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New Mexico Game Commission Halts Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Waters

Posted: 08/06/2019
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. American Whitewater saw this as a serious threat to the public's right to access and float rivers and creeks in New Mexico. The rule was adopted with extremely limited public input and was rushed through the rule hearing making its passage even more troubling. The previous game commission approved certifications last year, identifying five stream reaches as non-navigable.


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. During the 90-day period, the commission will not hear any new applications for non-navigable certification. The Commission has asked Attorney General Hector Balderas to finish a pending legal analysis of the rule during that time. American Whitewater - along with a coalition of boaters and conservationists in New Mexico - will continue to communicate with the Commission about our stance on the rule.


Here are a few links to understand the history of this issue: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/privatized-rivers-us-public-lands-waterways

https://nmwildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Stream-Access-2.pdf

https://www.backcountryhunters.org/new_mexico_game_commission_reject_privatization_of_public_waters

American Whitewater
Hattie Johnson
Phone: 970-456-8533


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