Appeals court rules against environmental group in New Mexico

The Denver federal appeals court has upheld a lower court against the environmental group WildEarth Guardians in a fight over the government’s allocation of water in New Mexico’s Rio Grande River.

In a recent ruling, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the lower court that said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had the power to make its allocation of water.

As the appeals court stated in its summary of the ruling, the Rio Grande was one of only a handful of rivers that created critical habitat for plants, animals and humans.

“And it is a fact of life that not enough water exists to meet the competing needs,” stated the court.

The appeals judges said Congress gave authority to the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain a balance between the personal, commercial, and agricultural needs of the people in New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande Valley and the competing needs of the plants and animals.

WildEarth Guardians claimed the Corps failed to protect the needs of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, two endangered species that live along the river. The Guardians had filed suit under the Endangered Species Act, arguing the Army Corps of Engineers failed to exercise its discretion and consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about alternative water management policies to protect the species.

“The district court concluded the Army Corps of Engineers was not authorized by the statute to allocate additional water to species’ needs and therefore was not required to consult with FWS. Finding no error in the district court’s reasoning, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.”


Click here to read the decision.