Outsiders’ ‘solutions’ to wildfires open door to privatizing lands

Northern New Mexico is in the midst of a horrific tragedy at a scale we have not seen before with the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been forever changed by this disaster. Our thoughts are also with your families, the loss of historic homes, cultural resources, spiritual connections and wildlife.

With entire communities being displaced, homes burning and lives uprooted, we are seeing disingenuous out-of-state interests come in and do their best to take advantage of our hardship. We do not appreciate outsiders using our misfortune to push their radical ideological views. People who have likely never stepped foot on these lands that are being ravaged by fires should not be telling New Mexicans how to manage our public lands.

(On May 15) Karla Jones of the ALEC Task Force on Federalism and International Relations based in Arlington, Virginia, penned a guest column in the Albuquerque Journal. (ALEC has) advocated for extreme ideology that would privatize much of our public lands. Opportunistically using our pain for hidden agendas is something we as New Mexicans will not accept.

New Mexicans and Norteños are coming together as a community to do what is needed to take care of one another and survive. When the smoke settles I am certain we will show that same grit and determination when it comes to rebuilding. We as New Mexicans will also lead the efforts to figuring out how to avoid these types of tragedies to the extent possible in the future. Our focus will be on what we can do to protect the health of our public lands, the intersection of our natural and cultural heritage that makes New Mexico, New Mexico. The challenges are many, including climate change, a 1,200-year mega-drought and significantly under-resourced land management agencies. These are issues we will work to address. What we won’t do is allow out-of-state interests the opportunity to get their foot in the door and try and privatize our cherished public lands.

As we continue to look out for one another, support our neighbors and show the rest of the country what makes our people strong and resilient, Jones will continue working on opinion pieces for far-right publications like The RedState. The lived experience we are going through together will strengthen our resolve and lead to a stronger New Mexico. Please be safe and look out for one another in these trying times.

Ralph Vigil is a 12th-generation New Mexican from Pecos. He owns and operates a small organic farm in East Pecos that grows healthy, acequia-grown food for his community.

This article originally appeared in The Albuquerque Journal.