WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) hailed the final passage of legislation they introduced to designate White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico.
The provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which passed the Senate Tuesday by a vote of 86 to 8 and will soon be signed into law.
“For the first time since 1930, New Mexico will be home to our newest national park. This prestigious recognition of one of our state’s most remarkable natural wonders is an enormous victory for nearby communities and for all New Mexicans,” Heinrich said. “White Sands National Park will put southern New Mexico squarely on the map as a must-see destination for park-seeking travelers and will be a major boon to the whole region’s economy. I’m also pleased that our legislation will enhance missions at White Sands Missile Range. It has been an honor to work with Congresswoman Torres Small and community leaders to get this effort over the finish line. I’m thrilled that by elevating White Sands to a national park, we will inspire even more families and future generations to discover the experiences you can only find in the Land of Enchantment.”
“I am proud that America’s newest national park will hail from my district. National parks preserve our country’s greatest treasures and serve as the engines of the local economies that surround them. White Sands National Park will solidify southern New Mexico’s role as a major tourist attraction for visitors nationwide. We now have the potential to make it an economic powerhouse in southern New Mexico, creating new commercial opportunities for our rural communities,” Torres Small said. “This change in designation also strengthens the capabilities for White Sands Missile Range, which is vital to our nation’s security. I’m proud to work with Senator Heinrich and community leaders to finally make White Sands National Park a reality, ensuring New Mexicans and visitors alike can experience the places that make the Land of Enchantment so special.”
Since White Sands National Monument was established in 1933, it has attracted visitors from around the world. For the last two decades, White Sands has seen more visitors than any other National Park Service site in New Mexico–an average of more than half a million people each year.
In 2018, well over 600,000 visitors to the monument spent $32.2 million in the local economy, with over 98 percent of that coming from non-local visitors. Becoming a national park would immediately bring new attention and prominent inclusion in global and domestic travel materials, attracting more visitors and allowing for even better resource protection, interpretation, and visitor experiences. A 2018 study found that redesignation could increase visitation by 21 percent and result in an additional $7.5 million being spent in the local economy each year.
The legislation will also benefit White Sands Missile Range as well as protect missions at military installations that surround White Sands National Park. The military’s use of critical airspace and testing grounds by White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, Fort Bliss, and others is preserved, and existing agreements between the military and the National Park Service will remain in place.
The White Sands National Park Establishment Act has strong support from local community leaders and elected officials in southern New Mexico.