Using NM’s great outdoors respectfully during pandemic

SANTA FE, N.M. – If you’re headed out to use New Mexico’s trails or open space this weekend, outdoor experts say you should make the health of others your number one priority during the current health crisis. Terry Owen leads outings as the chairman of the Outings and Military Outdoors Program for the Rio Grande Chapter of the New Mexico Sierra Club. Owen says if you can, it’s a good idea to find a trail off the beaten path. At the same time, he says you shouldn’t travel so far that it requires a stop – which could possibly mean interacting with others who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus. “This pandemic that we’re seeing is life and death for a lot of people,” says Owen.

In New Mexico our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are protected

This week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the Federal Civil Rights Act applies to gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans. It currently bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for employment and housing. However, President Trump argues that they should not be protected and a decision is expected before year’s end. New Mexicans should know, however, that state law is crystal clear. Our Human Rights Act specifically makes it illegal to use sexual orientation and gender identity to discriminate.

Sec. Bernhardt threatens diversity of NM economics, out-of-step with NM values

It should come as no surprise that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s Tuesday visit to Santa Fe is as a featured guest at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Annual Meeting. As the head of the agency in charge of protecting our nation’s public lands, managing our natural resources and honoring our responsibilities to indigenous peoples, Bernhardt’s fossil fuel-first agenda is at odds with New Mexico’s goal of diversifying its economy and protecting our health, treasured public lands, and cultural values that New Mexicans hold dear. In New Mexico, Bernhardt oversees 13 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands as well as National Parks and Monuments such as Chaco Canyon, Bandelier, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands. These natural and cultural wonders are an essential part of our health, our heritage, and our outdoor recreation and tourism economies. Under Bernhardt, the Interior Department has joined with the Environmental Protection Agency in rolling back air, land and water protections at an alarming rate.

Trumping the BLM

Ever since public lands were made permanent parts of the American experience around the turn of the last century, there have been people dedicated to their privatization. The American people have strongly resisted the sale of public lands, frustrating those who saw the Donald Trump administration as a key opportunity to sell off national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and national parks to states and corporations. There is little appetite in Congress for selling off these lands owned by all Americans, but now the Trump administration is working behind the scenes to disassemble our public land agencies and sell off their resources, though not the lands themselves. Of the four major federal land agencies, the Trump administration has first focused on the BLM in their efforts to disassemble the agency and weaken regulations. 

The BLM controls 248 million acres of public land and administers some 700 million acres of federal subsurface mineral rights. These are mostly lands that were left over after the national forests and other protected areas were set aside and often consist of remote desert lands in the vast interior of the West.

Why extreme risk protection orders can make a difference

It was a mundane and typical American activity. Families doing their back-to-school shopping in an El Paso Walmart. Suddenly a gunman opened fire. Scores were killed and injured. But they were not targeted indiscriminately.

It’s all hands on deck for the 2020 Census

New Mexicans know exactly what they need to ensure each and every one of our families can succeed: fully funded public systems like our schools, hospitals, and roads –all vital for a prosperous state. Unfortunately, this may not become a reality for N.M. if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of adding a controversial “citizenship question” to the upcoming 2020 census form. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, this question holds many implications for communities of color across our state. The proposed “citizenship question” does not directly disclose the immigration status of a person residing in the country undocumented. Yet, the current political environment and increased immigration enforcement being carried out by the current federal administration has had an adverse effect on the public’s perception of the use of such question and the possible uses of this information in the near future.

It’s time to end the Gila diversion boondoggle

This coming Thursday, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) will vote on whether to spend an additional $1.8 million to continue plans to dam the upper Gila and San Francisco Rivers. That is on top of the $15 million they have already spent.  It is far past time to scrap this doomed plan to remove water from the Gila and to instead pursue the conservation efforts we know can preserve and create access to the water we so desperately need. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. The Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) of 2004 gave the State of New Mexico $66 million in federal funds in exchange for the development of water downstream from the Gila in the larger Colorado River watershed. By law, this money can either pay for critical water supply improvement and efficiency projects or fund a major dam, reservoir, and delivery project on the upper Gila River.

Keep equity and youth access front and center in new Outdoor Recreation Division

Too many times have I heard New Mexico scorned as “The Land of Entrapment.” Too many times, as a New Mexico college student, I’ve seen my peers feel as if they must escape New Mexico for better opportunities elsewhere. This is true even when they come from families committed to growing our economy and their parents are local businesspeople, university professors, or even our state officials. To that I say, “No more!”  To that I say, “Let our soon-to-be-established New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division have as its first director someone qualified to implement the Outdoor Equity Fund.” To that I say, “Let this director not lose sight of the true potential of the Division, which is to connect the youth of New Mexico to their natural heritage.”

The Outdoor Recreation Division was established in the last legislative session and its first director is about to be appointed by the Secretary of Economic Development. To fully realize the potential of this new Division, it will take a New Mexican at the helm, baptized in the enchantment of our natural heritage. The director must have the economic savvy for sustainable development of New Mexico’s natural beauty and the capacity to cultivate our young people to be leaders in this $9 billion industry.

Air, land and water: NM lawmakers by the numbers

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico environmental advocates say the state took a step forward during the 2019 legislative session by passing bills that address renewable energy and public health, but is lagging in solar-energy development. Conservation Voters New Mexico has released its statewide Conservation Scorecard for the 2019 Legislature. Liliana Castillo, the group’s communications director, noted that shortly after taking office, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham focused on climate change. Castillo said she believes the executive order to place limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel drilling is in line with residents’ priorities. “New Mexicans across the board really care about protecting our air, land and water and diversifying our economy – the things that people talk about are the most important things, right?

Luján: Rejecting Corporate PAC Money for New Mexicans

At the start of the last Congress, one of the first votes House Republicans took was on a bill designed to unravel protections for workers exposed to chemicals like beryllium. Beryllium is one of the chemicals that poisoned my father’s lungs and caused his cancer. Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick. That first vote is indicative of the Republican party. Last Congress, House Republicans raised taxes on and stripped health care from working Americans all to satisfy their special interest donors.