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New Mexico’s tribes and pueblos have an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis, Indigenous leaders said at the New Mexico Climate Summit in Santa Fe on Tuesday.
Wilfred Herrera Jr., Chairman of the Board of Governors of All Pueblo and former Governor of Laguna Pueblo, called on state, tribal and federal governments to work together on climate solutions using traditional ecosystem knowledge.
“The impacts of climate change, pollution and environmental contamination are not isolated or contained within borders,” Herrera said.
Extreme heat and drought are affecting local hunting, fishing and ranching, Jicarilla Apache President Edward Velarde said.
“Plants and herbs used for traditional ceremonies are hard to find,” Velarde said. “Our lakes are drying up and we are seeing more and more fires in the region.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Indigenous peoples have a responsibility as “stewards of the land” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Nez also said climate policies should address the economic challenge for tribes to find other sources of income as they move away from producing coal, oil and gas.
The Navajo Nation has supported New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act, which paves the way for the transition of state utilities to renewable energy.
“The law includes support and training for displaced workers from the San Juan power plant as well as coal miners, the majority of whom are Navajo,” Nez said.
Tribes in New Mexico have undertaken a variety of climate-focused projects in recent years.
The Mescalero Apache tribe has a forest thinning program to prevent massive forest fires.
The Jicarilla Apache Nation is building several solar farms, including a 500-acre grid that will help supply power to Albuquerque.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said tribal governments and tribal businesses will be “a big part” of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions in the country. New Mexico economy by 2050.
Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.