ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — Some of New Mexico’s most scenic and historic lands have become a dumping ground. Local leaders said, not only is it taking a toll on the environment, but it’s also taking a toll on the economy as well.
“Our land grants are seeing so much. They’re seeing things from people who are renovating their homes, so they’re seeing rolled carpets. They’re seeing toilets, microwaves, everyday household trash is being thrown,” said Senator Leo Jaramillo (D-Española).
“We have found things from microwaves, Christmas trees. We have found old couches,” said Victoria Garcia, president of the Merced del Pueblo Abiquiú.
“There was even a truck that was recently wrecked on the land grant; it’s been there for a while, and now people are dumping their trash alongside that,” Jaramillo said, “That’s the Abiquiú Land Grant. Those photos were taken just last week.”
It’s the same land grant which houses Georgia O’Keeffe’s estate.
“What’s happening is the trash is getting dumped in back roads and in the arroyos. It’s sickening. It’s saddening. It’s frustrating,” Garcia expressed.
However, it’s not a new problem: “Illegal dumping has been an issue for land grant communities for, oh gosh, decades,” said Arturo Archuleta, program manager for the New Mexico Land Grant Council, “Whenever you have entities that own large areas of vacant land, and they don’t have the capacity to police that, we see a lot of illegal dumping where individuals will want to dump trash.”
Jaramillo explained after trash pickups got disrupted in Rio Arriba County because of workforce shortages and other issues with the North Central Solid Waste system, the illegal dumping got progressively worse on the Abiquiú land grant.
“When we’re going to see rains come the threat is with all that trash right washes into arroyos, into our rivers, into the acequias, and it becomes everyone’s problem,” Jaramillo said.
“We graze our animals in those areas along the area. It’s [a] picnic [area]; we have picnic tables. People like to go fishing and then there’s trash. Everywhere,” Garcia said.
Beyond the environmental blight, the illegal dumping is costing the land grant to clean it up, and it’s costing them opportunities.
“The area is gorgeous. A lot of actual movies have been filmed in the area. ‘Bless Me Ultima’ was filmed in the area,” Garcia stated, “We have actually lost revenue because, who wants to film where an area is trashed?”
Jaramillo said he tried to pass a bill this past legislative session to get the land grants in New Mexico a million dollars in one-time funding to clean up the illegal dump sites, but it did not get across the finish line. He said he will try to secure those funds again in the upcoming session.