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A ‘Yes’ to Mill Levy Question will protect our natural world

This coming Tuesday, voters have the opportunity of a generation to continue our proud legacy of good stewardship of our lands and waters. We can continue to protect the lands and waters that define our quality of life in Bernalillo County. We can vote Yes on “Open Space for All.”

Open Space for All, or the Mill Levy Question as it appears on the ballot, is not about red votes or blue votes. A Yes vote on the Mill Levy Question is a bipartisan vote to preserve water quality in our rivers and streams; a vote to protect land, parks and trails along the Rio Grande; a vote to ensure that, in the face of dramatic population growth, our children and grandchildren have the chance to access and explore the natural world.

Bernalillo County voters created the open space program in 1998 and overwhelmingly approved its extension in 2000. For the past 16 years, Bernalillo County has acquired and maintained many cherished properties throughout the county: Carlito Springs, Bachechi, Gutierrez-Hubbell House, to name a few. Now it’s time to renew that commitment.

Just as important as the protected natural areas and cultural resources are the free programs and benefits designed to deliver environmental education and resource-based recreation. For example:

Bernalillo County Open Space serves as an incubator for local agriculture. County dollars have and will be used to acquire new farmland, and restore and protect existing land. This commitment can foster the next generation of Bernalillo farmers; ensure healthy food for people throughout our county; and even provide critical habitat for birds and wildlife.

Open Space Prescription Trails can be found at 6 properties throughout the county. These trails prove that recreation, farming and conservation can coexist, and help to combat systemic problems like childhood obesity and rising health care costs by promoting healthy lifestyles.

County dollars are heavily leveraged through partnerships. The county has worked with municipalities to help complete local conservation visions; contributed to the realization of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge; and worked with the University of New Mexico and the Bosque School on the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program, an education hub in our community.

Without a dedicated source of funding for open space, county government will not be able to maintain the diversity and quality of programming it now delivers nor can it keep pace with growth and protect open space areas in developing parts of our county.

County government has invested general fund dollars for conservation of open space. But expected population growth will increase budget demands, likely reducing expenditures in the future. In fact, just this year, the county was forced to cut the open space budget for the first time since the dedicated funding source expired in 2006.

The Open Space for All measure provides vital funding to help protect our water quality and natural areas, and all for $13 per year for the typical Bernalillo homeowner.

Open space in Bernalillo County has always been a grass roots effort, with funding approved by voters of all political parties. And this Tuesday, the voters of this community once again have the chance to decide what we want the future of our county to be.

Earlier this week, the editorial board at the Albuquerque Journal noted that, “Open space is an important quality-of-life issue for metro-area residents.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Please vote yes on the Mill Levy Question for open space.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Albuquerque Journal recommends a “No” vote on the Mill Levy Question.