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Heinrich, Torres Small Introduce White Sands National Park Establishment Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 26, 2019) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) introduced the White Sands National Park Establishment Act, a bill to designate White Sands National Monument as New Mexico's newest national park.

“Everyone who visits White Sands marvels at its remarkable geology, spectacular scenery, and outstanding recreation experiences,” said Senator Heinrich. “Since I introduced White Sands National Park legislation last year, the broad regional support we've received demonstrates the endless opportunities this designation would offer to communities and local businesses across southern New Mexico. 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 White Sands Missile Range. I am pleased to continue working with a strong coalition of community leaders and local officials who have worked for years to turn White Sands into a national park. With their help and support from Senator Udall and Representative Torres Small, I’m confident we can build the momentum in this Congress to establish our state's second national park.” 

“National parks are one of America’s greatest resources. They are the engines of the local economies that surround them. By designating White Sands as a national park, we have the potential to make it an economic powerhouse in southern New Mexico, creating new jobs and bringing much needed services to our rural communities,” said Rep. Torres Small. “This legislation also strengthens the capabilities for southern New Mexico’s military installations, White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base, which are vital to our nation’s security. I’m proud to join Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall in supporting the White Sands National Park Establishment Act.” 

“Since 1933, White Sands National Monument and its awe-inspiring vistas have mesmerized and excited visitors from all over the world – supporting local economies and providing unique recreational opportunities,” said Senator Udall. “I am proud to support the designation of White Sands as a national park, raising this New Mexico gem’s profile, energizing our tourism economy, and solidifying the years of dedication and hard work from community leaders and local officials to ensure future generations can experience one of New Mexico’s most remarkable natural treasures.”

Since White Sands National Monument was established in 1933, it has attracted visitors from around the world. 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 2017, well over 600,000 visitors to the monument spent $31.7 million in the local economy, with 98 percent of that coming from non-local visitors. Becoming a national park would immediately bring new attention and prominent inclusion in global and domestic travel materials, attracting more visitors and allowing for even better resource protection, interpretation, and visitor experiences. A 2018 study found that redesignation could increase visitation by 21 percent and result in an additional $7.5 million being spent in the local economy each year.

The national park legislation will also benefit the military installations in southern New Mexico that surround White Sands National Monument. The military’s use of critical airspace and testing grounds by White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Fort Bliss, and others are protected, and existing agreements between the military and the National Park Service will remain in place.

“As long-time advocates for the White Sands Missile Range and the other military bases in our region, we appreciate the thorough and conscientious process employed by Senator Heinrich and his local staff in working through considerations for the designation change legislation,” said Joe Bullington, Chairman of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. “Their efforts included a wide range of inputs and viewpoints regarding the designation of White Sands National Park and its continued strong partnership with WSMR that will benefit our region, the State of New Mexico, and our nation.”

The White Sands National Park Establishment Act has strong support from local community leaders and elected officials in southern New Mexico.

“The White Sands National Monument is a special place. If anywhere deserves the national park designation, it does,” said N.M. State Senator Ron Griggs (R-Alamogordo). 

“The Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors enthusiastically supports the White Sands National Park Establishment Act. We appreciate the extraordinary amount of time and consideration Senator Heinrich has dedicated to crafting legislation that brings benefit not only to Alamogordo and its business community, but our military partners as well. It is a rare thing in today’s political climate, when legislation is written in a way where there are no losers. The Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce wishes to extend our sincere appreciation to Senator Heinrich for having accomplished this feat,” said GB Oliver, President and CEO of the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce. 

“As a resident and the Mayor of Alamogordo, the gateway to White Sands, I am very excited about the possibility White Sands National Monument may become White Sands National Park. I believe this designation change would bring a significant increase in economic activity in and around Alamogordo,” said Mayor Richard Boss of the City of Alamogordo. “We are very fortunate to have this natural wonder in our backyard. Visitors from around the world will become more aware of White Sands with the ‘park’ designation. I want to personally thank US Senator Martin Heinrich and NM Senator Ron Griggs for their commitment to this possible designation change.”

“Tularosa is rich in history, culture, livestock and amazing food. Turning White Sands National Monument into a National Park would not only bring more attention - and tourism - to the region and our quaint village, but also help preserve this beautiful area and highlight for all the history it contains. I hope the national park name inspires more locals and visitors alike to embrace their White Sands,” said Mayor Margaret Trujillo of the Village of Tularosa. 

“The Town of Mesilla has worked successfully to grow the economic benefit of outdoor tourism to our community, continues to recognize the importance of tourism as one of the cornerstones of our local economy, and desires to pursue new opportunities to increase tourism,” said Mayor Nora Barraza of the Town of Mesilla. “That is why I and the Board of Trustees support the White Sands National Park Establishment Act.”

“The City Council and I urge Congress to pass the White Sands National Park Establishment Act because it will improve the economy of not only Las Cruces but the entire region, help our military do its important job, and highlight our incredible public land resources. I am happy to support efforts that strengthen our economic foundation by enhancing quality of life for Las Cruces residents and attracting others to visit the community we are so proud to call home,” said Mayor Ken Miyagishima of the City of Las Cruces. 

The legislation has the support of the Alamogordo City Commission, the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, the Village of Tularosa Board of Trustees, the Las Cruces City Council, the Town of Mesilla Board of Trustees, the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, he Otero County Economic Development Council, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and its Military Affairs Committee, the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Southern New Mexico Public Lands Alliance, and the Friends of the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks.

A fact sheet on the White Sands National Park Establishment Act is available here. A map is available here. A copy of the bill is available here