By John Ruberry
Last week, while few people outside of the west noticed, President Obama declared nearly 780 square miles in southern New Mexico America’s newest national monument, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, his largest designation yet. Two months ago the president, who infamously boasted early in his term, “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job, so where they won’t act, I will,” added 1,660 acres to the California Coastal National Monument.
So far Obama has declared eleven national monuments. But another shoe, or actually I should say more shoes are about to drop: “And I am not finished,” the president said at the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks announcement.
In another brazen move that still angers Utahns, shortly before his reelection, Bill Clinton set aside nearly 3,000 square miles of southern Utah to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I’ve been there. It’s pretty. But it doesn’t measure up to the grandeur of Grand Canyon or Yosemite. When we were driving through Grand Staircase-Escalante in 2010, Mrs. Marathon Pundit remarked to me, “You know, the land on this side of the monument isn’t any better or worse than what’s inside it.”
As that monument and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are located in sparsely populated areas of our nation, it’s likely that you are reading this post many miles away from both places. So, you may ask, “What does this have to do with me?” Grand Staircase-Escalante and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks are closed off to drilling and fracking.
Regular gasoline is selling for just under $4-per-gasoline where I live.
As for the newest monument, national security could be threatened.
From the Wall Street Journal [paid registration required]:
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), though, faulted the president’s “unilateral action,” saying the latest national monument designation would undermine security by limiting law enforcement access to high crime areas near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch—and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our Southern border,” Mr. Boehner said. “At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders.”
The Obama administration should have included protections to ensure the U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies have adequate access the southwest border, Mr. Boehner said. Such legislation was introduced in Congress but never passed into law.
As you’d expect, local law enforcement officials are even more hostile to Obama’s declaration.
Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison recalls the times his deputies and federal agents were shot at as they pursued suspected drug smugglers through the area that will now be known as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. He also talked about the dozens of stolen cars that have been used to ferry drugs along pathways that lead through the desert and past border patrol checkpoints.
“If we have no ability to patrol that area, crime is going to increase. It will be akin to the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. I wonder how many years it will be before we have to post signs that say ‘Enter at your own risk.’ That’s my concern,” Garrison said.
Remember, Obama says, “And I am not finished.”
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.