WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources markup yesterday, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich worked to advance two long-standing and critical New Mexico conservation bills he joined U.S. Senator Tom Udall in introducing: the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act and the New Mexico Drought Preparedness Act. Both bills were passed on a voice vote.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act, S. 441, would further complete the vision of the diverse coalitions and stakeholders who fought for the permanent protection of wilderness opportunities within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP) National Monument. The bill will also better ensure effective operations for the border patrol, direct a land exchange with the state, and support military interests.
The New Mexico Drought Preparedness Act, S. 1012, would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water management across the state. The legislation is derived from policy recommendations generated by a variety of stakeholders from New Mexico including conservancy districts, farmers, ranchers, Tribes, municipalities, and others that collaborated to put together proposals to help New Mexico deal with future water supply challenges. This bill will grant explicit authority for voluntary water leasing, authorize a study of the Rio Grande Basin by the National Academy of Sciences, extend the Rio Grande Pueblos infrastructure grants.
"The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act will further complete the vision of the diverse coalitions and stakeholders who fought so hard to protect this stunning part of our state. By designating the most rugged and unique areas of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as wilderness, we will continue to grow our thriving outdoor recreation economy and protect New Mexico's natural heritage for our children and for generations to come," said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "I'm also proud to work alongside Senator Udall to find smart solutions to address the state's unique water supply and severe drought challenges. As all New Mexicans know, we know that climate change means drier summers and longer droughts. We need locally-driven, long-term solutions to make the most of limited water supplies and ensure our communities have a secure water future, while supporting our state's environmental resources."
"Today's committee meeting advanced legislation critical to protecting New Mexico's public lands and water resources," said Udall, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. "I have been proud to work for years and to partner with Senator Heinrich on our bill to designate wilderness within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, which will provide permanent protection to the iconic New Mexico landscapes in Doña Ana County, improving recreational opportunities, increasing tourism and supporting the local economy. And our New Mexico Drought Preparedness Act is important to help our state become more efficient and effective in managing our water resources so that we can better handle droughts in a changing climate. I'm also happy to see the committee advance important legislation to support state agencies as they restore and manage the Rio Puerco watershed. Finally, I'm relieved that committee moved to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is has been instrumental to preserving New Mexico's most treasured landscapes and supporting our fast-growing outdoor recreation economy. Together, these bills will help preserve New Mexico's natural beauty, ensure water security, and support our economy for years to come."
The committee also passed another Udall-Heinrich Bill, S. 2249, to reauthorize for 10 years the Rio Puerco Watershed Management Program, which has successfully led-interagency watershed management groups to better control for flooding.
The archived webcast of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources markup today is available here.