The Honorable Senator Martin Heinrich702 Hart Senate Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20510
RE: Gila Wild and Scenic Rivers
Dear Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich,
As recreationists and public land enthusiasts, we are writing to you today to express our support for the introduction of Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation to permanently protect the Gila River, San Francisco River, and main tributaries in the Gila National Forest as well as certain adjacent public lands necessary for watershed health. It is vitally important that we protect these critical watersheds and rivers, and that by designating them Wild and Scenic Rivers, they will be afforded the maximum form of protection for future generations.
New Mexico’s protected public lands and rivers, such as the Gila Wilderness, Pecos Wilderness, and Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, have a substantial impact on the local economy. From recreation and tourism—like camping, hiking, rafting, and birdwatching—to traditional uses—including hunting, fishing, ranching and farming—our public lands support a wide variety of activities and attract both visitors and businesses to the Land of Enchantment. Moreover, they serve vital functions and provide hard-to-measure ecosystem benefits such as clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat. These functions are essential to the environmental and human health of New Mexico.
Outdoor recreation is critical to New Mexico’s economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, it generates $9.9 billion in consumer spending annually and is responsible for 99,000 direct jobs that generate $623 million in state and local tax revenue. Moreover, tourism is New Mexico’s second largest industry, and according to a report by the New Mexico Tourism Department, over half (51.9%) of all overnight visitors to the state engage in outdoor activities.
Additional protected public lands and rivers in the state, and the media and traveler attention they attract, will further promote New Mexico as a destination. Access to New Mexico’s natural heritage improves the quality of life of residents, attracts new businesses and employees and visitors, and appeals to active retirees considering relocation.
We wholeheartedly support legislation for Wild and Scenic Rivers for the Gila River, San Francisco River, and main tributaries, as well as certain adjacent public lands necessary for watershed health. Introduction in 2018 – the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – would be a fitting tribute to America’s first wilderness river. Thank you in advance for your consideration and leadership.