By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff
President Obama designated the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks area in southern New Mexico as a national monument. It is the 11th designation during his presidency and, at nearly 500,000 acres, it is more than twice as big as the previous largest designation—the 243,000-acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. While the action does not immediately close any roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles.
Under current law, the President has the authority to declare a parcel of public land with “historic or scientific interest” to be a national monument. SEMA supports a bill (HR 1459) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would place limits on that authority. Under the bill, the President could declare a monument less than 5,000 acres, but that declaration would need Congressional approval within three years. A larger parcel of land would require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study, thereby ensuring public input. The bill is pending consideration in the U.S. Senate.