Getting Closer to Protecting New Mexico’s Last Free Flowing River

Charlotte Overby
|May 12, 2020

One of the best parts of land conservation is seeing the passion local residents have for protecting their “home place” transform into tangible results. Today that happened in New Mexico with the introduction of the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act by New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.



This community-driven proposal designates roughly 450 miles of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers as Wild and Scenic, ensuring traditional and current use of the rivers while protecting critical wildlife habitat and growing New Mexico’s sustainable outdoor recreation economy.

The Wild and Scenic River designation is the crucial step needed to protect what American Rivers has listed as America’s Most Endangered River, the life-blood of New Mexico, and what makes the region special: public lands and waters that contain the best scenery, fish and wildlife habitat, and cultural treasurers.

Wild and Scenic River designation doesn’t limit the public from accessing public lands or open private lands to public access. Designation won’t change existing water rights or fishing and hunting regulations as it protects habitat that makes New Mexico’s outdoor traditions special. Wild and Scenic protection also gives New Mexicans a voice to manage the river for current and future generations.

And New Mexicans do love these rivers: a poll from February of this year shows more than three-quarters of voters in the state support protecting the rivers and 65% support the Wild and Scenic designation.

All of us at the Conservation Lands Foundation extend our thanks to the wonderful organizations who have been steadfast leaders for this effort, including Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Wild, and so many more. CLF is also grateful for the support of The Conservation Alliance, whose mission is to engage businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values. This has been a growing labor of love and passion among Tribes, sportsmen and women, veterans, small business owners, faith and civic organizations, outdoor recreation groups and others who have been working on the community proposal for nearly a decade.

Their tireless commitment inspires me every day. It’s what we’re going to need to help Senators Udall and Heinrich--the strongest champions of our community--get this bill passed and protect one of New Mexico’s richest natural, cultural and recreational resources for the generations to come.


Many people have asked for a way to show their support for this legislation so we’re making it easy to send an email to Senators Udall and Heinrich. You can send them an email here:

Contact Senator Udall Contact Senator Heinrich

Below is a sample email you can send them.


Subject Line:  Thank you for introducing the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act


Dear Senators Udall and Heinrich:

Thank you for your vision and leadership in protecting the Gila and San Francisco Rivers and their tributaries. As a New Mexican, I join the thousands of indigenous peoples, business leaders, sportsmen and women, recreationists, family members, friends, and neighbors who support the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

This legislation provides protection and economic growth by:

  • preserving traditional values and uses while permanently protecting the free-flowing nature of these river segments;
  • permanently protecting the outstanding recreational values found along many of the river segments, including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, backpacking, horseback-riding, pack-mule trips, floating, rafting, kayaking, stargazing, canyoneering, OHV trail riding, and other recreational pursuits;
  • safeguarding the unique habitat of native species, including for the Gila Trout, loach minnow, spikedace, Gila chub, narrow-headed gartersnake, northern Mexican gartersnake, Chiricahua leopard frog, yellow-billed cuckoo, and southwestern willow-flycatcher; and
  • conserving historical and cultural areas, including sites from the Mogollon civilization dating to 9,500 B.C., ancestral lands of the Apaches, and the birthplace of the American Wilderness System.

I encourage you to work hard for this legislation and I join the majority of New Mexicans that support your efforts to protect these rivers. Thank you for introducing the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. I look forward to these rivers being protected for future generations!


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About Charlotte Overby
Vice President of Conservation Field Programs at Conservation Lands Foundation and New Mexico resident.
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  • Profile picture for 11999
    Charlotte Overby published this page in Latest News 2020-05-12 11:15:20 -0600