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Lawmakers Urge Interior Secretary to Protect NM’s National Monuments

Lawmakers Urge Interior Secretary to Protect NM’s National Monuments

Rescinding Monuments Could Cause "Irrevocable Harm To Our Treasured Places"

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to protect New Mexico’s national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act.

The New Mexico lawmakers wrote to Zinke to express their strong support for the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments. The monuments, they said, protect cherished resources, enjoy overwhelming public support and drive local economies.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote that they “strongly disapprove” of the Trump administration’s monument review process: “Rescinding or shrinking New Mexico’s national monuments will cause irrevocable harm to our treasured places, would jeopardize the objects and special values that are protected through the Antiquities Act, and impact positive economic growth in local communities.”

The Rio Grande del Norte and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments were designated in 2013 and 2014 respectively. They provide opportunities for recreation, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and seeing centuries-old petroglyphs.

“Each of these activities creates a deeper connection with our state’s rich cultural heritage,” they wrote. “We urge you to heed the overwhelming support of New Mexicans to preserve their irreplaceable national monuments as designated under the Antiquities Act.”

The lawmakers also expressed their disapproval of Zinke’s interim recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument. “As you make your final recommendation, we hope you will consider the overwhelming support for national monuments, including that more than 90 percent of the public comments you received during the initial 15-day period favored maintaining Bears Ears’ designated boundaries,” they wrote in the letter.

New Mexico’s national monuments enjoy broad public support and were created after extensive consultation with and input from local communities, Udall, Heinrich, Luján and Lujan Grisham said. In addition, they wrote that New Mexico’s national monuments provide an essential boost to the state’s economy.

“Protecting our national monuments has been an important economic driver for New Mexico’s regional and statewide economy,” the lawmakers said. “Outdoor recreation in New Mexico, as in most of the West, is a growing and sustainable industry that is revitalizing our local communities both around the monuments and statewide.”

“Outdoor recreation generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending and provides the state of New Mexico with more than $450 million in state and local tax revenue and employs 68,000 people each year. Taos and Doña Ana Counties have benefitted from increasing numbers of visitors spending their hard-earned dollars in our hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, retail stores, and other services.”

Finally, they called on Zinke to extend the “arbitrary” and “grossly insufficient” 120-day review period for all national monuments.

“The arbitrary 120-day review period for all national monuments, including the final review for Bears Ears, is grossly insufficient to collect the necessary information. The comment period, which relies heavily on Internet access, puts Tribes and rural communities at a disadvantage because up to 80 percent of New Mexicans who live in Indian Country and rural areas do not have consistent access to broadband Internet.”

Udall, Heinrich, Luján, Lujan Grisham Urge Zinke to Protect NM’s National Monuments by Tom Udall on Scribd

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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