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Heinrich will push for access to land

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Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said Tuesday that he’ll support the nomination of Sally Jewell for interior secretary but vowed to press her, if she is confirmed by the Senate, to create more access to public lands that are currently blocked by private landowners.

Heinrich, an avid hunter and fisherman, said outdoorsmen across the nation are growing increasingly frustrated as private landowners buy large tracts of land that sometimes completely cut off public access to public lands.

The Sabinosa Wilderness in northern New Mexico is one such example, he said.

“It’s surrounded by private land and there is currently no legal access — not so much as an easement for a trail,” Heinrich told the Journal on Tuesday. “It’s completely landlocked by private land. There are a number of places like that.”

Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the lack of public access creates a “real issue of fairness.”

“You often have situations where one of the surrounding private landowners is able to use that public land — even take clients hunting and fishing on it — but the broader public can’t use that public land,” Heinrich said.

The New Mexico Democrat said legislation pending on Capitol Hill, including his own HUNT Act, would set aside 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase easements to public lands from private properties.

At her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Jewell, CEO of the outdoor outfitting company REI, said she was familiar with the issue and would work to provide access to public lands from private lands “as long as there is a willing (private) party.”

Nuclear waste

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Tuesday that if the Department of Energy wants New Mexico to take on more nuclear waste, it needs to do more for the state.

Udall’s comments came after an announcement last week that the DOE wants to send waste from radioactive waste tanks in Hanford, Wash., to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

The proposal could send as much as 3.1 million gallons of Hanford waste to WIPP, where radioactive waste has been disposed of since 1999 in a deep salt mine burrowed in the desert east of Carlsbad. Udall said the announcement has “reignited the debate about whether to expand WIPP and the types of waste WIPP can receive.” WIPP is not currently authorized to accept the kind of high-level nuclear waste produced at Hanford.

“DOE is asking New Mexico to do more to help clean up in Washington state,” Udall said in his weekly telephone call with New Mexico radio reporters. “Well, we have our own cleanup project at Los Alamos and it needs more funding to meet its goals. DOE has also stopped including state economic assistance funding for the state in its budget in recent years. If New Mexico is going to do more for DOE, then DOE needs to do more for New Mexico.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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