Sunset at the Rock House, Organ Mountains, New Mexico.
I was born at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, but haven't been there since just after my first birthday. The range was my father's first assignment in the Army, and he was a captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps. I recently had a chance to go back to the area on a Sierra Club Mission Outdoors camping trip with military families from White Sands and Fort Bliss.
When I was preparing for the trip, I asked my dad to tell me what he remembered about living at White Sands. Among other things, he said he remembered the magnificence of the nearby Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region Spending time there, I totally understood why the place remains so powerful in his memory.
These mountains are beautiful rugged, rocky peaks that definitely made me want to climb and hike all day. The families were no different. We had a great time talking with them and watching the kids of all ages run along the trails, scampering up rocks, and stopping to look at plants and bugs.
The Organ Mountains form the backdrop to Las Cruces, New Mexico's second-largest city and one of the state's fastest growing urban areas. The Bureau of Land Management joined us for the trip, too, and even tweeted a few photos.
During the hike, our group realized first-hand the importance of protecting the Organ Mountains. The Organ Mountains range is one of the most botanically diverse in New Mexico. They are home to a rich assortment of ferns, lichens, mosses, and several plants that exist nowhere else in the world.
An Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would provide permanent protection to this unique landscape, including the Robledo Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, Broad Canyon, Magdalena Peak, and the Valles Canyon Petroglyphs.
In addition to its ecological value, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region hosts abundant archeological and cultural sites and resources, making it a perfect candidate for protection as a national monument. Part of the area also has military ties as well, having been used as a military training site during World War II.
We need to permanently protect the Organ Mountains and surrounding area so that service members and their families can continue to experience the healing and power of this amazing place they already protect through national service.
President Obama has already done a great job designating several national monuments during his first term. Now that he's been re-elected, he can do even more to secure a great outdoor legacy by designating more areas as national monuments.
We’re encouraging President Obama to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks by designating them as a national monument. Let's preserve these areas for our kids and grandkids to enjoy in the years to come.