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.