WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 -- The National Association of Conservation Districts(NACD) said it is concerned about reports that the Obama administration is prepared to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region in New Mexico as a National Monument. Such a designation would greatly restrict access to the 498,815-acre watershed, prohibit implementation of natural-resource management efforts in the area, and prevent the maintenance of existing conservation projects, NACD said.
“A monument designation of this magnitude would threaten the ability of landowners and producers to continue critical natural-resource management efforts in the region,” NACD President Earl Garber said in a news release. In a recent letter to President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Garber said, “we oppose this effort due to the consequences a designation of this magnitude would pose to the health of our natural resources base.”
According to the local Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, the monument designation would prevent their ability to implement and maintain conservation initiatives to improve watershed function – which could ultimately jeopardize public health and the natural resource base. The proposal would affect all the higher elevations of the Lower Rio Grande Watershed, placing 22 percent of Doña Ana County in a National Monument, impacting 41 ranches and greatly impeding livestock grazing capabilities.
“We respectfully request that you consider the ramifications of restricting natural resource management on nearly a half-million acres of land resources, including its impact on current users, natural resources, wildlife habitat and surrounding communities,” Garber wrote.
The NACD is a non-profit organization that represents the nation's 3,000 conservation districts and their state associations. Conservation districts are legislatively mandated to control and prevent soil erosion, prevent floodwater and sediment damage, and further the conservation and beneficial application of water.
The national monument designation is being urged by the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, along with business leaders in Doña Ana County and from across New Mexico. In their own letter to Obama, they cite a recent economic study that projects the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would contribute $7.4 million in additional local annual economic activity and create 88 new jobs in the area.
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