FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NM businesses to legislators: Protect our Public Lands from Transfers
National public lands belong to all Americans, businesses say
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Seventy New Mexico businesses sent a letter today to all 112 incoming State Legislators, the Governor, the Attorney General and the State Land Commissioner urging policymakers to take a stand against efforts to transfer national public lands to state ownership.
Several politicians throughout the West are advocating for state control of national public lands despite evidence that such transfers can be very costly to state taxpayers. These transfers may also impact public access to the land and the tourism industry as the public’s land can increasingly become restricted due to many states’ lands being less accessible for recreation. Also, many are concerned that states would defer management costs by raising taxes or selling off some lands to private development interests, thereby excluding Americans from lands that are once currently owned by all citizens.
The letter notes that legislation has been introduced in the New Mexico state legislature the past two years calling for state seizure of national lands. Among the reasons the letter’s signers listed for opposing these land efforts is the dependence on public lands by many of New Mexico’s businesses.
The business community expects similar such legislation in New Mexico during the 2015 session.
According to the letter’s authors, “tourism generated $5.5 billion in spending in New Mexico in 2011, making it the second largest private industry in the state. Much of that tourism is reliant on national public lands.”
The letter also cites a potential for increased tax burden on New Mexico’s citizens, decreased access to national public lands, and the unconstitutionality of land seizure efforts as reasons to oppose the movement.
“If lands owned by all Americans are transferred to the state, then state taxpayers will bear the burden of managing them – instead of all Americans,” said Catherine Wanek from the Black Range Lodge in Kingston. “In a large state like New Mexico, where the land management agencies spend hundreds of millions each year managing public lands, this could be disastrous to already strapped local taxpayers. The cost of containing wildfires, such as 2011’s Las Conchas fire, cost $41 million alone to fight. Either taxes will go up or public lands will be sold off to defer these costs.”
Carrie Hamblen, Executive Director of the Las Cruces Chapter of the New Mexico Green Chamber, said that transfers of national public lands to state ownership could be bad for New Mexico’s small businesses as well.
“Tourism and outdoor recreation are economic engines in New Mexico’s economy,” Hamblen said. “If misguided policymakers are successful in seizing these lands, many of our local, homegrown businesses would suffer, which would in turn affect the wallets of all New Mexicans. This letter aims to drive that point home.”
Click here for a version of this letter with the names of the over 75 business supporters who signed on.