Congress Moves to Protect Existing National Monuments Through ANTIQUITIES Act of 2018

Jan 30, 2018

Commentary: NEW MEXICO, STATEWIDE – New Mexico business leaders today are expressing appreciation to Senator Tom Udall for introducing the America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States Act (ANTIQUITIES Act) of 2018.

This bill, co-sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich and over 15 other U.S. Senators, codifies into law the boundaries for over 50 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act since 1996, ensuring that that on-going access for hunting, tourism, research, conservation, cultural uses, education, and other activities will continue. The legislation also validates that only Congress has the authority to reduce or diminish national monuments designated by presidents through the Antiquities Act of 1906.

This new bill is a response to the aggressive rollback of protections by President Trump for more than 2 million acres that are part of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. President Trump announced these unprecedented changes on December 4, 2017, despite ardent opposition to such an action from numerous businesses, tribes, veterans, sportsmen, and others who value our nation’s wild spaces.

The sustained attack on national monuments from the Trump Administration follows an executive order that directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review national monuments established since 1996 under the Antiquities Act of 1906In New Mexico, Zinke’s review included Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte national monuments. While the White House and Department of the Interior have not announced reductions for New Mexico monuments, Secretary Zinke has indicated that changes may be in store for management for these monuments.

“I am grateful that Senators Udall and Heinrich are working to protect our national monuments, which are so obviously attracting new tourism and retiree dollars to New Mexico,” according to Arianna Parsons, co-owner of Beck’s Roasting House and Creamery. “Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has put Las Cruces on the map is many ways, and our economy is better because of it. Since introducing the OMDP Coffee Blend, we have sold over 1000 pounds to locals and visitors alike, a great boost to our businesss.”

During the comment period associated with Secretary Zinke’s national monument review, more than 2.8 million Americans provided feedback, with 99 percent voicing support to leave our national monuments intact. Over 100,000 comments specifically mentioned national monuments within New Mexico, and many local communities also showed their support, with formal resolutions supporting our national monuments passed by the Doña Ana and Taos county commissions, City of Las Cruces, City of Taos, Town of Mesilla, City of Anthony, and others.

“Our national monuments are economic drivers for surrounding communities and the state as a whole, and this bill would protect the investments of business owners who have put in their money, blood, sweat, and tears to create something that in turn creates jobs,” commented Carrie Hamblen, president and CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. “Senator Udall understands how important our national monuments are to local communities, and how any change will have a devastating impact on those economies. His and Senator Heinrich’s leadership is more important now than ever before.”

“We’re very lucky to have leaders like Senators Udall and Heinrich working in Washington, D.C. protecting New Mexican’s heritage and interests. They truly understand the importance of protected public lands to New Mexico’s economy and future,” said Alexandra Merlino, executive director of the New Mexico Partnership for Responsible Business.

The outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico boasts 99,000 jobs and is worth an estimated $9.9 billion. A recent poll conducted by Colorado College revealed that 92 percent of New Mexico voters view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of our state and 78 percent view public lands and New Mexico’s outdoor recreation lifestyle as an advantage in attracting jobs here.

“My business wouldn’t survive without the access guaranteed by Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. It is a significant driver for our business, and it upholds our community. I couldn’t imagine living here or doing what I do without it,” commented Aphra Bond who, with her husband, Darren, owns Gearing Up Bicycle Shop in Taos. “I want to thank Senator Udall for having our backs and helping to make sure that our monument continues to support our community.”

“The support for Rio Grande del Norte is widespread, crossing business sectors and demographics,” commented Glenn Schiffbauer with the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. “Everything from backcountry trail guides to ranchers in northern New Mexico, as well as outspoken support from nearby Pueblos. The message is clear – New Mexicans care about public lands and want our national monuments left alone.”