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Land Council slated to discuss federal conservation plan

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A federal resources management plan for southeastern New Mexico and a national conservation plan are among the topics expected to be discussed when the Chaves County Land Council meets for the first time in more than year.

The group has not met since Feb. 13, 2020, according to county Planning and Zoning Director Louis Jaramillo.

He said that the primary reason for holding the meeting this week is to consider an item about notices for public meetings.

The upcoming meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place. Social distancing will be observed, and people are advised to use face coverings. Jaramillo said that the meeting will be not be streamed on the internet.

In addition to the public meetings notices and election of officers, other items on the agenda as of Monday are an update to council members about the Carlsbad Resource Management Plan of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and some information about what is referred to as the “30×30 land grab,” a reference to a Biden Administration goal to conserve 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030.

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The “30 by 30 plan” was originally part of proposed legislation introduced by members of the New Mexico congressional delegation to the U.S. Congress. Retired New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall introduced the “Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature” to the Senate in November 2019, while 1st Congressional District Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) introduced it to the House in February 2020.

Haaland is Biden’s nominee to head the Interior Department, and her confirmation is due to be considered soon by the entire Senate.

The 30×30 concept has since been adopted by the Biden Administration as part of its effort to manage climate change and improve environmental conditions, and the U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that is it one of the agency’s goals.

The proposed legislation called for public bodies and private land owners to work at the local level to preserve land and water under their ownership or management in the interest of protecting ecosystems, wildlife and vegetation. At the current time, about 12% of U.S. lands and 20% of its water are set aside for conservation purposes, according to a letter distributed by supporters of the earlier legislation.

The Carlsbad Resource Management Plan was adopted in 1988 by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and has been revised twice since. The current update has been in progress for several years and is intended to provide the Carlsbad field office of the Bureau of Land Management with a strategy for managing its lands and mineral resources for the next 20 years.

The Carlsbad field office is part of the Pecos District Office based in Roswell, and it oversees BLM lands in Lea, Eddy and some of Chaves County. Chaves County officials have had many discussions with local BLM managers and federal Department of the Interior officials about how the plan could affect ranchers, leaseholders, oil and gas operators, and hunters and recreational users if large portions of land are reclassified as “lands with wilderness characteristics” or “areas of critical environmental concern,” which would limit human activity allowed on those parcels.

A draft of the plan was released in August 2018 and discussed at nine public hearings in West Texas and New Mexico, including Roswell.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.