Celebrate, speak out on our monument’s anniversary
This Saturday marks the 3rd Anniversary of the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP) National Monument. On May 21, 2014, former President Obama designated OMDP, using his authority under the Antiquities Act, citing the economic benefits as one of the many reasons for preserving the land for future generations.
With the Trump administration’s executive order last month calling for the review and possible rescinding of OMDP, as well as the Rio Grande del Norte, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah, and all other monuments established since 1996, it is important to recognize the numerous benefits these monuments have provided for surrounding communities. The communities of Las Cruces and Mesilla have experienced increased economic opportunities, a rise in visitation to our area, and national recognition as a result of our national monument.
Since the designation, many of our local businesses have benefited from OMDP. According to a polling memo from the Partnership for Responsible Business and the Green Chamber, 20 percent of businesses that use the OMDP Marketing Toolkit have introduced new products or services directly related to the Monument.
Some of those products include the OMDP Coffee Blend from Beck’s Coffee, OMDP Bread Pudding from the Green Chile Paddy Wagon, OMDP Cocktail from Azul lounge, and soon to be released Peak Panini from Milagro Coffee y Espresso, and much more.
This free toolkit, provided by the Green Chamber, offers local business the tools and materials to cross-brand the monument in their business. It is now being replicated in other areas of the country for the California Desert National Monuments and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Rise in visitation
According to data from the Bureau of Land Management, the managing agency overseeing OMDP, there was a 102 percent increase in visitation to the Monument from 2015 to 2016. This translates into more people coming to our community, spending money in our local businesses and stores, and contributing to our lodger’s tax.
Visit Las Cruces, formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau, recognizes the impact tourism has on our community and now puts a significant portion of their advertising budget into promoting the annual September Monuments to Main Street celebrations throughout the country. Furthermore, we have seen conferences take place in Las Cruces specifically because of OMDP, like the American Rock Art Research Association, Conservation Lands Foundations’ Rendezvous, and New Mexico Native Plant Society’s statewide conference. Each of those conferences bring an average of 100 to 200 people to our community, spending money at our local hotels, shopping in our stores and incredible Farmers’ and Crafts Market, and eating at our restaurants.
Since the designation, our area has been featured in numerous publications, locally, nationally, and internationally. Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book publisher in the world, listed Las Cruces as one of the top 10 places to visit in 2016, in part because of OMDP. US News and World Report identified Las Cruces as one of the three best “undiscovered” places to retire in 2015. And just last month, Readers Digest listed OMDP as one of the “10 practically secret national parks you’ll want to visit this spring.” We can also include articles in Sunset magazine, Huffington Post, New Mexico Magazine, and other publications throughout the region.
In addition, we have the first-of-its-kind OMDP Girl Scout Achievement patch, offered by the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest, which has received positive recognition from legislators in Washington DC for its efforts to encourage more girl scouts to explore their public lands. So far, over 75 girl scouts have earned this patch. The patch has been replicated in White Sands and the California Desert and work is underway to establish a new monument patch for young girls in Maine.
As we celebrate the three year anniversary of OMDP, the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are organizing events this coming weekend. The Friends of the Organ Mountains will be hosting the La Cueva Hike & Presentation: The Real Story of the Hermit with David G Thomas on May 19, a Monument Cleanup & Trail Maintenance with Cruceño Cleanup and Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance and a Dripping Springs Twilight Hike, both on May 20, and a Hike & Paint with Artist in Residence Heidi Annalise on May 21. More information on their events can be found at organmountainsdesertpeaks.org/events. And, don’t forget to mark your calendars for Monuments to Main Street Month in September. Events and excursions are in the planning stages and will be announced later this summer.
We have quite a bit to be proud of as a community, embracing our rich cultural heritage, our food, our events, and our National Monument as elements that add to the quality of life here. As OMDP and other monuments come under attack and are at risk of losing the monument designation or to be decreased in size, we must stress to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke OMDP’s incredible importance to our community, to our residents, and to visitors who come to our area because of it.
From May 12 through July 11, 2017, the Interior Department will be gathering public comments for their national monuments review. Contact me, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, or any of the organizations mentioned above to learn how to make your voice heard during this process. Your voice is needed now more than ever!
Carrie Hamblen is the CEO/President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. For more information contact Carrie at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 575-323-1575.