Thursday, January 29, 2009
The Grass is Greener
Yesterday I attended a luncheon round table at the McCune Foundation on the subject of water law and policy in New Mexico. I opined that there is little infrastructure built around protecting water when you are up against the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Farm and Livestock Bureau, the Cattle Growers Association, the Mining Association, Real Estate developers and Contractors. The agricultural interests are getting easier to work with, but still the odds are against seeing water in rivers as a beneficial use of that water. New Mexico is pretty much the only western state behind the times on this concept.
Then we read in a Pew Research Survey today that most Americans would much rather live in western rural areas and cities than anywhere else. Yes some like the South too.
That makes it even more important to come up with a way of seeing water as a resource to be protected rather than just a commodity for development. I argue that the best way to do this is by hiring lawyers and suing to protect long term health of watersheds and rivers. Others think that cooperation will get it done. I wish that would work by itself, but I have watched things just get worse because the good policies and laws are not in place.
One reason we beat back the bush administration on disastrous public land policies was because of timely and well fought lawsuits. I think that may be New Mexico's only hope when it comes to water. The problem is there is not near enough funding for groups like the New Mexico Environmental Law Center to do it.