Long before treaties and compacts divvied up the landscapes and the watersheds of the Southwest, the Chihuahuan Desert functioned as a single, cohesive landscape set against one of the most majestic backdrops you’ll find anywhere on earth.
Recognizing that, the Las Cruces City Council unanimously approved a resolution last week that supports the El Paso community’s pursuit of national monument designation for Castner Range.
Las Crucens have experienced first-hand how preserving open spaces in perpetuity for the public has benefits beyond conservation. The case for Castner Range also comes down to dollars and cents.
Since 2014, communities in Southern New Mexico have reaped the rewards of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. More than a dozen businesses, from yoga studios to coffee shops to real estate agents, banded together to support the designation.
In 2018, the Las Cruces Green Chamber estimated our national monument has spurred spending at hotels, restaurants and retail establishments. In 2017 alone, they estimated a $1.7 million spending impact and more than $500,000 in wages directly or indirectly attributable to national monument visitors.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument continues to have a positive multimillion-dollar economic impact while preserving nearly half a million acres of majestic peaks, rugged lava fields and riparian springs.
Castner Range National Monument is expected to have similar impacts in El Paso.
The designation would encompass 7,000 acres of federal land along Loop 375 between U.S.-54 and Franklin Mountains State Park. It promises to preserve some of the last unspoiled slopes of the Franklins while having no impact on private property or state land.
The history of El Paso, Las Cruces and Juárez are inextricably connected to a complicated human history of migration, conquest and colonization. What’s not complicated, however, is the undeniable fact that we all live in the same desert and rely on the same water resources, including the Rio Grande and the Mesilla Bolson aquifer.
Once it’s designated as a national monument, Castner Range will join more than 800-square-miles of nearly contiguous protected, public lands in El Paso County, Texas, and Doña Ana County, N.M., including Franklin Mountains State Park and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Our community is poised to take another critical step in reclaiming our shared past and shared future by once again asserting that the landscape of our tri-state, binational region is worth saving without regard for imaginary lines on a map.
In addition to serving as an important expression of our identity, designating Castner Range National Monument will protect crucial habitats for native plants and animals while improving access to the outdoors for everyone in our community.
Even if you’ve never set foot on a hiking trail, never spent a night in a tent or never peddled a mountain bike, preserving spaces which define our region and hold the promise of a more prosperous future just makes good business sense.
Gill Sorg represents parts of the East Mesa on Las Cruces City Council. He is also chairman of the Paso del Norte Watershed Council Board and previously worked for the Montana Department of Agriculture.