Environment & Conservation
Part of representing New Mexico is protecting the special relationship that New Mexicans have with our unique and remarkable landscapes and environment. Representing our collective desire to preserve our states’ natural wonders and limited resources for future generations is something I take very seriously. In Washington, I am working to make sure that New Mexico’s special places are protected and that our resources are managed responsibly.
Protecting Our Public Lands
I firmly believe that keeping public lands in public hands is vitally important to maintaining our hunting and fishing, traditions and growing New Mexico’s outdoor recreation opportunities, which in turn drives our local economies. By protecting our iconic landscapes—from the Organ Mountains that form the skyline of Las Cruces to the volcanic canyons of the Rio Grande de Norte— we will preserve our strong cultural and ecological heritage for future generations. I oppose any efforts to transfer federal lands to the states or to rescind the protections granted under the Antiquities Act or to open up our National Parks to oil and gas development.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is an innovative conservation program that has helped to preserve public lands, create and expand city parks, playgrounds and swimming pools, and provide public access to New Mexico’s world class public lands and the nation. The LWCF is funded at no cost to the taxpayers. The fund is paid for from the revenues generated by offshore oil and gas drilling, with the intent of mitigating the impacts of development. As the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, I work to ensure that the LWCF is fully funded each year, and I support the full-funding and permanent authorization of the program.
Our National Park system has been called our nation's 'crown jewel,” our 'national treasure' and “America’s Best idea.” The parks have awed and inspired, informed, and hosted outdoor adventures for generations of Americans. New Mexico is known for our spectacular scenery, fascinating history and unique cultural heritage. Our state is home to 18 National Park units, which draw tourists from around the world and offer endless opportunities to learn and explore. Outdoor recreation alone generates $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs every year across this country. And in 2016, National Parks saw a record 331 million visits, contributing almost $35 billion to the U.S. economy. As the lead Democrat on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to fighting to ensure that our nation's greatest natural, historical and cultural treasures have the resources to thrive for the next century and beyond.
Responsible Energy Development
Current mining law dates back to 1872 and allows companies to take gold, silver, copper, uranium and other minerals from public land without paying any royalties, and providing no funds to clean up the approximately 500,000 abandoned mines across the West. This outdated law leaves taxpayers on the hook to clean up these mines, which are leaking toxins, leaching into our waterways, and threatening our communities. New Mexicans saw first-hand the risk that these abandoned mines pose to human health and the environment with the Gold King Mine spill in 2015. I have championed Hardrock Mining reform since I was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and I will continue to fight for this effort. Gold and silver on public lands are a natural resource, just like oil and gas. We would not want our telephones, cars, or doctors to follow the same rules as they did in 1872; our mines on federal land should not either. Taxpayers deserve their fair share of the profit -- and communities across the West need that money to rehab abandoned mines, so we can prevent another Gold King Mine spill.
Supporting Rural Economies
New Mexico is proud to host our military bases, national labs, national monuments and other facilities that support our economy. But local governments need budget certainty to ensure that all New Mexicans receive consistent basic services. The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program provides federal payments to local governments to help compensate for nontaxable federal land within their jurisdictions. This helps local governments provide police, fire protection, emergency response, road maintenance and other crucial services to residents. We currently fund PILT year by year, but that isn't good enough. As a member of the Senate Appropriations committee and the ranking Democrat on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I'll continue to work for full, permanent funding to ensure local communities have the economic security they need.
Drought Resilience and Water Management
New Mexico is at the bull’s eye of climate change - we're seeing increasingly severe wildfires, drought and rising temperatures. Water is critical to our economy and our ability to grow, but scientists predict that water scarcity will continue years into the future. By being smart, flexible, and adaptive, we can manage the water we have and continue to grow and thrive. That is why I introduced the New Mexico Drought Relief Act, which authorizes funding and creates policies to help irrigators improve water delivery and enable communities find new sources of water and provides for better ways to use science to understand the impact of drought and predict how it affects communities. I also believe that it is important to maintain our existing water infrastructure projects that help New Mexico to manage flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration.
Providing Clean Water
In New Mexico, as in much of the arid West, committing federal resources for water infrastructure and projects is not a luxury; it is a necessity. I am dedicated to making sure that New Mexico communities receive much needed investments for infrastructure like drinking and wastewater treatment plants and water lines. In my capacity on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, I’m working to make sure that we get the necessary funding for safe and reliable water infrastructure.