A strong sense of place and reliance on the land that sustains us is a common thread that unites us as New Mexicans. From the forests and mesas that catch rain and snow to feed our rivers, to the vibrant ecosystems that New Mexicans farm, hunt, fish, hike and bike, our relationship to the land, water and wildlife is central to our quality of life and deep cultural diversity.
New Mexico is home to nearly 35 million acres of public lands, including monuments and parks such as Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the Gila National Forest. These lands are critical habitats for an abundance of wildlife, and support recreation, hunting, tourism, and traditional cultural practices that are essential for our state’s diverse communities. They support an outdoor recreation economy that brought $1.2 billion in state income (2019), and created nearly 33,500 jobs. For many rural communities, such as Silver City or Farmington/Aztec, ecotourism is a growing portion of the local economy.
The human impacts on land and the human impact on climate are one and the same. We need wide-reaching solutions that address the climate crisis and land policies play a big role in an effective climate change strategy. Conserving and restoring more lands and waters would help protect our communities from floods, fires, storms, and other impacts of climate change, safeguarding the natural resources we rely on for food, jobs, and recreation.
Significant amounts of land remain in a natural condition in New Mexico, creating opportunities to protect those places for future generations. At the same time, due to relaxed mining and oil and gas leasing regulations, New Mexico’s public lands have become a haven for extractive industries seeking to mine and refine natural resources and minerals. These activities degrade not only the land, but the water and air, making other uses impossible without expensive cleanup and remediation.
Common policies introduced in the legislature that impact New Mexico’s land include those related to land use and growth, transportation, mining, oil and gas leasing, and conservation.
Valle de Oro Urban National Wildlife Refuge
Valle de Oro has been built from the ground up with substantial involvement of the Mountain View and other South Valley neighborhoods – it is the first NWR with an environmental justice strategic plan. It recreates the pre-engineering Rio Grande landscape on the edge of the South Valley’s industrial landscape. Photo: CVNM Staff/Michael Jensen
Related Votes for Land
- Air Quality
- Energy &
- Wildlife & Habitat
Underground Injection Fund more
Summary: Could have expanded UIC program to include unproven carbon sequestration practices
Outcome: HB 174 received a do pass in House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, but died waiting to be scheduled in House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
Meredith A. Dixon
Nathan P. Small
State Game Commission Changes more
Summary: Updates the Game Commission to make it more stable and less politically volatile
Outcome: HB 184 passed through the House 45-21 and the Senate 34-2; not signed by the Governor and therefore pocket vetoed.
Crystal R. Diamond
Create Legacy Permanent Funds more
Summary: Created permanent funding for key state conservation programs
Outcome: SB 9 passed through the Senate 33-7 and the House 54-11; signed by the Governor on March 23, 2023.
Steven P. Neville
Create Legacy Permanent Funds, floor amendment more
Summary: Would have unduly limited funding for state conservation programs
Outcome: SB9/a failed on the house floor 34-30.
Steven P. Neville
Know the Score > Take Action
Strategies for Land Use
Actions that protect land use:
In a historic win for lands, water, and wildlife, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (SB 9) was created in 2023. It is an annual and permanent sustainable investment fund whose interest will feed the operating fund to allow state agencies to invest long-term in conservation, rehabilitation, and protection. By investing in existing state agencies and programs, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund helps finance things like the Outdoor Equity Fund, which supports programs that increase outdoor access for youth of color and low-income communities. SB 9 also helps prepare New Mexico for disaster. As our state is increasingly subjected to the devastating effects of climate change, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund helps to mitigate those events by allowing state agencies to plan for wildfires, floods, drought, and water scarcity.
Actions that hurt land use:
No thank you!
In 2021, the Governor signed an executive order (EO) making a visionary commitment to protect 30% of New Mexico’s lands and watersheds by 2030. The 30% includes both existing and new federal, tribal, state, and local public lands along with private lands in voluntary land trusts and conservation easements. However, we have seen a slowly building campaign of cookie-cutter county-level resolutions that seek to scare people into believing that the purpose of efforts to protect our public lands, like the EO, is to take land from private landowners. It is a completely false claim. In fact, efforts that support access to public lands will significantly increase funds available for establishing land trusts and conservation easements on private lands. These extremely popular programs keep working lands in the family and away from conversion to development and provide some financial incentives or tax breaks to the participants, all while helping fund conservation work to restore the set aside land to a more natural state. Resolutions passed to oppose public lands protections directly impact the ability of their residents to gain the benefits of expanded access to outdoor activities and protection of their own lands.
Communicate with the Governor and your Legislators
Whether you’re congratulating them on their score or expressing your disappointment, be direct, courteous and polite.
The most important part is letting them know that you are paying close attention to how they vote or, in the case of the Governor, what actions she takes on legislation that affects our air, land, and water.
Calling your legislator directly and sending letters through regular mail remain by far the most effective ways to communicate with your legislators.
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor can always be contacted at the State Capitol. Except during the legislative session, state legislators should be contacted in their home districts, as listed on the current Legislators page.