Sandy Buffett grew up fishing, hiking and “riding around the mesa” outside Albuquerque. Today, she makes her home in Santa Fe, where she’s the executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, a nonprofit political group aimed at cultivating pro-environment majorities in the state House and Senate. In an airy, modern office perched atop the ever-alluring Doubletake, Buffett reflects on this year’s legislative session and the state of environmentalism in New Mexico.
SFR: The legislative session is finally over. How do you feel?
SB: Although it was a really tough year given the budget crisis, I actually feel like we made some really great strides. We passed a monumental bill, [which] is hard in a 60-day session. That we did it in the governor’s last year, in a 30-day session, was really gratifying. That’s the Natural Heritage Conservation Act.
Any other big wins or losses?
We are seeing an increase in intensity of attacks on our regulatory structure, which is set up to protect public health, safety, the air we breathe, the water we drink. Next month we’re going to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and a lot of New Mexico’s monumental pieces of monumental environmental protection legislation came out of the ’70s. It’s disheartening that we have to spend a great deal of our time, energy and resources fighting to preserve those visionary efforts.
So what are you doing now that the session is over?
We do an annual scorecard, 0-100 percent, so that every citizen can know if their state representative or senator is representing their environmental values. It hopefully provides some sunshine to the key environmental battles waged every year at the Legislature. Right now we’re working to get our scorecard produced: compiling votes into matrices—
—That sounds fun.
Giant spreadsheets of all the votes [laughs].
How do things look so far?
While we see on our scorecard more Democrats than Republicans currently scoring higher, I would not say that either party has a lock on being pro-conservation. [When] my equivalent colleagues in Wyoming or Idaho learn that we have comfortable majorities of Democrats in both chambers and at almost every level of state government, they say, ‘You must live in an eco-topia!’ That’s not the case.
Industry plays a huge role in influencing legislators. Otherwise, why [would] you see legislators who represent small farmers vote against, say, the Farmer Protection Act? It’s because the industry lobbyists are very powerful.
But it’s getting better.
We’re not there yet, but I have seen a real shift in state legislative candidates wanting to know where the environmental community stands on this or that issue [and] how to improve their score. Our answer is, vote pro-conservation like we tell you! We basically give every state legislator a road map to how to score 100 percent.
It’s not enough to just have candidates say, ‘These are my positions,’ and then after election day, nobody knows whether they did it or not. That’s the role of the scorecard. The hard work starts after people are elected: Did they fulfill their campaign promises to their voters?
Check SFReeper.com to see how Conservation Voters New Mexico scored Santa Fe lawmakers.