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New Mexicans Call For a New National Monument

March 21, 2012

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A coalition of business and political leaders, archaeologists, historians and civic groups is calling for a new national monument for New Mexico.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks proposal would help Doña Ana County focus on what Commissioner Billy Garrett considers high-quality growth, to draw tourists, new residents and businesses into the area.

He points out that Las Cruces is the state's second largest city.

"We know that Doña Ana County is going to grow. The current projections are that we're going to increase from about 200,000 people to 350,000 people by 2040."

Garrett points to the area's history, scenery and heritage in identifying what makes it attractive to those who want to relocate. He believes creating a national monument is critical to protecting these values.

New Mexico historian Jon Hunner calls the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area a multi-layered landscape which reflects the history of the desert Southwest, in the upheaval and volcanic activity in its geology. When Hunner thinks about the economy and the city of Las Cruces, he thinks about natural beauty.

"To have this national monument surrounding it would provide an impetus for heritage tourism and also for people who are interested in the natural resources - birders, geologists, people who just want to come and see a desert landscape."

Hunner considers the national monument a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the Mesilla Valley's important American and New Mexican history.

In its 100th year as a state, New Mexico is looking to preserve tokens of history which trace back through the Camino Real, the space race, World War II, volcanoes and petroglyphs. Garrett says there are many treasures to be rediscovered in these 500,000 acres.

"They did find remains of a giant sloth in Kilbourne Hole, which is near the lava flow. And that, as I understand, is now in the Peabody Museum."

Kilbourne Hole is also the site where Apollo astronauts trained for walking on the moon in 1969. Garrett believes this and other sites within the proposed monument area will be of interest to eco-tourists, archaeologists and sportsmen, which could also be a boon to the New Mexico economy.

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM