NM needs federal government to protect our public lands - Albuquerque Journal

NM needs federal government to protect our public lands

New Mexico’s protected public lands are an important part of our businesses and way of life. Nearly half of the federal public lands in our state are Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, yet many of these aren’t permanently protected. Nationally, more than 85% of BLM lands have the potential to be conserved.

The Biden administration, through its America the Beautiful initiative, has the opportunity to provide more protections for more BLM lands and thereby meet the necessary goal of conserving 30% of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. By doing so, the administration can provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation, safeguard the climate, combat the biodiversity crisis and provide equitable access to nature.

Our outdoor industry is greatly dependent on our protected public lands, which inherently impact our economy. In fact, according to the Bureau of Economic Affairs (BEA) the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico generates $1.1 billion in wages and salaries, almost 26,000 jobs and almost 2% of our state’s GDP.

New Mexico’s open spaces and protected public lands include traditional homelands of Indigenous populations, watersheds for downstream communities, and outstanding fish and wildlife habitats. Protecting more of these BLM lands can help support local economies and tourism industries while preserving our outstanding opportunities for recreation including camping, hiking, paddling, hunting and fishing. Nationally, there are more than 29 million acres of public lands that need protection, yet for years the Department of Interior hasn’t utilized its ability to protect these important places. The BLM manages 13.5 million acres in New Mexico and nearly 355,000 acres of Lands with Wilderness Characteristics public lands.

We urge the Biden administration to use conservation tools like Backcountry Conservation Areas, Recreation Management Areas, Wilderness Study Areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to protect more BLM lands. In fact, in New Mexico, nearly 3.5 million acres of public lands managed by the BLM could be protected as Wilderness Study Areas. Some of the lands that need greater protection include Otero Mesa, San Juan Badlands and the Guadalupe Units in the Carlsbad field offices. These lands can also sequester significant amounts of carbon, help conserve scarce water resources and protect cultural landscapes and artifacts.

There are planning processes underway or upcoming in the Carlsbad, Farmington and Tri-County field offices as well as Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Through these collaborative opportunities for public engagement, public land users like ranchers, guides, outfitters, sportsmen, recreators and many others have been and will be able to provide community-based feedback to federal land managers. These processes are exactly the locally-led efforts that are a part of the America the Beautiful initiative.

We commend the administration’s efforts and encourage the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management to work with our state’s elected officials to do all they can to conserve and protect our nation’s important public lands and waters to safeguard our Land of Enchantment for generations to come.

EndeavOR New Mexico is the state’s outdoor recreation business alliance and is endeavoring to expand the outdoor recreation economy, engage the outdoor recreation community and enhance the outdoor recreation experience. More information is at endeavornm.org.

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