I recently had the privilege of joining 75 other demonstrators rallying in opposition to the diversion project being proposed on the Southwest’s last free-flowing river, the Gila River in Southwest New Mexico. The occasion was a Bureau of Reclamation hearing in Albuquerque where they were gathering public comments on this ecologically devastating project. We were there to be a voice for the Gila River and its birds. I have previously written about this project so I won’t spend time going into more detail, other than to say, if you want to learn about the proposed action and what you can do to make sure the birds and wildlife of the Gila River ecosystems are protected, please click here. Rather, I want to share with you some of my thoughts after attending the rally, and the implications for our essential conservation work here in New Mexico.
If you’re at all like me, you are having trouble staying positive these days. The news from our government, specifically the White House, is bleak. I’ll leave it to others to comment on the heartbreak of separating children from their parents at the border or the impending changes at the highest level of the judicial branch, and instead stick to what I know best, environmental issues.
The Trump administration is making sweeping changes to the way we steward our natural resources. These changes are happening fast and have the potential to fundamentally shift the paradigm of conservation and protection that the government, NGOs and industry have been operating within for the past half century. The unlawful re-interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the decision to leave the Paris Climate Accords, and the effort to reopen ANWR to drilling are a few of the headline grabbing examples, but there are many more equally calamitous decisions happening on a regular basis that don’t rise to the level of the national news.
Any one of these actions could have a devastating impact on our efforts to conserve and protect birds, wildlife, and the wild places we all depend on. And taken in totality, these changes seem truly unassailable. Now, you may expect the next thing I say to be that I was inspired by the showing of opposition at the Gila Diversion hearing and that I have a renewed hope for the power of the people and the steadfastness of our democratic institutions.
But quite honestly, I think that level of optimism would betray an ignorance of the facts and an imprudent level of naiveté about the current state of affairs. Instead, I left that hearing thinking of some advice that a very intelligent friend of mine passed along the other day; a bit of wisdom courtesy of the often quoted William Arthur Ward; "the pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
Well folks, grab a rope because we’ve got some sails to trim and if we are going to weather this storm it won’t be because of false hope and it certainly won’t be because of despondency and despair. It will be because we all took real, tangible action to make a difference in our communities, our state, and our nation. At Audubon, we know the importance of taking action, and here are just a few examples of the work we’re engaged in throughout the state:
Freshwater: We are ensuring the Rio Grande continues to be a source of life for birds and people in New Mexico by engaging in precedent-setting water transactions that protect nature’s share of water (more news to come on that this month) while transforming water management policy, providing science and planning expertise to state and federal agencies on riparian and wetland habitat restoration projects, and providing volunteer opportunities to get involved like our upcoming habitat restoration day at Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge.
Policy: We are suing the Trump Administration. The re-interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by Trump’s Department of the Interior is unlawful and will have devastating impacts on any number of plant and animal communities. This landmark legislation is responsible for the continued existence of Snowy Egrets, Wood Ducks, and Sandhill Cranes. This is an important fight at the highest level that must be won. To learn more about this action and to see how you can help click here.
Climate: Along with advocating for increasing renewable energy portfolio standards while properly siting the projects that provide it, Audubon New Mexico is advancing strategies that adapt to the reality of a changing climate. Our freshwater and working lands strategies take into consideration the best available models and climate projections and are aimed at conserving water and landscapes under a range of future scenarios, restoring resiliency to these systems by restoring natural processes and native species.
Education: Audubon New Mexico engages over 4,000 students annually in nature-based science education through our school programming both inside and outside of the classroom, and through our summer camp which provides nearly 250 children from ages 5-12 the chance to explore and learn on our 135 acre Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary. Next year we hope to double the number of campers and greatly increase the number of students and adults we can educate after we complete the David J. Henderson Pavilion on the south end of our campus. To learn more about how you can support this project, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
This is just some of the work our team at Audubon New Mexico is currently engaged in because it is our belief that in these challenging times the best thing we can do is take action, get involved and speak out. And we want you to join us. We will continue to do our best to provide opportunities for you, our members, to take the kind of actions our wildlife and wild places need us to take.
Thank you for being Audubon New Mexico members, we need you now more than ever.