US senator weighs in on New Mexico stream access fight

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is weighing in on a long-running dispute in New Mexico over public access to rivers and streams that flow through private property.

The Democratic lawmaker is urging a panel of state officials to deny pending applications from landowners who are seeking certifications that would allow them to prohibit public access to streams and other waterways crossing their land. The state Game Commission is scheduled to consider the applications at a special meeting June 18.

Heinrich in a recent letter noted that the New Mexico Supreme Court decades ago ruled that small streams in the state are fishing streams to which the public has access as long as they do not trespass on private property along the banks of those waterways.

“This rule leaves no room for the commission to give wealthy landowners control over every stream, river and watercourse in New Mexico,” he wrote.

In a petition filed with the state Supreme Court last year, a coalition of outdoor groups argued that it’s not up to the commission to determine whether waterways should be classified as “non-navigable” because water policy and law are beyond its scope.

The court has yet to rule on the groups’ request to invalidate the commission’s non-navigable rule.

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