Conservation, Civic Organizations File Amicus Brief on Stream Access Rule to State Supreme Court

ALBUQUERQUE (April 28, 2020) – The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (New Mexico Wild, alternatively), the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors, and the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project have filed an amicus brief with the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of a petition asking the Court to invalidate a rule passed in the final days of the Susana Martinez administration that limits public access to New Mexico’s rivers, streams and lakes and risks privatizing many of the waterways enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts and traditional users.

The amicus brief filed April 27, 2020 argues that the Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Water rule, which restricts public access only to those streams that were navigable at statehood, directly violates the New Mexico Constitution. The amici/amicus brief also notes that the state Supreme Court has already dismissed the concept of “navigability” for testing the limits of public access to the state’s streams and share(s) their/the concern that upholding the rule opens the door to the privatization of waters. The full text of the amicus brief is available here.

“Rivers, streams, and other water sources support a way of life for traditional users and those seeking solace through wilderness here in New Mexico. Our members are deeply skeptical of any attempts to limit access to public lands or waters,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “It will benefit all parties to get clarification on this important issue and we urge the Supreme Court to look to its past rulings and to uphold the constitutional rights of all New Mexicans to access public water sources.”

“We are interested in aiding the Court because we represent traditional and cultural groups and interests that have been using waters in New Mexico since before statehood,” said Ralph Arellanes, Executive Director, New Mexico LULAC; National LULAC Chairman; and Chairman, Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico. “A decision upholding this Regulation will result in a limitation of our constitutional right to access public waters and be an affront to the ideals, missions, and goals, or both LULAC and the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico.”

“The state constitution said all unappropriated waters within our state are public but now even fishing public waters are being denied to our families,” said Kent Salazar, HECHO Advisory Board Director. “Equal access to public waters for fishing is a right we must all stand up for. Keep our public resources accessible to the public. 

“The Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project stands with the Hispanic communities across New Mexico in support of increased access to our streams and rivers and against increased privatization of our waterways,” said Angel Peña, President of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project. “The Game Commission’s rules to privatize public rivers were passed without input from stream recreation interests.”

The original petition was filed jointly by Adobe Whitewater Club of New Mexico, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers on March 13, 2020.

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ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE: The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. With staff and thousands of supporters throughout the state, New Mexico Wild is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.