As a hunter and angler, I am encouraged to see such widespread local support for designating various segments of the Gila and San Francisco rivers as Wild and Scenic, to permanently protect these waterways and keep them the way they are now for everyone. These actions will also help protect water quality and preserve crucial habitat for non-game fish and wildlife population too.
While it is perfectly fine to have questions about what a Wild and Scenic designation is, it is not OK to blatantly mislead the public about what such a designation would mean for the Gila and San Francisco. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Grant County Commissioner Billy Billings is doing.
Commissioner Billings has announced that he is hosting a public meeting at the Cliff School on Nov. 7 to discuss the proposed Wild and Scenic designation. The problem is Commissioner Billings has claimed in a Facebook post about the event that a Wild and Scenic designation will limit access to the Gila and San Francisco. This is flatly false, and Commissioner Billings knows it. He has been provided with the exact same information about Wild and Scenic rivers that was given to his fellow commissioners, and yet he continues to mislead his constituents anyway.
The facts: A Wild and Scenic designation would allow hunting and fishing to continue; grazing rights would not be affected; restoration projects would not be affected; access for boaters and tubers would remain; and private property rights would not be affected. These are all facts Commissioner Billings knows but refuses to share with his constituents.
A broad coalition of business owners, property owners, tribes, civic organizations, and sportsmen all know that a Wild and Scenic designation would be great for our community. Four of five of our Grant County commissioners have voted in support of Wild and Scenic designation for portions of the Gila and San Francisco. Why is Commissioner Billings refusing to face the facts?
(s)Larry McDaniel, Silver City
This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Silver City Daily Press.