Santa Fe is a little quieter this week with the departure of our state lawmakers and as the dust settles I want to give a quick rundown of some of the successful and unsuccessful bills that will have a significant impact on conservation in New Mexico but may not make the front page of our local newspapers.
In general, for those of us who believe a thriving natural world is an essential component of a prosperous future for New Mexico, the 2019 legislative session has provided plenty of reasons to celebrate while also serving as a reminder that our work is far from over.
At the top of the list of conservation wins this session should undoubtedly be SB 489, the Energy Transition Act. With this legislation, New Mexico has joined a growing number of states across this nation who have chosen to move away from a carbon-based economy by raising our renewable portfolio standards to 100 percent zero carbon resources by 2045. An achievement every New Mexican can be proud of and the 314 species of North American birds threatened by climate change will appreciate.
Another notable success is the creation of an Outdoor Recreation Division through SB 462. Audubon New Mexico supported this bill because we believe that building a broad and diverse constituency for conservation in New Mexico starts by ensuring that every New Mexican has access to the outdoors. We are glad to see the Governor’s and legislature’s commitment to this effort.
There were also a few bills passed that likely flew under many casual observer’s radars but could have significant impacts on our work to conserve wildlife and wild places in this state. Among those are the Water Data Act (HB 651), which will develop a modern, integrated approach to collecting, sharing and using data and information by state agencies for water management, and the New Mexico Healthy Soil Act (HB 204) which creates a healthy soil program in the New Mexico Department of Agriculture that will support projects to improve soil health across the state. Assuring we have healthy soils and clean and abundant water are basic necessities for conserving the rangelands, forests and watersheds that birds and people depend on.
There were also some setbacks. Many of the pro-conservation bills that did not pass this session were ones that would have brought needed systemic change to the way we manage resources in this state. Among those, Game Commission Reform (HB 263), the Environmental Review Act (HB 206), New Mexico Rural Heritage Act (HB 332) and the Resource Sustainability and Security Act (HB 28) would have made significant progress towards a more sustainable future for New Mexico and should be brought forward in future sessions.
And while we had hoped that the unsuccessful Southwest NM Water Projects bill (HB 417) sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Santa Fe) would have put a final nail in the coffin of the proposed Gila diversion, there is comfort in the fact that the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity bill (HB 373), which would have given increased authority to the NM CAP Entity, also failed to pass. All that is to say that we will need to continue to hold Governor Lujan-Grisham to her promise to put an end to the devastating Gila Diversion Project once and for all.
Of course there was plenty of other action that I don’t have space for here but am happy to talk about with anyone that would like to hear more about Audubon New Mexico’s position on the issues. Rest assured, your voice will continue to be elevated to decision-makers through our work because no single bill, memorial, or resolution will alleviate our continued responsibility to advocate for the birds, wildlife and health of the planet.
Thank you for your continued support.