New Mexicans to Ask Administration to Step-up Conservation Efforts

Jul 17, 2010

Albuquerque Listening Session Provides Opportunity to Push for Increased Land and Water Protection and Restoration

Albuquerque (July 17, 2010) – The Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative comes to New Mexico this Saturday in an effort to develop a new, smarter conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century. New Mexicans will have the opportunity this Saturday to speak up at official listening sessions in Albuquerque and help shape this new federal initiative aimed at safeguarding our natural heritage and getting kids outside.

Topping the list of New Mexico asks is permanent protection for threatened state grasslands, deserts and mountains. “The Land of Enchantment is blessed with sacred sites, natural beauty and protected public lands. From the first designated wilderness, the Gila, to the northern and most recently protected Sabinoso wilderness, the state boasts millions of acres of protected lands. But more needs to be done to protect our public lands to ensure a lasting legacy of land protection for the next generation,” explained Norma McCallan of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter.

Protecting large natural areas, such as Otero Mesa, Ute Mountain, and the Organ Mountains provides our best hope for addressing loss of species and open space, preserving water quality and adapting to climate change.

"Encompassing more than a million acres, Otero Mesa contains one of the largest desert grasslands remaining in North America as well as a half million acres of potential wilderness," said Nathan Newcomer, Associate Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. "America's Great Outdoors provides New Mexicans with a tremendous opportunity to make our voices heard loud and clear that this treasured landscape deserves permanent protection."

According to a coalition of Albuquerque-based conservation groups, the administration should consider creating a National Conservation Area in the Ute Mountains to protect the high desert and wildlife along the Rio Grande River and in the Organ Mountains to protect the peaks and trails outside of Las Cruces. In addition, the group is asking that the existing Manzano Wilderness be designated a Wilderness Study Area to help preserve a critical wildlife corridor through the Sandia and Manzano Mountains and that the San Juan Basin Badlands and Columbine-Hondo are in northern New Mexico be protected.

“America’s Great Outdoors should protect our shared public lands here in New Mexico and throughout the United States,” said Zoe Krasney at The Wilderness Society in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Protecting, connecting and restoring our lands and waters will preserve our valuable clean drinking water supplies. By protecting places like Otero Mesa, Ute Mountain, Organ Mountains and the existing Manzano Wilderness, we will ensure that young people have the opportunity to reconnect with their natural heritage today and for generations to come.” Protection of these iconic New Mexico landscapes is supported by state and local government officials, hunting and recreation groups and the people of New Mexico.

Protecting these lands will give New Mexicans the opportunity to actively reconnect our children to their incredible natural heritage. "New Mexico youth are the subject of some alarming statistics — high obesity and diabetes rates and low graduation rates. We know that connecting young people with nature, and exposing them to exercise in the outdoors improves health, behavior and test scores, said Kristina Ortez, Southwest Youth Representative for the Sierra Club. “We are grateful the administration is listening to New Mexico's youth. We hope they hear their message loud and clear: there is a need for more funding and resources to provide these youth with better opportunities to visit and enjoy our public lands, and give them a pathway to green jobs."

The groups also urged the administration to encourage and facilitate the management of all public lands and waters for both present and future climate changes, basing all decisions on sound science. “Staving off the impacts of a changing climate requires dramatically altering current thinking about land and wildlife conservation and creating a focus on building resilience into ecosystems to help them adapt to a warming world, “ according to Sanders Moore, Environment New Mexico.

The administration will hold listening sessions at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Road, NE, on July 17. The public is encouraged to attend the sessions and to provide feedback at http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/