Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Mexico’s newest monuments under threat by Trump’s executive order

By Michael Coleman / Journal Washington Bureau
The status of two national monuments in New Mexico and dozens more nationwide came into question Wednesday after President Donald Trump said his administration would review them to determine whether the protected status is in the best interest of their surrounding communities. “The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we end this abusive practice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony, adding that he hoped to curb an “egregious abuse of federal power.” The president’s order for a review applies to monuments created after 1996 that are over 100,000 acres. That includes the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments in New Mexico, as well as the newly created Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah. The Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains monuments were set aside for protection by former President Barack Obama. The order requires Zinke to consult local governments and tribes as part of the review. Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, questioned whether it would be legal for Trump to rescind any federal monument status and he pledged to “fight him every step of the way” if the president attempts to do so. “This executive order is nothing more than a political move that will waste limited resources and unnecessarily add uncertainty for growing businesses and communities around these monuments, including two in New Mexico,” Udall said. “I won’t stand by if the Trump administration tries to open the door to selling them off to the highest bidder,” New Mexico’s senior senator added. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican whose district includes the Organ Mountains-Desert Peak Monument, near Las Cruces, opposed its designation in 2014. At that time, he proposed setting aside a smaller portion of land in the rugged mountain range than the nearly half-million acres that was eventually designated. Pearce said Wednesday that he supported Trump’s review. “The Obama administration, and the administrations before it, repeatedly abused the Antiquities Act by creating expansive national monuments that blatantly disregarded input from local communities and governments that are directly affected by these designations,” Pearce said. “New Mexicans, and folks all across the nation, deserve to have access to federal lands for recreational use, hunting, grazing and the economic opportunity that comes with it. Meanwhile, New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a Republican, said Trump’s executive order could disrupt a proposed land exchange between the New Mexico State Land Office and the Bureau of Land Management that would consolidate state and federal holdings within the 242,455-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument...more

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