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Suit aimed at headlines, not solutions

As the chairman of the board of directors, I speak for all of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District when I say it’s high time that the truth regarding the recent suit filed by the WildEarth Guardians is brought to the public’s attention.

This suit was filed solely to grab headlines and donor support, and is not founded in fact within New Mexico’s water laws as it pertains to the MRGCD.

The public has a right to hear the full story from the perspective of the MRGCD.

Since its inception in 1925 under the Conservancy Act, a New Mexico statute authorizing its formation, the MRGCD has been providing important benefits that include agricultural crops that feed people, as well as livestock.

This act provides broad authority to the MRGCD to deliver long-held water rights to lands, including the lands of the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos, without the requirement of the traditional procedures used for adjudication.

WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit against the New Mexico state engineer, and by extension the MRGCD and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, requires the state engineer to enforce proof of beneficial use in the middle Rio Grande.

MRGCD attorneys say this suit is baseless, poorly constructed, and illustrates that WildEarth Guardians does not understand the hydrology and the institutional and legal framework that guides the management and uses of water in the basin.

In 1995, when the silvery minnow was listed under the Endangered Species Act, an agreement was reached to form the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program to preserve the current and future water uses while protecting the silvery minnow and its habitat. MRGCD is a key participant in the program and has been at the table since 2002 with 15 other members working hard to meet and exceed the program goals.

Like all Endangered Species Act-driven processes, most entities meet first to protect their special interests and second, to follow a solutions-driven process to provide certainty and improve the environment for all listed species.

WildEarth Guardians, on the other hand, rejects the notion that coming to the table would help advance productive discussions to improve the program. Instead, WildEarth Guardians opts to force agencies to divert valuable resources toward frivolous, ill-conceived lawsuits that do nothing to advance what can be done within the scope of available resources, including water.

In the view of WildEarth Guardians, the river should get more than half of the flows it already naturally consumes and further reduce water for food production and other benefits irrigation has provided in this valley for more than 200 years.

The WildEarth Guardians approach has been, and still remains, focused on headline-grabbing lawsuits that will do little in achieving the in-river goals they purport to care about.

Further, WildEarth Guardians naively filed for unappropriated water rights (in an over-appropriated basin) that may somehow magically appear as a result of this lawsuit. Sorry to say lawsuits do not create new water.

The bottom line is the MRGCD has, and will continue to work hard to improve environmental conditions within the middle Rio Grande valley through its dedicated and proactive participation within the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program that will also protect our water for growing locally produced food and other highly valued uses.

WildEarth Guardians chooses another path of intentional obstruction through naive and illogical legal actions that are self-serving under the guise of what they believe is “best” for all of us.

The MRGCD, and its board of directors, assures its constituents that this recent suit by WildEarth Guardians will not impede its progress and the MRGCD will fight this and other future actions that threaten our collective water future while continuing to work with proactive organizations toward improvement of the ecosystem within the middle Rio Grande.