President Obama, walking near the White House. / JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON -- Perhaps because he was preparing to dedicate a new public land monument, President Obama decided to do a little communing with nature on Wednesday.
Obama walked from the White House to the Interior Department, cutting across the Ellipse on his way to an event in which he signed a proclamation establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico.
"We're not just preserving history," Obama said at the Interior Department. "Outdoor recreation at parks and forests and other public lands brings in tourism dollars, attracting new businesses and encouraging spending at lodging and food establishments and of course park souvenirs."
Some Republicans criticized Obama for creating the monument through executive action rather than congressional legislation.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also said new land use restrictions in New Mexico "will place additional burdens on Border Patrol personnel and limit access to high crime areas along the border, making it easier for drug smugglers and human traffickers to move in and out of the country."
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency supports designation of the monument.
In a statement, the border patrol said "this designation will in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility as we work to meet this ongoing priority."
For his part, Obama -- who has designated two national monuments this year, and 11 throughout his presidency -- said: "I've preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations -- and I am not finished."
Before walking back to the White House, he reminisced to his Interior Department audience about the days when he could go on a hike without a security detail.
"It's a wistful feeling," he said.
Obama chatted with tourists and school children during his walk to and from the Interior Department, and seemed happy to be out and about.
"The bear is loose!" he told trailing reporters at one point.
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