Public Editor’s note: Elections for positions on a number of soil and water conservation district boards are being held today.
If concerned citizens vote today, the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) could begin to fulfill the conservation mission envisioned under President Franklin Roosevelt, instead of the pursuit of narrow, partisan interests of the current DASWCD Board. I write as an elected board member of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, because Doña Ana voters should know that the way forward is through the ballot box.
Last year, in April 2014, voters rightfully slapped down the DASWCD effort to pass a mill levy to support its work, having discovered their District was undermining conservation efforts and engaging in partisan politics that can best be described as religious and ranching favoritism. An examination of the mission of the DASWCD reveals a contradiction of both “developing and conserving” the natural resources of New Mexico, which should be addressed by a new Board. In addition, a new Board should eliminate the new geographic zones implemented just prior to this vote, before this disenfranchisement is referred to the Justice Department as voter suppression. Moreover, the rules governing New Mexico Soil and Water elections are sufficiently convoluted and merit reexamination by the Soil and Water Conservation Commission of the State of New Mexico.
Protecting the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and land that we love is possible when leaders keep their mission in the forefront of action, always. As an example, the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District provides education, technical assistance and recognition to current and future stewards of the land in natural resources conservation. In this manner, we may be Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, but because we have been steadfast in our mission, and only our mission, we have a track record of accomplishments. We have nearly 350 acres under conservation in the heart of the Rio Grande, where the public can observe nature, bees can pollinate our alfalfa, and students can undertake the only hands-on science programs outdoors in our county. We passed a Quarter Mill Levy in 2013, because the public knows that we are true to our mission.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts should not be narrow and partisan, but inclusive and nonpartisan, if we are to protect this great land of New Mexico. I encourage voters of Doña Ana to elect a new slate for its Soil and Water Conservation District.
Teresa K.E. Smith de Cherif, M.D., M.I.A.
The writer has served on the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board since 2008; was the 2014 Democratic Candidate for New Mexico House District 7; and was endorsed by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, and most unions. The opinion above is strictly the author’s.