Legislation to Protect Gila and San Francisco Rivers Takes Important Step Forward

September 16, 2020

Wild and Scenic designation would forever protect America’s Most Endangered River® of 2019

September 16, 2020
Contact: David Moryc, 503-307-1137

Silver City, N.M. The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing today on the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act(S. 3670). The legislation was introduced this summer by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. It would protect over 440 miles of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers and their tributaries, ensuring traditional and current use of the rivers, while protecting critical wildlife habitat and growing New Mexico’s sustainable outdoor recreation economy. 

In 2019 American Rivers named the Gila America’s Most Endangered River, highlighting the threat that a water diversion posed to the river’s ecosystem and communities. The Gila and San Francisco rivers and their tributaries make up one of the largest undammed watersheds in the lower 48 states. Today, just 124.3 miles (.1 percent) of the 108,104 miles of these rivers are designated as Wild and Scenic.

“The Gila is vital to New Mexico’s heritage and its future. Protecting these outstanding rivers as Wild and Scenic would leave a lasting legacy at a time when communities need healthy, free-flowing rivers more than ever,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers. “We are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich for their vision and leadership, and we urge the Senate to pass this important legislation.”

For nearly a decade, Indigenous people, including the Mimbres and Apache, as well as sportsmen and women, veterans, small business owners, faith and civic organizations, local municipalities and governments, landowners, ranchers, and outdoor recreation and conservation organizations have spoken up for the need to protect the Gila River. Senators Udall and Heinrich developed the legislation based on extensive local input from town halls, roundtables, and individual discussions with stakeholders from across the region.