By Danny Udero | Silver City Sun-News

SILVER CITY — For the first time in its political history, Conservation Voters of New Mexico is weighing in on a county race … that being in Grant County.

According to political and legislative director Ben Shelton, CVNM has about 300 members in Grant County, and they were asked to get involved in the races for county commission. Shelton said all the stars seemed to align perfectly, because Grant County has a lot of environmental issues that impact the citizens.

“The Gila diversion is a huge issue right now in your county,” Shelton said. “You can’t play with water in that way. We dug into it and discovered that more and more counties in New Mexico have the same environmental issues, but in Grant County it’s unique. You have the water diversion issues and copper mining.”

In the Grant County Commission race, CVNM is endorsing Alicia Edwards in District 3, Marilyn Alcorn in District 4 and Harry Browne in District 5.

“We need to elect local and state conservation champions who will stand strong and push back on policies that trap our communities in cycles of poverty, pollution and illness,” Shelton said. “That’s why who we elect matters and that’s why we share our endorsements with you and urge you to vote for them.”

CVNM is also endorsing Mary Hotvedt for House of Representatives in District 38 and Rudy Martinez in District 39.

Liliana Castillo, communications director for CVNM, said the goal of CVNM is to put strong environmental policy in place. “The nature of most New Mexicans is that they care about the environment,” Castillo said. “The issues we have here can be addressed by our politicians and lawmakers. The people there directly impact what happens and goes on and putting the right people into office can help by making decisions on policy.”

Historically, Castillo said CVNM has always been focused on the state level, but is trying to get closer to communities, and she thinks Grant County has provided them with an opportunity to do that.

“With the commission expanding to five members, we felt like there is more open seats and we have been approached asking for us to get involved as there is huge conservation values in the Gila,” Castillo said.

Shelton said his visits to Silver City are always nice and that he thinks Silver City is a model of how to build the economy based on the outdoors industry.

“The main street is vibrant and the county does a good job preserving the area and keeping it flowing with economic growth. People in Grant County hunt, fish, gather wood and they learn how to co-exist with the ecosystem.”

Shelton said he hopes people come out and vote and see how the people they have endorsed will make a difference for them with some of these conservation issues.