Gila Conservation Coalition Year-In-Review 2022
During this holiday season, we are reminded of how grateful we are for your ongoing generosity toward protecting the Gila River!
We would not have been able to defeat the Gila River diversion project or the Holloman F-16 airspace expansion proposal without your steadfast support.
But the threats have not gone away, and the Gila still needs our help.
As you recall, House Bill 200 was signed into law last year, prohibiting spending on a diversion and replacing the New Mexico CAP Entity with the Water Trust Board that will now advise the Interstate Stream Commission on how to spend the NM Unit Fund on water projects in southwest New Mexico. As of July, there is $85.6M in the fund, and the ISC is negotiating with the Bureau of Reclamation for $20 – $26 million more owed to the state under the Arizona Water Settlements Act.
The Water Trust Board and Interstate Stream Commission are currently developing policies and procedures for the project application and evaluation process. We are working with members of the Water Trust Board, local decision makers, and the Office of the State Engineer to come up with an approach to fund water projects that build water supply resilience while also protecting the Gila River.
As annual snowpack in the Gila headwaters continues to diminish, it’s critical that our efforts continue to secure dedicated instream flows for the Gila River and ensure that any irrigation system improvements on the Gila are not harmful to the river’s ecology.
We continue to work with our conservation partners on long-term protection for the Gila River through Wild and Scenic River designation. With the re-introduction of the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján in November 2021, the legislation passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year.
GCC is supporting the Gila National Forest’s efforts to remove feral cows that have destroyed riparian habitat in the Gila wilderness and encourage you to submit your comments by January 9, 2023 in support of this work that is critical to the Gila’s ecological integrity. Take action today!
We also organized the successful 18th annual Gila River Festival that drew approximately 1000 attendees to four days of field trips, presentations, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe Fire Dancers, and a Gila River blessing, all focused on celebrating the many ways in which water and the Gila River connect us. A huge thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, field trip leaders and presenters who helped us this year. In 2023, we’ll be working on planning for a celebration of the centennial of the Gila Wilderness.
Just when we thought we’d never hear from the Air Force again after the Holloman Air Force Base airspace expansion was derailed in 2021, the Air Force proposed in January an expansion of supersonic airspace over southern Arizona and southwest New Mexico. GCC and its partners in the Peaceful Gila Skies coalition quickly joined with conservation groups in Arizona to assess the potential impacts of the proposal on tribes, communities, and public lands and to mount a coordinated opposition.
We’ll be reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement when it is released in Fall of 2023 and continuing to oppose this proposal to authorize fighter jet maneuvers as low as 100 feet above ground level (AGL) and supersonic flights as low as 5,000 feet AGL in southern Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
Please help us achieve water supply resilience for southwest New Mexico and protect the Gila by making an end-of-year donation today!
With your financial contribution, GCC will ensure that the wild Gila continues to run free and its wilderness watershed is protected.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the Gila Conservation Coalition.
Our very best wishes for the holidays and a healthy 2023!
Allyson Siwik, Executive Director
Donna Stevens, GCC partner
Todd Schulke, GCC partner
P.S. Please consider becoming a monthly sustainer of the Gila Conservation Coalition. You may
make a secure, on-line donation here. Thank you!