Whenever Washington creates a federal park — just as President
But typical of most Washington decisions, not everyone is happy.
Hard feelings have followed the
Some Western lawmakers, local police and sheriffs' departments — along with some federal drug enforcement agents — are critical of the designation, saying that it threatens security in a region dominated by the dangerous influence of Mexican drug cartels and human smuggling, as well as illegal border crossings. They say there are no provisions in the language that created the monument to give local law enforcement officers permission to patrol the monument lands.
The U.S. maintains nearly 80 other national monuments — some created by acts of Congress; others by presidential proclamation.
The federal Bureau of Land Management operates 19 national monuments across nine Western states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. In 2012, Obama established the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California.
Many see the New Mexico designation as Obama making good on a promise he made during his 2014
The president signed the proclamation before a crowd at
A new national government website hails the New Mexico monument as a powerful step forward that will preserve a natural bounty will creating jobs.
"Las Cruces has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect some of our area's most beautiful and significant public lands," the site said. "These lands possess unique Pre-American, New Mexican, and American history including training sites for the Apollo Space Mission, the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, Billy the Kid's Outlaw Rock, Geronimo's Cave, World War II Aerial Targets, and thousands of Native American Petroglyph's and Pictographs."
It added: "Protection of these lands will preserve natural treasures like the Organ Mountains and bring jobs and economic development to our region far into the future."
The White says the New Mexico monument could generate $7.4 million "in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities, while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers and recreational users."
But some Western states residents, including elected officials, said they don't agree that the monument designation preserves access.
Earlier this month, Phil Lyman, a 50-year-old San Juan County commissioner, led a protest in which he and others drove their all-terrain vehicles into a Utah canyon that they say had been closed off by the BLM to protect Native American ruins.
Mike Noel, a member of the Utah State Legislature, said the creation of monuments like Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks remind him of an unsavory episode during the
Noel, a former BLM worker, resigned in protest after Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah in 1996, which then encompassed the largest land area of all U.S. National Monuments.