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Secretary Sally Jewell Visits Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

Courtesy: NMFO

United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument as part of a nationwide tour highlighting the Interior Department’s efforts during the Obama Administration.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior started her day in Las Cruces with a morning hike at the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument listening to highlights from the area since the monument designation.

“The trail that we walked up was worked on by Youth Conservation Corps Crews from surrounding areas all the way from Northern New Mexico that came to work on this trail,” Jewell said. “You’re engaging the girl scouts with a merit badge for exploring the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks. You’re discovering new paleontological features and archaeological features. Engaging the Isleta Del Sur Pueblo, and other Native groups and really recognizing just what a treasure lies here.”

Secretary Jewell says she is also using the trip to look at the economic benefits of protecting public lands.

“This area that we’re in now the Organ Montains- Desert Peaks National Monument,” Jewell said. “Was declared a National Monument by President Obama just two years ago. And they’ve already seen a dramatic increase in tourism, and recreation and visibility for this beautiful area. That’s helping drive the businesses here in Las Cruces. So, I’m here to meet with members of the business community, to talk with folks from BLM and the friends group and the supporting network that care so deeply about this place and is just beginning to unlock it’s secrets.”

Carrie Hamblen, President and CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce says one way the monument is helping economic development is by increasing the number of visitors.

“Visitation to areas within the monument have increased 102%,” Hamblen said. “And that’s a fairly conservative estimate, because there aren’t counters in place in certain areas, so we’re able to poll from definite counters, areas people are signing in at books. But we can’t even count the people that don’t sign so that’s a really low estimate of how many people have come to the area and enjoyed the monument once it was designated.”

Hamblen says businesses in the community have rallied in support of the monument.

“I think it’s something really unique that we have here,” Hamblen said. “We’re people who own businesses are saying you know what this is our monument, an I’m going to help promote it. So, they’ve created products, there is a coffee blend, an OMDP coffee blend, OMDP cupcakes, OMDP cocktail. And these are examples that are being shared across the country, about how communities can go ahead and embrace this.”

Secretary Jewell says it’s great to see the community support of the monument.

“Any way you slice it, it’s been great for business for Las Cruces,” Jewell said. “But also great to say to the residents here. This is not a private playground for the people that live on the slopes of the mountain. This is public lands that are available to all people to the community and to the outside world.

Samantha Sonner was a multimedia reporter for KRWG- TV/FM.