Wild & Scenic River Legislation
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich have proposed draft legislation to include the headwaters of the Gila River along with the San Francisco River and its tributaries under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The San Francisco SWCD Board of Supervisors and the Council of Border Conservation Districts are on record as opposing this legislation. The Heritage Waters Coalition details the impacts the legislation would have on rural landowners.
Nov. 5, 2020 Update on Senate Hearing
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington D.C. held a Sub-Committee hearing on September 16th to discuss the M.H. Dutch Salmon Bill S 3670. This bill amends language in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to place under its control 450+ miles of the Gila Watershed.
For those of you that have not heard the bill, Both Senators Udall and Heinrich have sponsored legislation that has full potential to force abandonment of all waters used within the Gila watershed. New Mexico’s long history and heritage of agriculture through good conservation practices is realistically at risk.
SFSWCD Supervisor Haydn Forward Speaks at Senate Hearing on September 16, 2020
Supervisor Haydn Forward spoke at the Senate Hearing on Wildfire and Forest Management on September 16, 2020. He voiced our District's opposition to inclusion of the Gila and San Francisco River watersheds under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. The links are to video of the entire hearing. To hear Haydn's testimony skip to the 01:23:23 mark on the video or search for his name in the speaker list.
Draft legislation to include parts of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and tributaries was released on December 18, 2019. A summary is included here. Senator Udall's website with maps and other information can be found here.
For any comments, please email [email protected]
or send written information to
Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall
201 N. Church Street, Suite 201B
Las Cruces, NM 88001
In anticipation of the draft legislation the SFSWCD Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution #002 2019 on May 13, 2019 to state their opposition. The resolution was sent, along with a cover letter, to Senators Udall and Heinrich on August 12, 2019. The cover letter states, in part:
Legislation is being considered calling for designation of a large part of our waterways as wild and scenic, without visiting the district, discussing the topic or learning of unintended consequences is unthinkable. We expect our Senators to spend at least equal time within those places most affected by their actions.
Council of Border Conservation Districts Response
The Council of Border Conservation Districts (CBCD) consists of Caballo SWCD, Deming
SWCD, Grant SWCD, Hidalgo SWCD, San Francisco SWCD, and Sierra SWCD. On April 21, 2020 the CBCD sent a letter to Senators Heinrich and Udall outlining their reasons for opposing Wild & Scenic River draft legislation.
Click here to access a copy of the letter and here for the attachment giving full details of the rationale behind their opposition. A summary of the rationale follows:
1) Designation would adversely impact Soil and Water Conservation District’s statutory responsibilities for conservation of our natural resources.
2) Designation would limit the economic growth of our local and rural communities;
3) Designation would infringe on private property rights of landowners;
4) Designation would limit the use of the land for agricultural and forestry practices; &
5) Designation would add to the federal regulations imposed on local communities and landowners in southwestern New Mexico.
Heritage Waters Coalition
The Heritage Waters Coalition was formed to give voice to rural land owners who stand to lose land and water rights as a result of the proposed Wild & Scenic River legislation. There are multiple environmental and other groups, mostly from urban areas, that espouse the benefits of the proposed legislation. The Heritage Waters Coalition speaks for the rural people who will be most directly affected.
List of Proposed Waterways
Under the draft legislation the following waterways would be included under the Act:
Parts of the Gila River
Parts of the San Francisco River
Black Canyon Creek
South Diamond Creek
Las Animas Creek
West Fork Mogollon Creek