Rio Grande Chapter year in review


Participants in Global Warming Express, the Sierra Club science and civics education program by and for kids, speak at the New Mexico Legislature. In February, some of the GWEers in Albuquerque meet with new Mayor Tim Keller, who promised them he would ban plastic straws from Albuquerque city buildings.


In a surprising move, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke cancelled a March BLM lease auction of 4,454 acres in Greater Chaco to oil and gas companies. After protests from New Mexico’s congressional delegates, the Frack Off Chaco Coalition, the Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors, National Congress of American Indians, 15 Navajo chapter houses, the Legislature and thousands of concerned citizens, Zinke instructed the BLM to defer the sale pending analysis of cultural resources in the lease area.

The Sandoval County Commission approves a Citizens Working Group composed of 14 county residents and led by geologist Don Phillips. Members were responsible for developing an oil and gas ordinance that included meaningful tribal consultation and water protections. The working group ended up splitting; only one committee’s proposal was recommended to the commission, and that proposal was significantly altered.

 The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission approves Southwestern Public Service’s 1.2-gigawatt wind-energy project in New Mexico and west Texas. Rio Grande Chapter activists called and emailed commissioners to urge passage of the proposal, which included prioritized hiring of local contractors on construction workers.

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a stunning decision, allowing New Mexico’s industry-written Copper Rule to stand. The court’s decision came despite the fact – acknowledged by the industry, the Environment Department, and the court – that copper mines will “inevitably” pollute large areas of groundwater that will become increasingly important in our arid climate.

The Albuquerque City Council passes a resolution to condemn coyote-killing contests.

Despite less than two days’ notice, more than 400 residents around the Gila National Forest attend a meeting with the Air Force and protest rally opposing a possible plan by Holloman Air Force Base to run 10,000 test flights a year over Gila National Forest. Not one person spoke in favor of the Holloman proposal.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposes to eliminate Bureau of Land Management rules that would reduce methane pollution on public lands.

HB161, an ALEC bill that would have stopped any local government from, for example, requiring labeling of genetically modified crops or imposing public-health restrictions like setbacks or pesticide-drift regulations, died in committee. Many grassroots activists contacted their legislators to stop the bill.

The House passes a bill renewing the 10% tax credit for residents and small businesses who install solar panels. Gov. Susana Martinez failed to sign it by the deadline (also called a pocket veto).


The Counselor Health Impact Committee installs monitors to measure indoor and outdoor air quality within 1 mile of oil and gas wells in Navajo Nation Counselor Chapter. Sierra Club funded the 20 monitors the team installed April 15 and paid for lab analysis and reports to each household, church and chapter house being monitored.

U.S. District Judge James Browning, presiding over a 2015 lawsuit against the BLM Farmington Field Office, ruled that the BLM did not violate the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act by opening Greater Chaco to horizontal fracking under a 2003 management plan that doesn’t analyze the impacts of horizontal fracking.

Eight wolf pups are cross-fostered from captive litters into wild ones this past spring. In late April, two pups were placed into a wild den in Arizona and two into a wild den in New Mexico. In May, four more were placed with another New Mexico pack. The purpose is to increase the genetic diversity of the wild population. The hope is their wild families will teach them what they need to know about avoiding humans.

The Las Cruces City Council passed a resolution to obtain 25% of the city’s electricity from renewable energy by 2022, 30% by 2030, and 100% by 2050.

Global Warming Express kids meet with the mayors of Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe to talk plastic straws, climate and solar-powered cities.

In reaction to a proposal by Holtec to build a storage site for high-level nuclear waste between Carlsbad and Hobbs and ship all the nation’s radioactive waste there, activists tour the state with a mock radioactive-waste canister to highlight how risky the shipment and storage of the nuclear waste is. Rio Grande Chapter volunteers organized opposition among community members in southeast New Mexico


Thanks to citizen lobbying, 30 legislators signed on to letters objecting to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inadequate public-comment period on a proposed dump for high-level nuclear fuel rods between Carlsbad and Hobbs. The NRC held public meetings in southeast New Mexico. At every location, the overwhelming majority of commenters expressed concern about the risk to New Mexicans and West Texans. The attendance in Roswell was so high, the fire marshal would not allow all members of the public to attend.


To protect the communities and environment of the border Southwest, more than 400 people gathered to protest at All Against the Wall on June 2, at the construction site of the newest border wall at Santa Teresa, just west of El Paso.

Groups including San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné C.A.R.E, Amigos Bravos, WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club win a legal challenge against the BLM Farmington Office’s attempt to lease minerals on 19,788 acres of Santa Fe National Forest land encompassing Greater Chaco region.


Results from air monitors placed at homes and schools near oil and gas wells on Counselor Chapter, Navajo Nation, show that the open air is widely contaminated with chemical-laden particulate matter and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

The El Paso Group of the Rio Grande Chapter delivers more than 10,000 letters and 5,000 petition signatures to the Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director to support a plan to return endangered gray wolves to the wilds of Texas.


Installing solar gets a lot more affordable for Eastern New Mexico residents when the Public Regulation Commission kills a montly fee that Southwestern Public Service had imposed for years on homes and businesses that invested in solar.

President Trump reverses two of the key promises the U.S. made to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement that would drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, revoking two methane-reducing rules.

The Mexican government announces that there are 30 Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico. This is in addition to the 114 in the U.S. as of 2017.


In Nov. 6 elections, Sierra Club-endorsed candidates sweep statewide offices, including governor, secretary of state, land commissioner and attorney general, as well as 19 of 25 legislative races and every local race. See facing page for how you can use this opportunity to create environmental progress.

After more than 1,100 Rio Grande Chapter supporters emailed the agency, the U.S. Forest Service revokes the grazing permit of a rancher who trapped an endangered Mexican gray wolf and bludgeoned it with a shovel. Also in November, an Arizona man is sentenced to five years probation and revokation of his rifle for intentiolly shooting a gray wolf.

Sandoval County Commission rejects a weak oil and gas ordinance with insufficient protections.


El Paso Group collaborates with El Paso Environmemtal Services Department on informational decals for recycling bins to reduce cty’s contamination rate, 10 times that of neighboring Las Cruces.

Rio Grande Chapter year in review