Conservationists to rally against the ecologically harmful Gila River diversion


June 29, 2018

Conservationists to rally against the ecologically harmful Gila River diversion
No Dam Diversion on the Gila Rally scheduled for Monday, July 2 at 5pm

June 29, 2018, Albuquerque, NM – The Gila Conservation Coalition, Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Audubon New Mexico, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Wild Earth Guardians and other conservation organizations will hold a rally on Monday, July 2 in opposition to the Gila River diversion as part of the NEPA scoping public meeting being held at the State Bar of New Mexico from 4 – 7 pm.
Out of time and facing a legal deadline, the proposed Gila diversion project has entered into the formal review and approval process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), regardless of its incomplete plans, lack of review of feasibility, few beneficiaries, and huge costs.
As joint leads for the NEPA process, the Bureau of Reclamation and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission have initiated preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Gila River diversion project (NM Unit) proposed by the NM Central Arizona Project Entity (NM CAP Entity).
Flowing out of America's first Wilderness Area, the Gila River is New Mexico's last major undammed river. It's home to seven threatened or endangered species and is proposed for long-term protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

The proposed NM Unit is expensive, unaffordable and unfair and will harm threatened and endangered species and riparian habitat along the Gila and San Francisco rivers. The NM CAP Entity's intention to divert in the future the full 14,000 acre-feet per year under the AWSA is speculative and unnecessary.
What: No Dam Diversion on the Gila Rally
When: Monday, July 2, 5pm; NEPA Scoping Open House scheduled for 4 – 7pm
Where: 5121 Masthead St. NE, Albuquerque, NM
During the public scoping period June 12 - July 20, the BOR and ISC are requesting public comment on the issues that they should analyze in the NM Unit EIS.
More information on the harmful Gila River diversion project is available in the Gila Conservation Coalition fact sheet at:

150 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

For Release: June 6, 2018                                                                                                      

150 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

George Nickas, Wilderness Watch, 406-542-2048, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kevin Proescholdt, Wilderness Watch, 612-201-9266, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mark Allison, New Mexico Wild, 505-239-0906, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albuquerque, New Mexico - A broad coalition of 150 conservation and Wilderness organizations from across America have asked Congress “to reject an unprecedented call to weaken the Wilderness Act to allow for the use of mountain bikes in designated Wilderness.”

The sign-on letter from the 150 organizations was prepared in response to two Republican bills (S. 2877 and H.R. 1349), which would open up all of America’s 110-million acres of Wilderness to mountain bikes and other wheeled contraptions within 2 years of passage. The Senate bill was just recently introduced in Congress.

“For over a half century, the Wilderness Act has protected wilderness areas from mechanization and mechanical transport, even if no motors were involved with such activities. This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wildernesses have been kept free from bicycles and other types of mechanization and mechanical transport. [We] believe that this protection has served our nation well, and that the ‘benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness’ would be forever lost by allowing mechanized transport in these areas,” the 150 organizations wrote Congress in the sign-on letter. 

A copy of the letter to Congress signed by 150 conservation groups can be viewed here:

“We see this for what it is: an assault on the very idea of Wilderness and the values of the Wilderness Act,” said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch. “At a time when wilderness and wildlife are under increasing pressures from increasing populations, growing mechanization, and a rapidly changing climate, the last thing Wilderness needs is to be invaded by mountain bikes and other machines.”

Supporters of S. 2877 and H.R. 1349 erroneously claim that mountain bikes were allowed in Wilderness until 1984, but then banned administratively by the U.S. Forest Service. This claim is simply not true.

“The 1964 Wilderness Act (36 U.S.C. 1131-1136) banned all types of mechanized transport, including bicycles, in designated Wilderness. Section 4(c) of that act states, “[T]here shall use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.” (italics added)

“Mountain biking is a wonderful activity, but it doesn’t belong in Wilderness. With less than 3% of New Mexico permanently protected as Wilderness, mountain bikers have millions of acres available for recreation. We owe it to future generations, wildlife, and the land itself to place certain areas off limits to motorized and mechanized uses,” said Mark Allison, executive director of New Mexico Wild.  

“With all the threats we are facing to our public lands, from shrinking national monuments to calls for privatization, it is arrogant for the small group of proponents of this bill to try to undermine the Wilderness Act. Rather than promoting this cynical agenda, they should stand with us to fight off the unprecedented attacks from the Trump administration and the 115th Congress,” said Allison.


New Mexico Wild Celebrates Decision to Prohibit Energy Development in Sensitive Jemez Mountains;

       Geothermal Leasing Would Have Risked Groundwater, Sacred Sites, and Recreation Areas


Mark Allison, Executive Director, New Mexico Wild, 505-239-0906

Judy Calman, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Wild, 505-615-5020

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (June 13, 2018) -- The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) finalized a decision today not to allow the Jemez Ranger District to be leased for geothermal development. In May of 2015, the SFNF began considering a proposal to lease approximately 195,000 acres for geothermal production.  The proposal stemmed from an Expression of Interest submitted by an out-of-state company.

In addition to containing portions of nine critical Inventoried Roadless Areas, the area under consideration for development is home to endangered species like the Mexican spotted owl, the Jemez Mountains salamander, and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. Many sacred indigenous sites and hot springs are found in the proposed geothermal leasing area, and its adjacency to the Valles Caldera National Preserve provides an extended continuous landscape for the Preserve’s ecosystem health. The nearby community of Jemez Springs is vulnerable to impacts from geothermal development, including increased truck traffic, water contamination, negative effects on tourism, and other damage to the quality of life for residents. New Mexico Wild believes significant portions of the proposal area may also qualify for wilderness designation. The proposal area is in one of New Mexico’s most heavily-visited recreation sites, including well-known attractions like Battleship Rock, Soda Dam, and Las Conchas fishing access area.

Geothermal production often comes with substantial environmental consequences. Significant surface disturbance is required for well-pads and pumps (similar to those used in oil and gas operations), roads, transmission lines and pipelines. Additionally, fresh water is required, and fracking is often used.

New Mexico Wild believes that these activities must be sited in appropriate places and must include enough restrictions to effectively mitigate the potential harm from the activity. We did not believe development in this sensitive area was appropriate or compatible with its high level of recreational use. Evidence also indicates that geothermal development in the Jemez would yield an extremely small amount of energy.

New Mexico Wild submitted technical comments and hosted a meeting with USFS officials and the public in Albuquerque. The USFS received over 900 public comments in support of the “No Leasing Alternative,” and none in support of leasing the Jemez for geothermal.

“We are thrilled that the Santa Fe National Forest has listened to the unanimous voice of New Mexicans, who do not want this beloved place to be irreparably damaged,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney for New Mexico Wild. “The Jemez is deeply special to countless residents and visitors who love its hot springs, rivers, wildlife, fishing spots, hiking trails, hunting opportunities, waterfalls, and campgrounds. It is not a place that should be risked for an uncertain and likely miniscule financial gain.”

“We thank the SFNF Supervisor for weighing the evidence and ultimately making the correct decision,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “This outcome is a direct result of New Mexicans standing together to say with a collective voice that this area is too special to be harmed.  We are particularly grateful for the leadership demonstrated by the All Pueblo Council of Governors, which opposed this development proposal.”


New Mexico Wild is a statewide, independent, grassroots non-profit 501 (C)(3), advocacy organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas.

The truth behind fracking and Mora County

By: John Olivas

In her latest missive about the state of affairs in Mora County (“Protecting Mora County from Fracking,” May 17), Commissioner Paula Garcia again attempts to rewrite history around efforts by residents to stop oil and gas drilling in Mora County. As the chairman of the Mora County commissioners during the time period about which she writes, however, my vantage point is much different.

In 2014, Mora residents began to gather to talk about the need to stop oil and gas drilling in the county. More than 30 meetings were held in which I, along with other Mora County residents, began to learn the hard fact that the oil and gas laws were written to elevate the “rights” of oil and gas companies to access Mora’s resources above the rights of residents to stop that drilling. Instead of doing what most other communities have done — surrendering to those companies by writing rules that explicitly allow those companies to drill — we decided to directly challenge the companies’ authority to override us in the first place.

Working with environmental lawyers from across the United States, we pioneered the first county law in the nation that not only banned the extraction of all hydrocarbons in Mora, but that directly challenged the authority of the oil and gas companies to challenge Mora’s authority to adopt that ban. We saw that protecting Mora’s water and land meant not only passing a ban on oil and gas extraction, but required an attack on the anti-democratic system of law that we have — one that allows those companies to legally override protective laws adopted by the residents of cities, towns, villages and counties across the United States.

As a newly emerging leader in the national movement toward advancing community rights, Mora received free help from lawyers across the country who were excited about taking a new approach — one that treated our problem not just as an oil and gas problem, but as a democracy and civil rights problem.

At every turn, Paula Garcia voted against the county law, even though she understood — as well as I did — that the problem wasn’t oil and gas, the problem was that the system of law prevented us from doing what our constituents wanted, which was to protect Mora’s water and land by banning the extraction of fossil fuels.

Paula voted against the law because she said that we had to live with the system of law that we had, even though that system guarantees that we will get drilled. She was and is a proponent for putting rules in place that regulate how oil and gas drilling will proceed, rules that, to me, seem to place county approval on the extraction itself.

I believe that we owe more than that to the place where we live. That extraction of oil and gas, no matter how tightly regulated, will eventually pollute our water and land; and the very extraction and combustion of fossil fuels will continue to exacerbate climate change.

As recognized in Paula’s article, of course, courts that have upheld corporate “rights” for the last century are the least apt to uphold new advances in the law. But that shouldn’t stop us from continuing to challenge those companies that seek to exploit us, or the courts that shield those companies from us. And if the courts won’t protect us, we must protect ourselves, perhaps by doing as other communities across the country have started to do — decriminalizing civil disobedience over these issues.

If we continue to surrender to the companies and to the courts, nothing will change. It would be as if those seeking to free the slaves or win voting rights for women simply threw in the towel after a bad court ruling.

Unfortunately, accepting our role as mere regulators of a foregone conclusion that Mora will be drilled, would be identical to that. Saying that “we need to enact legally defensible protections for Mora County” is as much a white flag as doing the drilling ourselves — it places us on our knees to a system of law that does not recognize the “we the people” of Mora, only the right of the corporations to take our resources.

As a historically colonized community, we’re used to that. But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it. It doesn’t mean that we have to continue to live on our knees.

John Olivas is former chairman of the Mora County Board of County Commissioners.