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Though Exempt from the Rules, Ranchers Consider Clean Water Protection Onerous
Santa Fe, NM – Despite a special exemption for grazing, new rules protecting New Mexico’s source of clean water were challenged Friday by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association. The Cattle Growers filed a petition with the NM Water Quality Control Commission to stay the designation of Outstanding Waters in Forest Service Wilderness Areas and new rules for protecting those waters from pollution including an explicit special exemption for existing grazing permits. The protective rules were published in the state register in December and can only be undone now by the WQCC through a thorough public notice and administrative hearing.
“Clean water should be a right for New Mexicans and this petition is simply a desperate attempt by a small, special interest to deny us that right.” Said Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Outstanding Water rule is a common sense approach to protecting water and makes special provisions for existing uses, I simply see no basis for reversing it.”
The 13-page petition to the WQCC claims the original petition by the Richardson administration was changed during the hearings and those changes were not publicly noticed. The Cattle Growers are asking for a stay of the rule and to re-open the administrative hearings on the matter. They also request the original statewide wilderness petition be segregated into numerous, smaller watershed based petitions.
“The Cattlegrowers petition is not only baseless but too late. The state met all the requirements of a complete petition and conducted the most extensive public outreach for a rulemaking in the state’s history, the cattlemen simply do not like the result of the democratic process.” Bird continued.
Click here for more in-depth information on New Mexico’s Outstanding Waters.