CRIME

National monument rebounds after being partially closed for years because of border smuggling

  • In this October 30, 2014 photo, a sign warns visitors of smuggling and illegal immigration at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)

    In this October 30, 2014 photo, a sign warns visitors of smuggling and illegal immigration at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this October 30, 2014 photo, Sam and Linda Pearsall of Raleigh, N.C. visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)

    In this October 30, 2014 photo, Sam and Linda Pearsall of Raleigh, N.C. visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this October 30, 2014 photo, is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)

    In this October 30, 2014 photo, is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. For over a decade, armed drug traffickers were so prevalent in this vast desert monument that visitors were barred from entering more than half of it. But a series of crackdowns and decreased traffic on Arizona’s border with Mexico have turned things around at the national monument. For the first time since 2003, the picturesque park is fully accessible, all 516 square miles of its sweeping mountains and cactus-covered terrain. (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)  (The Associated Press)

A national monument that sits on the border with the U.S. and Mexico has reopened large swaths of land that was restricted because of dangers posed by drug smugglers.

Nearly 70 percent of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona had been closed since 2003 after a park ranger was gunned down by drug smugglers.

But authorities now say that increased Border Patrol enforcement and new technology has made the park safer.

The monument is 516 square miles large and is home to a number of desert species, including thousands of saguaros and some organ pipe cacti. Organ pipe cacti are a unique breed that resembles an organ pipe.

The Border Patrol says the park's newfound safety is a symbol of a more secure border.