December 12, 2013

Local Veterans Applaud Legislation to Protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The non-profit and non-partisan Vet Voice Foundation (VVF) applauded the introduction of legislation to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, as a national monument with the inclusion of designated Wilderness Areas.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act was introduced in Congress today, on December 12, 2013 by New Mexico’s U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.  The bill would protect approximately 500,000 acres of scenic federal land rich with history, recreational opportunities, and wildlife. 

“Veterans in New Mexico and across the country applaud Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for their leadership in protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks,” said Mark Starr, program director for Vet Voice Foundation. “Veterans count on these public lands for hiking, hunting, and camping; for exploring history; for being with family; and for finding solitude. As veterans we fought for these lands overseas, and now we want to see them protected at home. 

“Veterans – more than most — recognize that when our sons and daughters are fighting overseas, they’re fighting for so much more than our freedoms. They are also fighting for our land and our nation’s sacred places,” said Doña Ana County veteran Peter Ossorio. “To Southern New Mexicans, the craggy peaks of the Organ Mountains and the surrounding desert Sky Island mountain ranges are such sacred place. In fact, I would say protecting our public lands’ heritage is one of the most patriotic things we could do. We thank Senators Udall and Heinrich for their leadership.”

“You cannot understate the therapeutic value of a camping trip or a peaceful hike for our brothers and sisters who are returning home from serving in places like Afghanistan,” Ossorio added. “Wild and beautiful places like the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks are a crucial part of the America our service members are fighting for.”

“National Monuments mean local jobs,” said Las Cruces veteran Nathan Cote, who also serves in the New Mexico State Legislature. “How? Because when a monument is designated it immediately goes to the top of the list when it comes to tour books and travel blogs. A National Monument in our community will bring more visitors who will spend money and create jobs right here. There really is no downside. We hope that President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will join the effort to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.”

A 75 percent majority of veterans favors the Federal government protecting public lands by designating them as national parks, monuments, or wilderness, including 56 percent who strongly favor (according to a telephone poll conducted in September/October 2013 of 686 veterans in seven Western States including New Mexico).

Founded in 2009, the mission of Vet Voice Foundation is to mobilize veterans to become leaders in our nation's democracy through participation in the civic and democratic process. VVF seeks to harness the energy and drive of the dedicated men and women who have fought for their country, and put it to work at home and in their communities on the important issues they face, such as health care, jobs, the environment, and housing.



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