EcoFlight flew with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance over Otero Mesa, located in rural southern New Mexico, the largest and wildest Chihuahan Desert grassland left on public lands in the U.S.
This stunning area is widely considered to be among the most biologically rich and diverse desert eco-region in the world and contains one of New Mexico's largest untapped fresh water aquifers.
Conservation groups have worked successfully to safeguard Otero Mesa from oil and gas development for over a decade, but there is a new and even more volatile threat to this wild desert grassland - hardrock mining.
In August 2011, Denver-based Geovic Mining Corporation started exploratory drilling on Wind Mountain, the most iconic peak in Otero Mesa. A 2010 USGS study indicates that the region contains deposits of rare earth minerals, used in the electronics, medical imaging, high tech and even green industries.
Our flights over the pristine Otero Mesa and over mining operations in Sierra Blanca, Texas, illustrated how the impact of hardrock mining on Otero Mesa's fragile grassland ecosystem would be devastating.
Otero Mesa is targeted for National Monument status, which would permanently protect the area from drilling and mining.