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Commissioners express opposition to state orders

Three of the five Chaves County commissioners talk after a Chaves County Courthouse elevator dedication ceremony on Thursday, which followed the group’s regular monthly meeting. From left are Chairman Will Cavin, Richard Taylor and T. Calder Ezzell Jr. Commissioners Dara Dana and Jeff Bilberry are not shown. Roswell Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrea Moore stands nearby. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The Chaves County Board of Commissioners has reiterated its opposition to large-scale land and water conservation plans and state-ordered COVID vaccination requirements.

The five commissioners also voted after a public hearing during the same meeting Thursday to approve a zoning variance.

One resolution that passed unanimously opposed the executive order issued on Aug. 25 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that calls for 30% of New Mexico’s lands and natural environments to be conserved by 2030 and another 20% to be managed as “climate stabilization areas.”

The executive order creates a 30×30 committee of state agency representatives directed to find ways to preserve and conserve land, waterways and natural habitats. The order stated such action is necessary given the damaging effects of climate change, drought and wildfires and the harmful impacts they have on state resources, residents and revenues. The order also indicates that the state efforts are consistent with a similar 30×30 executive order issued by the Biden administration on Jan. 27.

The commissioners already passed a resolution on May 20 against the federal order after holding several public meetings where they cautioned that such large-scale, government-led conservation efforts could harm the state’s oil and gas, ranching, farming and hunting industries and decrease the revenues generated on federal and state lands.

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The new resolution against the state order added the criticisms that the plans and justifications lacked specificity and scientific validity. The county resolution will be sent to state government offices.

A day before a U.S. District judge upheld state vaccination orders, the five commissioners also voted to ratify their Aug. 24 letter to Lujan Grisham requesting that she reconsider the public health order first issued Aug. 17 requiring health care workers and other groups of people in the state to receive COVID vaccinations unless they qualify for religious or health exemptions.

“To make any restrictions which would prevent our healthcare workers from going to work to provide for the medical needs of our communities would effectively create a staffing shortage, restriction of services, and closure of facilities that would prevent our residents from being able to get medical care,” part of the commissioners’ letter stated.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Martha Vásquez, who serves with the District of New Mexico and is assigned to Santa Fe, upheld the vaccination requirement. She ruled against a lawsuit filed by two women, including a registered nurse. Their lawyer has indicated an intention to appeal.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to approve a variance for a New Mexico State Police officer who has purchased land on West Orchard Park Road and wants to divide the property into two parcels of about 4.3 acres each so that he can build a home on one parcel and his sister and her family can build a home on the other.

The 5 acre minimum lot size in that area of the county exists to protect the artesian aquifer water supply from overuse, and the superintendent of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District expressed his objection to the variance based solely on that reason.

But the commissioners approved the variance. Among their reasons was that the the landowner had a “hardship” because the original surveys of the land in the area had resulted in irregular-shaped parcels. Thus the landowner bought property that was slightly under 10 acres and will result in two parcels of slightly less than 5 acres each.

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.