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LAS CRUCES — Opinions were split among about 600 people who showed up for a three-hour congressional field hearing to discuss proposed federal wilderness areas for southern New Mexico.
Las Cruces resident Robert Macklin, a retired Army officer and avid hiker, attended to express his opposition.
“I don’t want to see development in the Organ Mountains,” he said.
The event was hosted by Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both D-N.M., who last year introduced legislation that would create 259,000 acres of wilderness in Dona Ana County along with 100,850 acres of national conservation area.
Supporters, many rallied by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, say the legislation is needed to give the highest level of protection to scenic areas.
Opponents, some of them wearing Las Cruces TEA Party shirts, were concerned it would curtail access to the lands and hinder ranchers’ livelihoods.
Bingaman said during an opening statement that there are many views about land use designations but, “it is my sense that there is broad community support in Dona Ana County to protect the important public lands in the state.”
Bingaman added there’s room for changes to the legislation, the purpose of Monday’s hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
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