WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the release of American River’s report America's Most Endangered Rivers® of 2019 in which New Mexico’s Gila River was ranked #1 due to a proposed water diversion project that would tax the already threatened waterway, Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement:
“For the Latino community, protecting the future of the Gila River is about preserving the economic value it brings through outdoor recreation and tourism, maintaining a significant wildlife habitat and preserving the rich cultural heritage and history of communities that have depended on the river for generations. Not only is this community’s way of life tied to the Gila River and forest — where generations hunt, fish, hike and spend time together — it’s home to numerous cultural sites representing ancestral heritage dating back thousands of years.
“We have a moral obligation to preserve the natural landscape and cultural heritage of the Gila River. We can be good stewards by choosing alternative plans to diversion that would conserve and preserve the Gila River's natural beauty, wildlife, and water now and for the future."
The Gila River has been a focus of Hispanic Access Foundation since 2013. That year, HAF took 25 Latino youth, aged 14 - 19, from Las Cruces into the Gila National Forest for a weekend of hiking, camping and understanding what the proposed diversion project would mean for the state’s last free flowing river. The following year, these youth visited Santa Fe to share their experiences and support for protecting the river with their elected officials, the drought subcommittee and the office of then Gov. Susana Martinez. It is crucial that underrepresented communities have a voice regarding the future of this water source and a seat at the decision-making table.