Luján Underscores Challenges Rural and Tribal Communities Face in Disaster Response

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, underscored the challenges that rural and Tribal communities experience in responding to disasters, including fires, drought, and flooding. Senator Luján’s remarks during the hearing specifically recognized the South Fork and Salt Fires, flooding in Medanales, and the ongoing recovery following the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire in 2022.

WATCH: Luján Remarks on Southeastern New Mexico Fires and Flooding, Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Recovery

An excerpt of Senator Luján’s remarks are available below:

I’m grateful for this discussion after what has been a difficult and devastating fire season and flooding season in New Mexico. Two years after we saw the largest fire in our state’s history – a fire started as a prescribed burn.

Last month, two fires that started on the Mescalero Apache Reservation quickly grew out of control. Hotter and drier conditions from climate change, along with high winds, helped the fire spread throughout southern New Mexico and burn over 25,000 acres of land. The fire that started one afternoon, by that night, a town had been evacuated. It spread so quickly and it was so dry.

What the fire didn’t take out, the floods did. Hundreds of homes and buildings have been destroyed by fires and flooding. But the impacts on rural infrastructure don’t end there.

The cost can become overwhelming especially for rural communities that have fewer resources and less capacity for resilience planning.

Some eastern states could fit inside some of our counties in New Mexico. When that happens based on the current rules, if we don’t hit the population density or cost threshold, it is not a national disaster – it is a state disaster. For western states like New Mexico, it is just not fair.

It doesn’t apply today with the current rules we have based on treating all American citizens equally.

Fires in the West are not just fires. It’s a decade of flooding.

We need to find ways to work together – Democrats and Republicans. We are one big American family, and I know we can do better to make sure the smallest communities in America get the same benefits as the biggest cities across the beautiful country we call home.



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