US Secretary of Interior Visits New National Monument
Secretary Sally Jewell uses her cell phone to photograph sights near the base of the Organ Mountains outside Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
May 23, 2014
U.S.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, tours the newly created Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell kicked off her Memorial Day weekend in southern New Mexico with a visit to the country's newest national monument. 

Wearing a small backpack and turquoise sneakers, Jewell spent Friday morning hiking up to the ruins of a 19th century bed and breakfast. The crumbling resort is nestled in the Organ Mountains, the craggy backdrop to the city of Las Cruces. 

"This is a state with beautiful natural resources, cultural resources spreading back tens of thousands of years," Jewell said. "What this monument will do is draw attention to that."

Just two days earlier President Barack Obama signed a proclamation declaring this land part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. It's nearly half a million acres that encompasses five mountain ranges and a whole lot of history — all features important to a monument designation. 

"Dinosaur tracks, Geronimo's Cave, volcanic features, a training ground for World War II," Jewell said.

The
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
The Organ Mountains are now part of a new national monument designated by President Obama.

Some in Las Cruces are celebrating after a decade of work to get a monument designation. Wayne Suggs is a lifelong New Mexican who built his dream home near the foot of the Organs.

"This is what draws people here, the beauty and our open spaces," Suggs said. "I wake up everyday and pinch myself, I can't believe I live here."

Supporters say the monument will bring new jobs and tourism to the region. But not everyone is convinced.

The day of Jewell's visit a group of about 20 protestors gathered outside a local high school to express their displeasure.

"People aren't gonna come here," said retired business owner Audrey Tetrick. "They can't even afford to put gas in their car, let alone drive to New Mexico to see a monument. Big deal."

The
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
The Dripping Springs trail in the Organ Mountains features structural ruins, including a sanatorium that once housed tuberculosis patients.

Others are concerned with a portion of the monument that comes within five miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. While the U.S. Border Patrol has stated the monument designation will not impede their work, farmer Kathy Clayshulte worries it will be easier for illegal border crossers to sneak through.

"I don't even see how they can stop any of this," she said. "We already are seeing trash in all of the arroyos."

The president's choice to designate the new monument rather than allow Congress to decide upset some lawmakers. House Speaker John Boehner said the president's move could further impede other actions, like immigration reform.