June 18, 2020

House Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on Luján Bill Recognizing Traditional Land Uses

Nambé, N.M. –Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, testified to the cultural and economic significance of New Mexico’s land grant-mercedes during a remote hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee on the Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act. Introduced by Luján, this legislation gives land grant communities greater access to land within their historical boundaries while also promoting better consultation between the federal government and local stakeholders.

In his testimony from the Acequia de la Comunidad in Nambé, Congressman Luján stressed the importance of traditional land uses for New Mexicans.  

“One of the bills that is before the committee today is an important piece of legislation to better address the challenges faced by land grants communities and acequia communities, and all of those family members, ranchers, farmers that could not survive without access to these important lands and acequias. I'm actually sitting on one here today. So, because I'm able to be here in New Mexico to share with each of my colleagues, you see one of those acequias is flowing right behind me…That's one of the most important aspects of these lands to be able to keep our small farmers, to be able to get access to these important water resources in New Mexico,” said Luján.

Also testifying before the committee was Arturo Archuleta, Program Manager for the New Mexico Land Grant Council and University of New Mexico Land Grant Studies, who recognized Congressman Luján for his leadership on the land grant issue. 

“The Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act is a product over 10 years of work between our communities, Congressman Luján, and the entire New Mexico congressional delegation. It will provide for the recognition of long-standing traditional uses practiced by our land grant communities and acequias on federally managed lands,” said Archuleta. 

Video of the hearing is available here.

In written testimony to the committee, the New Mexico Acequia Commission and the New Mexico Acequia Association also expressed support for the bill. 

“The New Mexico Acequia Commission supports the efforts of H.R. 3682, the Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act to provide for greater consultation between the Federal Government and the governing bodies of the land grant-mercedes and acequias in New Mexico to provide for a process for recognition of the historic-traditional boundaries,” wrote Ralph Vigil, Chairman of the NM Acequia Commission.  

“Acequias have endured for centuries in New Mexico and nurtured land-based communities for generations with water, agricultural traditions, and community. We ask for your support of H.R. 3682, the Land Grand and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act,” wrote Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association.

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