By George Wright

The 2022 municipal election is very important to conserving our lifestyle, quality of life, and legacy. In 2018, the Village Council passed a law (Ordinance 18-002) that banned commercial cannabis operations in Zones A-1 and A-2, the areas of the village where we have our homes.

Based on faulty input from the Village Attorney, the council revoked that 2018 law in August 2021. Corraleños, through petition and through their elected representatives, spoke out. The council realized its mistake, and during a special meeting on January 4, 2022, it reinstated a law that bans commercial cannabis operations in Zones A-1 and A-2.

The council vote was 5:1 in favor of the ban with Councillor Mel Knight of Council District 3 the only dissenter.

Councillor Knight is standing for re-election in March, and her opponent is Jonathan A. (Andy) Dilts. Andy shares a view of cannabis with the 1,200 persons who signed the petition to ban commercial cannabis in residential areas.

Councilor Knight does not share a similar protective view. She claimed that a residential protective ordinance violated state law, however she did not articulate why a ban would be against the law. Our neighbors in Los Ranchos have implemented a similar ban and they obviously feel it comports with state law and is defendable against legal challenges, and an independent legal assessment by a premier N.M. attorney firm also agrees that the ban will stand up to legal challenges.

I support Andy Dilts for District 3 Councillor. I believe that he will strongly support the legislation enacted by the council on January 4, and will defend it should the ban be the subject of subsequent litigation against the Village.

In the history of the Village’s struggle against Corrales becoming the “Commercial Cannabis Capitol of New Mexico,” there have only been two other councillors who have not voted in favor of ordinances which ban commercial cannabis operations where we live, and which were thankfully and  ultimately enacted into law.

In 2018, Jim Fahey was one of two councillors who voted against Ordinance 18-002; the other was Ennio Garcia-Miera who no longer lives in Corrales. But Jim Fahey does live here and is running for mayor.

I am concerned that as mayor, Fahey would scuttle the good efforts of 1,200 constituents and five councillors who loudly expressed support for the legislation that bans commercial cannabis operations in residential areas. I am concerned that he will not strongly defend the law, if at all, should it be legally challenged, and he has a long legacy of favoring marijuana’s growth and production.

On numerous occasions, Fahey has expressed favoritism toward the cannabis industry’s growers and manufacturers. In addition to his 2018 votes against Ordinance 18-002, the following are some snippets of his past positions.

In a 2017 council meeting, he said, “The Village of Corrales is an agricultural community. You put a seed in the ground, it grows, it becomes a plant. Regardless of what list cannabis is on, it’s a plant.” I agree with Jim, when it is put into the ground a seed usually does grow into a plant.

But cannabis is not defined as “agriculture” anywhere in the N.M. Cannabis Regulation Act, nor in any other state or federal statute. In fact, at the federal level, the 2008 Farm Act declared hemp an agriculture product, but cannabis remained a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Following Fahey’s logic, hemlock and belladonna are plants too, but I also would not want them commercially produced on a lot next door.

When a councillor, Fahey was asked by constituents to help with the nuisances caused by the medical cannabis facility in his district in the north part of Corrales. He basically told neighbors that there was nothing that could be done to abate the odors, traffic and other problems, because he considered it a grandfathered-in, done deal, which was probably not totally the case. Even if the facility was legitimate at the time, Fahey apparently never offered to do anything to help resolve neighborhood complaints.

When constituents in his district asked for help to fight a proposed medical cannabis operation on a four-acre tract adjacent to their rental and other properties, his solution, according to the constituents, was to quit answering their calls and emails. That’s when Councillor Pat Clauser and I thought that such a solution was not a good one, and we began the long, but productive process of getting a council majority to enact Ordinance 18-002.

After that law was passed, the medical cannabis company pulled out and sold out. Instead of a cannabis facility next door, neighbors now see a well-done home that aptly fits with the prevailing architecture.

Jim Fahey’s record indicates that he likely won’t lift a finger, phone or pen to defend the ban on commercial cannabis operations in residential areas, and may instead work to repeal it. Gary Kanin is the only mayoral candidate who has indicated that he will work to keep our residential areas free from commercial cannabis operations.

Mayor Kanin was good for the Village before, and he will be good for the Village again. I strongly support Kanin for Corrales!

By Scott Wilber
Executive Director, New Mexico Land Conservancy

Following on the heels of her “30x30 Executive Order” earlier this fall to conserve at least 30 percent of the state’s land and water in order to “protect New Mexico’s lands, watersheds, wildlife and heritage,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently announced that the State will pursue a $50 million general obligation bond in the upcoming 2022 legislative session to provide much needed dedicated funding across multiple state agencies for a variety of existing land conservation, natural resource management and restoration programs.

The Land of Enchantment (LOE) Bond will be one of the governor’s signature agenda items in the 2022 legislative session and will supplement ongoing efforts to sustain and support New Mexico’s watersheds, wildlife, natural and working lands, scenic beauty and world-renowned outdoor recreation.

The LOE bond would be funded by a modest increase in state property taxes of about $2 per New Mexico household over the next 25 years. If passed during the legislative session, the bond proposal will appear on a statewide ballot for approval or rejection by New Mexico voters in November 2022.

This is exciting news —and, really, the culmination of the ongoing, collective efforts of many different conservation, wildlife, agricultural and outdoor recreation organizations going back almost 20 years— to establish dedicated state funding specifically for conservation in New Mexico. One of the important programs the bond funds would hopefully support is the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, designed to support conservation easements, restoration, forest health and watershed management projects.

This program, administered by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, unfortunately has received no funding since its creation in 2010.

Without dedicated state funding, New Mexico misses out on millions of dollars through federal conservation and natural resource management grant programs that require non-federal matching funds.  State funding would enable state land and natural resource management agencies, tribes, soil and water conservation districts and non-profit conservation organizations to access more of this federal funding.

To adequately address the myriad of challenges currently facing our state —and offset the impacts to our watersheds, forest health and water supply, wildlife and working lands caused by growth and development, prolonged drought and climate change, and increased wildfire—  we need to fund more land conservation, restoration and better management of public, tribal and private lands. Meeting the goals of “30x30,” particularly at larger watershed and landscape scales, simply cannot be achieved through more public land acquisition alone.

Anyone looking at a land ownership map of New Mexico can see that roughly 40 percent is public, 10 percent is tribal and the remaining 50 percent is private, and also see how intertwined these ownerships are.  Rivers, wildlife, cultural resources and scenery don’t just stop at boundaries between public and private land.

Watersheds, in particular, consist of multiple, different ownerships and jurisdictions across the state and, therefore, conservation and restoration efforts need to be managed in an integrated and coordinated fashion, but sometimes with different approaches and solutions.  “30x30” was never intended to just be a public lands initiative and, if it becomes only that in New Mexico, it will alienate a large portion of the population.

Conservation, restoration, agricultural and outdoor recreation groups have been working on and waiting for years for dedicated state funding for the important work that they collectively do. A bond like this will help state agencies, tribes, political subdivisions of the state, as well as non-profit organizations to leverage more federal funding to protect and restore New Mexico’s land and watersheds, improve wildlife habitat and connectivity, prevent land fragmentation, and support healthy land and natural resource stewardship across the state for the benefit of all New Mexicans.

Land and water conservation is essential to the health of our watersheds, ecosystems and natural resources, and fundamental to the welfare of our local communities and economies, and our overall well-being.  We are encouraged by this proposed conservation funding initiative and the governor’s commitment to addressing these timely and urgent issues facing New Mexico today.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: