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After we’ve worked successfully for more than a decade to protect New Mexico’s wild desert grassland Otero Mesa from oil and gas drilling, a new threat has emerged – hardrock mining. A mining company has staked dozens of mining claims on Otero Mesa in recent months, and plans to conduct exploratory drilling for rare earth minerals. The mining claims are in areas we’ve proposed for wilderness protection and “area of critical environmental concern” designation, and where we hope the Obama administration will designate a national monument.
Otero Mesa is one of the largest and wildest Chihuahuan desert grassland remaining on public lands in the United States. Thousands of ancient cultural sites can be found in Otero Mesa, including on Alamo Mountain, where petroglyphs date back 1500 years. Furthermore, the Salt Basin aquifer underlying Otero Mesa is considered to be the state’s largest untapped freshwater resource.
All of these resources would be endangered by mining on Otero Mesa, which could cut off hunting and hiking opportunities, as well as other traditional uses of the land, and contaminate water supplies with toxic tailings. Mining on public lands is currently administered under the archaic 1872 Mining Law, in which companies pay no royalties and public lands that are mined are subject to insufficient environmental review and protections. It’s past time we stop allowing mining companies to run roughshod over our public lands and treasured landscapes. We need permanent protection for Otero Mesa now!
Click here to send a free fax to President Obama, asking him to designate Otero Mesa National Monument before it’s too late.
The Otero Mesa Grasslands within the Chihuahuan Desert (of southern New Mexico) have long been recognized as “special” by the State of New Mexico, former Governor Bill Richardson, numerous state…Read More