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Saving the Sagebrush Sea: An Imperiled Western Legacy

Nearly 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush habitat for their survival.


New Mexico

Natural Resource Funding Provided in Energy Bill

With the support of all three New Mexico delegates, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the landmark legislation known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 in late June, including a key provision that will benefit sportsmen for decades to come.

Overall, the measure aims to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and is expected to create hundreds of thousands of clean energy.

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Court Ruling Benefits New Mexico's Otero Mesa

Otero MesaOn April 28th, 2009 a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to uphold the National Environmental Policy Act in its 2005 Resource Management Plan for Otero Mesa. BLM put together its plan in response to requests for oil and gas leases on Otero Mesa after Harvey E. Yates Co. struck natural gas there in 1997.

In its decision, the appeals court said that the BLM failed to consider an alternative that would have put the area off limits to drilling and did not adequately consider potential impacts of drilling on the area's diverse plant and animal life and on a large underground water source.

Since the plan was released in 2005, it has been met with staunch opposition from Governor Bill Richardson, other state agencies and environmental groups, who finally sued BLM over the plan.

The court ruled that the BLM must complete a more detailed environmental review, including considering totally closing Otero Mesa to development, showing more evidence for conclusions about impacts on the area's aquifer and appropriately weighing oil and gas development against other possible uses, including conservation.

Read more about Otero Mesa

Rio Grande Gorge Eyed for Protection

Rio Grande GorgeNew Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman recently announced legislation to protect the cultural, ecological, recreational and scenic resources of public lands around the Rio Grande Gorge in Taos and Rio Arriba counties. The "El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act", which is co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall, would protect approximately 235,980 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The majority of this land - 214,560 acres - would classify the Rio Grande Gorge as a National Conservation Area. Another 13,420 acres in Cerro de Yuta on the east-side and 8,000 acres in Rio San Antonio in the west would be managed as wilderness. Altogether, the bill would protect key elk wintering grounds and migratory corridors along the plateau between Ute Mountain and San Antonio Mountain, as well as protect habitat for other game species and birds of prey.

This bill will first go to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

My view: Sportsmen must unite in support of public lands, wildlife

September 29, 2007
Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican

The U.S. Senate is getting an earful from oil industry lobbyists who are out to get rich on New Mexico’s public lands at our expense.

They’re fixing to turn our Western public lands into an oil and gas pincushion. The more Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici hear from these slick hired guns, the more likely it is that we will have to settle for watered-down energy legislation that doesn’t consider how New Mexicans want to use our land.

Like a lot of hunters and fishermen in New Mexico, I’m having a hard time seeing how our fish and game habitat can remain intact with all of the oil and gas drilling planned for our state in the years ahead.

The numbers are scary. About 126,000 new wells are planned on public land throughout the West in the next few years. Each comes with a razed “pad” the size of your average grocery store parking lot and an industrial-grade road that connects it to other wells.

With this in mind, I joined several other sportsmen from around the West earlier this month and visited Washington, D.C., to share my concerns with members of the Senate. The Senate is in the midst of drafting a new energy bill, but without input from sportsmen. The legislation could be seriously lacking issues like the impact oil and gas drilling has on wildlife and their habitat — and on hunters and anglers.

Read the rest of the letter here.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Publishes Oil and Gas Development Guidelines with Wildlife in Mind

New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish Press Release, Sept 4, 2007 - In its ongoing efforts to enhance and protect New Mexico's wildlife and habitat, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has published a set of guidelines for oil and gas developers, regulatory agencies and concerned citizens to promote attention to conservation while continuing to develop energy resources.

"These guidelines were developed at my request to further conserve our precious wildlife and supporting habitat," Governor Bill Richardson said.

The Oil and Gas Development Guidelines publication is available on the Department's website, www.wildlife.state.nm.us or by clicking here. It contains 39 pages of discussion, research, and suggested options to further responsible energy development while maintaining responsible environmental practices. Written and researched by Department biologist Rachel Jankowitz, the publication addresses the inherent problems energy development poses to wildlife, such as habitat fragmentation and degradation, erosion, water quality, and chemical hazards. It also includes recommendations to avoid problems and mitigate existing habitat degradation.

The guidelines address oil and gas development effects on sensitive species and the state's species of greatest conservation need, as identified in the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for New Mexico. It also recognizes the importance of wildlife to New Mexico's economy and quality of life. Wildlife-related recreation brings an estimated $1 billion a year to the state.

The guidelines are intended to provide information and promote discretionary use among industries, regulatory agencies and citizens who recognize the negative impacts oil and gas development can have on wildlife and habitat -- and who are open to suggestions about ways to remedy problems.