A new year is a good time to make a list of how Taos can be the most environmentally forward-looking county in New Mexico, dealing with climate change.
Our county and town officials (especially the Planning and Zoning Department) will be the most up-to-date on the present and future causes of climate change affecting New Mexico. See longtime New Mexico and Taos County resident William deBuys "A Great Aridness," and climate writers Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.
Land-use regulations will reflect vital protections of our groundwater, acequias and soil quality. Urban sprawl will be discouraged and agricultural land with water rights will be off-limits to development. (Taos lost 29 percent of its agricultural land to development in the last few years). Our treasured tool, the Taos Land Trust, can protect parcels five acres or more with water rights. The Taos Land Trust has protected 29,000 acres in New Mexico, most of it in Taos County.
Second-home owners will pay an extra property tax, like in Colorado and other states threatened by large developments on open space needed for wildlife habitat and aquifer protection. This tax can offset resource depletion on dry land from often empty homes.
Roundup and all other poisonous herbicides and pesticides will be prohibited in Taos County. Mexico recently banned Roundup as is true in many European countries. A poisonous, toxic environment causes sickness in populations.
Young farmers will be encouraged and supported - perhaps with state and federal grants - in their efforts to grow on small plots that can provide locally grown, healthy food for Taos residents, farmer's markets, schools, restaurants and hospitals.
Wildlife corridors will be kept open to protect the animals that keep our ecosystem in balance and wildlife habitat will be considered vital for a working environment.
Local businesses will have priority and support over big box stores that contribute to the urbanization/corporatization of Taos damaging the rural character and uniqueness of this community. And taking their profits out of town.
The height of buildings in Taos town will be limited to two stories to preserve the view of our beautiful, encircling mountains from all venues and keep the small town, one-of-a-kind nature of Taos. Smaller buildings use less resources.
The "Dark Skies Ordinance" - a state law and a local law - will be vigorously enforced to protect our rare, and getting rarer, spectacular night skies from light pollution. Some city children in the U.S. have never seen the stars.
The Taos population is historically connected and mindful about land use. And now we understand the urgent need in this time of clear and devastating effects of climate change, to keep this unusual place clean and healthy and maintain the beauty that enhances the lives of all of us, and future Taoseños.
When we get all this done-- we will all have a very happy New Year.
Katherine Bensusen lives in El Prado, New Mexico.