Pecos River named among America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Mining threatens clean water, cultural values

Contacts:
Sinjin Eberle, American Rivers, 720-373-0864, seberle@americanrivers.org
Frank “Pancho” Adelo, Upper Pecos Watershed Association, 505-757-3600, upwa@pecoswatershed.org
Ralph Vigil, NM Acequia Commission & Local Organic Farmer, 505-603-2879, molinodelaisla@gmail.com
Joseph “Brophy” Toledo, Jemez/Pecos Pueblo, 505-382-9589, facebroz@gmail.com

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers today named the Pecos River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2021, citing the urgent threat that mining poses to clean water, cultural values and the local recreation economy. American Rivers and its partners called on the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division to deny the exploratory mining application for the Tererro Mine.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers facing urgent decisions,” said Sinjin Eberle with American Rivers. “Some places should be off-limits to risky mining projects, and the Pecos River is one of those places. This river is far more precious for its cultural, historical, economic, ecological and recreational values than for the potential short-term earnings that might be derived from destructive mining.”

Comexico LLC, a Colorado subsidiary of Australian mining company New World Resources Ltd., has acquired 20 federal mining claims in the Jones Hill area southwest of Tererro, New Mexico, and surrounding Santa Fe National Forest lands along the banks of the Pecos River. The company’s proposed gold, copper, zinc, lead and silver mining project could adversely impact more than 5,000 acres and five tributaries of the Pecos, plus the Pecos River’s mainstem. The area is already dealing with the harmful legacy of mining. Waste from former mines has contaminated the river and caused fish kills, and millions of tax-payer dollars have been spent on clean-up efforts.

“The Pecos River is a crown jewel of rivers not only for New Mexico, but for the entire Southwest. This became very evident with the current pandemic as thousands of visitors flocked to Pecos for serenity and beauty,” said Frank “Pancho” Adelo, President, Upper Pecos Watershed Association. “Beyond the insidious effects of climate change, a large scale mine could render the Pecos a dead river— destroying not only vital habitat for wildlife, but also refuge for a significant population of southwestern citizens.”

American Rivers and its partners with the Stop Tererro Mine Coalition— a formidable coalition of approximately thirty stakeholders formed by local citizens to coordinate a response to the proposed exploratory hard rock drilling— is calling on the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division to deny the exploratory mining application and the U.S. Forest Service to adequately assess the environmental impacts of the mining proposal.

“The Pecos River is a source of life for our acequias, farms and communities. Any threats to the river’s water quality put our traditions and livelihoods at risk,” said Ralph Vigil, Owner and Operator of Molino de la Isla Organics, LLC. “Now is the time to permanently protect the Pecos River from out-of-state mining companies and others who have no interest in preserving our way of doing things around here. The fact that the state is considering an Outstanding National Resource Waters designation for the river proves this is no place for a mine.”

The Pecos River and its waters are considered sacred to the Pecos, Jemez and Tesuque Pueblo Peoples. The river holds remarkable cultural history, with still-vibrant, millennia-old ties to traditional Indigenous and historic Spanish communities. The name “Pecos” is a Spanish derivative of the Indigenous Towa term for the Pecos Pueblo, [p’æyok’ona]. The river is rich in biodiversity, home to increasingly rare native Rio Grande cutthroat trout, the critically endangered Mexican spotted owl and northern goshawk, and elk, deer, black bear, mountain lion and turkey. Recognizing the Pecos’ many outstanding values, Congress voted to add more than 40 miles of the river to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1990.

“Mining activities from 1927 to 1939 in Tererro is what drove my ancestors away. They knew that the water was not good and was killing them,” said Joseph “Brophy” Toledo, member of the Jemez/Pecos Pueblo. “We find this activity later on in history too, and today we find species in peril along the Pecos River due to drainage from the Tererro mine and the contaminants that are still in the water. Our medicinal properties are being uprooted because of this.”

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

Other rivers in the region listed as most endangered in recent years include the Gila River (2019), Lower Rio Grande (2018), and Lower Colorado River (2017).

AMERICA’S MOST ENDANGERED RIVERS® OF 2021

#1: Snake River (ID, WA, OR)
Threat: Four federal dams on the lower Snake River

#2: Lower Missouri River (MO, IA, NE, KS)
Threat: Outdated river management

#3: Boundary Waters (MN)
Threat: Sulfide-ore copper mining

#4: South River (GA)
Threat: Pollution due to lax enforcement

#5: Pecos River (NM)
Threat: Pollution from proposed hardrock mining

#6: Tar Creek (OK)
Threat: Pollution from Tar Creek Superfund Site

#7: McCloud River (CA)
Threat: Raising of Shasta Dam

#8: Ipswich River (MA)
Threat: Excessive water withdrawals

#9: Raccoon River (IA)
Threat: Pollution from industrial agriculture and factory farming

#10: Turkey Creek (MS)
Threat: Two major developments