Segments of Gila River move closer to Wild and Scenic designation

In 2019 we motored to Oracle, Patagonia, Bisbee and Morenci, Arizona from Santa Fe and were shocked by the ravages of surface mining at Silver City, New Mexico and in SE Arizona. Operations owned by Morenci and Miami are despoiling water supplies and reducing entire mountain ranges to piles of waste rock. These are mostly Republican enclaves where the rules of law are simply suggestions. Draining fragile aquifers and quietly lobbying for more water from the Gila River is the House of Saud who owns land in Arizona where they raise alfalfa to ship to Saudi Arabia.

Early in 2020 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump Organization's Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and its local representatives saying the agencies are allowing cattle in restricted areas along the Gila River and its tributaries in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Investigators from the Center discovered cattle on the Gila National Forest in excluded riparian zones in violation of a 1998 legal settlement. Because of pollution from cattle grazing American Rivers named the Gila the nation’s most endangered river in 2019. 

So, last year Senate Bill 3670, the MH Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act was introduced by former Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). It would protect 450 miles and 23 segments of the Gila River and its tributaries in New Mexico under the 1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. If passed the bill would also transfer 440 acres from the Gila National Forest within the US Department of Agriculture to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument within the US Park Service and the Department of Interior. The bill has been reintroduced by Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich. 

Silver City has become a quiet town after most mining operations have come to a grinding halt so just like during the last Great Depression Democrats are the leaders getting financial help for workers.
A November 2020 report by market research firm Southwick Associates found that water-based recreation along the Gila and San Francisco rivers supports roughly 5,000 jobs worth more than $92 million in income, and helps draw visitors to southwestern New Mexico who spend around $427 million each year. About half the respondents to Southwick’s polling said they would use the river more if it were designated Wild and Scenic. [River confab aims to ‘reengage’ community]
Learn more at KRWG Public Radio.

ip photo: a desert sentinel near Tucson might be 300 years old.

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