U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
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West Potrillo Mountains WSAWelcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. 

The West Potrillo Mountains Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is located in southern New Mexico, approximately 30 miles southwest of Las Cruces in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Volcanic activity left its mark in this area, which is punctuated by cinder cone and shield volcanoes, craters, and lava flows.  Small sand dunes and playas have since filled in-between.  The vegetation consists of desert grasses and shrubs.

The West Potrillo Mountains are an example of the multiple values and protections some WSAs have.  Today, the President established the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, in part, to protect the wide range of unique and exemplary volcanic features of the Potrillo Mountains and to provide for geology and volcanology research.  Located within the new Monument, the west Potrillo Mountains were identified as having wilderness characteristics in 1980, and were then designated as a WSA.  Wilderness characteristics are roadless areas over 5,000 acres that are natural and provide outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation and solitude.  The WSA continues to be managed to not impair those characteristics, while also being managed under the provisions of the National Monument designation.

Only Congress that has the authority to permanently protect a WSA as wilderness or allocate the land to other uses.  Because wilderness designations and decisions on wilderness study areas can only be made by Congress, the Presidential proclamation designating the National Monument does not change the status of this or the seven other WSAs in the National Monument.

To visit the West Potrillo Mountains WSA, drive I-10 to about 8 miles south of Anthony, NM (at the TX state line), and take exit #8 to TX 178/Artcraft Rd.  After exiting, take the second right onto TX 178/Artcraft Road and drive about 9 miles to NM 9/Columbus Rd. (Note: TX-178 becomes NM-136 at the state line).  Turn right, and drive west about 24 miles on NM Hwy 9 to County Road 005.  Turn right and drive north.  At just over 1 mile, you will reach a gate on private land; continue for another .5 miles to reenter public lands.  For the next 3 miles, between the private land and the intersection with County Road 007, the WSA is on the left of the road which forms the WSA’s eastern boundary.  You can hike cross country from any point you choose.

Please note that these are dirt roads requiring suitable clearance.  There are no water sources in this area; you will need to come prepared with sufficient water.  Remember, it is hot this time of year!  For more information about the West Potrillo Mountains WSA, please visit the West Potrillo Mountains WSA website.

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Last updated: 05-21-2014