Current Conservation Challenges

Conservation is Key!

Audubon envisions a world where people and wildlife thrive. To that end, the society and our chapter place conservation as a key pillar of our work. Thanks to the efforts of local Andy Payne and Dave Becker, we present some of the key areas of conservation concern and challenge for the birds and wildlife specific to our region. We encourage SWNMA members to learn more about and speak up on behalf of these issues.


Feral Cattle Removal in Gila National Forest

Updated February, 2022

Feral cattle in the Gila Wilderness overgraze native vegetation and destroy important riparian habitats of birds and wildlife in our region. A large and growing herd of unowned and wild cattle have been living in and destroying critical wildlife habitat in the Gila Wilderness for decades.

The Gila National Forest now has a plan to solve this ecological destruction.

Discussion of the issue can be found at the links below:


Tyrone Emma Expansion Project

Posted December 2022

This project will impact people, water, and wildlife habitat and does not meet industry best management practices.

In September, GRIP filed a protest with the Office of the State Engineer to block a water rights transfer needed by Freeport-McMoRan to construct and operate a new open pit at its Tyrone Mine. Five other protests were filed by private landowners near the proposed Emma Expansion Project, which would be located 17 miles south of Silver City on Highway 90 directly south of Tyrone’s existing open pit operation and north of the Apache Mound subdivision.

This mine expansion will cover approximately 337 acres of disturbance, including construction of an open pit 550 to 600 feet deep which is 200 feet below ground water level. Freeport is now responding to agency and public comments. The draft water quality discharge permit has not been released yet, as NMED (New Mexico Environmental Department) continues to have questions about the groundwater modeling.

Note: This information comes from GRIP (Gila Resources Information Project). Keep current on the latest information about the Emma Pit mine expansion and receive suggestions for possible future comments or actions at GRIP’s website.


Air Force Military Operation Areas (MOA) Modifications and Expansions

Posted December, 2022

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson has proposed modifying its MOAs in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico to allow longer periods of use, low-altitude training (including low-altitude supersonic flights), and allowing the use of chaff and flares. Three of the MOAs overlap the Gila Wilderness or Chiricahua National Monument.The Air Force accepted preliminary scoping comments from the public in June 2022, and expects to issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) in the Fall of 2023.

Because expanding these training areas and lowering flight levels would seriously impact birds and birders, SW NM Audubon will begin gathering information from local birders beginning in Spring of 2023 about where they bird and what they see so that we can help submit detailed comments on the DEIS in late 2023. More information about this data collection will be circulated in early 2023.

More information on the project is available at facebook.com/PeacefulGilaSkies and https://www.arizonaregionalairspaceeis.com/.


Gila Wild and Scenic River Act

Posted December 2022

The Gila Wild and Scenic River legislation has been reintroduced in Washington and will soon be moving through Congress!

The map shows the extent of the area to be protected (with rivers and tributaries labeled with blue text and black arrows).

Many will recognize areas already used for recreation or birding but that need to be protected. There are many ways we, as people concerned about wildlife, clean water, and natural habitats, can help get this critical bill passed.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance — also known as New Mexico Wild — has many suggestions on their excellent website, Gila Wild
& Scenic Action Center about exactly how to do that. Please visit their site to learn specifically how easily you can help. We owe it to future generations of both people and wildlife to get this done!


photo of Florida Mountains

Proposed Dolomite Mine in Florida Mountains

Posted December, 2022

American Magnesium has proposed a 40-acre dolomite mine in a pristine canyon on the northwest side of the Florida Mountains (southeast of Deming), an area enjoyed by birders and which is potential habitat for yellow-billed cuckoos and northern aplomado falcons. If constructed, the mine would operate for 30 years and involve 92 truck trips per day from the mine to a processing mill nearby.

Friends of the Floridas, Gila Resources Information Project, and three other public interest organizations are challenging the
Bureau of Land Management’s revised May 2021 approval of the mine in federal court. The parties spent nearly a year fighting over which documents the court will review to decide whether the approval violated the law, with a ruling resolving that dispute issued in September 2022. The parties will litigate the merits of plaintiffs claims in 2023, with a decision likely by the end of 2023. No mining is
occurring while the lawsuit is ongoing.

Updates are on the Friends of the Floridas’ Facebook page.