WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., introduced on Monday the White Sands National Park Establishment Act, a bill to designate White Sands National Monument as New Mexico's newest national park.
“The vision to create White Sands National Park has been driven by a diverse coalition of community leaders and local elected officials for years. By elevating White Sands National Monument to a national park, we can help boost the local economy and ensure the monument receives the recognition it deserves, while enhancing the military mission at WSMR,” Heinrich said. “Everyone who visits White Sands marvels at its remarkable geology, spectacular scenery, and outstanding recreation experiences. And the broad regional support we've received for what could be our state's second national park demonstrates the endless opportunities this designation would offer to communities and local businesses across southern New Mexico.”
Since White Sands National Monument was established in 1933, it has attracted visitors from around the world.
“White Sands National Monument is one of New Mexico’s most spectacular landscapes, attracting visitors from all over the world to savor the stunning views and enjoy the recreational activities offered by the unique sand dunes,” Sen. Tom Udall said, who is a cosponsor of the White Sands National Park Establishment Act. “Designating White Sands as a national park will ensure that one of our state’s greatest treasures receives the protection and recognition it deserves so it can continue to bolster the local economy alongside the critical military mission at WSMR. I am pleased to join this coalition of community leaders and local officials who have worked for years to turn White Sands into a national park – knowing the immense benefits it would provide the community, local and state economy, and New Mexico’s families.”
For the last two decades, White Sands has seen more visitors than any other National Park Service site in New Mexico-an average of more than half a million people each year. In 2016, visitors to the monument spent $29.3 million in the local economy, with 98 percent of that coming from non-local visitors.
Heinrich said becoming a national park would immediately bring new attention and prominent inclusion in global and domestic travel materials, allowing for even better resource protection, interpretation, and visitor services.
According to a new report released by Headwater Economics, in the eight peer National Monuments redesignated as National Parks examined, visits increased by 21 percent, on average, in the five years after redesignation compared to the five previous years.
Additionally, the report shows that redesignation of White Sands may result in between $6.2 million and $7.5 million in new spending, 84-107 new jobs, and between $2.7 million and $3.3 million in labor income.
Heinrich unveiled the legislation last week with community leaders in southern New Mexico.
The White Sands National Park Establishment Act is supported by the Alamogordo City Commission, Las Cruces City Council, Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, Town of Mesilla Board of Trustees, Alamogordo Mayor Richard Boss, New Mexico state Sen. Ron Griggs, Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Southern New Mexico Public Lands Alliance.