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Protect Access to Rivers in New Mexico!

Posted: 10/23/2019
By: Hattie Johnson

In 2017, the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission adopted a new rule allowing private landowners to apply to certify streams running through their property as "non-navigable" and subject to a trespass statute outlined in the new rule. This July, American Whitewater joined forces with our affiliate club, Adobe Whitewater, the American Canoe Association, and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation to request that the newly instate game commission rescind the rule, citing a 1945 ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court as well as multiple opinions from past attorneys general. All concluded that the public may have access to streams and streambeds if the public does not trespass to reach that waters.

The New Mexico Game Commission called for a 90-day moratorium on the rule at their meeting on Wednesday July 24th asking Attorney General Hector Balderas to finish a pending legal analysis of the rule during that time. The moratorium has passed, the legal opinion was not completed and the lawyer/lobbyist of the wealthy, out-of-state landowners have been making their case to keep the rule intact. We need you to add your voice to protect access to New Mexico's rivers!

Rep. Matthew McQueen informed NM Game and Fish Department Director Michael Sloane at the Water and Natural Resources Committee last week that the authority for the Game Commission to determine navigability was stripped from Senate Bill 226 (2015) that passed.  He asked Director Sloane why the Game Commission's 2017 rules were adopted as if that authority had been made law. 

The Game Commission has no authority to determine navigability, and certainly not to accept the privatizers' position that no rivers in New Mexico are navigable, as each approved application states. Rather, the public has a constitutional right of access to the public waters of the state. Rule 19.31.22 denies constitutional rights of access

American Whitewater attended the Commission's public meeting Friday October 25, 2019, in Farmington at the Civic Center. We asked the Commissioners to extend the moratorium and ask the Attorney General to complete his legal review. Chair Joanna Prukop asked the commissioners to vote to put the issue on the agenda of thenext meeting (November 21st in Roswell, NM). We are working closely with a coalition of boaters, conservationists, and anglers to spread knowledge on the issue. You voice is even more important now. Please click this link to send a letter to the Game and Fish Commission and Director expressing how public access to New Mexico's rivers is important to you and is protected by the state's constitution. Feel free to add to the example letter provided with personal stories of paddling in New Mexico. To date, five stream reaches have been certified non-navigable by wealthy landowners and two more applications are pending. Take action today to prevent future privatization of New Mexico rivers!

For more information:

Link to our August post on the moratorium

Link to New Mexico Wildlife Federation library of documents associated with this issue

Silver City Daily Press

American Whitewater

Hattie Johnson

Phone: 970-456-8533
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