Governor Bill Richardson is urging President Obama to designate Otero Mesa in Southern New Mexico a National Monument. Otero Mesa is the largest expanse of Chihuahuan Desert Grassland on public lands in the U.S.
"As governor I have fought hard to protect Otero Mesa, but if we are going to ensure the protection of this national treasure for future generations we need a permanent federal designation," Governor Richardson said.
Otero Mesa is 1.2 million acres and home to over 1,000 native plant and animal species, including pronghorn antelope, black-tailed prairie dogs, desert mule deer, mountain lions, golden and bald eagles, and 250 species of migratory songbirds. The Salt Basin Aquifer below it is believed to be one of the state's largest remaining untapped fresh drinking water resources. The
critical habitat was nearly sacrificed to energy exploration before the Richardson Administration along with a strong coalition of environmentalists, ranchers and hunters stepped in to halt the drilling.