Pecos Watershed Protection Act: New Mexico Delegates Take Stand Against Mining Threats

Pecos River in autumn in the Santa Fe National Forest of New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (October 10, 2023) New Mexico delegates have reintroduced the Pecos Watershed Protection Act (S.3033) to withdraw all federally-managed minerals in the upper Pecos River watershed from future mining claims and mineral leasing. The legislation responds to renewed interest in hard rock mining by Comexico LLC, a foreign company that has obtained mining claims spanning 4300 acres of Santa Fe National Forest land and seeks to establish the right to mine the area for copper, gold, zinc, lead, and silver. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján are leading the Senate effort, while U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández is championing a companion House bill. U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury is an original co-sponsor of the House bill. This legislation aims to prevent future mining contamination and to protect water quality and community health through a mineral withdrawal of approximately 170,000 acres of the Upper Pecos Watershed near Pecos, New Mexico. The legislation would also designate approximately 11,599 acres of wild and rugged National Forest lands, encompassing several headwaters of the Pecos River, as the Thompson Peak Wilderness Area.

The region, which has demonstrated incredible resiliency in recovering from a 1990s toxic spill that devastated aquatic life, local communities, and recreation tourism, once again faces the threat of poorly managed mining projects that would impact a critical watershed. Optimism surrounds the legislation that builds on years of advocacy by the delegation, state leaders, community activists, and conservation groups including the Stop Tererro Mine Coalition and New Mexico Wild.

New Mexico Wild Executive Director Mark Allison has released the following statement in support of the legislation:

“The Upper Pecos River Watershed holds immeasurable cultural, historical, habitat, and recreational significance, far surpassing any potential mineral extraction. Its inclusion in the 2021 Most Endangered Rivers report underscores the urgency to safeguard it,” emphasized Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “Local communities remember the devastating impact of past mining activities, which polluted the river, decimated fish populations, and severely harmed the outdoor recreation economy for decades. We stand behind Senators Heinrich and Luján, and Representative Leger Fernández’s legislation, which is a crucial step towards preventing mining and prioritizing the preservation of this special place.