Photo: Conservation Lands Foundation
The Conservation Alliance applauds President Obama for designating five new National Monuments today. The monuments are Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico; the First State National Monument in Delaware; the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Maryland; the Charles Young National Monument in Ohio; and the San Juan Islands National Monument off Washington state. National Monuments are an important part of our national – and natural – heritage. They also provide communities with important economic benefits.
We are particularly excited about the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. An approximately 240,000-acre landscape, managed by the BLM, is just north of Taos, NM. The area is popular for whitewater boating, hiking, hunting, climbing, and fishing. Its recreation and wildlife amenities make Rio Grande del Norte an important economic asset to local communities. A recent study estimates that the establishment of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument could lead to an increase of approximately $15 million in regional economic activity. For that reason, more than 150 local businesses support the monument designation.
The economic benefits of protected public lands is not restricted to Northern New Mexico. In November 2011, a group of economists sent a letter to President Obama stating that:
"As economists and academics in related fields, we believe that federal protected public lands are essential to the West's economic future. These public lands, including national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments, attract innovative companies and workers, and are an essential component of the region's competitive advantage."
The Western economy is growing faster than that of the rest of the nation. People are flocking to communities like Taos, Bozeman, Bend, and Durango for the quality of life amenities public lands offer. These lands have lasting economic value when they are protected, and only short-term value when sacrificed to extraction. Some lands are appropriate for energy development, logging, and mining. By designating new National Monuments, particularly Rio Grande del Norte, President Obama recognizes that certain places need to be preserved for the economic benefits they offer just as they are.
We look forward to supporting President Obama as he designates additional National Monuments. They are an investment in our economic future.