Southern New Mexico Religious Leaders Ask President Obama to Create Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument

More than a dozen well-respected members of the clergy representing a broad diversity of faiths and congregations in Southern New Mexico today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create a national monument for the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Region.

The clergy members were meeting as a part of a “Land of Opportunity” event sponsored locally by New Mexico Communities in Action and Faith (CAFé), a faith-based non-profit community organization based in Southern New Mexico that works on issues of poverty and helping low- and moderate-income families shape public policy at the local, state and national levels.

CAFé, which includes 12 local congregations across many faiths, had previously announced its support for the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument effort through a series of radio ads that are currently running in Southern New Mexico.

In the letter (attached), clergy urge the president to create the monument on the grounds that the Organ, Potrillo, and Uvas Mountains are a crucial piece of Southern New Mexico’s culture and heritage, key to job creation and economic growth for the region’s residents, and are the gateway to New Mexico for generations of settlers and pilgrims.

“People of faith recognize that we are all responsible for taking care of God’s natural gifts and we all have a role to play in preserving these lands,” said Fr. Vince Petersen, Pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tortugas. “The Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks are a gift from God and should be protected for future generations to enjoy.”

In addition to making a faith-based argument for protecting the lands, the group noted in their letter that monument protection could also mean opportunity for struggling New Mexico families.

“We strongly believe that in addition to protecting God’s natural gifts, a national monument also creates economic activity in the form of tourism and visitation that will help many in our pews who are struggling during these difficult times,” the clergy wrote in the letter.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez reiterated why it was important for people of faith to speak up on this issue. “God gave us dominion over the land to act as stewards of it, not to ruin it and exploit it. It does not bode well for our role as stewards of the land if we cannot collectively preserve this touchstone to our past and our history.”