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New Mexico State Land Office introduces “One Health”

—Ty Belknap

The New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) recently hired Julia Lalor, DVM, to head the office’s new One Health Initiative. Like State Commissioner Ray Powell, she is a veterinarian with experience in land management. Powell said that the NMSLO has recently applied the One Health label, which is gaining worldwide acceptance to an approach to land management that he has always used.

“One Health acknowledges the interconnection between land, animals, and humans in a rational, generational approach. It looks at the long-term consequences of land-use decisions. We look at the way forest thinning, riparian restoration, drought, and overgrazing affect wildlife and, in turn, humans. Infectious diseases like hantavirus, rabies, West Nile virus, and plague illustrate the interrelationship of wildlife and humans,” said Powell.

His office tries to cooperate with other agencies to look at the possible impacts of things like wind generators on bird migration, appropriate locations for residential development in regards to fire danger, tire dumps, and mosquito breeding—looking at long-term effects that human disruption can cause to land and animals. One Health also looks at the impacts of animals on the land.

The NMSLO is involved in the effort to control the feral hog infestation that is spreading across the state.

“We should have seen the impact of feral hogs earlier and been more aggressive in trying to eliminate them in an efficient humane manner before the situation gets as bad as it is in Texas where they have just about given up,” he said. “The Siberian hogs were introduced for sport hunting in Texas, where they have bred rapidly and adapted to every ecosystem, causing enormous damage along the way. The hogs root up vegetation, and eat just about anything. They are smart enough to evade hunters and traps and carry thirty-three infectious diseases that can be spread to humans. You can’t just shoot them and throw a matanza.

The NMSLO has partnered with the Department of Health, Agriculture, Environment, and Game and Fish to try to get rid of the hogs before they are here to stay.

“They are already in 22 of our 33 counties and they are moving fast. It’s a problem in Eastern New Mexico where they are destroying the habitat of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard and Lesser Prairie Chicken. If the population of these endangered species suffers, they could be placed on the Endangered Species List, which would affect access to land for oil and gas production, which is so important to our state. It’s all tied together,” Powell said.

The feral horse problem has many similarities to the feral hog problem, even though most people find horses more attractive.

“The situation in Placitas illustrates that over-density of anything is a big problem when it exceeds the ability of the land to host other species. You end up with a cascade of unintended consequences like lost habitat and soil erosion. It’s bad for the land, humans, and especially orphaned horses, which face a brutal struggle for survival,” he said.

The One Health Initiative is designed to keep people connected to the land and encourages leases of state trust land to team up with each other on eco-tourism and agro-tourism projects. It seeks to make use of science and technology to do the right thing to begin with, rather than being forced to fix or pay for it later.

 “People of goodwill can have different opinions, but still come together to do the right thing on behalf of the natural world,” said Powell.

NM drops to last in Kids Count Data Book

For the first time, New Mexico has fallen to the bottom slot—ranking fiftieth in the nation in overall child well-being in the 2013 national Kids Count Data Book. Last place has always been taken by Mississippi, which rose to forty-ninth this year for the first time in the publication’s twenty-plus year history. Last year, rankings for the two states were reversed with New Mexico at forty-ninth and Mississippi at fiftieth.

The Data Book, released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks the fifty states on 16 indicators of child well-being, classified under categories such as economic security, education, and heath. New Mexico has never ranked above fortieth since the Casey Foundation began compiling the data book in 1990.

The state’s ongoing inability to recover from the recession is to blame for some of the drop to fiftieth. New Mexico’s child poverty rate continues to increase, especially for young children. More children are living in single-parent families, which puts them at greater risk for living in poverty, and more children live in families where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment.

“While investments in young children is essential to improving poor outcomes, these economic indicators tell us that we also need to invest in working parents,” said Dr. García. “Parents need to earn a living wage, and they need adequate work supports like high-quality, affordable child care. They also need help improving their own educational levels.”

While New Mexico is doing worse in some indicators, the change in rankings is more closely tied to the fact that Mississippi is doing better than they have in years past. Over the past decade, Mississippi saw improvement in two indicators that are key to predicting a children’s educational success: the percentages of children attending preschool and of children whose parents finished high school. New Mexico has not seen improvement in these two indicators.

“More than sixty percent of our children are not attending preschool, and 22 percent of our children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma. These children will already be behind when they start school, and they’ll be unlikely to catch up,” said Dr. García.

NM Voices for Children released the national data book at their “New Mexico Kids Count Conference: Third Grade Counts!” on June 24, at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid

To access an embargoed copy of the 2013 Kids Count Data Book, go to:

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