New Mexico’s land grants and acequias are woven into our culture, traditions and long history. They are also crucial to the future of our state. This is why it is essential we raise the visibility of these communities within state government and why I am committed to working with land grant and acequia community leaders to ensure the state Legislature can respond more effectively to their needs.
Our land grants and acequias not only keep us connected to our state’s Hispanic and Indigenous heritage, they continue to shape our communities and our environment fundamentally. Today, acequias still help us to preserve our precious water supply and sustain our crops, particularly here in Northern New Mexico. And our land grants continue to help advance equity through land ownership and property rights for our Hispano citizens.
As a proud New Mexican and as a lawmaker, I have long held deep respect for land grant and acequia communities and their leaders. In 2017, I built on the foundation set by former New Mexico House Speaker Ben Luján to officially establish the Local Government, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee as a standing committee in the House.
In its current form, however, the Local Government, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee was no longer able to accomplish its important mission. As speaker of the House of Representatives, one of my essential responsibilities is to assign legislators to committees that can efficiently consider and respond to the key issues facing our state.
When Rep. Miguel Garcia recently resigned as chairman of this committee, it became clear it was time for House leadership to reevaluate the committee’s structure and scope to make it more effective. It was also clear we could not do that without input from land grant and acequia communities themselves.
As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, House leadership is meeting with land grant and acequia leaders to get their valuable input and hear about their legislative priorities.
After meeting with these leaders, we will determine how to best elevate the topic of land grants and other traditional communities within the Legislature. All options are on the table — including whether to assign land grants to another committee or to reconfigure a new committee into an effective venue for policymaking for these communities.
Precisely how we do that will depend upon the input of these community leaders. Together, we will protect the cherished New Mexican values and traditions that our land grants and acequias represent, while also setting a course for their future.