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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Unique Landscapes in NM “Too Wild to Drill”

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013   

DONO ANA COUNTY, N.M. - The Wilderness Society has named New Mexico as one of eight states in breathtaking company.

In its new report, "Too Wild To Drill," the Land of Enchantment hosts two uncommon landscapes that are among the most unique and most threatened in the nation: Chaco Canyon, with its cultural artifacts, and Otero Mesa, which archaeology research associate Deni Seymour considers a library of New Mexico history.

"Key events occurred on Otero Mesa that relate to the Buffalo Soldiers, the Texas Rangers, one of the first governors of New Mexico," Seymour said. "It has villages. It has battle sites. It has sacred sites. (It) has rock art sites."

Seymour said the Chaco Canyon landscape is one of the last places where there is such a melding of cultural, historical, natural and sacred values in a relatively undisturbed landscape.

If oil and gas drilling is allowed in Otero Mesa, Seymour said, the undisturbed grasslands and wildlife, pronghorns, wind and ruins left untouched for years would change to mazes of pipelines, acre-wide well paths, drill rigs, racing trucks and dust trails that would scar the landscape for centuries.

Seymour said she also is worried about fracking.

"There's a lot of discussion as to whether fracking really does contaminate groundwater," she said. "The problem is that if we wait for it to happen, if you contaminate the aquifer, there's no way to recover from that. The salt-basin aquifer feeds the springs in the area."

Responding to the argument that our society counts on oil and gas for heat, transportation and many other services and conveniences it uses, Seymour said she understands the need for oil and gas and rare minerals - but there are some places where we shouldn't be drilling or mining.

"There's a lot of other places where oil and gas can be obtained and rare-earth minerals can be obtained," she said. "There are just some places that are so unique - those places shouldn't be drilled and mined. They should be exempt. And I'm arguing that Otero Mesa is one of those places."

Protection of these 12 special places is receiving strong support from Americans nationwide in a recent poll from Hart Research, which found 76 percent of respondents agree that there are places too special to open to oil and gas drilling.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comment concerning drilling in Otero Mesa until Sept. 12 at the Department of the Interior Web site.

The full report is online at wilderness.org.



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