September 27, 2017

Democratic members of NM delegation appeal to Kelly on national monuments

As we reported last week, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich brought national attention to errors in U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s report to the White House about national monuments. In particular, Heinrich pointed out factual errors in the report related to the two New Mexico national monuments being reviewed. Zinke has recommended changes to both monuments.

Now, the Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have sent a letter to White House adviser, and former Marine General, John Kelly about the mistakes.

At the urging of Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, President Donald Trump signed an executive order this spring directing Zinke to review all national monuments designated since 1996 that are larger than 100,000 acres. That included two in New Mexico, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces.

The letter to Kelly is signed by Heinrich, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham and Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

According to the letter, Zinke’s report’s false claims about Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument include:

-That the monument shares a border with Mexico.

-The monument restricts motorized access to the U.S.-Mexico border.

-The monument poses a drug smuggling risk.

-The designation has reduced grazing in the area.

-The monument might interfere with nearby military installations.

With respect to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the letter points out additional inaccuracies, including:

-That roads have been closed as a result of the monument designation.

-That livestock grazing permittees have chosen not to renew permits because of monument-related restrictions.

Zinke’s report to the White House also stated that the management plans for both New Mexico monuments needed to be revised. The letter to Kelly points out that neither monument actually has a management plan yet, in part because that process has been delayed by Zinke’s review.

The four Democrats appealed to Kelly, saying they were concerned that the report’s errors were used to justify recommended changes to the two monuments.

Read the entire letter here: