Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

The Land of Enchantment’s Green Amendment has been prefiled for the 2022 legislative session. The Joint Resolution proposes amending the State Constitutional Bill of Rights in order to recognize the rights of present and future generations to clean water and air, a stable climate and healthy environments, as well as recognizing the cultural, natural and human health values of the environment. 

The resolution also creates an enforceable trustee obligation on government officials to protect the state’s natural resources and the newly created environmental rights.

If the Joint Resolution secures a majority vote of support in both the Senate and House of Representatives the Green Amendment will be placed on the next general election ballot in 2022 for a vote by the people of New Mexico.

The “Mother” of the Green Amendment Maya van Rossum told The Paper. she will be in New Mexico throughout the 2022 legislative session to consult with, encourage and gather support for the Green Amendment Vote throughout the state. Van Rossum was a lead plaintiff in the Pennsylvania case that secured constitutional environmental rights for the people of that state. She is the author of the book The Green Amendment and founder of the organization Green Amendments For The Generations.

“New Mexico is on the leading edge of the national movement to recognize environmental rights as fundamental inalienable rights deserving the same highest protection that is currently given to speech, religious, civil and property rights,” van Rossum said.

“Our current system of environmental laws and government, in New Mexico and nationwide, focuses on permitting pollution rather than preventing it.  Green Amendments are also powerful for advancing environmental justice protections by ensuring government officials are protecting the environmental rights of all people and are constitutionally prohibited from creating environmental sacrifice zones,” she explained.

Currently, constitutional Green Amendments exist in Pennsylvania, Montana and New York.  In addition to New Mexico, constitutional environmental rights amendments are being advanced in in Arizona, Washington, New Jersey, Hawaii, Delaware, Vermont, Iowa, West Virginia, Maine, Maryland and Kentucky.

Legislators Weigh in on the Green Amendment

The proposed New Mexico Green Amendment has received strong support for its passage in the 2022 legislative session. Twenty-four legislators have signed on including: Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Representative Joanne Ferrary, Senator Harold Pope, Jr., Senator Bill Soules, Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics, Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, Senator Carrie Hamblen, Representative Tara Lujan, Senator Shannon Pinto, Representative Andrea Romero, Representative Karen Bash, Representative Debbie Sarinana, Representative Roger Montoya, Senator Linda Lopez, Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, Senator Bill Tallman, Senator Jeff Steinborn, Representative Kay Bounkeua, Representative Christine Trujillo, Representative Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, Representative Gail Chasey, Representative Miguel Garcia, Representative Kristina Ortez, and Senator Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales.

“This constitutional amendment will go a long way toward ensuring that no part of our state becomes a sacrifice zone and no people within our state bear a disproportionate pollution burden,” said Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, sponsor of the Joint Resolution. 

Leading the proposal in the House of Representatives, Representative Joanne Ferrary said, “We are at a pivotal moment for environmental protection and justice in our State.  I believe this resolution will help us provide critical, missing and needed protections.

“What it (passage of the Green Amendment) means is that we are entrusting this most important decision to the people of our state – the constitution belongs to them and it is just and right that we are giving New Mexicans the opportunity to decide,” Ferrary said.

Senator Liz Stefanics, a supporter of the proposal, states “The Green Amendment would allow every New Mexican the opportunity to own the future of our land, earth, air, and water.”

Representative Tara Lujan said, “It’s time to make significant progress to meet the goal of climate security.  This constitutional amendment demonstrates lawmakers are serious about protecting New Mexican families.”

“Constitutional environmental rights ratified by our communities will provide a strong foundation on which to ensure true environmental justice for all and will also ensure that protections put in place by our current legislature cannot be dismantled by future administrations,” said Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero.

Community, Faith and Environmental Groups Weigh in on the Green Amendment 

“A New Mexico constitutional Green Amendment is a must-have for our beloved ‘Land of Enchantment’,” said Terry A. Sloan, Director of Southwest Native Cultures, Albuquerque, New Mexico, a leader in the Green Amendment movement since its inception here in New Mexico and nationally and an ECOSOC accredited member of the United Nations.

“With the passage of the proposed Green Amendment officials will be constitutionally obligated to conserve, protect, and maintain our natural resources,” said Linda Starr, co-leader of the Rio Grande Valley Broadband of Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

“We must stop the routine and systematic damage to our environment in the name of economic development and ensure we protect the clean air, pure water, healthy environment and ecosystems for all future generations of people, flora and fauna,” stated Rayellen Smith, President of Indivisible Nob Hill, a leading supporter of the Amendment.

“This constitutional amendment can be one very important tool to help our state and care for our diverse community’s sacred creation,” stated Sr. Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico & El Paso Region Interfaith Power and Light

350 Santa Fe President Robert Cordingley said, “If corporations enjoy constitutional protection of their interests, our environmental interests deserve no less.”

“The Green Amendment is key to addressing climate change. It is empowering the people to ensure our governments stand with them to protect our environment from bad players in the industry and it will ensure we all stand up for future generations,” stated Cheryl Harris, Adelante Progressive Caucus Chair. 

The Amendments’ Mother, van Rossum, summed up what passage of the New Mexico Green Amendment would mean: “Environmental rights would no longer be subservient to all the other rights, goals and expectations of the government and others. It’s very basic…simple. This is our right. Elected officials would have to defend it.”