A Conversation with Senator Martin Heinrich

Mark Allison and Senator Heinrich kayaking a wild river.

New Mexico Wild Executive Director Mark Allison sat down with Senator Martin Heinrich, a conservation champion and longtime friend of the organization, in late February 2024 to catch up on conservation, Congress, and family. Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length. A Segment from this interview appeared in New Mexico Wild’s Spring/Sumer 2024 print newsletter.

Mark Allison:  Good morning, Senator. Thank you so much for making the time to talk with me this morning.

My first question is about clean energy siting and generation. You were an early and critical supporter of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, the largest clean energy infrastructure project in United States history. And I was pleased to join you and hear your remarks at the groundbreaking event last September. What do you see as the lessons from that effort and more generally, how do we transition to clean energy as quickly as we can and site solar and wind generation and transmission projects but also protect the cultural, conservation, and wildlife values that we care about at the same time?

Sen. Martin Heinrich: I think it’s worth taking a step back and realizing what a big accomplishment SunZia was. A lot of people in New Mexico have been thinking about it as a transmission project for a long time. But what it really facilitated was over 3 gigawatts of clean energy, or three nuclear power plants worth of carbon-free energy, and we need to be able to generate clean electricity at scale like that to solve our climate challenges.

In 2024, 96% of all the new generation coming onto the grid, like the wind generation through SunZia, will be carbon free. That’s a sea change from where we were just a few years ago. And the vast majority of that is wind and solar and batteries. A small portion of it is nuclear, but the vast majority is actual renewables. To get renewable generation from the places it’s going to be generated to the places where it’s going to be consumed requires transmission.

If there’s one thing I think SunZia has really taught us, it’s that you have to have stakeholders at the table very early in the process. Figure out where those places of habitat or cultural significance or other places that you absolutely do not want to disturb are early in the process of siting transmission and create buy-in with all the stakeholders along the way.

It took 14 years of my career to see SunZia start to be constructed, and we’re going to need to be able to do projects much more quickly in the future. I think that means getting to either yes—or to no, frankly, if it’s a poorly thought through project—much, much faster. I think we can take a lot of the things that we learned from the SunZia process and institutionalize those in transmission legislation. We need to make sure that for communities between the two ends of a transmission line, between where the generation is and where the consumption is, the benefits are spread over that entire line to support local communities. Pattern Energy was willing to do many of these things voluntarily, including purchase some really important conservation land as mitigation for that line, but we also need to take those lessons and apply them to our transmission planning process nationally.

MA: I couldn’t agree more. Really exciting stuff. I want to get your thoughts on native trout restoration. It seems that New Mexico is on the forefront of this with the Gila trout and the Rio Grande cutthroat. Much of the trout reintroduction is happening in designated Wilderness, but places like Valle Vidal have also been important to reclaiming habitat. Do you have thoughts on this, and do you see, for example, the Valles Caldera and places like that playing a similar role going forward?

MH: Given the given the climate pressures that we’re under, I think native trout restoration and the management of native trout habitat are going to become even more important. We’re going to see some of the marginal habitat no longer be viable for cold water fisheries. So, I think a really intense focus on the quality of that habitat, on restoring stream segments from nonnative fisheries to our native Gila and Rio Grande cutthroats is going to be really important.

Historically, sometimes game and fish agencies got credit for a certain number of stream miles in terms of trying to make sure that a species like Rio Grande cutthroats is not listed. I think that has sometimes created incentives that worked against us. You know the Valles Caldera didn’t have the number of stream miles that you see in other places like the Valle Vidal, but I think it’s a really important place for restoration of the native trout species. The Valles Caldera is one of the most special places on the planet and certainly one of the most special places in New Mexico. And it should really have its native fishery in place. I think people would be very excited about the prospect of fishing the Caldera for Rio Grande cuts. Whether it’s looking at restoration in places like the Gila or the Valles Caldera in Northern New Mexico, we need to be maximizing trout restoration in all the places where we have opportunities and protecting the quality of that habitat to make sure the temperature ranges that support native fish continue to be viable.

MA: What’s your favorite secret fishing place in New Mexico? I’m kidding!

I want to turn to some National Monument issues. We’ve been gratified to see President Biden create several Tribally led and supported National Monuments, such as Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni—Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada. We certainly have places here in New Mexico that are deserving of National Monument status. What lessons do you think these recently designated monuments have for us here back home?

MH: This is a journey that we began back in the Obama administration when I was engaging with them around Bears Ears (National Monument) in part because of what I was hearing from New Mexico Tribes about the cultural relationship with Bears Ears and that there was deep interest from New Mexico Pueblos and from the Navajo Nation in the importance of that landscape and the importance of having a Tribal involvement in the management of that landscape, which has certainly not always been the case. There’s been conflict between our delegation and the Utah delegation of over some of those principles. We learned that Tribes should be actively engaged in the management of landscapes that they have historic relationships with, and we’re figuring out how to structure some of the tools to do that. We’re making additional progress, including in the new monuments you mentioned that the Biden administration designated. We’ll need monument plans and structures for how Tribes can be directly involved in the management of those places.

MA: I have a related question that goes a step beyond co-stewardship and co-management. We’re hearing here in New Mexico and around the country Tribes talking more publicly about their ultimate goal to reclaim ancestral homelands. I want to talk a bit about any tension you see between that longer and perhaps more complicated conversation and more immediate protections like National Monuments to safeguard those special places from urgent threats even as they may be working towards an ultimate goal of Land Back.

MH: I think the most progress comes from continual engagement on these issues and looking for opportunities where we can align different constituencies, including Tribal communities, in the relationship and management of landscapes. I’ve learned from a whole host of Tribal mentors whom I’ve become close with over the years that it’s really important to recognize that landscapes important to Tribal communities are not important from the point of view of a museum or a history book. These are living cultural landscapes where cultural activities continue to be performed today, and that can really shift a mindset.

When I took (former Interior Secretary) David Bernhardt to Chaco Canyon, I think the aha moment that really helped us keep oil and gas from the area around Chaco during the Trump administration was when he realized in his engagement with former Gov. Brian Vallo of Acoma that Gov. Vallo’s family has direct ongoing cultural relationships with this place that happen now. It’s not about who is there in the year 1200, it’s about the relationship and the ongoing cultural importance today. That really shifted his view of how we should be approaching Chaco and the area around Chaco. It bought us some time to be able to do more to protect that landscape.

I’ve been working with Tribes across the country, as well as New Mexico Tribes and Congressman (Raúl) Grijalva from Arizona, on a bill that would create a system, like our systems of Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness areas, that would be Tribal Cultural Areas with an overlay of protection—a mineral withdrawal as well as a structure for management engagement with affiliated Tribes for these important areas. That’s an effort to do legislatively and permanently what has been attempted through one-off monument designations up to now.

MA: That sounds right to me. And, by the way, thank you for your leadership on Chaco. That was an amazing success story to secure that 20-year administrative mineral withdrawal. So, thank you from all of us. I wanted to ask a question about your sons who are now young men. Has raising children changed your perspective on how you approach public service? And what lessons have you taught each other about public lands conservation?

MH: You know, the best thing about raising my boys has been getting to watch them discover the world for the first time and discover these places that have been part of my life now for many decades—to see the newness and the wonder of these places in their eyes on our first big backpack through the Gila and discovering the cultural sites and watching them play in the Gila River. I think all of us working in difficult spaces get jaded over time. But when I can see the wonder of this amazing unique resource of public lands that we have and what it means to kids to be able to be a part of that, it just sort of wipes the slate clean and allows me to reinvigorate my approach toward why I do this work in the first place. It really validates how important and how lucky we are to have this amazing birthright of public lands that does not exist in the vast majority of the world. Land is for the very wealthy in most countries. And that’s not how it is in the United States of America. I think this experiment in the democratization of our landscapes has been truly one of the greatest accomplishments of our nation. And watching kids in the outdoors really reinforces that.

MA: Yeah, it’s one of the best parts of our job. Thanks for that answer. New Mexico Wild is going to continue to work—with your help!—toward securing protections of special public lands through designations like Wilderness and National Monuments. At the same time, we see plenty of examples all over New Mexico where even formally protected areas are frankly neglected and abused. We know that the land management agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are under-resourced and understaffed, and we’re sympathetic to that. But what needs to happen to ensure that there is sufficient management and enforcement for issues like illegal off-road vehicle use and dumping and shooting and trespass cattle and all those things that we see and hear about from our members every day?

MH: I think there are a couple of answers here. One is at the agencies. I really think there needs to be a thoughtful approach to a new generation of leadership and not just, “What we’ve done in the past is OK for what we’re going to do in the future.” We need to empower land managers with the leadership and the ethic that says, “We expect you to protect these places and to treat them with the reverence that they deserve and we expect you to set that expectation with the public.”

In addition, we have to create a culture outside of the agencies that demands that kind of stewardship and have organizations on the ground helping the agencies to know when landscapes are being abused and when illegal activities are occurring and to partner with them, to set an expectation that raises what all of us expect out of our public landscapes.

You know, it’s interesting to see what a little bit of signage and interpretation can do to reset expectations. This is not a place for an illegal dump. It’s not a place to be abused. It’s not a place where you get to drive your vehicle anywhere across the landscape. And having some very modest, inexpensive infrastructure that tells people about the history and the resources of a place can really eliminate some of the worst behaviors that we have tolerated for far too long in many of these public spaces.

MA: I think most people in the public view New Mexico Wild as an advocacy group, which we certainly are. Perhaps lesser known, we have this robust stewardship and public engagement program, paid Wilderness Rangers throughout the state and hundreds of volunteers we call Wilderness Defenders.  They are our eyes and ears, and we learn a lot about the abuses from them, but they also do trail work and signage and interpretative kiosks, which  is really gratifying. When we meet members of the public on the trail, they’re very appreciative of our presence and our work, and so we’re going to do more of that in the upcoming years.

I want to turn to a frustrating issue that I know you care about deeply. Even after the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling regarding stream access, we’ve seen virtually no leadership from the Department of Game and Fish about communicating what is and isn’t allowed and about protecting the public’s constitutional right to fish and boat. We hear lots of frustration not only from the public, but also from private property owners about this lack of clarity and guidance from the department. Do you have thoughts about where we go from here, what the department could be doing better or differently? Are there things that New Mexico Wild or our partners could be doing to help move us to the next place in this conversation?

MH: You know, there are a lot of really good people at New Mexico Game and Fish, but there’s a complete vacuum of leadership on this issue. I think it’s outrageous that New Mexico Game and Fish is simply choosing not to do its job, and the responsibility for that goes directly to the top. I think we’re very lucky in that we have an Attorney General in Raul Torrez who is beginning to fill that void, but there’s no substitute for Game and Fish doing their job. A lot of the points of conflict here could be addressed through how those resources get managed, like limitations on methods of take and other things that could make sure that the resources are managed at the best possible level as high-quality fishery resources. That would address a lot of the concerns of some of the private landowners. But we just don’t see that engagement from Game and Fish right now, and that’s very disappointing to me.

I do very much appreciate the work being done by the Attorney General to protect those rights that we have as New Mexicans, but we need more clarity. Other states have wrestled with this and come up with very clear guidelines for what is and isn’t allowed and where—things like defining the stream course as the high-water mark, for example, for the purpose of being able to access those resources. We need that kind of clarity and it’s not coming from Game and Fish under the current leadership, unfortunately.

MA: We’ve talked many times about your interest in buffalo. In his latest book, “Wild New World,” Dan Flores talks about the nearly miraculous prevention of the outright extinction of buffalo and also has some interesting thoughts about the significant contributions that Native peoples have had in that effort. Do you have hope for the continued recovery of what Flores calls the “most iconic American animal of all,” and what opportunities do you see in in New Mexico?

MH: I’m very optimistic about the future of buffalo on the American landscape. I’ve been really lucky to be able to work very closely in in my role as senator with the Intertribal Buffalo Council, and we’re seeing more and more herds being stewarded by Tribal communities, from cultural herds to meat production herds to wild herds, which is very exciting.

I would love to see in New Mexico a sustained effort to view wild bison as wildlife on public lands. We have recovered every other major big game species through the North American model except bison at a landscape level. If you think about the 19th and early 20th centuries, so many species of wildlife that we take for granted today were nearly gone at that time—not just buffalo, but whitetail deer in many places, wild turkey. Elk was extinct in New Mexico at one point. Our pronghorn were barely surviving. Through the North American model, we brought all of those species back—and not just in little boutique numbers but in numbers that function with the landscape. The exception to that is buffalo. So, I am hopeful that through both Tribal and conservation herd efforts, we could see buffalo back on the landscape in New Mexico as wildlife on public lands in the coming decades. That would be an enormous change and an enormous opportunity to right a historical wrong.

MA: I want to acknowledge that this year we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the administrative designation of the Gila Wilderness, the first place in the world to be protected for its inherent wildness. Looking back at what’s been saved since then, places that are part of New Mexico’s very identity, I imagine how much poorer we would be as a state and a country if we hadn’t. What does this anniversary in the Gila mean to you? And what about the next 100 years? What is our obligation to protect the increasingly rare wild places that are still left?

MH: I think it’s really valuable, the role that the Gila Wilderness in particular plays in the identity of New Mexico. We were the birthplace of the idea of protecting Wilderness in its wild and undeveloped and roadless state. When you think about the leadership that designation showed a century ago, we have a responsibility to figure out what our role is today to continue to show that leadership in the conservation space. At a moment when so much wildness on the planet has been lost and more and more of the planet is dedicated to supporting the needs of humans and less of it is in its intact state, we’re realizing how valuable those places are for things like carbon regulation, how important they are for biodiversity, how important they are economically, and even for our own mental health. My hope is that we can take inspiration from a century ago and apply it to what we should be doing today to make sure that our kids and our grandkids can inherit what they deserve.

MA: Looking back over the last 20 years, I can’t think of a major conservation success in New Mexico which you haven’t led or significantly supported. You’ve had so many conservation successes over the course of your public service career. Are there ones that you are particularly proud of or ones that you’d like to highlight for the readers that were unlikely or particularly gratifying?

MH: When we recently designated 10 new Wilderness areas in the southern part of the state, that was many decades in the making. All of those Wilderness areas in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, the scale of that was really impressive. That was a once-in-a-lifetime piece of legislation. But oftentimes the things that stick in my mind are some of the smaller accomplishments that that were less likely. A good example would be Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah in San Juan County. To make that tiny Wilderness area possible was such a Rubik’s cube of coal preference lease rights and land selection way back from the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act that were tied up together, and the Wilderness Study Area: We had the disentangle all these overlapping elements and figure out how to get the Navajo Nation new land selections that would work for them, extinguish those coal preference leases, designate the Wilderness—all those things were connected. So, even though it was only a few thousand acres, it was one of the most complicated problem-solving challenges that my staff and I ever worked on, and in a really conservative county that hadn’t seen a lot of federal conservation legislation in some time. It’s challenges like that that really stick in my head.

Another good example is when Ryan Zinke became Secretary of the Interior and we were trying to open the Sabinoso Wilderness to public access and expand that Wilderness. It’s no secret that Secretary Zinke was not a big fan of Wilderness. In a hearing in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he basically told me there was no way that was going to happen. Finding ways to work with people that you disagree with: I realized I wasn’t making any progress with the direct approach to Secretary Zinke and I said, “Hey, how about you just come out to New Mexico and get on a horse, and I’ll get on a horse, and we’re going to ride into this place. I want you to see it with your own eyes, and then let’s see if something’s possible.” That completely changed his demeanor. It ended up being a really productive opportunity and, at the end of the day, Secretary Zinke accepted the donation of land that expanded the Wilderness and opened up public access. He viewed it as an accomplishment, whereas just a few months earlier, he was viewing it as something that he should prevent.

MA: I love that story. Now, I think this is kind of inside baseball for some folks, but it’s certainly something that we know is important. Would you describe for our readers your role on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, what it does and how that might afford you a unique vantage point to assess and influence policy and legislation?

MH: I realized pretty early in my public service career what an outsized influence the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has had on conservation writ large and on the state of New Mexico. We have this history of New Mexico senators chairing that committee and being active on that committee—people like Clinton Anderson, Jeff Bingaman, Pete Domenici. When I got to the Senate, it was one of my first priorities to land on that committee, and I think what’s important for the public to understand is simply that all things public lands and energy go through that committee. So, whether you care about public lands and keeping public lands in public hands or you care about solving climate change, this is the committee where much of that action happens. Much of the Inflation Reduction Act came out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and that bill is the single biggest piece of progress on the climate front ever anywhere on the planet. It’s a great opportunity to be on that committee and to be able to work on the things that I care about like climate and public lands.

MA: We’ve certainly seen your role on that committee pay huge dividends for New Mexico. This is not breaking news, but Congress is dysfunctional and seems more paralyzed than ever. And so many of the permanent protections that we seek for our lands, waters and wildlife require legislation. We’ll keep pushing on those because that’s what we do. But how should our members be thinking of our efforts considering this uncertainty and paralysis?

MH: We have to play the cards that we’re dealt. There are a lot of folks in Congress today who don’t come to Congress to accomplish things. They come to Congress to make a point, not to make a difference. That has begun to impact the Senate as well as the House of Representatives. But what I’ve learned about Congress is that while the door to opportunity is usually closed, there is a moment when it will open. And when it opens, we need to be ready and have done the groundwork to be able to take something like the Pecos legislation or the Gila Wild and Scenic bill and walk through that door. I don’t know when that door will open, but time and again, I’ve seen it happen.

Some of the biggest accomplishments legislatively that I’ve been a part of have happened at surprising times. We were able to fully fund and permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund when Donald Trump was in the White House. I don’t think that’s an accomplishment that (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell would have ever allowed Barack Obama to have. So, when that door opens, it tends to be a surprise. We need have done the community engagement and ground truthing and crafted the bills so that when opportunity strikes, we’re ready to accomplish important things for our communities in New Mexico.

MA: Couldn’t agree more. Colorado College conducts an annual State of the Rockies poll, and this year’s results came out in February. This poll has consistently shown that voters throughout the West overwhelmingly support conservation. In New Mexico for example, 79% support the national goal of conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. And a whopping 83% support the creation of new National Monuments and National Parks. To get to such positive numbers necessarily means that protection efforts are supported by Democrats, Republicans and Independent alike. So why does it seem like there’s such a disconnect between some of your colleagues in D.C. and their own constituents on public lands and conservation?

MH: A lot of it is history and inertia. Our historical frame around public lands has sometimes been one of putting the development or extractive interests above other uses. That is a reflection of where we were and what the needs of the country were when those public lands were created. I think those values have shifted over time because no one’s making more land and we’re all hungry for these special places that really renew us, where we value outdoor recreation at a much higher level than we did as a country 50 or 100 years ago. Our needs and values have shifted, but that inertia is still there. The moneyed interests of that inertia—whether that’s in the form of mining or mineral development, leasing of fossil fuels or timber—have a lot of inertia behind them, even though the public’s values have shifted over time. That’s where the conflict comes in. It’s part of the reason why big conservation bills are embraced by the public. When we did the Great American Outdoors Act or the John Dingell Act, the reception from the public was overwhelmingly positive. But negotiating to get those things done was very challenging.

MA: Unsurprisingly, that same poll showed that 74% of New Mexicans think that low water levels in rivers represent a serious problem. This spring, our partners at American Rivers chose all of New Mexico’s rivers the most endangered in the nation. I know we share a love of rivers. Do you have thoughts about what we could be doing to better protect our rivers and waters in New Mexico?

MH: Well, I think the Gila Wild and Scenic bill is a piece of that, obviously, but I also think we need to recognize that the climate has changed. Climate change is not a future problem. It is something we are wrestling with each and every day in New Mexico; it is creating enormous new stresses on our rivers and on everyone who relies on those rivers for water. We need to get more creative about the tools we bring to that conversation so we can make sure that, in addition to all of the things that we use water for in the state of New Mexico—economic development, agriculture, recreation—we’re also protecting the very river systems we all rely on and finding ways to make sure those rivers stay wet in a changing climate where there’s less and less water. Much of the infrastructure that was created historically to manage, for example, the Rio Grande Basin was authorized in a way that said, “We created this dam, and it is purely to be used for flood control. And this other dam over here is purely to be used for managing the water for irrigation.” We have to manage the system now because we don’t have enough water to go around, and we need to be able to use all of the tools that we have on these big basins as a whole rather than just as these one-offs. That’s not the way we’ve thought about water basin management historically. We’re going to have to get a lot more creative and seek out new tools like conservation leasing to help us take the pressure off a system that is that is under a lot of stress.

MA: You’ve mentioned the Gila Wild and Scenic River legislation, which obviously you championed and are championing. And our readers already know that you continue to fight for other legislation that’s important to us like the Cerro de la Olla Wilderness bill, the Pecos Watershed Protection Act, greater Chaco and many others. But I want to see if you had other legislation that you’re excited about that they might not be aware of or that you would particularly like to highlight.

MH: I’m really excited about the legislation that I’m carrying with (Sen.) Thom Tillis of North Carolina. It’s called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. You can’t have public lands without wildlife. This bill would dramatically impact our ability to maintain and protect viable populations of wildlife across the United States. Look at national wildlife laws, things like the Endangered Species Act, which is really important, but kind of a last resort. It’s what you do when an individual species is in the emergency room to keep it from going extinct. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act gives us a tool to engage much earlier in the process and prevent populations from being threatened with extinction in the first place—so, intervening when a dollar goes a lot further, preventing listings from ever being necessary and protecting species when they’re first starting to show signs of stress and decline. It’s legislation we’ve built a strong bipartisan coalition around. I think it could be one of the most important things I ever get a chance to work on.

MA: We’re big fans of that legislation. We recently commissioned an independent scientific study to evaluate the climate change adaptation and mitigation and biodiversity values of certain public lands here in New Mexico, and, unsurprisingly, the study showed that protected areas represent a highly effective strategy for protecting biodiversity and connectivity and climate resilience—also, for carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions associated with unleased fossil fuels. How do you think about this connection between land conservation and climate change, and can we be doing a better job at messaging that connection to the public?

  1. I think we need to find a better way to communicate the connections here to the public. I got a chance to go to Scotland a couple of years ago for one of the climate change summits. One of the things that I found really interesting was that in much of the world, the political leadership and the public view the climate crisis and the nature crisis as the same thing, as one challenge. We have become so compartmentalized in our thinking in the United States that we have separated those two things when they really are deeply interconnected. We’re realizing that natural systems and systems that support wildlife and biodiversity, intact carbon cycling and water cycling are key to buffering some of the worst impacts of climate change. I think we need to find ways to weave those two narratives together and make our communities more aware of how they relate to each other and just how important protecting nature—land and wildlife systems, forests, river systems—is to keeping this planet livable as our climate challenges really become acute.

MA: It’s been a year or two now since the huge historic acquisition of the L Bar and you were a huge proponent and a leader in that effort, especially using Land and Water Conservation funds. Are there other projects that you’re able to talk about publicly that you’re excited about that our readers might want to know about?

MH: I think it would be useful to do a whole article at some point on the L Bar just because that was such a historic achievement. We had such a great coalition of folks working on it. Leadership from places like Acoma, Laguna and Zuni (Pueblos) were key to creating support at the Legislature and in the Governor’s office to make that possible. The challenge of building a $34 million budget in 13 months—it was kind of a record effort in many ways. The only thing similar I’ve ever seen in New Mexico was when we were able to purchase what is now the Valles Caldera National Preserve from the Dunigan family.

I think there are going to be additional opportunities because we now have this Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund that Rep. (Nathan) Small championed at the state Legislature. We have the Land and Water Conservation Fund fully funded at the federal level. We have a number of tools now that we can use when what I would call a marquee landscape property comes up for sale and our choices are potential development or conservation. We’re tracking a number of properties around the state for those opportunities. Some of those solutions are going to be as simple as conservation easements. We’ve seen amazing announcements in the last year around places like the Pedro Armendariz Grant and the conservation leases that have been applied to that and what that means for our state as a whole, not just for those properties. I don’t want to go too deep into the weeds on specific places, but, yes, we’re working with landowners who are interested in some of those tools to make sure that the Land of Enchantment continues to be the Land of Enchantment.

MA: We look forward to working with you on those new opportunities, and our members will stay tuned. New Mexico Wild promotional question here: You were one of our founding board members and you obviously saw the need and value in creating an organization that does what we do. Why should people become members or supporters of New Mexico Wild? Can you describe how what we do here in New Mexico helps you when you’re in D.C.?

MH: Absolutely. New Mexico Wild is critical to creating the sort of locally rooted conservation engagement that allows for legislation and administrative conservation actions to be possible. Without your grassroots engagement in communities around the state, it simply wouldn’t be possible to get many of the things that we’ve done in the last couple of decades to happen. If you look back at New Mexico’s conservation timeline, the time before New Mexico Wild came along, there were a couple of decades when almost nothing happened. It’s that infrastructure, that engagement, the grassroots that you harness and represent that has made it possible to do so many things. Think of White Sands National Park, the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Area, all of the Wilderness areas in the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments, those Monuments themselves, some of the new refuges that we have seen in New Mexico—all of these things require a huge amount of grassroots support to be successful. I think the proof is in the pudding that so many things have gotten accomplished, and New Mexico Wild has become a real force of nature in the state.

MA: Thank you so much. That means a lot to the board and staff and the members of New Mexico Wild. You’ve been very generous with your time. Is there anything that we didn’t get a chance to talk about that you’d like to raise or highlight?

MH: I would just leave folks with an ask, which is ask yourself how you can give back to these landscapes that we are so lucky to have in New Mexico. I think almost all of us who have some relationship with New Mexico Wild are deeply connected to places that we know and love. We have a responsibility to think about how to steward and protect those places and pass them on to the next generation in better shape than we inherited them. And that’s a responsibility for me and for you, but it’s also a responsibility that I think all of your members take very seriously. When your membership is engaged, it makes a lot of really important things possible.

MA: Thank you so much, again, for your time and for your leadership. It’s just such a joy to be able to work with you on things that we really care about. And I also want to thank you for having such a fantastic staff. They are also exceptional to work with. I really appreciate all that you do and look forward to seeing you soon, Martin. Thank you.

MH: Thank you, Mark.