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Opportunity to Protect New Mexico Rivers

Posted: 03/09/2020
By: Kestrel Kunz

The Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico is long overdue for a new forest-wide management plan. The current plan is 34 years old and since then there have been increasing threats to the Forest's rivers and surrounding landscapes, from climate change to dam proposals to overgrazing of cattle. The Gila National Forest is home to the world's first designated wilderness (Gila Wilderness, 1924) and is the birthplace of New Mexico's last free-flowing rivers. The remoteness of the area provides some of the most primitive recreation opportunities, including paddling on the Gila and San Francisco Rivers. In order to preserve these special rivers for future generations, we need to ensure that they are adequately protected in the Forest's Management Plan. We have until April 16 to submit comments to the Forest Service - please take a few minutes to submit your comments right now

To guide your comments on the Gila National Forest Draft Plan we have created some key talking points: 

  • The Draft Plan needs stronger protections for rivers, riparian areas, and sustainable recreation
  • The Draft Plan recommends wilderness for just 24% of the 463,955 acres rated by the agency's own wilderness evaluation as either Outstanding, High, or Medium High for their wilderness characteristics. These areas deserve to be recommended as Wilderness and the Forest Service should adopt the local Citizen's Wilderness Proposal (submitted in 2018 by New Mexico Wilderness Alliance). 
  • The Middle Gila Box, Tadpole Ridge, Mogollon Box, Lower San Francisco River Canyons, and Frisco Canyons Recommended Wilderness Areas will compliment Wild and Scenic River Eligibility, providing necessary protections for river recreation and the wilderness character of these river corridors and their surrounding landscapes. 
  • Strongly support the 16 rivers currently identified as eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 
  • Draft Plan is missing 12 key river segments that should be determined Eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including the San Francisco River (Devil's Creek Section), East Fork Gila River, East Fork Mimbres River, Gillita Creek, Indian Creek, Turkey Creek, Little Creek, West Fork Mogollon Creek, Mogollon Creek, Black Canyon, Apache Creek, and Taylor Creek.
  • The San Francisco River between Hwy 435 and Hwy 180 (Devil's Creek Section) provides incredibly unique and remote paddling opportunities that warrant recognition as an Outstandingly Remarkable Value, in addition to Geologic and Scenery ORVs. This is a particularly worthy addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
  • The Regions of Comparison used to assess ORVs are too small and don't allow for proper recognition of the values of the Forest's rivers. These Regions should be expanded to a scale similar to the State of New Mexico or the U.S. Southern Rockies and the national significance of these rivers and their ORVs needs to be considered. 
  • The Wild and Scenic Eligibility inventory is missing key data and justification. The Forest Service needs to inform the public why streams were considered not to have Outstandingly Remarkable Values and which factors were considered. 
  • Add your own personal touch! If you are familiar with any of the rivers within the Gila National Forest then share your experiences and tell the Forest Service why these places are important to you. These are our public lands, after all. 

Follow this link and speak up for rivers in the Gila National Forest now. If you have an extra moment please be sure to personalize your comments as much as possible. 

Kestrel Kunz

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