Audubon New Mexico (ANM) and Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society begin 2017 with a continuation of a decades-long commitment to protecting the Gila River and the Gila Wilderness for birds and people.
To kick-off 2017, ANM hosted high-level meetings in Las Cruces, New Mexico with partners in the faith-based and sportsmen communities, and leaders of the Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society to identify important milestones and implement strategic actions. One critical action discussed, was playing a vigilant role in the NEPA process scheduled for this Spring. NEPA requires the Bureau of Reclamation to identify the purpose and need of the proposed action, in this case a Gila River diversion, and requires them to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement that includes a detailed statement of environmental and related social and economic impacts. The Bureau of Reclamation is also required to study and develop alternatives and provide opportunities for public review and comment on their evaluations.
The NEPA process is a unique platform that allows us and the public to bring forward the voice of the Gila River and Gila Wilderness.
This is an opportunity for us all to unite and present alternative measures to ensure water for future generations beyond 2050 at far less cost and long-term environmental impact through the use of existing and future investments in urban and agricultural water conservation, reuse, watershed restoration, and other regional water projects like the Grant County Regional Water Project. ANM and partners will lead the efforts to identify water-smart and dollar-wise alternatives that could be implemented with Arizona Water Settlement funds.
“Deming’s water and economic future is bright and secure without tapping the Gila River. A Gila River diversion is not a good investment or a necessary solution even in the face of looming drought,” said Jorge Figueroa, a Senior Water Policy Analyst for Western Resource Advocates
The Gila Wilderness is one of the most ecologically diverse wilderness complexes in North America, containing one of the largest free-flowing (undammed) headwaters watersheds left and one of the largest expanses of Ancient Forest (unlogged) south of the Boreal Forest. As a result, the Gila Wilderness harbors some of the greatest breeding bird diversity and density in the United States and, with climate change, may provide key habitat for tropical species as ranges expand northward. Audubon New Mexico (ANM) has been working to prevent the proposed Glia River diversion for the past six years.
Your Voice – Our Voice – Gila’s Voice
ANM invites you to be a part of the NEPA process. It’s your opportunity to voice your support for the proposed water conservation alternatives and to oppose the costly and damaging diversion. Attend a NEPA scoping meeting in Spring, 2017 and submit written letters supporting water conservation and efficiency alternatives as the best solutions for the river, the environment, the community, and the ecotourism in the Gila Wilderness. The Gila needs your help, if you are interested in attending any of the NEPA scoping meetings or writing a letter, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gila River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest, is home to the nation's first designated wilderness area. History abounds in and around the Gila River. Geronimo, a fierce defender of his Apache homeland, was born among the headwaters of the Gila. Before the nomadic Apache, the inhabitants of the cliffs built their homes in the tributary canyons of the Gila. Fragments of pottery, petroglyphs and pictographs tell the stories of ancient people who lived in the Gila Wilderness thousands of years ago. The ecology of the Gila, as well as the fish and wildlife that it sustains, is now under threat from a proposed diversion project that would benefit less than 1% of the region’s population and represents a handful of special interests. Long-term, the project construction, operation and maintenance costs are likely to impact the wallets of predominantly Hispanic families in Luna County, a county with one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation. (Source: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2008/childpoverty.aspx)
A free-flowing Gila River is a crown jewel and destination that is vital to our region’s recreational economy, wildlife and our New Mexican traditions and culture.