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SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 3, 2002 -- The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR), a service and research division of New Mexico Tech, has recently published a guidebook in conjunction with a recently held "Decision-Makers Field Conference." This year's conference focused on energy issues in the northwest portion of the state known as the San Juan Basin.

The 2002 guidebook, edited by Brian S. Brister and L. Greer Price, is a collection of 30 articles written by noted authorities on such topics as: San Juan Basin resources; energy produced from oil and natural gas; New Mexico's coal industry; renewable energy and conservation; taxation revenues generated from the oil and gas industry; and multiple land use.

This year's conference is part of a series of annual field conferences, developed by the NMBGMR and co-sponsored by several other state, federal, and science-oriented agencies with the intent of bringing together a diverse group of people in influential positions for the purpose of discussing and examining an issue from different viewpoints.

In several articles, Bureau geologists describe the basic geology of the San Juan Basin and its important resources: oil and gas; coal; uranium; and water. The guidebook also addresses how energy is produced and made available, and it gives insight into how the energy industry operates and its effect on New Mexico's economy.

In an article by Laird Graeser, an independent tax consultant, the tax structure surrounding the oil and gas industry is explained. Graeser also writes about the effect of the oil and gas industry on New Mexico's economy through employment and tax revenues to both state and local governments. As Graeser says in his article: "If you live in New Mexico, you're in the oil and gas business."

The guidebook also looks at different aspects of the coal industry. In the United States, New Mexico ranks 12th in coal production. The state has six coal mines currently in operation, and five of those mines are located in the San Juan Basin. According to Gretchen Hoffman, senior coal geologist at NMBGMR, "The coal industry's contribution to New Mexico's state budget is the third-largest source of revenue from mineral and energy production." Hoffman also states, "Forty-six percent of the state's total energy needs are met through power generated from coal."

In another article, Douglas Bland, director of the Mining and Minerals Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, writes about land reclamation in New Mexico. According to Bland, the science of land reclamation is constantly evolving. Bland states, "Natural ecosystems are extremely complicated, and as understanding of them expands, so do efforts to address the critical elements of re-creating ecosystems that are both useful and long-lasting."

David W. Love, one of the authors in the guidebook, writes about the "Badlands in the San Juan Basin." When most New Mexicans think of badlands, a romantic picture comes to mind -- the sun-bleached color of the high desert landscape and blue skies as far as the eye can see."

In his article, Love, a senior environmental geologist at NMBGMR, explains that badlands are barren, severely eroded places on Earth, where the soft rock layers, like mudstone, are sculpted into beautiful forms. They're called badlands because the land is useless for farming and many other human purposes. While the Bisti Badlands may be the most famous badlands in New Mexico, they are not the only badlands in this state. Love points out that 30 to 40 percent of the lands in northwestern New Mexico are badlands.

Love goes on to explain that special conditions are required for the formation of badlands. Soft rocks, like mudstone, with sparse vegetation in a semiarid climate leave the land vulnerable to erosion. Hills, slopes, ridges, and gullies allow the runoff from rain to move quickly and shape the soft stone as it rushes by. The runoff also carries soil to the lower elevations, exposing more of the rock. Over time, wind and water work together to sculpt and mold the land.

When humans disturb the land, changes in the environment can resemble a natural badland formation. In his article, Love states, "Understanding how natural badlands are created, function, and heal has important applications to land management practices."

Knowledge and understanding helps everyone involved with land use consider the bigger picture. Or in the words of Peter Scholle, state geologist and director for NMBGMR: "Intelligent use of our energy resources requires a detailed understanding of complex issues and careful planning."

"A Decision-Makers Field Conference Guidebook" is published annually in conjunction with the conference by NMBGMR, a service division of New Mexico Tech. The 2002 volume is available for $15 plus $5.50 for shipping and handling. For more information about this publication or any other NMBGMR publications, write to the Bureau Publication Office, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801, or call (505) 835-5410, or visit the Bureau's website at http://geoinfo.nmt.edu.

 


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