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Bill to Protect NM's Gila and San Francisco Rivers Debuts in U.S. Senate

Outdoor recreation in New Mexico generates nearly $10 billion annually in consumer spending. (masoncummings/wilderness.org)
Outdoor recreation in New Mexico generates nearly $10 billion annually in consumer spending. (masoncummings/wilderness.org)
September 17, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A U.S. Senate committee heard testimony from a Gila outfitter Wednesday on why portions of New Mexico's Gila River need protection for future generations.

The M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act had its debut before the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee.

Jamie Crockett, co-owner of Gila Backcountry Services, told lawmakers passage of the bill would promote the state's outdoor recreational opportunities and help revive a post-pandemic economy.

"I see the Wild and Scenic bill as being an effort not just to protect the water but also economic growth in a really healthy and long-term sustainable way," Crockett said.

New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced the legislation.

It has support from a large swath of New Mexicans including tribes, sportsmen and women, veterans, landowners, small-business owners, ranchers and conservation organizations.

The Gila area in southwest New Mexico received the first-ever wilderness designation nearly 100 years ago.

Crockett said the thoughtful approach to develop the legislation over the past ten years ensures the needs and concerns of everyone involved have been acknowledged and accounted for.

As an outfitter, she shares the connection people have to the natural world, especially those seeking respite from the current health crisis.

"There's a reason why the Gila was the first-ever designated wilderness area," Crockett said. "It's an incredibly majestic, beautiful place. The quiet and solitude that's available is rejuvenative to people's spirit."

The Gila is one of the largest undammed watersheds in the lower 48 states. The designation is designed to ensure local, rural economies that depend on grazing, ranching, and hunting and fishing can continue.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Disclosure: The Pew Charitable Trusts - Environmental Group contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Climate Change/Air Quality, Consumer Issues, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Health Issues, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Salmon Recovery. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM