In November, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján reintroduced the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect segments of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and their tributaries as Wild and Scenic.
GRIP and the Gila Conservation Coalition join with conservation groups from around the state to commend Senators Heinrich and Luján for their leadership and dedication to long-term protection of New Mexico’s last wild river.
First introduced in May 2020 by Senator Heinrich and former Senator Tom Udall, the legislation is possible due to the broad base of support for protection of the Gila from local community members, Tribes, sportsmen and women, veterans, small business owners, faith and civic organizations, local governments, and outdoor recreation and conservation organizations.
“After a nearly 20-year battle to protect the Gila River from the Gila Diversion, it’s fitting that the M.H. Dutch Salmon Wild and Scenic bill will finally protect the river once and for all,” said Todd Schulke, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We are so thankful for this opportunity to protect for all time the nation’s first wilderness river, the Gila, with headwaters deep in the Gila Wilderness,” said Donna Stevens, Executive Director of the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance.
“As we struggle to mitigate the ecological impacts of the climate and extinction crises, Wild and Scenic designation will ensure long-term protection of the Gila’s riparian ecosystem and its threatened and endangered species, while also protecting clean water for irrigation and our outdoor recreation economy,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of GRIP and the Gila Conservation Coalition.
The M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is named after Gila Conservation Coalition chairman and GRIP board member Dutch Salmon who worked tirelessly for more than three decades to protect the free flow of the Gila and San Francisco rivers, defeating the ill-conceived Conner Dam and Mangas diversion proposals of the 1980s, successors to the failed Hooker Dam.
The Gila and San Francisco and their tributaries make up one of the largest undammed watersheds in the Lower 48 states. Their natural flows support seven threatened and endangered species, such as the loach minnow and spike dace, some of the last intact cottonwood-sycamore bosque in the Lower Colorado River Basin, and more than 350 species of birds. The Gila is the centerpiece of the local outdoor recreation economy and its clean waters provide farmers with water for irrigation.
This legislation comes out of a community-led proposal and protects nearly 450 miles of the Gila and San Francisco as Wild and Scenic Rivers, ensuring that these reaches continue to provide for traditional and current use of the rivers, critical wildlife habitat, and our outdoor recreation economy.