Portions of the Gila River would be protected as wild and scenic under legislation proposed by New Mexico’s U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.
The Democrats are seeking public comments as they draft the measure. They have posted online a summary of the legislation along with maps detailing proposed protection areas and other information.
Aside from protecting recreational pursuits along the river, the bill would allow for continued uses such as grazing. The senators say the bill would not change how private landowners use their own land nor would it open up private lands to public access. The bill also would not affect existing valid water rights, interstate water compacts or irrigation or water delivery operations.
The lawmakers say the greater Gila watershed makes up the largest remaining network of naturally flowing river segments in the Southwestern United States.
The Gila River stretches nearly 600 miles across Arizona, flowing west from the New Mexico border until it reaches the Colorado River.