Today nearly 200 veterans released a letter thanking New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for working to safeguard the wildest lands within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The letter comes a day before Veterans Day, when the United States honors and commemorates our nation’s military veterans.
The letter reads,
“We understand the importance of protected public lands as a place for men and women in the armed service as well as those who have already served to reconnect with family and readjust to civilian life following deployments. Three significant military installations (Fort Bliss, Fort Huachuca, and White Sands Missile Range) are home to a large population of military personnel and many retirees live within a two hour drive to these wild areas within the monument. We are convinced that ensuring their permanent protection will directly contribute to the health and well-being of these active duty personnel, veterans, and their families.”
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act (S. 3049) would designate eight wilderness areas within the national monument totaling 241,067 acres. Eighty percent of the proposed wilderness is already managed as such, including Doña Ana County’s eight wilderness study areas (WSA’s). Notably, this legislation removes 32,850 acres from WSA protection in the West Potrillo Mountains to expand the border buffer.
The letter continues,
“We also appreciate your efforts to work closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that any concerns they may have are addressed. The security provisions included in your legislation will not only provide additional flexibility for the Border Patrol, but also improve security at our nation's southern border.”
Legislation to safeguard the wilderness in Doña Ana County was first introduced by former Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2009 in the 111th Congress, and then again by Senators Udall and Heinrich in the 112th and 113th Congresses. In 2014, President Obama established the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
The coalition of veterans hopes that Congress continues to advance the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act.