Obama seizes N.M. land for national monument in Bundy-like showdown

Bundy types of protests feared in New Mexico

continued from page 1

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

“An Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will preserve important cultural links to our past and strengthen southern New Mexico’s economy by boosting tourism and recreational opportunities, like hunting, hiking, camping, and horseback riding,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a statement.

Only Congress can declare a national park, which stops most land uses. But under the 1906 Antiquities Act the president has the power to declare national monuments, which offer heightened environmental protections.

The New Mexico monument is Mr. Obama’s second designation this year. In March, he added 1,600 acres in the Point Arena-Stornetta region to the California Coastal National Monument established by President Clinton in 2000. House Republicans said the action wasn’t necessary because they had passed similar legislation that was awaiting Senate action.

About half the Organ Mountains monument will be designated as wilderness, the highest level of protection, closing it to motorized vehicles and human construction.

Sheriff Garrison said that will shut down roads that his department uses to patrol the land, though he said the cartels are unlikely to stop using it just because it is declared wilderness.

“My fear is these areas will be used more than they are now because they’ll have access to it that will be private and closed off to every law-abiding citizen,” the sheriff said. “I believe this monument will hamper law enforcement’s ability to effectively patrol the area we need to patrol.”

Administration officials said the declaration will incorporate a 2006 agreement between the Interior Department and the Homeland Security Department that allows U.S. Border Patrol some access to the land.

That agreement prevents most routine patrols through wilderness, though it does allow them to continue to follow smugglers in hot pursuit.

The agreement has been controversial for both sides of the immigration debate. Environmentalists and some immigrant rights advocates argue that the Border Patrol has used the arrangement to trample pristine land. Border security advocates say agents’ hands are tied when they are in pursuit of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who has studied the issue, argues that the environmental restrictions have indeed hurt the Border Patrol’s ability to do its job.

Hours before news of the designation broke Monday, Mr. Bishop, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee’s public lands subcommittee, sent a letter to Mr. Obama asking him to hold off until the border can be controlled.

“It’s irresponsible to focus efforts on new land designations rather than finding solutions to existing criminal activities plaguing the border,” the congressman wrote.

Mr. Bishop pointed to a case that was in the headlines last week, in which a National Park Service employee at Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona detailed the vicious attack she suffered at the hands of an illegal immigrant. Authorities said the man smashed her head into a metal bathroom door and hit her head with a rock, striking so hard that the rock broke.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks