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NM Groups Want Free-flowing Rivers Protected in National Forest


Monday, November 22, 2021   

TAOS, N.M. - In Northern New Mexico's Carson National Forest, many rivers are eligible for federal "Wild and Scenic" designation, and conservation groups say a plan to remove more than 60 from that category is short-sighted.

Amigos Bravos and other groups are awaiting word on whether the U.S. Forest Service will reverse its proposal to 'delist' the rivers in an updated management plan.

Amigos Bravos Deputy Director Rachel Conn said she worries that without protections, rivers and streams in northern New Mexico could see new dams, roads and other development.

"There's 62 river segments, as per the final plan, that are no longer eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system," said Conn, "so therefore are no longer protected as free-flowing rivers."

The Forest Service has argued river decisions made 25 years ago were overly broad, and included too many rivers as eligible for a Wild and Scenic designation, which must be approved by Congress.

The deadline to comment on new management plans for the Carson, Cibola, and Santa Fe National Forests was November 3. Amigos Bravos is among the groups that filed objections to the draft plans.

New Mexico has suffered from drought for the past 20 years, with rivers seeing record low flows this year. Conn said that makes it more important to keep the rivers in northern New Mexico free-flowing - which isn't guaranteed without protections.

She noted the nature of the state's rivers, deemed to have what are known as 'Outstandingly Remarkable Values' in a Forest Service plan adopted 35 years ago, hasn't changed.

"Those 'Outstandingly Remarkable Values' can be fisheries-related, geologic, scenic, recreation, wildlife," said Conn. "So there's different categories of Outstandingly Remarkable Values."

Conn said she believes officials drafting the Carson National Forest management plan should have done a case by case review of rivers rather than reevaluating the entire forest.

Disclosure: Amigos Bravos contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Environmental Justice, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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