President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last night and we have every right to be concerned- we would be naive to not be concerned. New Mexico has some of the most beautiful lands in the world and is home to twenty-three federally recognized tribes. What does this Supreme Court pick mean for the Land of Enchantment?
Native American tribes across the country are the one group of people that are impacted by nearly every level of government at once. Here in New Mexico, we are home to twenty-three federally recognized tribes- twenty-three sovereign nations with their own unique governmental systems. The Supreme Court has a terrible track record of denying basic human dignities to Native and Indigenous peoples.
With the humanitarian crises on the border dominating headlines the past few weeks and this week’s massive Supreme Court news, it’s easy to forget there are still other matters being decided in the halls of Congress that affect Americans everyday lives. Congressman Steve Pearce is pushing through two bills RIGHT NOW that would do away with important management and oversight of the Bureau of Land Management when it comes to issuing permits for drilling oil wells on public lands.
Pearce, himself a millionaire oilman, of course, claims this is about “cutting red tape” but considering he’s running for governor this year it sure seems like he’s trying to do his buddies in the Permian Basin a huge favor while he’s still on Capitol Hill. But even as governor Pearce could still make it easier for oil and gas companies at the expense of our public lands, our environment, and even if practical policies that would actually net oil and gas companies more revenue like fixing the Methane Rule.
Just look at Governor Susana Martinez’ role with oil and gas over the last eight years. And in the midst of everything that is happening, Martinez not only wrote a letter earlier in the year that encouraged the feds to support the undoing of the permitting process but actually traveled to Washington DC earlier this month and testified IN SUPPORT of Pearce’s bills.
Well, we’re not going to let Pearce’s or Martinez’ attempts to undermine our public lands and our natural resources without saying something. That’s why we’ve launched these digital ads to help spread awareness of what’s happening.
ProgressNow New Mexico will be looking at some top-level races more in-depth over the next few weeks to bring our perspective to the key races we’re expecting to see in New Mexico this year. New Mexico is in the national spotlight as one of the “most likely to flip” states in terms of our governor’s race. Our series will focus on the offices that New Mexicans can vote for statewide. This is the fourth piece in our series. The New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) is first and foremost charged with managing the vast amounts of land within our state’s borders, managing leases and sales to entities who use the land, and collecting monies from those sales and leases to fund education in the state.
ProgressNow New Mexico will be looking at some top-level races more in-depth over the next few weeks to bring our perspective to the key races we’re expecting to see in New Mexico this year. New Mexico is in the national spotlight as one of the “most likely to flip” states in terms of our governor’s race. Our series will focus on the offices that New Mexicans can vote for statewide. This is the third piece in our series. The position of Lt. Governor can seem pretty inglorious compared to other statewide positions with specific duties as Secretary of State or Attorney General.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Commission has just called a last-minute emergency meeting to try to push through a new rule limiting New Mexicans access to our public streams and rivers. The proposed rule would infringe upon the constitutional rights of New Mexico citizens and tourists to utilize publicly accessible streams and their streambeds, including those flowing through or adjacent to private property, for fishing, boating, or other recreational purposes. The rule also holds out a false promise to landowners, who would be required to undergo an arduous process to have a stream certified as non-navigable and subject to the new rule and trespass statute. We wrote about this about a month ago so if you’d like to learn more, go check out that article here. And all of this is happening while the New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Supreme Court have already made this abundantly clear: the state’s waters are for all New Mexico citizens, not just the wealthy few.
As an engaged citizenry, we are accustomed to fighting for the rights we deserve. Part of that, unfortunately, is fighting for rights that were taken away, often hastily and discretely, often related to protecting the interests of campaign donors. So is the case with stream access in New Mexico – a right that was guaranteed by water law when New Mexico was still a territory, reiterated in our state constitution in 1911, backed by a 1945 Supreme Court opinion, and upheld again in 2014 by another opinion by then-Attorney General Gary King. Last year ProgressNow NM’s Education Fund helped bring attention to this issue through a series of commercials and with YOUR help. More than 100 years of state history was quickly unwound in 2015, when Senate Bill 226 passed the Senate by a wide margin in the early afternoon of the next-to-last day of the 60-day session, then passed the House on a party-line vote that evening, and signed into law by the governor a few days later.
Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing big changes to New Mexico’s national monuments, but he didn’t recommend eliminating or shrinking and Rep. Steve Pearce is not happy about it. In a press release this morning, the congressman blasted Zinke’s recommendations, saying:
“Secretary Zinke’s recommendation fails to provide the solutions New Mexico needs. Since 2008, I have been working with the local community to establish a compromise that protects the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument (OMDP) while preserving the multiple uses that public lands provide.” Here’s the full press release from Pearce:
While the recommendation to not shrink Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks AND Rio Grande del Norte national monuments is a small victory, the proposed “management changes” in Zinke’s memos are still extremely worrisome. Read More: BREAKING: Zinke proposed to open NM monuments to corporate mining and other “traditional uses”
So, why is Pearce so mad? Pearce’s base in Dona Ana County is largely based on the rural ranching community who’ve fought against wilderness and the national monument initiatives for decades.
This weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a leaked version of Interior Secretary Zinke’s memo to Donald Trump with recommendations to significantly change at least six western public national monuments – including two here in New Mexico. Zinke has two plans for Trump: create new powers to let the president give away thousands of acres of public monument land, or turn monument land over to “other uses” to include mining and logging. Four western monuments in other states could be shrunk under the first proposal and here at home both the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument are on the list to be opened to up to corporate use, forever destroying our public lands. RELATED: Click here to see how Rep. Steve Pearce is REALLY mad that he lost the battle to shrink our national monuments.
Zinke’s memo suggests that a “broader set of activities” be allowed within both OMDP and RGDN monuments. “It emphasizes the need to adjust the proclamations to address concerns of local officials or affected industries, saying the administration should permit ‘traditional uses’ now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.”
Congressman Steve Pearce attended a small community meeting in Anthony today to answer questions about immigration, public lands, and healthcare but mostly used political platitudes and doublespeak to avoid answering anything. ProgressNow New Mexico was there and broadcast the whole thing live. Check it out:
Despite being over 15 minutes late the congressman still made constituents wait longer as he took questions from Univision reporters outside. By the time he actually started answering questions, it was nearly 10:30 and he only stuck around until 11:30, despite the event being billed from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. The majority of questions from community members centered on immigration and then mostly about his stance on DACA and President Trump’s planned rescinding of that program.