Environment & Conservation
A key part of representing New Mexico is protecting the special relationship that New Mexicans have with our unique and remarkable landscapes, environment, and natural resources. This includes:
• Preserving our state and nation’s natural wonders and limited resources for future generations
• Confronting climate change which threatens New Mexico’s water resources, agricultural economy, and critical habitats by drastically cutting carbon emissions while supporting communities, Tribes and states that have relied on fossil fuels.
• And addressing historic and current environmental injustices by cleaning up the toxic pollution so many disadvantaged communities are burdened with while identifying and dismantling the policies that led to these inequities.
In Washington, I am listening to the voices of communities of color and Tribal communities – who endure the worst effects of the climate and nature crises and toxic pollution. And with these voices in front of mind – I am working to make sure that New Mexico’s special places are protected and our resources are managed responsibly.
Conservation must provide equitable access to nature and a just distribution of its benefits. At the same time, we must correct policies that disproportionately expose Native communities, low-income communities, and communities of color to the worst of environmental pollution. I strongly believe that environmental justice and racial justice go hand-in-hand. Both need to be at the center of the environmental and climate movements.
Right now, young people and people of color are leading a resurgent environmental movement. It’s a movement that looks like America. That’s the only way we’ll achieve equitable and lasting change.
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-Desert Peaks that form the skyline of Las Cruces to the volcanic canyons of the Río Grande del 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. Instead, it uses part of the revenues generated by offshore oil and gas drilling, turning a one-time use of a non-renewable resource into an investment into permanent protection for public lands. As the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, I championed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) – which fully and permanently funds the Land and Water LWCF at $900 million per year, every year, and makes a major $9.5 billion down payment toward the maintenance backlog in the country’s national parks and federal land agencies over the next five years. I was proud to vote for this bill in the Senate and to see it finally signed into law.
National Parks and Monuments
Our National Park and Monument 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 Natural Resources 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.
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.
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. Over my career, I have introduced and passed numerous bills to improve the funding for and better manage our water delivery systems in a sustainable manner. The latest of these is the Western Water Security Act which provides new tools to communities in a hotter, dryer world such as rural desalination ; helps irrigators improve water delivery, and and provides better science to understand the impact of drought and predict how it affects communities, agriculture, and our natural world. It is also critically important that we maintain our existing water infrastructure projects that help New Mexico to manage flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration.