Over 500 New Mexicans rallied around the Capital in support of Public Lands on Wednesday, brought together by the threats of Trump administration supporters who are calling for federal lands to be sold off to the highest bidder.
The overwhelming response from those in attendance and the legislators who spoke in the rotunda: Not in New Mexico.
While the state saw some of its most vulnerable landmarks protected under the Obama administration, there have already been calls from industry-backed Republicans to undo federal land protections to allow drilling for minerals, increased grazing, and other development.
Most recently, Democrat Mary K. Papen, president pro-tem of the state senate, introduced SB 182, erroneously named Early Childhood Land Grant Fund, the bill would sell off 6.6 MILLION acres of New Mexico public lands.
When a democratic leader like Papen sides with an extremist like Gov. Martinez backed Public Lands Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, the result is hundreds of people showing up in protest. Rather than utilizing New Mexico’s existing Permanent Land Grant Fund, which currently has a balance in excess of $15 Billion (with a B), pro-oil-and-gas folks want to restrict access to 6.6 million acres of public lands around New Mexico in the name of helping children.
Rep. Angelica Rubio said it loud and clear. “Let me say this so Rep. Steve Pearce and Donald Trump can hear: Our public lands are NOT for sale in New Mexico,” she said. She went on to speak about the heritage of people from her district and their ties to the land.
Her sentiments were echoed by other members of Dona Ana’s new progressive caucus as Rep. Nathan Small, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, and Sen. Bill Soules all spoke about the importance of keeping public lands accessible and not reverting federal public lands to the State Land Office. Bills such as Papen’s 182 show how vulnerable public lands would be if placed into the pro-oil Martinez/Dunn administration.
SB 182 is up for review in the Senate Education Committee next Wednesday, February 8, when another demonstration in support of wildlife, public lands, and water is scheduled to take place.