On May 21, 2014, Carrie Hamblen, executive director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber, was invited to speak at the signing of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation at the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. She was the only speaker from New Mexico, taking the microphone with Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and President Barack Obama. Below are her remarks.
Thank you President Obama, Secretary Jewell, Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich, and many of the distinguished individuals here today that brought us to this point.
There are three things that always come up when you talk about New Mexico.
Number 1: Our chile. Red or Green, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you know the answer to our state question is always “Christmas.” Number 2: Our beautiful blue skies that you will find nowhere else in these great United States. With hues of pink, and fiery orange, our blue skies are the constant subject of many a picture. Number 3: The Organ Mountains. With the majestic spikes we call “the Needles,” to the wildlife roaming amongst the canyons, every New Mexican will always be protective of those vistas. There is no argument there.
Thanks to the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, not only will our cultural heritage and our never-ending landscapes be protected, but now, our local businesses will have the opportunity to thrive, grow and comfortably contribute to all that makes Las Cruces a great place to live. Our local businesses will begin to experience what a national monument can bring to a community such as ours.
Already, Taos County in northern New Mexico is seeing economic benefits because of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Following that monument’s designation in March, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management reported a 40 percent increase in visitors—over 50,000 people in fiscal year 2013 compared to 2012. This helped drive a 21 percent increase in the Town of Taos Lodgers’ Tax Revenue. There was also an 8.3 percent increase in the gross-receipts revenue in Taos County’s Accommodations and Food Service sector.
In southern New Mexico, our local economy expects to see $7.4 million in new annual revenue, 88 jobs will be created, and over $560,000 in new state and local tax revenues will come back into our tax base.
Above all of that, Las Cruces and Doña Ana County will welcome new visitors to the Land of Enchantment who come to experience the cultural heritage all New Mexicans are proud of. Our local restaurants will be able to serve to those visitors some of the best food in the region. Our chile rellenos, enchiladas and gorditas are not [like] other food. In addition to our restaurants highlighting our wonderful green and red chile, many of the local businesses proudly display souvenirs and gifts that capture the richness of our culture.
Sportsmen, hunters and recreational users will be able to enjoy exploring the landscape, as well as become protectors of the pristine deserts that glow in the early evening light. And generations to come will be able to wander amongst the mesquite and creosote bushes, learning of the people who roamed the land centuries before now, seeing their stories and history carved into the boulders throughout the Sierra de Las Uvas and surrounding areas.
With this National Monument designation, southern New Mexico will become a true tourist destination. Already, we have the town of Mesilla, with historic old adobe buildings that once saw the Butterfield Trail stop and the trial of Billy the Kid. Just to our north, we have the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, containing some of the most scientifically significant sites of dinosaur footprints in the Southwest and the world. White Sands National Monument, just on the other side of our beautiful Organ Mountains, is like no other place on Earth, with wave-like dunes of gypsum sand. And today, adding to that amazing list will be the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
As a token of our appreciation to those who helped get us here today, the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce has jarred a special batch of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks red and green chile sauce, and we will be making sure you get your share as a token of our appreciation.
Thank you Mr. President, Secretary Jewell, and Senators Udall and Heinrich for truly understanding why New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment.