Forced Resettlement of Rural New Mexicans

New Mexico’s two Senators have introduced legislation to transfer more than 330 square miles of ‘mixed use’ federal lands to ‘sole use’ for recreation. This use is defined as recreation if you can walk in – vehicles of any type are not allowed. This transfer is in addition to the approximately 750,000 acres that were transferred by the Obama Administration from mixed use to sole use.

New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates (6.2%) and one of the lowest rates of workforce participation (59%) in the country. New Mexico’s hard-working taxpayers are struggling to support their families. Rural New Mexicans are moving away to find employment.

When people are asked, “Do you want to protect our federal lands?” the answer is overwhelmingly “Yes.” But a more accurate question would be, “Do you want to end the centuries-old practice of ranchers and environmental protectionists working side by side regarding New Mexico’s federal lands?” I think the answer would be quite different.

When our Senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, live and work in Washington and visit New Mexico only when required, they forget how many New Mexicans are integrally connected the land – not just by earning a living for their families, but also by serving as good stewards of the land. The Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association says that Martin Heinrich declined a request for a meeting to discuss public land matters.

“This continues to put layer after layer of federal discretion over land that doesn’t do any more to protect it but places more constrains on the people who have been living off the land for generations,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

Our Senators claim that recreational use only for our federal lands will create jobs in tourism and recreation. But if this claim were true, rural New Mexico would be thriving and growing. Reality is the opposite. Homes, churches, schools, stores and restaurants are being closed and abandoned. Our Senators have provided no help to resettle the hard-working rural New Mexicans who are now prevented from earning a living on our federal lands.

Write our Senators and tell them to return our land to the people of New Mexico.