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Paradise Could Be Easily Lost

Albuquerque Journal Monday, March 21, 2011

By Bennett A. Brown And John Cornell
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; New Mexico Wildlife Federation

“Otero Mesa is a majestic desert grassland in a remote area of southern New Mexico. Bordered on the north by the Sacramento Mountains and on the east by the Guadalupe Mountains, this 2,400-square-mile landscape encompasses roughly 1.2 million acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Roughly half the area is grassland, including the largest remaining Chihuahuan Desert grassland assemblage in public ownership. It also supports the very best remaining examples of black grama grasslands that blanketed much of southern New Mexico in pre-settlement times.

However, the threat of change looms over the serenity of Otero Mesa, change that threatens to destroy the integrity of this dramatic landscape.

As you might imagine, this unique place also is home to a diverse community of wildlife. The only remaining native population of pronghorn antelope on public lands in New Mexico thrives on Otero Mesa. Desert mule deer are widespread and abundant. Both are supported by a complex ecosystem of native plants that is host to more than 1,000 other species of wildlife, including the rare aplomado falcon.

Otero Mesa is a rare jewel for hunters, hikers, birders and photographers. Few places in New Mexico offer the sportsman the array of opportunities for pursuing big game on public land…

…More than 50 mining claims have been staked on Otero Mesa since last October by one mining company alone. This company is considering mining for cobalt, which has a long history of arsenic contamination and other problems. Can you imagine what open pit mines and strip mines would do this pristine landscape?

No place like Otero Mesa remains either in New Mexico or anywhere else in the West. We ask all New Mexicans to join us in seeking permanent protection for the mesa and its plants, animals and archeological treasures.”

Read the full article: ABQJOURNAL OPINION/GUEST_COLUMNS: Paradise Could Be Easily Lost

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