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