WASHINGTON, DC--March 12, 2014--The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) is expressing concerns about recent reports that the Obama administration is prepared to exercise authorities given under the Antiquities Act to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region in New Mexico as a National Monument. If designated as a Monument, access to the 498,815-acre watershed could be greatly restricted, prohibiting the implementation of natural-resource management efforts in the area, as well as preventing the maintenance of existing conservation projects.
“A monument designation of this magnitude would threaten the ability of landowners and producers to continue critical natural-resource management efforts in the region,” said NACD President Earl Garber.
Conservation districts are legislatively mandated to control and prevent soil erosion, prevent floodwater and sediment damage, and further the conservation and beneficial application of water. In a recent letter to President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell, Garber stressed that while NACD understands the purpose of establishing the monument and subsequent wilderness study areas to conserve and protect the landscape, “we oppose this effort due to the consequences a designation of this magnitude would pose to the health of our natural resources base.”
According to the local Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, the monument designation would prevent their ability to implement and maintain conservation initiatives to improve watershed function – which could ultimately jeopardize public health and the natural resource base. The proposal would impact all the higher elevations of the Lower Rio Grande Watershed, placing 22 percent of Doña Ana County in a National Monument, impacting 41 ranches and greatly impeding livestock grazing capabilities.
“We respectfully request that you consider the ramifications of restricting natural resource management on nearly a half-million acres of land resources, including its impact on current users, natural resources, wildlife habitat and surrounding communities,” wrote Garber. “America’s long-term homeland security is reliant on many factors, including conservation management of productive natural resources on private and public lands to allow landowners and producers to provide our growing population with an adequate supply of food, feed, fuel, and fiber into the future.”