April 8, 2021

Governor signs Environmental Database Act

Laura Paskus

The Rio Grande near Mesilla in 2014.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Wednesday that will make it easier for the public to access environmental data.

HB 51, the Environmental Database Act, will lead to the creation of a map-based database hosted and managed by Natural Heritage New Mexico, which is a division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico.

The information that will be included in the database is already available through seven New Mexico agencies. However, the database will put all the information in a single user-friendly location.

Related: Environmental Database Act aims to increase transparency for publicly-available state data

This includes information about waterways, the location of oil and gas wells and rates of childhood asthma.

State Representatives Gail Chasey and Georgene Louis and state Sen. Mimi Stewart, all Democrats from Albuquerque, sponsored the bill.

“The sponsors of HB 51a are very pleased the Governor signed it into law today,” Chasey said in an email to NM Political Report. “This means NM will have a single map-based website centralizing the state’s basic environmental data. Now, the public, governmental agencies, and industry will be able to search all types of environmental information, such as threatened and endangered species, locations of oil and gas wells, hazardous waste sites, and even rare plant data. This environmental database will inform decisions regarding water and land use, as well as energy projects, as we work to protect our natural resources and public health.”

Judy Calman, New Mexico Director of Policy for Audubon Southwest, drafted the bill and said she was jumping up and down with excitement when she heard the governor was going to sign it.

“In a way, it’s just the beginning,” Calman said.

Now Calman said she will work with the team in charge of building the website. This website will allow people to generate reports about areas of the state and Calman hopes it helps state agencies as well as members of the public gain a better understanding about what is happening in any given part of New Mexico.

“I want (state agencies) to use that database to make decisions about how to use land and resources,” she said.

As for herself, Calman anticipates she will be using the database once it has been developed.

The website will be available for public use by July 1, 2022. It will include data from the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, the Environment Department, the State Land Office, the Department of Health, the Department of Game and Fish, the Public Regulation Commission and the Historic Preservation Division within the Department of Cultural Affairs.