Senator Martin Heinrich welcomes participants to the 13th Annual Gila River Festival
Downloadable version of Senator Heinrich's statement.
September 21, 2017
Welcome to the 13th annual Gila River Festival.
The Upper Gila is the last wild river in the American Southwest. Its natural flooding regime allows the preservation of a remarkable gallery forest of native cottonwoods and white trunked sycamores towering over riparian willows. Its hydrology also allows a high diversity of plants and animals, many rare, to survive here. Its spectacular watershed also shaped human cultures since time immemorial and continues to do so today.
Inspired by this landscape, Aldo Leopold fought to protect the land from which the headwaters of the Gila River originate - land that eventually became the Gila Wilderness, our nation’s first wilderness area. In Sand County Almanac, he wrote “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Each fall, the Gila River Festival helps us connect to the Gila in ways we might not have thought of on our own. This weekend you can kayak, birdwatch, participate in storytelling, or learn how to forage for your next meal. In these days of climate change and increasing food pressure, I particularly appreciate the sessions sharing how indigenous peoples and others sustainably use the bounty of native foods and medicines still flourishing here.
The festival highlights the many reasons the Gila River is a unique, last of its kind gem important to sportsmen, tribes, farmers, and tourists alike. Thank you to the Gila Conservation Coalition and sponsors for their efforts to organize this weekend’s full slate of events. They make exploration of the environment and culture of the Gila accessible and strive every day to build the local economy around the Gila’s resources in ways that preserve its essential nature.
In the Senate, I am proud to work with communities across New Mexico to build on our state’s rich legacy of conservation. I will continue to support science-based polices that celebrate and protect the Gila River for generations to come. I am also working hard to grow the tourism and outdoor recreation sector, which already contributes $9.9 billion to our state - and a significant amount to the Gila region - each year.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance, and accept my best wishes for a wonderful weekend of fun and learning on the river.
United States Senator