12.20.13

Diverse Stakeholders Celebrate New Proposals to Expand the National Conservation Lands

After years of community dialogue, communities in New Mexico and Colorado saw their home grown proposals to expand the National Conservation Lands move one step closer to reality this month as new legislation was introduced for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Browns Canyon.

On Tuesday, December 10th Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013, which will protect more than 22,000 acres of BLM and Forest Service lands in Central Colorado, including one of the nation’s most popular whitewater rafting destinations.

With strong support from sportsman, local businesses and river outfitters, the bill grew out of an 18-month public process led by Senator Udall. Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Browns Canyon and other partners, it’s no surprise that Senator Udall’s proposal has been broadly embraced.

We also saw another bill introduced this month in by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich – the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, which will protect roughly 500,000 acres of iconic BLM lands near Las Cruces, NM as a new national monument.

Sportsmen, Native Americans, Hispanic and business leaders, veterans, civic groups, current and former local elected officials, archeologists, historians and conservation organizations applauded this step towards permanently protecting an area that chronicles New Mexico’s history and culture. This broad local coalition has been advocating protection of this area for nearly a decade, and the Senators’ most recent proposal responds to the diversity of support and questions raised by stakeholders.

In addition to creating the national monument, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks legislation will also designate more than 200,000 acres of wilderness within the new national monument. With the help of the Friends of the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks and dozens of other local groups, the legislation includes an additional 100,000 acres compared to the Senators’ previous proposal, including important cultural and historic sites.

In both areas, these potential new national monuments will ensure these areas remains open to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation, preserving the outdoor legacy of our western states. In both areas, protecting these outstanding places will likely have significant positive impacts on the local economies by attracting new visitors, residents and businesses to the areas.

Browns Canyon and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks provide two outstanding examples of the diverse support and local input that have taken place in the effort to expand our National Conservation Lands. We applaud Senators Mark Udall, Michael Bennet, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for their leadership in working to protect these iconic lands.