New Mexico governor joins US conservation challenge

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to conserve more of the state’s land and water

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Wednesday, making New Mexico the latest western state to join an ambitious effort to conserve nearly one-third of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

The Biden administration detailed its plans in May for achieving the goal, saying conservation and restoration of lands and waters was an urgent priority. Democratic officials and environmentalists see the effort as a tool to increase green space, protect drinking water sources and reduce wildfires risks.

To make significant progress on the decade-long commitment, experts have said that western states must play a key role in the effort.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said she wants to “bring people together” in New Mexico for the initiative that she hopes will make a difference for decades to come.

Her executive order calls for the creation of committee made up of key state agencies and others to draft a plan for reaching the goal. The group will meet four times a year and report back annually to the governor.

“I just want action,” Lujan Grisham said before signing the order, “but if you don’t have a guide … we’re not going to get every opportunity that we deserve.”

California was the first to formalize its 2030 conservation goal when Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping executive order last fall. Nevada followed in May with lawmakers in the Democrat-dominated state passing a resolution.

About 12% of the nation’s lands and one-quarter of its waters are currently protected, according to research by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

Protected areas include wilderness areas, game refuges, agricultural lands, ranches and other sites with conservation easements.

Nationally, the Biden administration is calling for the expansion of federal grant programs to create more local parks, increase access to outdoor recreation and for Indigenous communities to access funding for conservation priorities.