By Sandy Buffett | MyView | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Despite the best (and most expensive yet) efforts of big oil, New Mexico voters spoke up for clean air and water last year by electing legislators who represent their environmental values. There are 14 returning conservation champions and 16 freshman class legislators who were endorsed by Conservation Voters New Mexico last fall. These outstanding elected officials are working in the New Mexico Legislature to protect the Land of Enchantment we all love.

For the first time in many years, the Legislature represents hope in advancing protection for the health of our environment, our families and communities.

We are already seeing measures introduced on a range of topics that will affect the environment positively or negatively. Every year, we see dozens of bills about water, oil and gas, green jobs and clean energy, wildlife and wilderness and government transparency.

Whatever the 2013 legislative session brings, it certainly won’t be like anything we have seen before. More than one out of every three legislators is new to their job. There was a massive change in committee leadership. Such extraordinary change is bound to affect legislative processes and outcomes.

Given the amount of money that the oil and gas industry and other polluting interests invested in legislative candidates, it is almost certain that we will also continue to see efforts to dismantle the basic safeguards that protect public and environmental health.

The recession continues to loom large in our state and unemployment, health care and education remain important issues for New Mexicans. When considering the issues at hand, we urge legislators and citizens to be mindful that the economy and the environment are inextricably linked and interdependent. For example, how can a child — saddled with asthma from living with air pollution — be fully equipped to learn and become prepared to enter the workforce? When our children are sick from dirty air and unsafe drinking water, our workforce suffers.

We still face an army of well-funded lobbyists representing polluting industries. Based on our analysis of New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office 2012 data, there are at least 65 registered lobbyists representing 55 polluters at the Roundhouse.

Our citizen legislators depend on hearing from their constituents about what matters to them. After all, your legislators are your voice on state policies — including those that protect our air and water, and create clean, good-paying jobs for New Mexicans.

We urge you to make your voice heard by contacting your state senator and representative to let them know that you’re counting on their support for a clean and healthy environment. Visit CVNM.org to find contact information for your legislator or call the legislative switchboard during the session at 505-986-4300.

Sandy Buffett is the executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico.