Copyright 2022 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico’s low-income residents and minorities are more likely than others to live in areas with poor water quality and limited access outdoors.
The environmental justice movement focuses its efforts on policies and programs that support these communities.
As part of the $14 million Environmental Protection Agency grant in December, three New Mexico organizations were awarded environmental justice grants.
The American Rescue Plan Act provided the funds for the EPA.
Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions won $75,000 to create a water quality education program for 400 eighth-graders in South Valley and Gallup.
Jordan Stone, executive director at Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, stated that the project will teach students how water quality monitoring equipment works.
“Kids are way more engaged and learn a lot more when they’re learning about issues in their own neighborhood, so what’s down the street, in the backyard, what’s the water that’s coming out of their kitchen faucet,” Stone said.
The money will pay for 10 classroom sessions and 10 field trips in the wilderness to learn more about New Mexico water.
“Hopefully this increases their ability to feel empowered and understand what’s going on in their communities,” Stone said. “It’s not just getting your hands dirty in water and mud, but teaching them what they can do about local issues.”
Tree New Mexico received $200,000 to help plant 400 trees in the International District over a two year period.
A city heat mapping project this summer confirmed the southeast Albuquerque neighborhood is one of the city’s urban heat islands.
This region is much hotter than the surrounding areas because of its lack of trees and excessive asphalt and concrete.
The project will also teach young people in the area how to use equipment that monitors heat index and air quality.
Shannon Horst, Tree New Mexico’s executive director, said that data is key for a community where “environmental injustice has been endemic.”
“These communities have experienced, among other things, the lowest investments in things like trees, parks and open space that improve the environment people live in,” Horst said.
The group will plant 200 trees, including 50 fruit tree trees, in the spring.
“Our education programs under this grant will include very basic training in planting, watering and pruning early while the tree is young and less than 12 feet tall to the homeowners who adopt the trees,” Horst said.
The $75,000 grant was received by the Health Equity Council to create a plan for a neighborhood food hub in the International District.
The council will hold monthly meetings to ensure that fresh produce from local growers is available to residents through food-sharing networks.
The initiative will also be focused on water conservation and air quality through projects at local parks.
Theresa Davis, a Report for America corps member, covers water and the environment for Albuquerque Journal.