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Heinrich Legislation to Protect Pecos Watershed from Mining in Northern New Mexico Gains Momentum During Key Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) Pecos Watershed Protection Act is gaining momentum after it was considered during a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today.  
The legislation, introduced alongside U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), would protect portions of the Pecos Watershed in northern New Mexico from mining. U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández will introduce the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.   
Heinrich Delivers Remarks for Legislation To Protect Pecos Watershed During Key Hearing
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich expressed that “The Pecos Valley is home to a diverse community of farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers, and business owners, who are united by their reliance on the Pecos River and the expansive watersheds that feed into it. Members of the Jemez and Tesuque Pueblos have lived in the region and practiced their cultural traditions on the river since time immemorial.” He said that he introduced the legislation to “protect the Upper Pecos Watershed from any new mining claims that could threaten the health of the Pecos River and everyone who relies on it.” 
Senator Heinrich closed his remarks by saying that “I hope we can protect this incomparable watershed so that generations to come can rely on it, just as the Pecos community does today.”   
In 1991, a spill of toxic waste from a closed mine killed fish in the river for more than 11 miles. It took decades and millions of dollars to clean up that previous mine, and the last thing this area needs are new mines that would pose a new threat to the Pecos River. 
Senator Heinrich’s legislation would withdraw all federally-managed minerals in the watershed from development. This would prevent leasing, patent, or sale of all publicly-owned minerals. 
Today's hearing builds on three years of tireless advocacy from the New Mexico delegation to safeguard the Upper Pecos Watershed from all mineral development.   
In September 2020, Senator Heinrich initially introduced the Pecos Watershed Protection Act to protect the Upper Pecos Watershed. He reintroduced the legislation with Senator Ben Ray Luján in February 2021, while Leger Fernández introduced the Pecos Watershed Protection Act in the House in 2021.   
In March 2021, Heinrich, Luján, and Leger Fernández led a letter to the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission to safeguard the promise of clean water and increase protections for the watershed.   
In June, Heinrich, Luján, and Leger Fernández led a letter calling on the U.S. Forest Service to outline the process by which the agency will assess the potential risk of mineral development in the Upper Pecos Watershed.   
An archived video of today’s hearing can be found here. A copy of the full bill text of the Pecos Watershed Protection Act can be found here