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Protect Otero Mesa

a shrine of native history

The ancient petroglyphs that dot this landscape preserve the stories of many people

In Otero Mesa, the last fragment of the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands glisten and sway under the New Mexico sun. The last remaining desert prairie in the United States, the grasslands of Otero Mesa harbor thousands of years of Native American history. The ancient petroglyphs and archaeological sites that dot the landscape tell the stories of a people who lived off the land hundreds of years ago, likely foraging the landscape for medicine and following herds of pronghorn antelope and other wildlife to survive.

For the Tigua Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, which today is based in neighboring El Paso, Texas, Otero Mesa is sacred. It is a place where their indigenous identity lives and breathes. Members of the tribe still hunt and conduct ritual activities in Otero Mesa and Alamo Mountain. Tigua artifacts dating back to the 1680s can be found throughout the region.

The Mescalero Apache people, too, have deep ties to Otero Mesa, a landscape where their ancestors thrived. The Mesa once provided a refuge for the Apache - a place where they were protected from the threats of colonizers and other dangers from the changing, outside world. It was a wildlife haven where they could gather fruits, berries, grasses, herbs, hunt plentiful game, and conduct spiritual activities in solitude. Otero Mesa today is a place where Mescalero and other youth can be inspired and educated about the lives of their ancestors.

Otero Mesa, which stretches 1.2 million acres in southern New Mexico - nearly half of those which are national public lands - is under threat from the oil and gas and mining industries. More than 100 mining and drilling claims have threatened this landscape, and will likely resurface if we don't act to protect these sacred lands. 

wildlife habitat

Mountain lions, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, mule deer, falcons, and hundreds of other native wildlife species share the Otero Mesa landscape. Together in the remote wilderness of this Chihuhuan desert plain, these animals thrive and provide wildlife watching and hunting opportunities not found anywhere else.


Countless sites rich in culture and history, such as the shrine of petroglyphs found in Alamo Mountain, provide unparalleled educational opportunities for New Mexican youth. The Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, under the leadership and guidance of Mescalero and Tigua elders, will guide local youth through the landscape and its immaculately protected sites once a year. Such enriching and life-changing experiences for youth will depend on the protection of these public lands for the next generation.


Otero Mesa's public lands are largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In 2000, the BLM developed a draft management plan that called for the protection and conservation of many fragile and culturally rich areas of these desert grasslands. Representatives of the oil and gas industry objected to the protection of the mesa, predictably choosing profit over people. Drilling and mining in Otero Mesa will have devastating effects to the wildlife, the landscape, the Mesa's aquifer, and will undermine the culture and history of the people who called Otero Mesa home long before oil and gas developers ever came to this region.