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Pearce, state lawmakers issue joint statement on water access limits resulting from species’ protective order

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A group of U.S. and state representatives from New Mexico have released a joint statement concerning the U.S. Forest Service’s recent closure of portions of the Lincoln National Forest due the presence of an endangered species.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and a bipartisan group of several state lawmakers, including Reps. James Townsend, R-Artesia, Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, and Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, and Sens. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, and Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, along with Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, released the statement following a press conference during which Pearce discussed the recent action and its affect on water rights in the area.

Earlier this month, the USFS announced that due to the endangered listing of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, small portions of Agua Chiquita, Silver Springs, Rio Penasco and Wills Canyon in the Sacramento Ranger District would be closed through Oct. 31 of this year and from May 1 – Oct. 31 2017 due to those areas’ containment of critical habitat considered necessary for the recovery of the species.

The legislators’ statement was issued to New Mexico State Engineer Tom Blaine and concerned prohibited access to water sources for the livestock of area ranchers.

“The New Mexico State Engineer is essentially the sheriff when it comes to managing claims for water rights in the state,” the statement reads. “However, Mr. Blaine’s office has been able to do little while the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has interfered with local citizens’ access to water for their cattle. Stopping this is within Mr. Blaine’s jurisdiction yet – he claims to have no standing. In a joint effort between Congressman Pearce’s office, along over 50 New Mexico state legislators have engaged Mr. Blaine’s office on this issue.

“This is not acceptable. The ESA’s assault on water rights is harming how local citizens make their living – and their cattle cannot access water. This means mother cows cannot feed their baby calves – all of this during the heart of the cattle season. This intrusion is morally wrong.

“Action should be how we respond to our citizens’ cries for help. Congressman Pearce’s office sent a letter to Governor Martinez and are confident she will agree that New Mexico should stand up for its people and will take the side of local ranchers and the local economy. We will continue to bring awareness to this issue, fight for New Mexicans, and ensure the protection of property, water, and states’ rights.”

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