The New Mexico Wildlife Federation is calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and vote to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanently. The lands package bill that cleared the Senate this week also would designate new wilderness lands in New Mexico and around the West.
“This week’s action in the Senate to create more than a million acres of new wilderness and conservation areas in the western United States is a victory for all Americans,” New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Jesse Deubel said. “Now it’s critical that the House follow through and get the job done.”
Deubel credited New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich for their work on the lands package that cleared the Senate earlier this week.
Deubel said the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been vitally important for conservation efforts around the country since it was funded in the mid-1960s. The program uses money from offshore oil and gas revenues to acquire wildlife habitat and open space around the country. Among LWCF projects in New Mexico was the acquisition of the Valles Caldera in the Jemez mountains.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund lapsed last fall because of congressional inaction, putting hundreds of projects across the country at risk. Permanent reauthorization is a critical first step to ensure that the LWCF will continue to support recreation and wildlife spaces for future generations.
“The Senate’s vote to permanently reauthorize the fund is a critical victory for New Mexicans and for wildlife habitat across the country, Deubel said. “The New Mexico Wildlife Federation and its members look forward to quick approval in the House of Representatives.”
In addition to permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the public lands bill that cleared the Senate designates new wilderness areas in New Mexico, Utah and California. The bill also protects 30,000 acres adjacent to the Yellowstone River in Montana from mining and conserves 100,000 acres of the Umpqua watershed in Oregon, one of the most important areas in the Pacific Northwest for salmon and steelhead trout.
In New Mexico, the bill would allow the expansion of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and the Rio Grande del Norte national monuments by roughly 270,000 acres.