From north to south, east to west, our state is a beautiful, diverse landscape. For us in southern New Mexico, we’re particularly blessed with two crown jewels — the Organ Mountain-Deserts Peaks National Monument, and the lands and waters that make up the Gila Wilderness.
Recent bipartisan action in Congress combined with major developments surrounding the Gila, have reignited important conversations about the future of our state’s public lands and the opportunities we have to safeguard our state’s most spectacular places.
After years of local opposition and millions of dollars unfortunately wasted, the quest to divert water from the Gila River is now effectively dead. This summer, after years of hard work alongside local communities, our Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced landmark legislation to designate the Gila and San Francisco rivers into the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System. And just last week, Congress passed full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will give our communities more economic boosts we know come hand-in-hand with land conservation.
Dig through the rich history of each of these efforts and you’ll find a common theme: a broad coalition of community voices speaking loudly with one voice — we want our lands preserved and protected.
As we settle into the new decade, we have a new opportunity to build on the momentum we have created to ensure New Mexico’s lands and waters are protected for generations to come.
Continuing their legacy of environmental leadership, Sen. Udall and Congresswoman Haaland have put forth a bold vision to do just that, by introducing a resolution in Congress supporting a 30×30 campaign, which would put New Mexico on a path to conserve and restore at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030. Just this week, the Las Cruces City Council boosted the effort locally, passing a resolution in support of the 30×30 campaign.
These efforts grew out of a study by more than 400 scientists across the world who warn that one million animal and plant species could go extinct within decades — the fastest decline in human history unless we, collectively, act. These species, and the lands and oceans they inhabit, face grave challenges, from the threat of climate change to the encroaching, overdevelopment of land. Right now, it’s estimated that the U.S. loses a football field’s worth of natural areas every 30 seconds.
Stop and think about that for a second. What would our region look like if we lost a football field’s worth of the Gila National Forest, or the areas that make up the Organ Mountains, every 30 seconds? What would it do to the positive economic impact we have seen over the past several years since establishing our new national monument? In a post COVID-19 world, what would that mean for our children’s access to the outdoors?
We in southern New Mexico know the value of taking decisive action and the danger of being complacent. That’s why it’s imperative that we do what we know how to do best — rally together to discuss ways we can further protect our treasured places and spaces.
The 30×30 campaign is in its early stages, and once again, community voices are needed, just like they were to save the Gila, establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, and fully fund the LWCF.
Sen. Udall and state leaders are committed to bringing local stakeholders and community organizations like ours to shape what a 30×30 campaign will look like for New Mexico. It’s an exciting endeavor that I hope you’ll join us in supporting. For more information, go to https://www.natureamerica.org.
Published August 9, 2020 in the Las Cruces Sun News.