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On Thursday, April 19th, a coalition of ranchers, hunters, conservationists and water experts hosted the Otero Mesa Public Forum in Alamogordo. This event in large part was organized by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA).

Almost 200 people from Alamogordo and surrounding communities attended the event to hear about Otero Mesa’s fresh water aquifer, the area’s wildlife and how oil and gas drilling could impact this special place. The purpose of the event was to bring the community together and demonstrate that southern New Mexican’s care about their quality of life, and that a few days worth of oil and gas will NOT take precedence over water, wildlife, and wilderness.

At one point during the forum, moderator, Rick Simpson (a hunting guide and Lincoln county commissioner) asked the audience “who supported a moratorium on drilling in Otero Mesa” so that a thorough study of the Salt Basin aquifer could occur. Everyone in the room expect for one person raised their hand!

The following day, the Alamogordo Daily News ran a front-page story covering the event. This story was then picked up by the Associated Press and ran in several other papers, including the Albuquerque Journal, Las Cruces Sun-News, and Santa Fe New Mexican. Read the full article here: http://www.alamogordonews.com/news/ci_5709469

Friday morning, April 20th, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance brought four of the five speakers from the forum to meet with the Alamogordo Daily News and encourage the paper to editorialize in support of the moratorium. Rancher Tweeti Blancett, wildlife expert and high school teacher Steve West, energy and economics expert Bill Brown, and Craig Roepke with the Interstate Stream Commission all attended the editorial board visit. The outcome was that the next day, the Alamogordo Daily News editorialized in supporting our efforts to call for a moratorium on drilling in Otero Mesa! Read the editorial here: http://www.alamogordonews.com/opinion/ci_5719278

Subsequently, on April 19th, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, requesting that all leasing and drilling be put to a halt so the U.S. Geological Survey, Sandia National Labs, and Interstate Stream Commission could conduct a thorough study of the Salt Basin aquifer. This is tremendous news. Please call Senator Bingaman and thank him for taking the lead on calling for a moratorium but urge him to keep fighting to protect Otero Mesa.

It is because of your letters, calls and pressure to our elected officials that we are gaining real traction in our efforts to protect Otero Mesa. Many thanks! This past week was a real watershed moment in the campaign. Now we must begin to aggressively pressure Senator Domenici and Congressman Pearce. Senator Domenici’s staff has indicated that the Senator may be willing to support a moratorium on Otero Mesa. Please help us to make this a reality – the time is NOW! Please call and fax your letters and comments today.

Senator Bingaman: (202) 224-5521

Senator Domenici: (202) 224-6621

Congresswoman Wilson: (202) 225-6316

Congressman Pearce: (202) 225-2365

Congressman Udall: (202) 225-6190

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