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Commissioners consider opposing 30×30 plan

Lisa Dunlap Photo Chaves County already has more than 2.3 million acres under state or federal ownership, according to a draft resolution to be considered by county commissioners that would oppose a federal land and water conservation initiative.

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Saying that state and federal lands already make up 60% of land in the county, members of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners are considering a draft of a resolution opposing any federal efforts requiring further conservation of land and water in the area.

The proposed resolution is one of the items scheduled to be discussed at the Thursday morning meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

The group intends to meet at 9 a.m. in the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place. The meeting also is scheduled to air live online at www.facebook.com/ChavesCountyNM/.

If passed, the resolution would be sent to the U.S. Department of Interior and other federal officials as an initial response to a Biden Administration executive order directing the Interior Department and several other federal entities to develop strategies and methods to conserve, preserve and restore 30 percent of U.S. lands and 30 percent of U.S. waters by 2030 — what is known as the 30×30 plan. Executive Order 14008, issued on Jan. 27, was part of a larger initiative to address climate change and environmental concerns.

An initial report issued May 5 by the Interior Department and other agencies outlined objectives for community-led and voluntary efforts that would be aided by federal funding and programs.

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According to the report, which indicates officials still need to determine how much land and water is already conserved and what definitions and terms would be used in future efforts, tens of thousands of wildlife species are at threat of extinction and large portions of U.S. habitats have been lost in recent years due to development, pollution and climate change. It also states that severe weather and inequitable access to nature are increasing problems.

But a local commissioner said numerous concerns exist about the federal goals.

“There are a lot of questions when you read about it,” said Commissioner Jeff Bilberry, who attended a recent presentation about the federal report at a New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association meeting. He also noted that the conservation effort is a global initiative with many other countries involved.

“A big part of it is that they are talking about adding 440 million more acres to what is already conserved,” he said when speaking of the possible U.S. goal.

He said many private land owners are surrounded by federal and state landowners and it is uncertain how conservation efforts would affect them. He also said that the effect on cities, towns and counties from productive land going off the tax rolls is not known, and thinks some of the stakeholders pushing for greater conservation do not have land, money or community interests involved. The scientific rationale for the initiative is also questionable, he said.

The draft of the county resolution states, “The Board supports reasonable national, regional, and global greenhouse gas emissions policies and goals that are comprehensive, practical, cost-effective, and do not unnecessarily single out specific industries or activities but opposes the use of global climate change as an excuse to set aside large tracts of land as preserves or open space to fulfill the 30×30 program’s objectives.”

Other planned items to be discussed Thursday include approval of a 2021-22 interim budget, which has been given a preliminary review by commissioners at a May 13 workshop; a final vote about decisions to close, adopt or change the maintenance status of county roads; approval of two new members for the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission; and a decision about approving a contract with a firm for legal services on a contract basis, with a law practice run by retired County Manager and County Attorney Stanton Riggs being the county’s preferred bidder at this point.

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.