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For Immediate Release, December 7, 2011

Contact:  Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Geoff Hickcox, Western Environmental Law Center, (970) 382-5902

Catron County Urged to Denounce San Francisco River Destruction

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center today demanded that Catron County commissioners officially denounce the county’s illegal bulldozing of the San Francisco River, formally abandon plans to do so in the future, and discourage any further motorized use of the area to avoid harm to imperiled wildlife and the river. The commission holds its regular monthly meeting today.

“Catron County’s bulldozing of the San Francisco River was a deliberate attack on endangered species, public lands and federal environmental laws,” said Cyndi Tuell with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The county has an opportunity today to denounce those destructive actions and vow that it will never happen again.”

In August, the county bulldozed 13.5 miles of the river, including 47 crossings, downstream of Reserve, N.M., without Clean Water Act and other permits. The river reach is located in a roadless area on the Gila National Forest and is critical habitat for the federally threatened loach minnow.

On Oct. 3, 2011 the Center sent Catron County a notice of intent to sue for full restoration of the disturbed areas, for which a court could impose on the county a maximum federal fine of $37,500 per day per violation to be paid to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The groups have not yet filed suit.

The bulldozing came just seven days after a press release issued by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) in which he highlighted that sheriffs in counties that patrol the Gila will not enforce roadless rules or the Forest Service’s “travel-management plan,” which manages off-road vehicle use.

In response to the bulldozing, the U.S. Forest Service sent Catron County a letter prohibiting further activities in the river and outlining potential violations of other federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, in addition to violations of the Clean Water Act.

The Army Corps of Engineers sent a notice to Catron County that the county’s actions violated the Clean Water Act and has demanded the county cease all bulldozing activities in the San Francisco River.


You can take a short video tour of a section of the river here.

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