New Mexico’s Growing Problems With the Endangered Species Act
New Mexico is experiencing an unprecedented expansion of the federal Endangered Species Act, which is largely due to a 2011 lawsuit settlement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and two pressure groups. As of January 2016, 53 species in the state are listed as endangered or threatened, while 19 are being evaluated for listing. After the 19 species being evaluated for listing are listed or not, there are at least 203 more species that potentially could be petitioned for listing. Many of the species in these two groups are based in freshwater aquatic habitats. Listing of these species will likely trigger widespread regulation, including over in-state and interstate water use and rights – because the watershed that support these species cover huge areas and often straddle adjacent states – as well as a wide range of activities that can affect water quantity and quality.
A number of actions would mitigate the worse effects of the Endangered Species Act and offer a more constructive and effective means of conserving species in New Mexico. Among these are: establishing an interagency task force on endangered species, funding high quality research on endangered species by reallocating existing funding, and protecting the confidentiality of landowners who agree to participate in research activities.