District 1 Commissioner Joe Gonzales presents County Emergency Manager Gail Tripp with a plaque recognizing her hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic at the most recent County Commission meeting.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

The Socorro County Board of Commissioners recognized the work of Socorro firefighters, volunteer medical professionals, department of health personnel and the county’s emergency manager during the pandemic. 

District 1 Commissioner, and Socorro Fire Chief, Joe Gonzales called up each firefighter to recognize them for their hard work testing locals for COVID-19 and administering COVID-19 vaccines. Gonzales also presented Emergency Manager Gail Tripp with a plaque recognizing her service. Both Gonzales and Tripp grew emotional discussing the challenges the pandemic presented. 

“Not once did they complain,” said Gonzales of the firefighters. 

The Board also unanimously passed a resolution opposing the 30 x 30 conservation plan. The plan was put into place by executive order in January and its goal is to conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands by 2030. The resolution notes that 56 percent of Socorro County lands are already federal lands and 13 percent are already state-owned lands. 

The Board supports maintaining access to federal lands and opposed setting aside large tracts of land as preserves or open spaces, the resolution states. 

Commissioner Ray Martinez asked the Board to consider the resolution. Martinez said five other counties are also opposing the plan. 

New Mexico Cattle Growers Association President Randell Major described the plan as a “dream killer for future generations and local economies.”  He is concerned that the conservation plan would limit access to public lands and harm the local tax base by turning more private land into public land. 

A preliminary report on the 30 x 30 plan released in early May, from the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce and Council on Environmental Quality, seems to take into account the concerns outlined by the Board’s resolution and by Major. The report notes that conservation and restoration efforts should be regionally balanced, not just focused on western public lands. The report outlines eight principles, including conservation approaches that create jobs and honoring private property rights. The report recommends increasing access to public lands for outdoor recreation as part of the 30 x 30 program. 

The report also specifically mentions ranching in western states. 

“This commitment includes a clear recognition that maintaining ranching in the West—on both public lands and private lands—is essential to maintaining the health of wildlife, the prosperity of local economies, and an important and proud way of life.”

The Board also:

  • Approved holding a public hearing on updating an existing hemp growing ordinance to include all cannabis growers. The ordinance requires growers to get a county license and make sure they are only growing feminized seed. This protects the growers from unwanted cross-pollination, according to the county attorney.
  • Approved putting $10,000 towards the New Mexico Chile Taste-Off in September as a way to support tourism and economic development. The festival is not meant to bring in profit, but to promote New Mexico chile growers, said Joram Robbs, Executive Director of the New Mexico Chile Association, the nonprofit organizing the event.  District 4 Commissioner Glen Duggins is President of the New Mexico Chile Association Board of Directors.

The next meeting will be June 8, 2021, at 10 a.m. at 198 Neel Ave. 


Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain