Executive order aims to conserve undeveloped land in the state

By: - September 1, 2021 5:08 am

The Rio Grande in New Mexico.

New Mexico could have 30% of all lands in the state protected for conservation by 2030 if an executive order signed last week by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is successful. 

Billed as the 30×30 framework, the state’s effort is unique in accounting for tribal and traditional land uses, such as the state’s watershed, according to the governor’s office. It’s part of the national effort to address climate change directed by President Joe Biden.

The conservation goal requires state agencies, land owners, conservationists, tribal communities and land management agencies to begin discussions on how to better manage New Mexico’s undeveloped land. 

Agencies will make quarterly reports on their progress using a “broad view” of conservation — protecting resources and habitat but maintaining access to the public, and working with ranches and farms. 

Greg Peters is with Conservation Voters New Mexico, one of the organizations that has been working on this since January. He said he expects to remain at the table until the goal is met.

“The pandemic has shown us that we are directly tied to the land,” he said. “New Mexico’s landscapes are really a part of our state identity, and in the pandemic we really acknowledged the importance of our wellbeing.” 

That includes economic security, food security, public health and addressing the climate crisis, Peters said. “Protection of public lands we’ve really recognized now. It feeds into so many other areas, and so many other priorities across the political spectrum.”

The order also directs an additional 20% of the land in the state to be designated as climate stabilization areas. “Our understanding is that it will be more innovative, nontraditional approaches to protecting areas that have a heightened risk for climate instability,” Peters said. “So not necessarily any kind of formal designations. Acknowledging that these areas are ripe for protection.” 

Under the order, stakeholders will also be asked to come up with plans to protect the state’s watershed and prevent degradation of lakes, rivers and aquifers. Lujan Grisham is also ordering  the preservation of “landscapes with the potential to increase water yields or infiltration, wildlife habitat and promote healthy soils and watersheds.”

The executive order is part of an effort to keep average global temperature increases under 1.5 degrees Celsius and is responding to “the need for fast action on climate change.” 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.