Time to support Wild & Scenic designation

By Rocky Mondello | Small Business Owner
Silver City Daily Press | September 11, 2019

As owners of a God-centered business in Silver City, my wife and I focus our values on striving for what best serves our employees and our community. We support Wild and Scenic legislation for the Gila and San Francisco rivers and hope the Grant County Commission will soon pass a resolution reflecting our position.
I think it is important to understand what the Wild and Scenic designation means for the rivers that it protects:

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” (Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, Oct. 2, 1968).

New Mexicans know that here, water is life, and the Gila and San Francisco rivers need to be protected for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come. As a father, I also know what it means to me and my family to have access to these places, the right to use them and the responsibility to conserve them. I see the value in preserving the rivers for all walks of life.

In 10 years, I want to be certain our four sons can still bring my grandchildren to the river. I want them to have a place to teach our grandchildren patience as they wait all morning for the first hit of a Gila trout on their line. I want to be sure they can learn resilience as they hike through a crossing of the last free-flowing river in the state.

The outdoor industry has become a billion-dollar industry and Santa Fe is starting to realize that New Mexico is a great outdoor recreation state. We are fortunate to have other industry within our state. In Grant County, ranching, mining, the hospital and the university all help to support our local economy, as well as our local entrepreneurs. The addition of outdoor recreation through tourism would add to our economy and provide a lasting source of outdoor activity through the Wild and Scenic designation.

We are proud to help outfit people who use our public lands safely and spend time together in the backcountry on foot and hoof. We are proud to be a part of those traditions and know that our business is a small part of the outdoor industry in New Mexico, which employs nearly 100,000 people.

Day after day, we speak with customers who come to the area to enjoy the great outdoors. Some have come with a plan and many have happened upon our little wilderness. This year in the store we had over 150 CDT thru-hikers sign our logbook. All the people that we meet have enjoyed the wilderness, and then when they are ready, they come into town to mingle, eat, lodge and shop.

In the past several years, our community has begun to develop a balanced plan that would conserve the Gila and San Francisco rivers without impeding development or opportunity for Grant County. The proposal has the support of local elected officials, faith leaders, sportsmen, landowners and other local business owners and would go a long way to ensuring the rivers remain a classroom for generations to come. And given that the Gila River was recently named the most endangered river in America, this movement comes at the perfect time.
As stewards of our county, and our representatives, I want to thank the Grant County Commission for their work to date and ask them to pass a resolution urging Congress to preserve our traditions and way of life for our grandkids and generations to come.

Rocky Mondello lives in Arenas Valley, and is a small-business owner, father and Marine veteran.

This guest column originally appeared in the Silver City Daily Press.