Udall, Heinrich Introduce Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Bill

Bill would designate national monument to boost economy, create jobs, enhance recreation and hunting

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation to preserve some of Doña Ana County’s most iconic landscapes, while boosting the region’s tourism and outdoor economy, creating jobs and improving hunting and hiking opportunities. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act would designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to conserve, protect and enhance scenic, recreational and culturally significant land. 

The new monument would be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and would include eight new wilderness areas. Studies show that designating the area a national monument would bring new visitors and business opportunities, generating $7.4 million in new economic activity annually.

“Designating a national monument would put the Organ Mountains and other spectacular areas of Doña Ana County on recreation maps around the world, attracting tourists to Southern New Mexico, creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars in tourism revenue,” Udall said. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding area form a beautiful and iconic backdrop for Las Cruces and are beloved by New Mexicans. Our bill would help ensure local families and visitors will continue to be able to hike, hunt, and learn from the thousands of significant historic sites throughout the hills for generations to come.”

“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region offers outstanding cultural resources, tourism and recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and camping, and links us strongly to our past. For years, diverse coalitions in New Mexico have worked tirelessly for its permanent protection. By designating this natural treasure a national monument, a critical piece of our shared outdoor heritage will be protected for us now and for future generations of Americans to enjoy,” Heinrich said. “I look forward to working with Senator Tom Udall and communities across New Mexico to get this done.”

The bill conserves land in an area stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains, home to game animals, such as pronghorn sheep and deer, as well as rare plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world, including the Organ Mountains pincushion cactus. It encompasses Broad Canyon, Sleeping Lady Hills, Rough and Ready Hills, Picacho Peak, Mount Riley, Peña Blanca and Bishop’s Cap. And it contains over 5,000 archeologically and culturally significant sites, including Geronimo’s Cave, Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, Spanish settlement sites, and numerous petroglyphs and pictographs.

The national monument proposal is the result of many years of research and conversations with the surrounding communities, as well as White Sands Missile Range, Fort Bliss, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Importantly, the bill preserves existing grazing rights and vehicular access to 100 percent of roads leading to currently used water wells, troughs and corrals, and it enhances hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. It also strengthens border security in the region by releasing wilderness study areas within five miles of the international border, creating a buffer area for Border Patrol activities, and adding an additional road for border security purposes.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act:

  • Boosts the economy and creates jobs. A recent study found that new visitors would generate $7.4 million in new economic activity and create new jobs.
  • Conserves wildlife habitat and enhances hunting opportunities for generations to come.
  • Protects some of Southern New Mexico’s most iconic vistas and preserves important landmarks and archeological and cultural resources.
  • Increases flexibility for Border Patrol to conduct operations.
  • Directs the completion of a watershed restoration assessment that will support flood prevention.
  • Maintains existing grazing allotments under the current rangeland management guidelines.