Fighting to Protect Otero Mesa

A desert grassland, Otero Mesa is one of the greatest natural landscapes in America and provides habitat for several federally protected species.

Case Overview

Otero Mesa is a desert grassland in New Mexico that provides habitat for several federally protected species. Conservationists and the State of New Mexico sought to protect the most sensitive areas, while the Bush administration wanted to throw it all open to oil and gas development.

At about two million acres, Otero Mesa is one of the last undisturbed areas of Chihuahuan desert with the nation’s largest contiguous patch of a prairie grass called black gramma grass, which takes decades to re-establish. Conservationists have inventoried Otero Mesa and found more than 500,000 acres suitable for wilderness designation. The mesa also is home to hundreds of species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Otero Mesa is a refuge for a host of rare species, including the endangered Aplomado falcon.

In 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision invalidating the Bush administration drilling plan for Otero Mesa.

An antelope in Otero Mesa.
An antelope in Otero Mesa. (Lisa Phillips / BLM)

Case Updates

April 30, 2009 Press Release: Victory

Otero Mesa Saved From Oil and Gas Drilling

Wildlife-rich expanse of grassland unique

May 26, 2005 Press Release

Sportsmen and Conservation Groups Act to Save Otero Mesa From Giveaway to Big Industry

Federal Government Must Listen to Local Interests, Groups Say

December 8, 2004 Press Release

Conservationists Ask for Public Access to Otero Mesa Development Documents

Government says oil and gas industries are welcome to look at documents but public isn't