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New Mexico’s tribes and pueblos have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis, Indigenous leaders told the New Mexico Climate Summit in Santa Fe on Tuesday.
Wilfred Herrera Jr., the All Pueblo Council of Governors chairman and former Laguna Pueblo governor, called for state, tribal and federal governments to work together on climate solutions using traditional knowledge of ecosystems.
“The impacts of climate change, pollution and environmental contamination are not isolated or contained within borders,” Herrera said.
Extreme heat and drought are affecting local hunting, fishing and ranching, Jicarilla Apache President Edward Velarde said.
“Plants and herbs used for traditional ceremonies are hard to find,” Velarde said. “Our lakes are drying up and we’re seeing more fires in the region.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Indigenous people have a responsibility as “stewards of the land” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Nez also said climate policies should address the economic challenge for tribes finding other revenue sources as they transition away from coal and oil and gas production.
The Navajo Nation supported New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act, which paves the way for the state’s utilities to transition to renewable energy.
“The act includes support and training for displaced San Juan Generating Station workers as well as the coal miners, the majority of which are Navajo,” Nez said.
New Mexico’s tribes have taken on a variety of climate-focused projects in recent years.
The Mescalero Apache Tribe has a forest thinning program to prevent massive wildfires.
The Jicarilla Apache Nation is building several solar farms, including a 500-acre array that will help provide energy for Albuquerque.
Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said tribal governments and tribal businesses will be “a large part” of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions across New Mexico’s economy by 2050.
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.