with Bill Johnston
The last Hurrah? Chile Challenge 2007
The Chile Challenge has been around for many years, starting as the Winter Meeting runs for the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and then branching off into a full and separate event. But all that may come to a close if Senate Bill 275 passes. Senator Bingaman (D-NM) has recently introduced the bill to create a new 5,300 acre National Monument that will cover all of the trails in the Robledo mountains.
The monument is supposed to protect any pre-dinosaur trackways that may be buried in the area. Some fossils were found back in 1987 and have since been sent to museums. It is very interesting that the 5,300 acres that would make up the monument completely encloses the roads and offroad trails that have made Las Cruces one of the most popular wheeling areas in the southwest. All of the blue and purple lines in the map above are famous trails. The Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club (sponsors of the Chile Challenge) have put all the facts online for everyone to see and it is a bit disturbing. Here is an excerpt citing a few interesting points: On the surface, the bill is to protect the fossilized tracks. You decide if that is really the case or just a massive land grab:
- All the discovered trackways have been removed to various museums across the country.
- Digging stopped because it became impossible to continue.
- Twenty years of continuous research has failed to discover any new trackways of that significance.
- Only small insect and lizard like trackways have been found since 1987.
- The discovery site was less than one acre, yet the bill calls for 5,300 times that amount of land. There is no justification for this increase.
- Huge amounts of taxpayer money will be wasted trying to remove hundreds of feet of overburden to excavate more speculated trackways.
What Can You Do?
Senators Bingaman and Domenici have refused to listen to or review the evidence that this is nothing but a land grab. Maybe a flood of letters, emails, or calls will convince them to investigate what the bill really is. If we cannot get our message to the Senators, our best shot is to keep a similar bill out of the House of Representatives. You must contact Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) and ask him to not support a House equivalent of S.275. Tell him you do not feel that any monument is needed, but if he feels that he must introduce a monument bill in the House, that it should only encompass the discovery site and no more than several hundred acres around that site. Also, ask him to ensure that the presently operating quarry continues to operate.
Senator Domenici: http://domenici.senate.gov/ (web site email contact.) Senator Domenici: http://domenici.senate.gov/ (web site email contact.) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-6316Fax: (202) 225-4975 Email him through his web site at:http://pearce.house.gov ALSO, contact the Senators from your state and ask them to vote against S275! Let them know that you treasure this area as it is.
If you would like more information or wish to help prevent this land grab, please contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from the 2007 Chile Challenge