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Weigh In On Future of Public Lands in Southern NM

PHOTO: The Bureau of Land Management is making plans for the future of 2.8 million acres in southern New Mexico, an area that includes the Organ Mountains. The public has a chance to comment this week at hearings on Apr. 29 and 30. Photo courtesy office of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.
PHOTO: The Bureau of Land Management is making plans for the future of 2.8 million acres in southern New Mexico, an area that includes the Organ Mountains. The public has a chance to comment this week at hearings on Apr. 29 and 30. Photo courtesy office of U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.
April 28, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Public comments on the topics of oil and gas development and lands with wilderness characteristics are needed. The federal government planning process is under way for nearly 3 million acres of public lands in southern New Mexico, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is collecting public input as it develops a Resource Management Plan for the area.

Judy Calman, staff attorney, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, said getting people to speak up is a critical part of the process.

"If they made oil and gas leasing decisions without looking at wilderness resources, they could potentially harm some pretty amazing places, which we don't want to see," Calman said.

Calman said her organization supports energy development on public lands, as long as it is done with equal consideration given to preserving critical areas for recreation and wildlife habitat. She added that BLM management authority includes the entire Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area, which President Obama is considering designating as a national monument.

Calman noted the BLM is again reviewing which lands should be protected due to wilderness value. She explained that the agency originally proposed managing less than 1,000 acres in the entire 2.8 million acre range for wilderness preservation, while the Wilderness Alliance had thus far identified nearly 500,000 acres worthy of management and protection.

"We submitted data to the BLM for 45 units. And those 45 units were units that we thought had wilderness characteristics. I think it was about 470,000 acres," she said.

Calman says her group anticipates identifying several hundred thousand additional acres of land worthy of wilderness protection.

The BLM has scheduled public meetings on this issue on Tuesday at the Willie Estrada Civic Center, Alamogordo, and on Wednesday at the Dona Ana County Government Center, Las Cruces. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

Information about the TriCounty Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statement meetings is available at http://goo.gl/AaWA5M.


Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM