Although many issues affect the health of our environment and communities, you will notice that only a handful are discussed here.
These are the main issues addressed by the legislation included in this year’s Scorecard. As we add the votes and scores from past and future years, we will also add more information on other issues.
Increasing threat of Wildfires
With ongoing drought comes the higher risk of wildfires throughout the West. Learn ways to help the fire ravaged communities.
Photo: Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, Gila National Forest, New Mexico.
Air quality is a significant and growing concern in New Mexico. Experts link exposure to air pollutants to many adverse health effects, including exacerbation of asthma symptoms, diminished lung function, birth deformities, cardiovascular disease and childhood cancer. Getting a handle on the extent of the problem is difficult. According to the American Lung Association, in its annual State of the Air report, only 9 of New Mexico’s 33 counties have air quality monitoring programs in place; six of those received an “F” grade.
Effective government (or “good governance”) refers to the way in which elected officials exercise their political authority to serve their constituencies. Good governance, with respect to the environment, requires that decisions are made and implemented using legitimate (legal), transparent, participatory, responsive and equitable processes to achieve effective policies that protect New Mexico’s communities and natural resources.
The science is clear: climate change is already here and its impacts will be significant and long-lasting. Delaying action or taking half-hearted measures will allow global temperatures to rise even more, creating even worse disruption to natural and human systems. But there is still time to act to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Our reliance on fossil fuels is driving changes in our climate that are already having devastating effects on New Mexico — clearly visible in the severe drought and catastrophic wildfires we have been experiencing over the last several years.
October 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, which launched the Environmental Justice Movement. A 4-day meeting was held, organized by the United Church of Christ and held in Washington DC. The event had 1100 participants from every state, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, Mexico and Chile. One of the participating organizations was New Mexico justice organization SouthWest Organizing Project. The summit was followed five years later with the Working Group Meeting on Globalization and Trade, held in Jemez, New Mexico and organized by New Mexico-based Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice. The Working Group produced the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing.
A strong sense of place and reliance on the land that sustains us is a common thread that unites us as New Mexicans. From the forests and mesas that catch rain and snow to feed our rivers, to the vibrant ecosystems that New Mexicans farm, hunt, fish, hike and bike, our relationship to the land, water and wildlife is central to our quality of life and deep cultural diversity.
New Mexico is the fifth driest state in the country, with significant portions of the state receiving less than 10 inches of rainfall annually. Additionally, approximately 87% of the state relies on groundwater for public water supplies, like drinking water and irrigation. New Mexico’s Native Nations – tribes and pueblos – and traditional land grant and acequia communities depend to a large extent on access to adequate clean water. Much of this groundwater is generated each year through snowmelt and rainfall, which has become more unpredictable due to the changing climate.
New Mexico and the greater Southwest are home to wildlife populations that thrive in our varied ecosystems, from mountains to high desert to unique grassland habitats. According to the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico has the 4th highest native species richness in the nation, and counts 90 species that are known to live only in our state.
Mexicn Gray Wolves
The Mexican Gray Wolf has nearly been eliminated in the wild (due to intensive U.S. government efforts to eradicate them) and are critically endangered, with only about 300 remaining in recovery facilities, zoo breeding programs, and reserves in the U.S. and Mexico. Photo: Chad Horwedel