Interior Secretary Visits Proposed Monument Site In Southern New Mexico

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
January 27, 2014
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell addresses a public meeting in Las Cruces, N.M.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited southern New Mexico on Friday to tour land within a proposed national monument. She later attended a public meeting where locals were divided on how much land should be included in the proposed monument.

In the morning, Jewell hiked through a desert canyon west of Las Cruces. 

"We saw a tarantula, we saw a grey fox, we saw some tracks from a quail and we saw some pretty incredible pictographs," she said.

The canyon is within the proposed monument boundaries outlined in a bill sponsored by New Mexico's two senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. Their proposal includes nearly 500,000 acres of land, some of which comes within five miles of the Mexican border. The proposed monument would protect scenic mountain ranges and historically significant sites.

At the public meeting Friday some ranchers expressed concern that a large-scale national monument could slowly diminish their grazing rights.

Laura Schneberger ranches outside the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.

Mónica Ortiz Uribe
A hotel conference room was filled to capacity for a public meeting on a proposed national monument in Las Cruces, N.M.

"I know that the language in this bill supports keeping our ranching communities on the ground," she said.  "But what we have seen where we are at is we have an empty wilderness there is not one cow on it."

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of southern New Mexico supports an alternative bill that would encompass a much smaller area of land. National monuments can be designated by Congress or by presidential order.