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.
Air Force Military Operation Areas (MOA) Modifications and Expansions
The issue: The 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 and 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.
Updated May, 2023. SWNM Audubon has developed a plan to contribute data to the Peaceful Gila Skies’ public response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (expected in Fall of 2023).
We encourage members to bird the area shown on the map. We will be organizing bird outings in these areas in the coming months, so watch for those in your email.
Please click on the image to access the flyer… Feel free to print, distribute, and post widely!
Updated February, 2023. SWNM Audubon would like to be prepared with data for this public comment window! If you are interested in helping to organize data collection efforts from the local birding community, please plan to attend an organizational meeting on Thursday, March 16 at 9:00 at TranquillBuzz in Silver City. Can’t attend but still interested? Please send an email with contact information to email@example.com
Posted December, 2022. 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 Peaceful Gila Skies and https://www.arizonaregionalairspaceeis.com/.
Gila Wild and Scenic River Act
Updated May 2023
This critical legislation for wildlife and the environment – – officially labeled the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act – – was reintroduced on 3/14/23 in both the House and Senate.
In the Senate it is S.776 sponsored by Martin Heinrich and in the House H.R. 1611 sponsored by Gabe Vasquez. It has the strong support of the entire New Mexico delegation with Ben Ray Lujan, Melanie Stansbury, and Teresa Leger Fernandez all signing on as co-sponsors.
In the House, the proposal was assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee, then reassigned to the Natural Resources Sub Committee on Federal Lands chaired by Tom Tiffany R (WI).
In the Senate, the proposal is in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Joe Manchin D (WV)
The next step: Get it advanced out of committees and voted on by the House and Senate.
For more information and suggestions to help this effort to protect wildlife, clean water, and natural habitats please visit New Mexico Wild Action Center.
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!
Proposed Dolomite Mine in Florida Mountains
The issue: 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 a 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.
Posted February, 2023. The suit against American Magnesium’s proposed 40-acre dolomite mine on the northwest side of the Florida Mountains (southeast of Deming) has moved into the briefing phase. Friends of the Floridas, Gila Resources Information Project, and three other organizations filed their opening brief on February 21st, arguing that approval of the mine violated several environmental laws. Click here to read this brief. The hearing on the groups’ claims will be held on June 7th in federal court in Albuquerque. No mining is occurring while the lawsuit is ongoing.
Posted December, 2022. 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.
For updates on this issue, visit the Friends of the Floridas’ Facebook page.
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.