

create more public access for recreation for New Mexicans, and protect important

habitat and cultural resources for future generations.

Opinion, guest column, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, Organ Mountains