November 17, 2017

NM mom-and-pop businesses say monuments mean money

Bureau of Land Management, Patrick Alexander, via Wikimedia Commons

Baldy Peak and La Cueva seen from Baylor Canyon Road, west side of the Organ Mountains, Dona Ana County, New Mexico, 23 May 2005.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Before merchants ready their wares for “Small Business Saturday” on November 25, they want the Trump administration to know that proposed changes to America’s national monuments could hurt their future profits.

A letter from chambers of commerce and 600 rural businesses has been sent to National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, asking him to help protect their livelihoods by keeping the monuments intact.

Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce president Carrie Hamblen says rural communities located near monuments benefit from dollars spent on tourism and outdoor recreation.

“When you mess with one monument, you mess with all of them,” she says. “There are people who are traveling all over our great country to go to these national monuments and national parks. And when we have an administration that is attacking them, it’s very discouraging for those of us who have known the value that these places provide for our communities.”

Monument supporters fear changing the size or status of some monument sites will open them up to development, including oil and gas drilling. Zinke’s initial recommendations in September did not include a size reduction for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Studies by the group Headwaters Economics show that nearby counties benefit financially after areas are designated as national monuments. Hamblen says businesses in the Las Cruces area are so proud of having a monument nearby they sell coffee, cupcakes, and wine with the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks name and image – products purchased by both locals and tourists that support the economy.

“And so, what that’s showing though, is that we have community businesses and community people who are invested in this monument and want it to stay as is,” she explains. “And this executive order to review these monuments is a complete disregard for what the people want in this community.”

Ahead of his scheduled visit to Utah next month, President Donald Trump has indicated he supports a size reduction for that state’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.