The M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act

Dear Friends,

The Greater Gila watershed, including the San Francisco River and other main tributaries, comprises the largest remaining network of naturally flowing river segments in the Southwestern United States. New Mexicans treasure the Gila because it provides unique and memorable outdoor experiences for families, spectacular scenery and wildlife habitat, and the foundation of a rural economy including farming, grazing, and recreation.  Protecting the river protects abundant cultural resources, the integrity of an important water source, and countless traditional uses.

To ensure future generations can enjoy the Gila like we have - and like so many generations of New Mexicans have - we need to take action to protect it. Designating portions of the Gila River and its watershed as Wild and Scenic Rivers will protect one of the nation's most iconic and treasured rivers, as well as the immense recreational and agricultural economies that rely on it.

That's why we are proud to introduce legislation that would designate segments of the Gila, some of its tributaries, and certain other rivers in the Gila National Forest as Wild and Scenic. This proposal will bolster the local outdoor economy, protect the area's rich beauty and wildlife, and enhance water quality while protecting existing uses. This proposal prohibits involuntary condemnation of private property, and preserves not only private property rights but also water rights, existing irrigation and water delivery operations, grazing permits, public land access, and the ability to restore the health of our rivers and forests.

We appreciate the conversations with and comments from community members, private landowners, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, local officials, farmers, ranchers, and many others that shaped the discussion draft we released in February.  The information we received on the discussion draft formed the basis of a number of changes made to the bill we have now introduced.

We will continue to accept feedback from those who live by, work in, and enjoy this treasured landscape until markup of the bill in the Senate.  You can access the legislative text, maps, and other helpful information below.  Please email your comments to gilacomments@tomudall.senate.gov or mail them to Gila Comments, Office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall, 201 N. Church Street, Suite 201B, Las Cruces, NM 88001.

Legislative History and Process:

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (the Act) (P.L. 90-542, 16 U.S.C. §§1271 et seq., https://www.rivers.gov/documents/wsr-act.pdf.) created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Act established a policy of preserving designated free-flowing rivers or river segments for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Congress passed the Act at the height of the modern dam-building era to ensure that the construction of new dams was balanced with the protection of select river segments that possess nationally significant values. This landmark law is the highest form of protection for rivers in the United States.

In the words of the law: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

In subsequent years, Congress has amended the original Act to include additional river segments and establish how the new segments should be managed. In many cases, Congress has provided management direction that may differ from the Act of 1968. We are similarly tailoring management of the proposed river segments to the needs of our region to provide clear parameters to the agencies that manage these rivers.

Legislation must pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and requires the President's approval and signature. During the legislative process, Congress will hold hearings, at which time interested members of the community may express their views in writing to the appropriate committee and make suggestions for the legislative proposal. Documents for your review can be found at links below.

Sincerely,

 

Tom Udall, United States Senator

Martin Heinrich, United States Senator

Documents for your review can be found at links below