Protecting Public Lands and Restoring Equal Ground

President Obama announced that he intends to proclaim the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, one of the Southwest's most beautiful regions, a national monument. This is a wonderful event for many reasons -- the monument designation is estimated to add more than $7 million in additional annual economic activity to the region; an important part of New Mexico's history and culture will be kept accessible for generations to come; and the area remains open to public use, including outdoor recreation, hunting, and livestock grazing.

All of these blessings are undeniably important. But for me, as an Evangelical, there is but one all-embracing reason to celebrate. This magnificent collection of natural wonders is protected from harm. As stewards of creation, we have fulfilled our duty to God.

I have had consistent faith in the president's commitment to use his executive authority to protect our public lands and waters. Though at times it seems that our nation's leaders have been more interested in leasing out our public lands to oil and gas companies, I believe this new National Monument represents a sea change within the administration. The time has come.

Under the current Administration, twice as many acres of land have been leased for oil and gas as have been permanently protected. Of course, energy development is a necessity for life on Earth. But I advocate for balance -- for placing conservation of our public lands on equal ground with energy development. The new Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a beacon; it's an encouraging sign that America is moving in the right direction.

By using his pen to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, President Obama has chosen to act where Congress would not to conserve public lands that offer breathtaking mountain ranges; wildlife habitat for bighorn sheep, antelope and deer; and a window into New Mexico's culture and history.

It's a sad fact that Congress struggles to preserve our public lands heritage and instead, pursues harmful legislation intended to weaken protections for our clean water, wildlife habitat and parks and monuments. Remarkably, just about every opinion poll shows this is in direct conflict with the views of American voters.

This land was made by God for you and me, and deserves to be protected. Thank you President Obama, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, for giving the Organ Mountains - Desert Peaks your utmost attention, and for your stewardship in seeking to protect it. It is written in Gen. 1:26-28 that "God commanded humanity to be stewards of His Creation." The new Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument ensures that a very special place of God's creation will endure for all of us -- and for all those yet to be born.