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Climate Change Bill Up in House, NM Commissioner Chimes In

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June 25, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A landmark climate-change bill could be set for a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as Friday, and wildlife managers and sportsmen at home in New Mexico are putting in their two cents. Kent Salazar is an avid hunter and angler, as well as a state Game and Fish Department commissioner. He says the effects of climate change are felt even more directly by the state's non-human populations.

"Trout waters can be severely impacted by increasing temperatures, and more and more we're seeing that happen in New Mexico, so this is a very critical piece of legislation."

He says both sportsmen and conservation groups seem to be united in their support of the bill making its way through Congress. He says it isn't perfect, but at least would begin to slow the pace of climate change by implementing a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emitters.

Opponents of the bill say it would be expensive and would mean higher energy costs for consumers. Salazar and other supporters counter that those costs can be offset, and that society will pay far higher costs down the road if action is not taken now.

Salazar says the impacts of climate change are already being seen in New Mexico through increasing drought, wildfires and changing weather patterns.

"All these types of things are happening to the wildlife, and just like it's increasing temperatures for us, it's severely impacting them. So we need to make sure that this piece of legislation gets passed in a timely manner."

Salazar also notes that some funds raised from the cap-and-trade system would go toward programs on the state and local levels that help wildlife adapt to the changing climate, something he says is critical to the survival of many species.

The bill is the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009" (H.R. 2454), also known as the Waxman-Markey bill.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM