Public Lands in New Mexico in Peril

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Lucas
 Herndon
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It’s no secret that New Mexico’s public lands appear different depending on whose lenses are looking at it. If you’re the average person who likes to get out and hike, hunt, fish, ride your bike, or even just enjoy the land while driving around, public lands are literally one of the major defining things that make New Mexico what it is today. But if you’re an oil tycoon from Houston or New York or a Trump stooge from Washington DC, New Mexico’s public lands look like just one thing: Dollar signs.

That’s right, literally WEEKS or even DAYS before Trump is gone, his BLM office will be trying to sell off Public Lands in New Mexico that belongs to ALL of us. Land that is ESPECIALLY vulnerable and sacred to Indigenous peoples.

Public land leases have been one of the most contentious things under Trump’s administration, ESPECIALLY around the sacred historical homelands of our Indigenous community of Chaco Canyon. Just this week, the Republican-held Senate Appropriations Committee REMOVED what little protections were in place to keep key portions of public lands near Chaco from being included in the January lease sales. That’s right, literally WEEKS or even DAYS before Trump is gone, his BLM office will be trying to sell off Public Lands in New Mexico that belongs to ALL of us. Land that is ESPECIALLY vulnerable and sacred to Indigenous peoples.

We know the BLM is theoretically open to postponing these kinds of decisions as also this week the BLM in Colorado postponed making final decisions around a lease sale there that is near the Chimney Rock National Monument, another beloved piece of land in the US Public Land portfolio AND important Indigenous site. What’s the difference between Colorado and New Mexico? Much of it probably has to do with Colorado’s EXTENSIVE push for greater regulation of the oil and gas sector as a whole, something activists and politicians alike have been calling for in New Mexico for years but little has been done on the ground.

Last week, Colorado outright banned routine venting and flaring of dangerous oil and gas byproducts like methane. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised similar regulations in New Mexico, but so far, efforts by the NM Environment Department to pass sufficient rules have left many wanting as the proposed rules are filled with loopholes that would exclude MOST of the offending wells in the state.

Even in other places around the state, like the New Mexico portion of the Permian Basin, Federal lease sales for oil interests threaten much of what makes our state beautiful. And during the massive oil market crash earlier this year, what happened? Many of those wells on our land were abandoned and now it’s on us as taxpayers to clean up after these oil companies.

There’s a great report out today on how one national firm ran big influence campaigns all over the country at the behest of Big Oil. One of the groups pushing that agenda is New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity, who of course is pushing the same line as New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Power the Future: Drill baby, drill.

Our public lands are more than just dirt to be dug up for the resources underneath. They are sacred spaces for those who were here before colonization and for those of us who live here now. All lease sales should be postponed until after the Biden administration takes the reins.

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Alissa Barnes :: Executive Director
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Alissa Barnes is Executive Director at ProgessNow New Mexico where she leads a team that works on message development, issue and voter education, and amplification of progressive messages and values. She leads the organization in strategy development, fundraising, and organizational growth and sustainability.

Alissa’s background includes nearly 12 years at Roadrunner Food Bank where Alissa led the development and creation of multiple programs that are now national models, invested in community building and collaborations, and worked closely with elected officials, educating about hunger and why policies would either benefit or hurt clients in food lines. She has a BA from the University of New Mexico and various non-profit certifications.
  • If she followed her childhood dream, she would be a Broadway tap dancing star
  • Has seen Frozen 1 and 2 over 100 times
  • Loves heavy metal concerts
Marianna Anaya :: Deputy Director
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Marianna oversees strategic messaging and creative implementation tactics for issue-based and political campaigns. She leads the team’s digital and earned media programs, bringing a New Mexico values-based approach to her work. 

Marianna’s background includes race and ethnic studies in education as a focus at UT Austin and UCLA, political campaign work, staffing former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as leading organizing and communications work for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

  • She currently serves as the Board President of Emerge NM. 
  • Her hobbies include getting more women, queer folks and BIPOC elected to office.
  • She has three cuddle-worthy dogs at home
Lucas Herndon :: Energy and Policy Director
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Lucas’ focus is on all things energy and environment, election integrity projects and general messaging strategy. He is often the front facing voice for PNNM when it comes to issues surrounding methane, renewable energy, oil industry accountability, and public lands issues. 

Lucas has an extensive background in public lands and solar energy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 and has participated in every local election since 2012 through phone banking, online organizing, and poll watching. Lucas is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces where he has served in various capacities of leadership including as President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, District Director for the Dona Ana County Democratic Party, and attending and completing the inaugural classes of the Las Cruces Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Las Cruces Tree Stewards. 

  • Owned a tattoo shop called Omega Tattoo & Supply 
  • Once got a chin bump “what’s up” from James Harden on an airplane when Harden saw Lucas’ beard 
  • Has a minor in Medieval and Early Modern History
Josette Arvizu :: Communications Director
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Josette Arvizu is the Communications Director at ProgressNow New Mexico where she oversees the development and implementation of systems that further the external and internal communications of the organization.

Josette’s background in marketing includes copywriting, paid media, SEO and content strategy for businesses and nonprofits, including convention and visitor bureaus from Bermuda to Anaheim. She began her career teaching writing to college students while in New Mexico State University’s MFA in creative writing program. Her previous work promoting diversity and inclusion includes coordination of writing and traditional arts workshops for Native American youth at the Tucson Indian Center.
  • Is a cat mom to an obstinate orange tabby named Quasimodo and a restless grey cat named Squirrel
  • Hasn’t heard a pun she didn’t like
  • Minored in dance in college and is an avid follower of ballet on Instagram
Jackie Aguirre :: Communications Specialist
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Jackie’s focus is on graphics and social media marketing that promote progressive issues across our state. 

Jackie’s background includes work in the Reproductive Justice space focusing on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican-American communities.

  • She is a co-owner of a community art gallery celebrating BIPOC artists
  • She is a long-time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and works with college students to provide condoms/dental dams, menstrual products & other resources
  • She is a part of a group of women who love craft beer and hosts monthly beer shares with beer from all over the country
Edgar Cruz :: Communications Specialist
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Edgar Cruz is a Communications Specialist at ProgressNow New Mexico where he focuses on video creation and research that promotes progressive issues across our state.

Edgar has a background producing multimedia initiatives. With over five years of radio production experience, he is a movement agent who believes in exploring all avenues of media to inform and engage community.

  • Is a host of Espejos de Aztlan on KUNM
  • Is a member of Generation Justice
  • First discovered his passion for organizing as a high school student after joining the Youth Alliance in 2009