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Military Vets Plead With Congress to Save Public Lands

Congressional legislation supported by U.S. veterans would preserve wilderness in New Mexico, forests in Tennessee, California's Mojave Desert, Utah’s slot canyons and more. (hcn.org)
Congressional legislation supported by U.S. veterans would preserve wilderness in New Mexico, forests in Tennessee, California's Mojave Desert, Utah’s slot canyons and more. (hcn.org)
November 13, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico veteran joined other former service members in signing on to a letter asking Congress to pass legislation that would conserve land and water in a number of states.

Brett Myrick of Gila traveled to Washington, D. C., with the veterans' group to support nine bills that would permanently protect more than 1 million acres of wilderness, 395 miles of wild and scenic river, and 713,000 acres with other conservation designations. Myrick is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and said protected public lands and rivers offer spaces where veterans can recover from the stresses of military service.

"It's a minimal amount of land that we have for veterans, or people of all walks of life, and from other countries to be able to go out and enjoy nature and beauty and solitude and pristine country,” Myrick said.

Mental health experts say 10-15 percent of all veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act and the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act are two of the bills the veterans are supporting. The act would designate eight wilderness areas within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument and two within Cerros del Norte.

Myrick said the letter reminds lawmakers that veterans who return from military service often face daunting challenges when they come home, and they find refuge in using public lands to hike, camp, raft, hunt, fish and spend time with family.

"You've experienced some things that you don't come home and talk about,” he said. “It's hard for many veterans to be in the middle of the city with all that periphery, sensory input coming at you from all different directions."

Following last week's midterms, legislators returned to Washington for the final weeks of the 115th Congress, and the veterans are urging them to take up the measures before the end of the year.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM