Unified Action – March 2006 – Otero Mesa

Protect Otero Mesa

The Issue

Otero Mesa, the last, best piece of Chihuahuan Desert grassland is threatened by the prospect of oil and gas development. Drilling would fragment wildlife habitat, destroy the fragile topsoil that the grassland depends on, threaten the groundwater resources, and transform the area into an ecologically degraded desert scrubland, no longer able to support the full range of plants and animals currently found there. But, despite the probable devastation to this unique area – and the widespread opposition to drilling by conservationists, sportsmen, ranchers and the public in general – the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the federal agency that controls mineral rights to most of the grassland, is forging ahead with plans that would eventually open 95% of Otero Mesa to development.

What we are asking

The only thing that will provide permanent protection to Otero Mesa is federal legislation that withdraws the area from the BLM’s mineral leasing program. Senator Bingaman has publicly expressed support for Governor Richardson’s efforts to protect Otero Mesa. He has also requested the U.S. Geological Survey do a study of groundwater resources at Otero Mesa. But, he has yet to take the crucial step of introducing legislation. The best thing to do is to write a letter; if you can’t you can call or email.

  • Thank him for requesting the U.S. Geological Survey study of groundwater resources at Otero Mesa;
  • Assure him that the ecological values of Otero Mesa are a valuable piece of New Mexico’s natural heritage that need to be protected; and
  • Ask him to introduce legislation that will permanently protect Otero Mesa from oil and gas development.

The address to write is:

The Honorable Jeff Bingaman
703 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: (202) 224-5521

Upon completion send an “I did it” to Glenn Landers at unifiedaction@pva-nm.org

Additional facts about Otero Mesa

  • Otero Mesa is one of the best potential sites for reintroducing endangered aplomado falcons in New Mexico—a New Mexico native bird of prey that disappeared years ago.
  • Otero Mesa sits atop a large untapped reservoir of freshwater. Because of the porous geology of the area, this aquifer is particularly susceptible to contamination from oil and gas activities.
  • Otero Mesa is not needed to meet America’s energy needs. Otero Mesa contains, at best, an estimated one trillion cubic feet of natural gas—the equivalent of about 16 days of U.S. demand. Improved efficiency (buildings, appliances, etc.) and renewable energy sources such as wind could easily provide this amount.
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