Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate
New Mexico Governor and Republican 2016 Favorite Suggests Privatizing Public Lands
Governor Martinez alleged that cost savings could be realized from privatization and that the U.S. Forest Service is failing to protect national forests from fires. The Governor’s comments come at the same time public lands ranchers and rural counties in New Mexico have sought to prevent the Forest Service from fencing off national forest lands to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, a species recently listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“Public lands in the west are an American birthright,” said Bryan Bird Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Public lands are managed for the benefit of all Americans not any particular industry that would turn a quick profit and leave us holding the bag.”
Polling suggests this privatization is a treacherous political strategy. A 2014Colorado College Conservation in the West bipartisan poll holds warning signs for pro-privatization candidates, including that: 78% of New Mexicans are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.Over two-thirds (68%) of New Mexicans say they are more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who supports protection of public lands.
Privatizing public lands has been rejected outright both on constitutional grounds but also on fiscal grounds. In fact,Conservative Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a land grab bill in her state in 2012 because it would have overstressed the state’s budget and land management abilities. Just the cost of fighting wildfires alone could bankrupt the state. Not to mention managing recreation and other uses.
“This is a bad idea on fiscal and environmental grounds. Most people believe we are blessed to have public lands and access for recreation and protecting habitat of fish and wildlife,”said Bird. “Privatization is a corporate agenda to steal our inheritance and this demonstrates just how out of touch and extreme our Governor is.”
New Mexico has 27,001,583 acres of federal lands or 34.7% of the entire area of the state. Nine and a half million acres (14,843 square miles) are managed by the U.S. Forest Service; 1.4 million of those acres are Congressionally-designated Wilderness. The National Park Service manages 376,849 acres, Fish and Wildlife manages 327,264 acres, the Bureau of Land Management manages 13,484,405 and Department of Defense manages 3,395,090acres.
Outdoor recreation in New Mexico generates $6.1 billion in consumer spending;68,000 direct New Mexico jobs; $1.7 billion in wages and salaries and $458 billion in state and local tax revenue. The state of New Mexico in2013 received $34,692,967 under the Payment in Lieu Of Taxes system. Payments in Lieu of Taxes(PILT) are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries.