In this Dec. 28, 2006, image, the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces, N.M., are left with a light dusting of snow. / SHARI VIALPANDO AP
WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Wednesday will use executive authority to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in southern New Mexico a national monument, according to the White House.
The White House projects that the designation could spur $7.4 million new economic activity in the area around the monument, and comes as the Obama administration tries to draw attention this week to investing in the USA.
"By establishing the monument, the president will permanently protect more than 496,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
In addition to the new national monument designation -- which Obama will sign at an event at the Department of Interior on Wednesday -- the president is scheduled to meet with business leaders at the White House on Tuesday and travel to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to trumpet U.S. tourism just ahead of the summer travel season.
Earlier this year, Obama made clear during his State of the Union Address that he would use executive authority "to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations." In March, Obama designated a 1,665-acre nature preserve on California's coast, Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, as a national monument.
The tall, jagged Organ Mountains offer a majestic backdrop to Las Cruces, N.M., one of the state's fastest growing areas.
Ahead of Obama's designation, dueling legislation was proposed in the House and Senate to create a national monument.
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., proposed the Organ Mountains National Monument Establishment Act to protect 54,800 acres in and near the Organs, east of Las Cruces. New Mexico Senate Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, proposed to set aside 498,815 acres including much the Organs and other undeveloped areas of the county.
Some ranchers in the area opposed the proposal pitched by Udall and Heinrich, because they say the monument would swallow up too much land and would hurt their business.
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