Friday afternoon, May 23. The sun was bright. The sky filled with billowing clouds. The Organ
Mountains looked as if they were a painted backdrop on a stage. Nature could not have provided a more perfect set as the communities of Las Cruces, Mesilla, and Doña Ana County gathered on the athletic field of Oñate High School to commemorate the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Speakers faced an audience that looked east toward the mountains.
In Washington on May 21, President Obama signed the proclamation establishing the nation’s newest national monument. It was the twelfth time he has used the Antiquities Act to protect public lands and, at nearly 500,000 acres, Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks is the largest national monument of the Obama presidency, so far. Previously, President Obama created the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
You could tell you were in New Mexico for the ceremony. The invocation was given by Paul Torres, governor of the Pueblos Council, spoken in his native language. Other celebrants spoke in English, Spanish, and even Hebrew, all of which tells of our state’s rich and lustrous heritage.
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, told the audience to “Clap for yourselves. President Obama signed the proclamation because of your work.” She spoke of all the people who have been on the land: Paleo-Indians, Native Americans, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo, each of whom have left their mark. “Because of your action,” she said, “These landscapes will be preserved for generations to come.”
Among the speakers were Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heimrich, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza, Las Cruces Councilman Nathan Small, and others. The theme of most of their comments was how the community pulled together, worked hard, and remain committed to achieve national monument status for these special public lands.
Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, said, “This designation is a long time coming and we are excited Doña Ana County is finally going to be able to reap the economic benefits of the national monument.” She added, the designation is certain to bring outdoor enthusiasts and tourists to the community, contributing income to local businesses, jobs, and increased tax revenues.