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Sweeping Water Protections Upheld in New Mexico Appeals Court

No Adverse Affect From Rule First Proposed by WildEarth Guardians

Santa Fe, NM –A final legal challenge of New Mexico’s historic Outstanding waters designation has been dismissed by the court of appeals of the state. The court determined that the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association failed to show any harm from the designation of over 700 miles of streams in the state’s Wilderness areas. With the highest degree of protection under the Clean water Act, the streams cannot be polluted and Cattle Growers’ claimed this would drive them from federal wilderness areas, but failed to show evidence of this result anywhere in the U.S.

“New Mexico’s water future is uncertain and protecting it as the state did in 2010 takes precedent in our vulnerable watersheds.” Said Bryan Bird, Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Now that the Cattle Growers’ legal challenge has been dismissed, the state and federal government can move on ensuring clean water for generations.”

With the support of thousands of New Mexicans, six cities on the Rio Grande, a handful of dedicated conservation organizations and Governor Richardson the state gave sweeping protection in 2010 to over 700 miles of 199 perennial rivers and streams, 29 lakes, and approximately 6,000 acres of wetlands. Despite a three-year public process, extraordinary in its scope of citizen outreach, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ forced the state and conservation groups to spend scarce funds defending a common sense environmental regulation.

“We are reassured that the Cattle Growers’ couldn’t deny citizens the clean water they loudly called for.” Said Bird. “The courts have spoken strongly in favor of the greatest good for the greatest number of New Mexicans and against a narrow interest which has enjoyed special treatment for too long.”

Opposition to the designation came from the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association at every turn, which even tried to stop the public hearings with an earlier court order, later overturned by the state supreme court. Despite an explicit exemption for existing operations, the Cattle Growers’ continue to be against this common sense, clean water protection. In New Mexico, there are close to 1.6 million acres of undeveloped, roadless forestlands and nearly 1.4 million acres of U.S. Forest Service Wilderness. These forests are often found in watersheds of major municipalities like Santa Fe and Las Vegas and provide unpolluted water to all.


 

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