Designation of monument sparks border concerns

SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
This undated photo provided by Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument shows the landscape at the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument, near Las Cruces, N.M. Following a nearly decade-long campaign to gain protection for the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico, the White House says President Obama will designate the area a national monument. (AP Photo/Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, Les KcKee)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Barack Obama has designated nearly a half-million acres of rugged desert terrain along the U.S.-Mexico border as the nation's newest national monument.

The proclamation on Wednesday heightened criticism from some lawmakers in the West and local law enforcement agents who see the move as a threat to security in a region where the influence of Mexican drug cartels, human smuggling and illegal immigration are all apparent.

However, officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the designation involving the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area will not limit security efforts along the border.

House Speaker John Boehner and others complained it's the latest example of Obama taking unilateral action to bypass Congress.

Obama signed the proclamation before a crowd at Interior Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. He pointed to other wilderness bills stalled in Congress and vowed to sign more proclamations.

The campaign to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area has been 10 years in the making.