The Obama Administration has designated 498,815 acres of land as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Local officials in New Mexico disagreed with the move and warned that it could open up a new crime corridor, making it easier for illegal immigrants to cross the Mexican border and for drug cartels to operate undetected.
Unlike national parks, which must be approved by Congress, the President has the power to designate national monuments all by himself with the stroke of a pen.
And that’s exactly what Barack Obama did on Wednesday, May 21, thereby making the new monument official.
Dona Ana County Sheriff Tom Garrison told FoxNews.com the monument will likely hamper law enforcement’s ability to patrol the area. That’s because almost half of the land will be set aside as wilderness, and largely closed off to vehicles, including police cars.
Garrison said his concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and that he’s been shut out of the process.
“They [the federal government] tell the media they have talked to law enforcement, but they haven’t talked to local law enforcement,” he said. “They haven’t talked to me. They talk to Border Patrol and Border Patrol tells [lawmakers and media] whatever Washington tells them to say.”
What’s the official reason for this new designation?
The White House cited the historic and scientific value of the land under powers granted to the President by a law called the Antiquities Act, passed over 100 years ago. Signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, it was originally passed out of concern for protecting Native American artifacts, but allows a President to set aside land for “historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”
Sheriff Garrison argues the new designation will hurt his deputies’ ability to keep this area safe. He said that while his deputies won’t be legally allowed on the land, it’s unlikely that smugglers will also obey these new rules.
New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce lobbied for a smaller 54,800 acre monument, but the state’s two Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich lobbied for the current (and much larger) designation of nearly half a million acres.
Local ranchers have also expressed their concerns that this deal will cut into their grazing rights. That’s relevant in light of the recent Bundy Ranch-BLM standoff in Nevada.
While Obama exercised powers granted by law more than 100 years ago, this is still another example of how the current President continues to govern with the power of his signature rather than presiding over the Constitutional republic as our forefathers originally intended.