The Pecos watershed is home to some of the state’s most pristine riparian habitat, but Lela McFerrin, vice president of the Upper Pecos Watershed Association, is worried that a proposal to drill new mines in the area will threaten the creeks, streams and drainages that make up the headwaters of the Pecos river.
“What we’re well known for is crystal clear, pure water. That’s what keeps us alive up here,” McFerrin told NM Political Report.
In 2019, Comexico, a subsidiary of the Australia-based mining firm New World Resources, submitted a proposal to acquire rights to 20 federal mining claims in the area. The company hopes to dig multiple mines to extract zinc, copper and gold.
McFerrin and other community members banded together to fight the proposal at the local level. The Stop Tererro Mine coalition includes area residents, members of the Pecos, Tesuque and Jemez pueblos, and environmental and conservation groups.
But the mineral rights beneath the ground in the National Forest are managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and there was little action that local leaders could take to prevent future mining in the watershed. So the coalition turned to U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.
“The proposal by Comexico is what really brought that community together, and they started communicating with my office,” Heinrich told NM Political Report.
“That conversation with people who live in that valley, people who fish in that valley, people who farm in that valley, is what led to this legislation,” he said.
The Pecos Watershed Protection Act would remove mineral rights from future leasing on roughly 170,000 acres of National Forest land of the watershed.