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PNS Daily Newscast - August 24, 2017 


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U.S. Interior Secretary Pays Visit to Organ Mtns. Monument

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument gets a personal visit on Friday from U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Bureau of Land Management)
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument gets a personal visit on Friday from U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Bureau of Land Management)
July 27, 2017

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tours the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on Friday, part of making recommendations to President Donald Trump about whether it should be downsized or have its status revoked.

Zinke has been invited to a Las Cruces town hall meeting tonight to hear from the public, but there's no indication he will attend. He does plan to participate in roundtable meetings with ranchers, border security experts, and elected officials including Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez, who said he hopes to convince Zinke to keep the monument as is.

"I think if we can rationalize with him and make him understand that this is just a small portion of land compared to all the land in New Mexico; and if he's a rational man, I think he'll understand that this is not the way to go forward,” Vasquez said.

Critics of monument designations feel they're a federal land grab that prevent energy development and other uses. Both the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Río Grande del Norte national monuments are still on a list for potential downsizing or a status change.

The public meeting will be held at the Las Cruces Convention Center at 6 p.m. Thursday.

By mid-July, the Interior Department had already received almost 3 million comments about the monument designations. Commissioner Vasquez said he believes the next generation of Americans will suffer if these wide open spaces are not preserved.

"Right now we're able to go out to the monument and teach our children fishing, we're able to teach them how to preserve the earth,” he said. "You have to actually take your children out there and teach them this, so that they'll learn to respect the land."

In other visits, Zinke has taken some monuments off the list for reconsideration - one each in Colorado, Idaho and Washington State. Some conservation and sportsmen's groups have said those decisions appear to be arbitrary - or at least, not readily apparent.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM