Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

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“By designating the Organ Mountains as a national monument, President Obama is protecting historic public lands that contributed greatly to our military heritage,” Michael Breen, Truman Project Executive Director and former U.S. Army Captain 

The protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans. It also ensures that these public lands remain open to hunting, outdoor recreation and grazing.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area is important for its ruggedly beautiful landscape and the significant scientific, historic, and prehistoric resources found there. The abundant resources testify to over 10,000 years of vibrant and diverse human history of many peoples.

The national monument includes places that chronicle New Mexico’s history including the site of the original US-Mexico border prior to the Gadsden Purchase, training sites for the Apollo Mission (Kilbourne Hole), and thousands of ancient archaeological sites with unique prehistoric rock art carved and painted onto the cliffs.

Archaeologically rich, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area features hundreds of artifacts, rock art, dwellings, and other evidence of the Native peoples of the area. The majority of the cultural items known to be in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area are from the Chihuahuan Archaic period between 8,000 and 2,000 years ago.

The diverse geology underlies an equally wide array of vegetative communities and ecosystems, which range from low-elevation Chihuahuan grasslands and scrublands to higher elevation stands of ponderosa pine. Seasonal springs and streams in the mountains and canyon bottoms create rare desert riparian ecosystems. These communities provide habitat for many endemic and special status plant and animal species.

Public Input

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the “Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act” in December 2013, following on previous efforts from former Senator Bingaman to protect the area.

There was broad support for the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument from the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the Doña Ana County Commission, the cities of Las Cruses and El Paso, the New Mexico and Las Cruses Green Chambers of Commerce as well as support from ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, faith leaders, archaeologists, historians, civic and conservation organizations.

A public opinion poll conducted shortly before the designation showed that nearly 3 out of 4 Doña Ana County residents (72%) support an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument to protect important historic sites, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation.  Previous state-wide polls also demonstrated overwhelming support for the monument proposal.

Following the desingation, nearly 70 retired generals from various branches of the United States military, including seven 4-star Generals, sent a letter to President Obama in appreciation of the national monument designation. The generals’ letter also responded to unfounded concerns about the border that had been raised by some opponents of the monument.