Posted by: Brad Nixon | June 27, 2017

Call to Action: Saving Organ Mountains Monument (et al)

In preparing for an upcoming trip to southern New Mexico, I visited the National Park Service (NPS) website to plan a visit to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, created by President Obama in 2014, spanning nearly half a million acres in south-central New Mexico.

Rugged, dramatic peaks, some still wilderness, the Organ Mountains have significant natural, prehistoric and historic value. Archaic inhabited sites dating as far back as 7,000 years have been identified, and more likely remain in areas not fully surveyed. The list of diverse bird, animal and plant species that live in that harsh land fills several pages.

It’s a strikingly dramatic landscape, but I’ve only seen it in passing along the highway and from within the city of Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley of the Rio Grande. As a result, I don’t have photos to share with you, but I look forward to exploring it and writing about it here.

However, the Monument isn’t listed on the NPS site. Its “Monument” status hasn’t been approved. More dire is the news is that it’s one of 27 previously approved Monuments the current president and administration intend to cancel.

Currently, the areas encompassed by the proposed Monument are public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There are trails, parking areas and campgrounds, so it is accessible. However, the difference between BLM and NPS remits is that as BLM land, the area is still subject to applications for mining, grazing, logging and other commercial uses. With Monument status under the aegis of NPS, the area would be removed from future development of any sort and preserved as natural space.

The White House has clearly stated its intention to revoke Monument status for 27 pending National Monuments created during the past 20 years. The action is a microcosm of the administration’s egregious disregard for the environment, the welfare of U.S. citizens and of its adamant opposition to anything that impedes the ability of commercial enterprise to exploit any resource, no matter the impact. The administration isn’t saying that there is some number of proposed Monument sites that are problematic. They are ruling against the very concept of protecting lands from development in any way.

Click here to see the list of 27 Monuments under review.

Like Organ Mountains, all the proposed monuments received extensive public review and comment. In many instances, the agreements to move forward to Monument status were forged through long and sometimes contentious debate between residents, communities and interests with differing points of view. Despite that fact, the administration is making haste to establish a new rule of governance that spans not only the environment and public lands, but the health, welfare, equality and freedom of citizens: the rule of money. There shall be no infringement on the flow of dollars into commercial enterprise. It’s a supremely un-American approach, given our country’s long tradition of embracing the protection of natural lands.

Take Action. Time Is Critical

The U.S. Department of the Interior (of which the NPS is part) has set a deadline of July 7, 2017 to receive any public comment on this issue. Nearly all of you who read this blog are travelers, and many of you are outdoors people: hikers, bikers, runners and adventurers, or have the well-being of our natural spaces at heart. It’s time to act.

In the case of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, go to this link:

There, you can write and send a message to Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, adding your voice to those who oppose canceling National Monument status.

The Sierra Club also provides a link to take similar action. The link below addresses the 7 pending Monuments in California, but you can tailor your message to address any or all of the Monuments under review.

Link to Sierra Club communication.

I always suggest including some of your own text rather than using the boilerplate copy provided by any organization; it proves that you’re a concerned individual, a voter and not a robot.

Here’s my letter:

I urge you to confirm National Monument status for New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. This natural land encompasses important natural environments and watersheds, serves as habitat for numerous plant and animal species, and contains numerous  important archaeological and historic sites.

A full public review with the engagement of all vested parties has already been conducted, and there is every reason to move forward with Monument status for the area, as previously approved. 

With full Monument protection, these scenic and valuable lands will be a resource for generations to come, and serve as one more demonstration of our commitment as a nation to preserving our natural and historic heritage. It will also be a significant generator of travel, tourism and the associated employment that will benefit southern New Mexico and its people.


Most of you are writers; you know how to do this. But it requires action. Silence is acquiescence.

Many of you write about the outdoors, the environment and associated subjects in your own blogs. This would be a good week to bring this matter to the attention of your readers.

Some time this year, I expect to write a blog post describing what I saw when I hiked in the Organ Mountains. Will I be describing a National Monument? Not if we’re silent.

Thank you.

To my international readers:

I make every effort to be as inclusive as possible, and I deeply appreciate having you read Under Western Skies. I enjoy reading about your visits to your national parks, whether in Poland, the U.K., South Korea, the Philippines or anywhere else in the world. I know you treasure them. In this instance, writing about a domestic U.S. issue, I ask your forbearance. Wish us well. 

Note: the featured image some of you see at the head of this post is not the Organ Mountains, but the Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree National Park, another of the spectacular natural treasures protected by the National Park Service.

© Brad Nixon 2017



  1. Speaking of travel, I just came across a great observation from my recent visit in Los Angeles to the Getty Museum’s exhibition The Lure of Italy: “Travelling is the ruin of all happiness. There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.”

    Every country has its treasures, natural and man made. The key is preserving them for future generations.

    Thanks for your efforts on this.


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