U.S. Senators Work to Protect Organ Mountains, Improve Border Security
POSTED: Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 11:49am
UPDATED: Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 10:47pm
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today renewed their push to protect the scenic landscape of the Organ Mountains in Doña Ana County.
The legislation, called the Organ Mountains – Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024), creates wilderness and conservation areas in the county that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county.
The legislation creates 241,000 acres of wilderness and 100,000 acres of National Conservation Area (NCA). These areas would be managed in ways that protect the landscape from development while preserving current uses – such as hunting and grazing.
The bill also contains the modifications developed with the Border Patrol to enhance the flexibility of Border Patrol and law enforcement to operate in the border area above and beyond existing law. Because of the way the West Potrillos Wilderness Study Area boundary was originally drawn by the Reagan Administration, the Border Patrol has a buffer of only 1/3 of a mile from the international border and is currently limited in its ability to conduct routine vehicle patrols north of Highway 9.
The bill introduced today expands this buffer to a total of 5 miles - 3 miles of non-wilderness buffer area and an additional 2-mile “Restricted Use Area.” This area would prohibit motorized access by the general public, but it will permit the Border Patrol to conduct routine patrols and construct communication and surveillance infrastructure as it would on regular multiple-use land. The bill proposes to un-designate over 30,000 acres of land currently designated as wilderness study area.
“While illegal activity is very low near the Potrillo Mountains because of the rough terrain, I remain convinced the 1/3-mile buffer is insufficient for the Border Patrol and law enforcement to adequately operate in this border area,” Bingaman said. “This bill not only enhances our border security flexibility in the area, it also benefits the quality of life in the region by protecting its iconic landscapes.”
“This bill strikes the right balance between securing our border and protecting treasured landscapes like the Organ Mountains for generations to come,” Udall said. “I'm proud to once again join with Senator Bingaman in introducing this important legislation.”