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Forum to Address Otero Mesa Concerns Saturday

September 17, 2010

ALAMOGORDO - Even as the Census Bureau announces record poverty numbers and New Mexicans continue to struggle economically, a forum in Alamogordo Saturday looks at the riches that can come from protecting key public lands. It is being billed as a forum on jobs and clean water in the West.

Forum organizer John Cornell, campaign coordinator with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, says they'll have experts on hand to address some of the concerns recently raised by the possibility of protecting Otero Mesa.

"We want to make sure that ranching is continued, which it will be, as well as hunting and other access and outdoor recreational uses."

Cornell says special places like Otero Mesa bring in lots of revenue and jobs for local communities from outdoor recreation and tourism.

"Actually, the largest outdoor segment financially is birding, and there's lots of opportunities on the Mesa for birders and all kinds of outdoor recreation."

He says it's also important to preserve the quality of water in the Salt Basin aquifer beneath the mesa and the area's Chihuahuan grasslands, which are the largest grasslands remaining in the country.

The forum will feature an economist and leaders from other western communities who have gone through the process of protecting public lands. The event runs 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the NMSU Tays Event Center, Alamogordo. It is open to the public and a question-and-answer session will follow.

State Sen. Steve Fischmann, Las Cruces, is the keynote speaker. Others on the panel include Ben Alexander of Headwaters Economics Institute, Bozeman, Mont.; Ray Hatch, former mayor of Taft, Calif.; southeast Utah businesswoman Susan Hand; Las Cruces City Council member Gill Sorg; Alamogordo sportsman Bobby Curran; and Craig Roepke of the New Mexico
Interstate Stream Commission.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM