John Buchser is the former longtime Rio Grande Chapter chairman, and he remains out Water Team chair and has been a member of the Rio Grande Chapter for decades.
Question: What is your position in the Rio Grande Chapter?
John Buchser: Water issues chair
Q: How long have you been active in the chapter?
JB: About 30 years
Q: What is your favorite memory of environmental activism, protection or participation?
JB: The women’s march to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, Jan. 21, 2017. The biggest protest march I have ever participated in. Friends came from out of town to join. It gave me hope we could overcome what was likely to be a horrible four years of Republicans turning the clock backwards on environmental protections, and setting a horrible example for the world.
Q: Why do you volunteer with Sierra Club?
JB: To protect things I value and want to share — beautiful outdoor places, a planet that sustains us.
Q: What are some of the major issues or victories during your tenure with the chapter?
JB: 1. We won a $330 million settlement from PNM for lack of adequate pollution controls. Unfortunately, they ignored us until Gov. Richardson stepped in, and seemed to claim the victory as his own.
2. We won protection for new wilderness areas, and expansions of others.
3. We elected Martin Heinrich to the House, and then the Senate. Unlike Sen. Domenici, Heinrich understood protection of wild places. Heinrich started as wilderness chair for the chapter, then was elected to the Albuquerque City Council.
Q: What’s your favorite accomplishment?
JB: To continue to engage new people in leadership roles. There are so many important things to protect; it takes all of us to focus on some of the most important issues, and then work collaboratively with other groups to attain victories.
Q: What are your thoughts on 2017 and 2018?
JB: In 2017, President Trump has proved just how fragile our democracy is. I am proud of the politicians who are engaged for the protection of our resources. Ben Ray Luján has hung in there for many years, facing a hostile environment in the House, and yet he maintains a positive attitude. Our secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, is protecting the rights of the voters.
In 2018, I’d like to see #45 replaced by #46. I’d like to re-take the house in DC, and elect a responsible governor in New Mexico. I’d like to see the Democrats work collaboratively, to not use all their energy in the primaries fighting each other. And I’d like to prevent New Mexico from becoming the used-nuclear-fuel-rod disposal area for the entire U.S.
Q: What’s changed in the chapter from the time you joined to now?
JB: We have staff. When I became active, the only staff we had was a lobbyist, only for the duration of the session.
We are civil to each other, even when we have differing viewpoints. In the Northern Group, I think we always had civil discussions. However, at the chapter level, it was not that way in the past.
What changed about me is that I realize the importance of politics – to elect good people who will listen to our concerns.