Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (Friends of OMDP) is a nonprofit that works to protect and restore public lands through advocacy and through building a committed and diverse public lands community. Our work ensures the protection of the resources and responsible access regardless of wealth, privilege or social standing. Through grassroots organizing, and continued advocacy, we were able to protect 500,000-acres of landthrough a national monument designation. Although our organization is incredibly appreciative of the national monument designation in 2014, we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring that everyone in our community has the opportunity and comfort to access these lands.

A large part of our programming work is done through our Moving Montañas youth program. The purpose of our Moving Montañas program is to connect community youth to the outdoors in order to amplify the importance of protecting our environment. Our organization understands that public lands are for everyone but that does not mean that everybody has a chance to utilize them for recreation or educational purposes. With great work and intention, this program also targets kids who have less opportunities to explore public lands. The goal of this program is to develop the next generation of public land stewards. However, we acknowledge that there are other positive results of our Moving Montañas program. For example, we know that time in the outdoors has a positive impact on both mental and physical health. Our public lands are also a great tool for education: the lands around our community tell a range of stories from historical to geological.

Friends of OMDP continues to work to improve and expand this program so that everyone in our community has the same opportunities to experience the outdoors. We remain committed to this program and its continued success and growth. We engage our participants through guided hikes, summer camps, camping trips, and other educational enrichment activities.

Moving Montañas is also driven in large part by our large partnership network. These relationships help us identify those in our community who could benefit from our programming. We built and sustained these relationships before the public health crisis and maintained them through it as well. These partnerships position us, along with our preparation work, to continue to get more of our community youth out on our public lands. Our partnership network includes many other community organizations like Las Cruces Parks and Recreation, Boys and Girls Club, Community Schools, the Bureau of Land Management, and SUCCESS Partnerships.

SUCCESS Partnership intends to provide better educational opportunities to New Mexicans regardless of background or privilege. We both serve the communities in Doña Ana County, which is one of the poorest counties in New Mexico. Our county has a 39% child poverty rate, which is much higher compared to the statewide rate of 27%.

We consider ourselves fortunate to collaborate in providing better opportunities to New Mexicans who lack the opportunity for a quality education and lack the opportunity to experience the outdoors recreationally. Through our SUCCESS partnership we are not only able to connect the youth to our public lands, but also include the whole family in experiencing the outdoors. This is important to us as an organization because we are able to create long lasting memories while building an appreciation for the land. Through our SUCCESS partnership we have monthly events such as family hikes, family camps, and even overnight campouts. Many families may not have the resources or comfort to do these activities on their own, but we are able to build their skill level and comfort in hopes they continue to enjoy our public lands.

Kyla Navarro
Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
Policy and Community Engagement Coordinator

Jessica Gomez
Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
Community Engagement Coordinator