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Thursday , January 24 2019
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Home | Tag Archives: Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce

Tag Archives: Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce

Conservationists: NM Will Lose Big If Conservation Fund Isn’t Renewed

ALBUQUERQUE – Conservationists are alarmed that only three months remain before one of the nation’s most popular conservation programs could end because Congress has not acted.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has improved national and local parks in New Mexico for more than 50 years, but is set to expire at the end of September.

The program doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars; rather, it is funded by federal oil royalties from offshore drilling in public waters.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N. M., is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers that sponsored a bill to reauthorize the fund. He noted it has benefited residents in all 50 states.

“It’s an immensely successful program, which has provided funds to nearly every county in New Mexico, and the United States, to conserve public open space,” Udall said.

Since 1965, New Mexico has received more than 1,000 state and local grants from the LWCF, totaling nearly $43 million.

Outdoor recreation contributes $9.9 billion to New Mexico’s economy and supports nearly 100,000 jobs in the state.

Carrie Hamblen, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, says funding from the program has helped make public land more accessible, allowed the state to maintain outdoor recreation areas, and helped many of the state’s cities and towns.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped create spaces in their communities that add to the quality of life, help local businesses and also, in some cases, helped drive tourism,” Hamblen said.

These funds also have helped correct the widespread issue of “checkerboarded” land. For example, in 2005, LWCF funding helped purchase the last 13 acres needed to complete the first phase of development at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraz says other recreational facilities in southern New Mexico would not exist without funding from the program.

“In New Mexico, we rely heavily on outdoor recreation as an economic boost for our community,” said Barraz, “and on top of that, it also helps provide funding for our state and local parks like – for swimming pools, playgrounds.”

Conservationists also want Congress to fully fund LWCF, at $900 million. That has only happened twice in the fund’s history, with funding fluctuating year to year because money is more often reallocated for other purposes.

Author – Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM

Bills on Wilderness in NM National Monuments Reintroduced

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have just reintroduced two bills to designate sections of two national monuments as wilderness areas to protect them from future development.

The bills would extend wilderness protections to parts of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. Longtime sportsman Max Trujillo said the designation would give the lands an added layer of protection at a time when some in Congress want to transfer control of large amounts of federal public land to the states.

“In all of the proposed legislation for public lands transfer, either to the state or to private holdings, wilderness areas have been excluded from those transfers or exchanges,” Trujillo said.

Wilderness protection would forbid vehicles or any mechanized travel in the area, thus creating a more serene natural experience.

Similar bills have been introduced three times since 2009. Opponents argue that states should have more control over the public lands within their borders.

Carrie Hamblen, president and CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, said she worries that if the state of New Mexico gets hold of federal public lands, it would sell them off or allow for more oil and gas drilling in order to plug the state budget deficit.

“The last thing I would want to see is an oil rig or development out in these public spaces that are so critical to our local communities,” Hamblen said. “In Las Cruces, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, we’ve seen a 102 percent increase in visitation to our community and to those national monuments.”

Of the land in question, 80 percent is already managed with conservation in mind as part of wilderness study areas.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM
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