By Renee Blake, Public News Service – NM

SANTA FE, N.M. – When both houses of the New Mexico Legislature failed to advance bills to transfer public land management from federal to state hands, it meant more than following the words of the U.S. Constitution.

According to Kim McCreery, a regional director and staff scientist at New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in Silver City, passing such legislation would have left the state to wrestle with the high costs of significant management issues.

“We’re talking about fire management and forest restoration,” she said. “There is a clause that would allow the state to sell off public lands to private interests. Extractive industries can then come in and we’ll have mining and oil and gas drilling on what were our public lands,” McCreery went on.

Ultimately that would mean fewer places for New Mexicans to camp, hike, hunt and fish, because the once-public lands would be privately owned.

Molly Brook, the program manager with Conservation Voters New Mexico, said this issue could be resolved by better conservation and collaboration between the federal government and the state.

“What ultimately would be effective is legislation aimed at identifying how to better collaborate with local government and local communities,” Brook said.

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