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Show Will Go On - Court Clears Headwaters Protection Hearings

September 14, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - Hearings on protecting New Mexico's headwaters will go on as planned today. That was the word from the state Supreme Court late Monday, after the court rejected a request from the Cattle Growers Association to stop the hearings. The association is concerned about a proposal from the Environment and Game and Fish Departments to designate 700 miles of rivers and streams, 29 lakes, and about 6,000 acres of wetlands in the state as "outstanding national resource waters," and how that might interfere with grazing allotments on Forest Service land.

Dan Lorimier, conservation coordinator with the Rio Grande Sierra Club, which supports the plan, says he understands the concern, but doesn't see much cause for worry.

"We should be sensitive to the idea that these people live and work around some of these headwaters, and since we're not asking them to do anything more, simply not to degrade it from where it is today, I think the actual threat to the industry is quite minimal."

Lorimier explains that the designation would not impose any additional regulations, but would "hold the line" on current water quality of the headwaters.

If the proposal is approved, the U.S. Forest Service would be required to protect the current water quality of those waters, which are mostly located in wilderness areas, and include some key headwaters, according to Lorimier.

"Those are streams that originate in the Gila, to streams that are ephemeral, and originate in foothills, or in higher elevations that don't have spring activity."

The hearings begin today before the Water Quality Commission, and run through Friday in Room 307 of the Roundhouse on the state capitol complex in Santa Fe. Public testimony will be each day at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM