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New Mexico Wild celebrates U.S. Senate passage of new wilderness areas within Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Mexico Wild celebrates U.S. Senate passage of new wilderness areas within Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments

Heinrich, Udall, Lujan and Lujan Grisham have sponsored legislation to create wilderness areas

Contact: Mark Allison, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Joey Keefe, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (February 12, 2019) – New Mexico Wild joined a broad coalition today in celebrating the passage of a public lands package in the U.S. Senate by voice vote that, in part, calls for the creation of thirteen new wilderness areas in New Mexico, including ten within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and two within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The roughly 270,000-plus acres of potential New Mexico wilderness that are included in the Natural Resources Management Act would mark the most acreage of wilderness designated in New Mexico in a single year since 1980 if the legislation passes the U.S. House of Representatives and is signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled that these special places are one step closer to being protected in their wild and natural states, providing New Mexicans and all Americans with ample opportunities to escape to the outdoors,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “Given that New Mexico is home to the nation’s first designated wilderness area, it is gratifying to see that tradition of conservation and responsible stewardship of our public lands continue.”

Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich co-sponsored the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Conservation Act, which was included in the public lands package that passed the Senate today. The legislation would designate ten wilderness areas within the national monument totaling 241,554 acres.

Legislation to safeguard the wilderness in Doña Ana County was first introduced by former Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2009 in the 111th Congress, and then again by Senators Udall and Heinrich in the 112th and 113th Congresses.

Hunting, livestock grazing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, firefighting, law enforcement activities, and border security would continue in the wilderness areas. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks contains approximately 306 bird species and 78 mammal species including golden eagles, mule deer, javelina, cougar, ring-tail cat, and quail.

A 2016 poll showed 78 percent of citizens in Doña Ana County support the protection of wilderness within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Also included in today’s public lands package was the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act, which was also co-sponsored by Senators Udall and Heinrich, to designate the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and the Rio San Antonio Wilderness within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The initial bill passed the Senate without amendment in December 2017. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan sponsored an identical bill in the House of Representatives, which was co-sponsored by former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“New Mexicans are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich, as well as Congressman Lujan and former Congresswoman Lujan Grisham, for their ongoing commitment to protecting the wild places that make our state a national treasure,” added Mark Allison.

A poll conducted by Third Eye Strategies in 2016 found that ninety-three percent of registered voters in Taos County believe that wilderness is important to them. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed believe it is important for public lands to be preserved for future generations.

Designated in 2013, Río Grande del Norte National Monu­ment continues to enjoy overwhelming community support, including the backing of business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, land grant heirs, local elected officials, and grazing permittees.

During last year’s review of national monuments by the Department of Interior, New Mexico had the most comments submitted per capita of any state. Nearly ninety eight percent of the comments received for Rio Grande del Norte opposed the executive order and wanted the monument to remain as is.

The potential wilderness areas within the national monument serve as some of the world’s great avian migratory routes. They are also home to wildlife, including bear, pronghorn and elk. The new designations would safeguard world-class recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing.

Overall, the two wilderness areas created by the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act would comprise 21,540 acres of the 243,140-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

Today’s public lands package also includes the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Area comprising approximately 7,242 acres and an 2,250-acre expansion of the existing Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area near the Four Corners region.

In addition to New Mexico’s thirteen new wilderness areas, the public lands package that passed today reauthorized the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided funding for public lands and open spaces in all 33 New Mexico counties since its creation. Congress failed to reauthorize the fund in September 2018, leading to the loss of tens of millions of dollars for America’s public lands. Senators Heinrich and Udall have been two of the fund’s most ardent supporters in the Senate.

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ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE: The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. With staff and thousands of supporters throughout the state, New Mexico Wild is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.

New Mexico Wild calls on public to help document public land conditions during shutdown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Mexico Wild calls on public to help document public land conditions during shutdownNMW Logo 20th CMYK tight crop

New Mexico Wild launches government shutdown website as public resource

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (January 11, 2018) – New Mexico Wild is calling on members of the public to help document the federal government shutdown’s impact on the conditions on New Mexico’s public lands and wild places. Additionally, New Mexico Wild has launched a government shutdown website the public can use as a resource to stay up-to-date on how the shutdown is affecting New Mexico’s public lands.

“The public servants who manage our public lands are being told not to go to work, so we’re taking things into our own hands by asking other outdoor enthusiasts to help us keep New Mexicans informed,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “This irresponsible shutdown could have far-reaching implications for our land and resources if it drags on much longer. It’s time for the Trump administration to put an end to this nonsense and return our public lands to the appropriate management and staffing levels.”

Individuals are encouraged to post photos and updates on public lands they visit to social media using the hashtag #OpenNMLands. The posts should also tag @nmwilderness on Facebook and Instagram and @nmwild on Twitter. New Mexico Wild will use the images and testimonies submitted to update the public on the conditions of public lands throughout the shutdown. Individuals who do not use social media may email their photos and stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The website New Mexico Wild has launched contains a list of public lands that are wholly or partially closed during the shutdown, which will be updated as more information is gathered. The website also includes economic data on New Mexico’s public lands and a petition calling on the Trump administration to end the shutdown. As part of today’s announcement, New Mexico Wild is also offering federal government employees who have been furloughed due to the shutdown a free, one-year membership to New Mexico Wild.

Some public lands in New Mexico remain open during the shutdown, yet those that are managed by federal agencies such as the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Land Management are severely understaffed due to employee furloughs, meaning the agencies cannot provide the usual level of service and oversight.

“Federal employees are dedicated public servants and they deserve our respect and support,” said Mark Allison.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the Washington Post, the BLM continues to process oil and gas leases on public lands during the shutdown. However, BLM is not responding to public records requests due to the shutdown.

A recent study determined that New Mexico has been hit harder by the federal government shutdown than any other state. The shutdown is particularly problematic for the state’s outdoor recreation economy, which generates $9.9 billion in consumer spending annually and directly employs 99,000 New Mexicans.

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New Mexico Wild tells BLM to postpone oil and gas lease sales

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Mexico Wild tells BLM to postpone oil and gas lease salesNMW Logo 20th CMYK tight crop 
Letter to agency questions whether current drilling activities are legal during shutdown

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (January 16, 2018) – New Mexico Wild is calling on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to postpone oil and gas lease sales and the issuance of drilling permits during the federal government shutdown until appropriate environmental reviews and public comment periods resume.

In a letter to BLM State Director Tim Spisak – which was co-signed by five other organizations – New Mexico Wild says that BLM lacks the funding and staff necessary to comply with legal requirements under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to conduct mandatory environmental reviews and 30-day public comment and protest periods before approving oil and gas lease sales on public lands.

“The government may be shut down but BLM has left our public lands wide open for drilling,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney at New Mexico Wild. “BLM has an obligation to comply with all federally-required environmental reviews and to manage public lands sustainably. Instead, it has chosen to allow oil and gas companies to bypass regulations and accountability as it approves these sales behind closed doors.”

“Talk about adding insult to injury. Energy dominance has already curtailed public participation and public accountability in the leasing process, threatening our national parks and public lands,” said Ernie Atencio, New Mexico Senior Program Manager at the National Parks Conservation Association. “Now BLM is drawing the curtain even tighter under the pretext of a shutdown while leasing and development of our public lands continue without missing a beat.”

In the letter, New Mexico Wild raises numerous concerns about BLM’s practice of allowing oil and gas lease sales to resume during the shutdown. Some reports have implied that oil and gas companies may be paying for permit processing fees during the shutdown, which could potentially lead to conflicts of interest for BLM. Additionally, the high number of furloughed employees at BLM makes it impossible for the agency to properly consider concerns raised by the public before issuing permits and leases. The letter also raises the possibility that BLM’s current approach may jeopardize the agency’s compliance with the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from expending funds that exceed appropriations.

New Mexico Wild concludes the letter by requesting a phone call or in-person meeting with Director Spisak and other BLM and/or Department of Interior staff.

Other organizations co-signing the letter include the National Parks Conservation Association, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, the Southwest Environmental Center, Western Environmental Law Center, and The Wilderness Society.

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ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE: The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. With staff and thousands of supporters throughout the state, New Mexico Wild is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.

PRESS RELEASE: Conservation and environmental groups release recommendations for game commission candidates

For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:
Kevin Bixby, Southwest Environmental Center, 575-522-5552, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Judy Calman, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, 505-843-8696, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
John Crenshaw, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, 505-577-7510, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Michael Dax, Defenders of Wildlife, 505-395-7334, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jessica Johnson, Animal Protection New Mexico, 505-265-2322, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Teresa Seamster, Sierra Club, 505-466-8964, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

October 1, 2018

This week, 22 conservation, sportsmen’s and animal protection groups representing tens of thousands of New Mexicans sent a letter to the state’s gubernatorial candidates, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce, outlining the qualifications necessary for candidates nominated to the state game commission.

“No matter who our next governor is, it will be important that he or she appoints candidates who represent all New Mexicans and recognize the challenges of wildlife management in the 21st century,” Michael Dax, national outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Considering the effects of climate change and our greater understanding of ecosystem ecology, it’s increasingly necessary that our policy makers have the knowledge needed to effectively steward New Mexico’s wildlife.”

Appointed by the governor, the game commission is comprised of seven representatives, who set policy for the Department of Game and Fish. Five of those seats represent the state’s four geographical quadrants plus Bernalillo County with two additional seats representing agriculture and conservation.

The State Game Commission was established in 1921 in order to decrease the influence of politics in setting wildlife policy. But over the past decades, the game commission has become an increasingly partisan body that no longer reflects the will of the majority of New Mexicans and lacks the expertise to make decisions based on the best available science.

As the letter outlines, any candidate appointed to the commission should be dedicated to protecting nongame wildlife, increasing the Department’s scope of authority, expanding the Department’s funding sources, and increasing transparency.

The Department of Game and Fish was established prior to statehood in response to precipitous declines of game species like deer and elk. Today, both species are thriving in the state, but many other species are not, and the Department needs to shift focus to wildlife beyond just game animals.

“For the past century, the Department of Game and Fish has primarily focused on managing species for hunting and fishing, but New Mexicans’ relationship to wildlife has changed since then,” claims Jessica Johnson, chief legislative officer for Animal Protection of New Mexico. “We now have a greater science-based understanding of how important every species is to the functioning of our ecosystems—as well as changing values and economic opportunities—and we need to have leaders who are willing and able to take a more holistic approach to wildlife stewardship.”

Part of this change should include expanding the scope of the Department’s authority. According to Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center, the Department of Game and Fish only has legislative authority to manage about 60 percent of the state’s wildlife.

“Although this change will require action from the legislature, we need commissioners who recognize the need for the Department to have expanded authority and are committed to achieving this goal,” says Bixby.

If the Department’s mission is expanded, this change will likely require additional funding. Currently, the majority of the Department’s revenue is generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses or through federal excise taxes on the sale of firearms, ammunition or fishing tackle. However, nationally, participation in these activities is declining, threatening the long-term sustainability of this model.

“We need to start looking outside the box for how we are going to fund wildlife management in the future,” explains John Crenshaw, president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the old system won’t be viable in 20 or 30 years and we need to be proactive.”

According to the letter, new sources of funding should also be more democratic. “It’s also important that we find additional funding sources that engage all New Mexicans to contribute to the long-term health of our wildlife,” says Teresa Seamster, chair of the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club. “Right now, it’s mainly hunters and anglers who contribute, but the majority of New Mexicans that don’t hunt and fish still benefit greatly from our state’s wildlife.”
Finally, the letter stresses the need to ensure transparency and responsiveness within the commission. The commission has often made unanimous decisions, with little or no discussion, that directly contradict the sentiments of the majority of audience members, giving the impression that public input is a mere formality.

The Department’s website currently includes Santa Fe PO Boxes for each commissioner, but does not include email address or phone numbers. Also, while the commission has in the past held one Saturday meeting each year, that has not been the case for the past two years.

“It’s absolutely necessary that New Mexicans have a real say in the decisions made about our wildlife,” says Judy Calman, staff attorney for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. “Requiring agencies to take public input into account is a crucial way to ensure decision-makers are working for New Mexico’s long-term future and to provide citizens a check on the actions of their government. Right now, that’s not possible.”

The coalition of groups are hoping to meet with both candidates to discuss the letter and its prescriptions in detail.

PDF of House Bill 254

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