The Washington Post

Obama to declare largest national monument in his tenure, in N.M.

President Obama will declare the largest national monument in his tenure Wednesday, setting a nearly 500,000-acre swath of southern New Mexico off-limits to development.

Many community leaders had pressed the president to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region — which has petroglyphs from three American Indian societies in its canyons, as well as desert grasslands and a petrified forest — under the Antiquities Act rather than waiting for Congress to act. But some in the area near Las Cruces, including cattle ranchers and Rep. Steven Pearce (R-N.M.), opposed a presidential designation on the grounds it was too far-reaching and represented an overreach on the administration's part.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president was working "to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for all Americans," and that it would spur tourism. Carney added that the signing of the designation, which will take place at the Interior Department, was part of a week-long effort aimed at "helping businesses invest here in America" to spur job development.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who had pressed for the presidential designation, said in a phone interview that it reflected the hard work of local and community advocates.

"Anytime you have a recognition of that work that reaches all the way to the White House, that’s pretty special," he said, adding it will also spur outside interest in the region. "It will be a huge source of pride for  Doña Ana County."

“This designation is a long time coming, and we are excited that Doña Ana County is finally going to be able to reap the economic benefits of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument," said Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

The area is twice as big as the largest national monument previously established by Obama.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Be a man and cry
Program turns prisoners into poets
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
Play Videos
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
The most interesting woman you've never heard of
Play Videos
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
The art of tortilla-making
A man committed to journalism, caught in the crossfire
Play Videos
Tips for (relatively) stress-free dining out with kids
How to get organized for back to school
How the new credit card chip makes purchases more secure
Next Story
Wesley Lowery · May 19, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.