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A perspective from over the hill

By Randy Gray, Sportsman | Silver City Daily Press and Independent
September 6, 2019

Dear editor,

As our population has grown the wildlands have declined and along with it some our wonderful biodiversity. Few rivers remain that have not been significantly altered which is why I support providing Wild and Scenic status to the Gila River, the San Francisco River, and their main tributaries. To keep something special for generations to come.

The Gila River provides recreational opportunities for many. With its headwaters originating in the Gila Wilderness, the river is remote and rugged — characteristics that are ideal for attracting hunters, anglers, backpackers, bird watchers and others who seek adventure.

The primitive nature of this region allows diverse populations of fish and wildlife to thrive. In addition to creating opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, the biodiversity of the area makes the Gila River and the wilderness it traverses a popular destination for wildlife viewers as well.

Getting outdoors is a huge part of the culture of New Mexico and the entire Southwest. In fact, the Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation employs nearly 100,000 people in New Mexico — a sizable portion of the state’s workforce.

I urge the Grant County Commission to enhance New Mexico’s outdoor economy and guarantee future access to recreation on the Gila and San Francisco rivers by introducing a resolution that backs Wild and Scenic legislation to protect the Gila and San Francisco rivers. The proposed federal legislation would preserve and even increase recreational opportunities by ensuring that the lands, waterways, and wildlife are safe from intrusive developments. This would be helpful for those businesses already serving outdoor enthusiasts in the region and likely lead to increased demand for similar businesses, ensuring a job market in at least one industry for generations to come.

By demonstrating a unified front on the issue, the Grant County commissioners would send a clear message to New Mexico’s U.S. senators that our local communities take pride in the Gila River and the opportunities it provides. In turn, Senators Udall and Heinrich could proceed with plans to carry Wild and Scenic legislation knowing that they are appropriately respecting the will of the people.

I hope together we can leave a legacy of wildness and adventure for future generations of New Mexicans by protecting the Gila River.

This article originally appeared in the Silver City Daily Press.