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Mora County is best known for being poor — poorest in the state and often among the poorest in the nation. Less known is the fact that it’s also beautiful, hugging the eastern flanks of the Sangre de Cristos and extending out into the High Plains.
Now it’s known, thanks to a recent Los Angeles Times story, for saying no to gas drilling. For an impoverished place like Mora, this is crazy, I thought at first. Then I looked again.
Mora’s decision and the long running controversy over uranium in western New Mexico are tough debates. Blame it on our historic dependence on natural resources. For many decades, logging, mining, oil and gas meant prosperity. In rural New Mexico, the sight of drill rigs — like construction cranes in the city — was reassuring.
When I showed up in Grants in 1975, uranium assured that everybody had a job, and when the last mine closed, locals hoped to see the day when the mines reopened.
Economists lectured us for years about our dependence on boom-and-bust industries, but minerals and hydrocarbons were a bird in the hand and everybody remembered hard times.
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