President Obama signed a proclamation designating a new monument in southern New Mexico that will cover nearly a half-million acres, the largest monument designation President Obama has made to date.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association opposes the decision. Contrary to the White House’s claim of ranchers support, the designation encompasses 68% of public grazing lands and 9,000 head of cattle in Dona Ana County, threatening the livelihood of these family ranching operations.
Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the President has power to declare monument designations, which often come with overreaching and restrictive management provisions in the name of environmental protections. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is Obama’s 11th monument designation, a clear abuse of power with a designation of this size and scale, said New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association President and NCBA Member Jose Varela Lopez.
“This is just another decision made by the administration driven from pressure by radical special interest groups without the consideration of the negative impact on local economies or the will of local residents,” said Valera Lopez. “Our industry has operated on western rangelands for over a century in some areas creating and contributing to the very landscapes this monument claims to protect. Adding layers of red tape and regulation will only hinder ranchers’ ability to continue operating in the area, removing the people that care for and manage the range every day.”
Despite claims that grazing will continue within the monument boundaries, the proclamation excludes livestock grazing in the purposes section. This will give the managing agency the power to diminish or eliminate existing ranching operations in an effort to “protect” the land. Furthermore, if a rancher proposes a range improvement project or any other activity which is determined to be in conflict, it will be disallowed, a far cry from the multiple-use concept under which these lands have been successfully managed, said Varela Lopez.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R., Utah) sent a letter to President Obama urging reconsideration of the designation. In the letter he wrote that added restrictions have hindered law enforcements ability to protect the border.
“National Parks, monuments, and wilderness areas along our southern border have become prime drug-trafficking corridors for violent criminals and drug cartels,” the letter stated. “Restrictive environmental laws within these federal corridors limit Border Patrol access and, as a result, make it easier for drug smugglers and human traffickers to move their drugs and people in and out of the United States unnoticed.”
NCBA agrees with Bishop’s analysis; far too many ranchers along the southern border see firsthand the environmental damage and dangerous situation that exists and restrictive land designations only add to the problem.