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Report: River and Wetland Protections All 'Dried Up' in NM

February 18, 2008

Albuquerque, NM - Protections for many of New Mexico's streams and wetlands have "dried up," exposing the state's waters to increased pollution threats. That's the finding of a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

NWF's Jim Murphy explains recent directives by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have rolled back federal "Clean Water Act" protections, by excluding rivers that don't flow year-round, as well as closed basins. In New Mexico, this leaves the Mimbres and Tularosa basins, among others, vulnerable to possible pollution from agriculture or industry.

"You're in a state like New Mexico where water is not always plentiful. Any time you have unregulated activities that threaten those waters, you have cause to be concerned."

At least a few Congressional representatives have gotten the message, Murphy adds. A bill to restore federal protections, the "Clean Water Restoration Act," has nearly 170 bipartisan cosponsors in the U.S. House.

New Mexico's Environment Secretary, Ron Curry, believes the legislation would ensure that New Mexico's countless arroyos, playa lakes and closed basin rivers are safeguarded for the future.

"We're trying to make sure that we don't lose the ability to protect those closed basins, our wetlands that are a real source for migratory birds."

About 14 percent of the state's wetlands, covering massive swaths of central and southern New Mexico, are vulnerable to unrestricted development, according to the report. It is available online at

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM