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Despite Federal Setbacks and Political Tricks, Broad Support Demonstrated for Protecting Wildlife and Clean Energy Future in Chaco
Madeleine Carey, 505-660-0161, WildEarth Guardians Greater
Santa Fe, NM: Amidst the Trump Administration’s alarming budget proposals and efforts to cripple government's ability to safeguard public health and the environment, New Mexico’s 53rd legislative session closes with hope that the state’s wildlife, clean air, and water have champions in the Land of Enchantment.
WildEarth Guardians particularly applauds the state’s efforts to protect Greater Chaco from fracking (HM70), as well as the bipartisan support for a bill banning coyote killing contests (SB268). With a democratic majority in the NM House and Senate, and a rising tide of support, these two landmark efforts won majority approval in the House and Senate, respectively.
Guardians also commends passage of SM102, sponsored by Sen. Benny Shendo Jr. (D-Jemez Pueblo) which furthers transparency in state energy development by requiring comprehensive reporting on flaring and venting natural gas, and SM119 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Dona Ana) which asks the Department of Tourism and Department of Economic Development to study the viability and impact of a state office of outdoor recreation in New Mexico.
HM70, Protection of Chaco Landscape, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia) and Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo) passed the House 31-28 and will move forward regardless of the Governor’s signature. The Chaco Senate companion memorial, sponsored by Senators Linda Lopez (D-Bernalillo), Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo), John Pinto (D-Gallup) and Benny Shendo Jr., as well as the House version of SB268 failed to receive floor votes after passing through their respective committees before the session clock ran out. A bill to ban trapping (SB286) on public lands was introduced by Sen. Pete Campos (D-San Miguel) but time ran out before the bill could move ahead. In all cases, sponsors and supporters have committed to continuing efforts between now and the 2019 NM Legislative Session.
“The Trump agenda may have found its way to some New Mexican legislators, but it’s clear that the majority of our representatives are still pushing the public interest perspective forward,” said Rebecca Sobel, Climate & Energy Senior Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “Special interest representatives succeeded in running out the clock and blocking key votes on legislative priorities, but the unprecedented support echoed in Committee chambers grows louder as pro wildlife and clean energy efforts move forward.”
The Chaco memorial drew unprecedented support as members from Tribes and Pueblos across the region echoed the recent call from Navajo Nation requesting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) stop fracking the Greater Chaco area until the agency fully consults with New Mexico Tribes in updating the resource management plan.
“By passing Chaco Protection, New Mexican legislators are telling the Bureau of Land Management and Senators Udall and Heinrich to curb the fracking onslaught,” Sobel said. “The politicos in D.C. may be rolling out the red carpet for fossil fuel interests on public lands, but New Mexicans understand that some places are too sacred to sacrifice, and our precious water is worth fighting for.”
The bipartisan bill to prohibit Coyote Killing Contests, SB268, sponsored by Sen. Steinborn and Sen. Moores (R-Bernalillo) passed the Senate 26-15 and House Judiciary 8-4. The bill promised to stop dozens of organized competitions, now held annually in New Mexico, in which participants compete for prizes for killing the most coyotes over a certain time period.
"We have demonstrated broad support for making our public lands more friendly for wildlife and safe for people by ending cruel coyote killing contests and trapping.” " said Madeleine Carey, Greater Gila Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “These legislative efforts have showcased a diverse and unique constituency who support protecting native wildlife and wild places, and our momentum will only grow over the next two years.”
New Mexico’s 53rd legislature was the opening battle in what is sure to be a long war of fighting back against Trump-era private interest focused policies. The legislative victories and growing wave of support behind these efforts light the path forward as we challenge federal attacks on climate, water, and wildlife across the West.