Water Bills in this Legislative Session

New Mexico state house.

During the one-month session from January 18 to February 17, most bills that will be considered are appropriation bills. Funding will also be allocated for agency budgets. The budgets suggested by the executive and Legislative Finance Committee don’t come close to initiating the critical efforts needed to develop active management of water diversion, robust regional planning in priority water basins, or groundwater investigations according to the New Mexican Mid Rio Grande Water Advocates. The legislature may act to enhance some of this necessary funding. There are two water bills which especially need your attention. Contact your legislators to support these two bills.

HB 24 – “State Engineer Water Planning and Management” would help with some of the critical funding shortages in this office.

HB 131- “Water Data Act Implementation” would help with costs of collecting data where there are gaps in our knowledge of water availability, especially in aquifers.

Other water bills to support are:

HB 121 –“Acequia and Community Ditch Fund” would help small-farmer managed associations defend against large developers in expensive court suits among other things.

SB 162 – “Strategic Water Reserve” and SB 18 – “Water Trust Fund” would re-appropriate funds to these ongoing projects.

SB 17 – “Authorization for Certain Water Projects” would allocate funds to municipal and rural water projects that have been vetted by a state-wide committee.

The Legislature has an easy-to-use website http://nmlegis.gov. You can look up your legislators, find what bills they are sponsoring, see PDFs with the actual content of the bills, read analyses of bills, and find which committees they are currently being heard in.

ACTION: Both House Appropriations and Finance (Chair: Patricia Lundstrom) and Senate Finance (Chair: George Munoz) need to include funding for all the water bills in their final budgets. Send them an e-mail. These bills are a start but much more is needed if we are to plan a water future in these changing times.

Searchlight New Mexico has a recent series of investigative reports on our state’s water problems. Take a look at https://searchlightnm.org/water-reform-uphill-battle-in-new-mexico/

Aldo Leopold Trail

Rio Grande winter. Photo: Katherine Chilton

Named after the famous ecologist Aldo Leopold, this trail takes off a little north of the Rio Grande Nature Center, enters the Bosque as an unpaved trail, and continues north close to the river. When nearing Montano, it loops back through the Bosque. It is a peaceful place to walk, away from the hustle and bustle of the city at any time of the year. Interpretive signs help you understand what you are seeing.

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) worked for the US Forest Service when he lived in the US Southwest. He had a unique way of getting people together. One of his early accomplishments was to establish the first wilderness area in the US by getting ranchers, hunters, and environmentalists to see how all benefited by protecting large parcels of land from encroachment. The Gila Wilderness near Silver City is the result of this work.

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” —Aldo Leopold

When Aldo Leopold lived in Albuquerque, he continued with his vision to preserve habitats, this time along the river. One area he promoted for preserving later became the Rio Grande Valley State Park. He also promoted the creation of the zoo, botanical garden, and nature center. His leadership was recognized, and he became the Secretary of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce before eventually moving to Wisconsin in 1924, where he taught at the University of Wisconsin. His book of essays, A Sand County Almanac, is widely recognized as a literary classic as well as having shaped modern conservation.

To find a map and more information on the Trail, go to cabq.gov/parksandrecreation/open-space/lands/aldo-leopold-forest.

Faith and Doom

by George Muedeking

As we watch the slow death of ancient ecosystems such as the Rio Grande Bosque, the dwindling flow of water. and the dying off of cottonwoods, we find ourselves in a Cassandra-like dilemma of knowing the future but seemingly unable to avoid the deadly consequences of the present. Doom: “A common feeling of ugh or dread upon realizing that technological progress and economic growth and development are the root of our predicament, not our way out.”[1] We desperately need significant social and cultural change at a time when the world’s leaders are hesitant and willingly avoid the needed commitments. What are we to do? Where do we go for hope?

“Stupidity” is a word so encrusted with pejorative meanings that we lose sight of its intended usage:  To act irrationally in the face of obvious consequences (such as kissing a rattlesnake on the lips). Or, in this case, stupidity is a denial of reality to the degree that one’s own survival, to say nothing of the survival of others, is imperiled. In a way, denying reality is a type of grief avoidance, but in the current circumstances those who dismiss or minimize global warming and its dire consequences have been co-opted by political forces that have the most egregious of motives, i.e., greed and power at any cost.

We must accept the fulness of our reality, knowing the extent of the tragedy, but in the knowing also finding a way to transcend toward a deeper, more compassionate spiritual aliveness. “When you realize that the whole world is a living system that can only thrive when death makes room for new life, it allows you to reconnect with the alive world in a more compassionate way.”[2]

Joanna Macy wrote, “There is science now to construct the story of the journey we have made on this Earth, the story that connects us with all beings.  Right now we need to remember that story — to harvest it and taste it.  For we are in a hard time.  And it is knowledge of the bigger story that is going to carry us through.”[3]  

For many years I jogged and hiked in the East Mountains near Albuquerque and have now moved to the foothills of Albuquerque where I continue to carry on my daily routine. Going out at the same time nearly every day allows one to see the subtle seasonal changes, the moon’s phases, and animal habits. I am so grateful for the visionaries who created the National Forest preserves and the Open Space parks around Albuquerque.

Now in the winter, it is dark when I leave the house. My headlamp catches the disembodied eyes of grazing groups of deer, sometimes a coyote, jackrabbit, or other mammal. I have come to know and respect the cycles, short and long, in what I observe. Lately the long cycle of the evergreen trees, the much longer cycle of creek beds, and the forever cycle of the mountains have captured my attention. A huge boulder rolled into an open field at some point. How did it stray so far from the mountain? Then I realize the foothills were much taller at a previous time. The boulders rolling with a speed that would send them far. The hills look worn and crumbling. The rock at their core transforms into first the boulders, then the rocks, then the stones, then the sand, where it becomes soil as the elevation lowers until vegetation takes over, becoming thicker as it moves toward the River, until the vast Cottonwood Forest which looks impenetrable from this distance.

I mourn the disappearance of the short-term life cycles of the animals and trees, but the grief I feel is magnified lately by foreseeing my own termination on this earth. The culture that sustained me has already disappeared to a great extent. Cultural change seems to have accelerated, pulled toward some far-off magnet where its energy will finally dissipate into the life cycle of another, unknown realm. The inevitability of my own demise allows for a melting of my consciousness into that of the cycles I observe. I feel stronger knowing that I am part of a process that involves me in it, too. I am closer to being one with what I see.

What cycles help you explore your place in the world? Does the epic of evolution or the story of our universe expand your sense of identity or help you trust time and nature, evolution and ecology? Does understanding the rise and fall of previous civilizations assist you in accepting our fate? To see how 77 different environmentalists and futurists have responded to the issues of climate doom, I suggest going to the website www.postDoom.com and joining the discussion.   

[1] PostDoom website

[2] Victoria Loorz, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us Into the Sacred (Broadleaf Books, 2021).

[3] Quoted on PostDoom Website