December 13, 2013
Local Veterans Highlight Historic Significance of Proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on Friday Tour
Tour comes on heels of Udall-Heinrich bill to protect region as national monument
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The non-profit and non-partisan Vet Voice Foundation (VVF) and local Doña Ana County veterans and family members today explored significant cultural and historic sites and natural areas within the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The tour was organized as part of an effort to raise awareness on the importance to veterans of protecting public lands and highlight veteran support for the monument proposal.
This tour comes the same week as the introduction by Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, a bill which would designate these lands near Las Cruces as a national monument.
The proposed legislation was hailed by VVF Program Director Mark Starr as an essential development in efforts to protect the region.
“One of the great things about this tour is it gave area veterans an opportunity to thank Senators Udall and Heinrich for the hard work they’re doing to protect this region,” Starr said. “We also hope that President Obama and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will work together with New Mexico’s Senators to permanently protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.”
Speakers on the tour included George Hackler, an expert on many of the historic aspects of the region and author of a book about the Butterfield Stage Trail in New Mexico. The trail, which crosses the proposed monument, was established in the late 1850s and used to provide overland mail service between the eastern United States and California.
According to Hackler, the tour provided a unique opportunity to educate local veterans about the region’s important role in American history.
“I was honored to speak on this tour,” Hackler said. “Throughout the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are sites like the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail that tell us exciting stories about our nation’s shared history. Our neighbor states—Texas and Arizona—have done a better job of protecting and preserving the Trail. Establishing the proposed National Monument would improve these historical preservation efforts in New Mexico.”
The tour was also a great opportunity to learn about the Deming bombing targets, one of which the group visited on Friday in the Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains. These 24 large bull’s-eye targets were constructed by the Army Air Corps during World War II in the desert and mountains of Doña Ana and Luna counties. These targets were essential training aids for pilots and bombardiers stationed at the Deming Air Base who were learning how to use secret navigational equipment called the Norden Bombsight. The bombsight greatly improved the accuracy of high altitude bombing and has been cited as a major factor in ending the war in Europe.
Las Cruces veteran and Tularosa native Tony Cano, who is also president of the New Mexico State University Student Veterans Association, is grateful that the bombing targets are still visible today and six of them are part of the proposed National Monument.
“The Deming bombing targets helped many enlisted men prepare to serve their country,” said Cano. “By establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, we can protect this unique military history and ensure that future generations of Americans will be able to experience this history firsthand.”
Las Cruces veteran and local business owner Bernie Digman sees the history of the Deming bombing targets and Butterfield Stage Trail as two of the many varied historic, cultural, and natural resources worth protecting through the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. He equates his military service not only with protecting our nation’s freedom, but also with protecting with heritage of and within our nation’s public lands.
“So many American men and women have fought and given their lives so we can continue to enjoy places like this,” said Digman. We should do everything we can to protect Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a way to honor their sacrifices and allow future generations to enjoy our nation’s history and rugged beauty.”