Obama Could Declare 500,000-Plus Acres Protected

Areas in New Mexico and California to become national monuments

    Photo: Getty Images

In January, the White House issued a report showing that 7.3 million acres of federal land have been leased for oil and gas drilling as of December, while 2.9 million acres have been permanently protected. Seems disproportionate.

On Sunday, however, the Washington Post reported that in a bold move that might change America’s public land policy, the Obama administration, using its executive authority over Congress, is preparing to designate more than 500,000 of acres in New Mexico and California as off-limits to development.

The first site is the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region near Las Cruces, New Mexico—twice the size of the largest national monument established by Obama. The other site covers 1,600 acres on California’s central coast.

A final decision has not been made, but many hope the monuments will combat criticism that the administration has not preserved enough public land under Obama's presidency. 

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