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Gila River Protection

Water is Love and Livelihood:
Sharing stories from Gila River that drive our work today.

Photo: Marcia Corl

Terry Timme of Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society shares a bit from the chapter’s origin story and how the Gila River moves their conservation work forward today.

This year, Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society (SWNMAS) celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding in Silver City as the first National Audubon Society chapter in the state. Audubon chapters emerge throughout the nation for a variety of reasons, but SWNMAS was born out of an activist energy focused on the imminent threat of a dam on the Gila River – a free flowing tributary of the Colorado River. SWNMAS President Terry Timme shares a bit from the chapter’s origin story and how the Gila River moves their conservation work forward today:

“Several residents of Silver City who had a deep love affair with the river and the bird life it supported saw that they could more effectively fight for protection of the river as a part of the Audubon Society. One of those people was Marian Zimmerman, a founding member of SWNMAS. Marian was a consummate birder and botanist. She and her husband, Dale, have been a guiding light for conservation of the Gila River for decades. Upon her death in 2011, Dale established the Zimmerman Wildlife Conservation Endowment through Audubon New Mexico (ANM) to honor his love for his wife and the Gila River.

The Chapter continued to engage in Gila River conservation over the decades as more dams and diversions were proposed. Today, the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA), passed by Congress in 2004, is the most pressing threat to the Gila River that SNWMAS members are engaged in. The AWSA provides $66 million in funds to meet water supply needs in Southwestern New Mexico. The Act also authorized separate construction funding for diversions on the Gila and San Francisco Rivers that could remove up to 14,000 acre-feet of water per year. SWNMAS, as well as Audubon New Mexico, have been actively encouraging the use of the appropriated taxpayer funds to meet multiple water needs in the four counties that make up Southwest New Mexico by funding non-diversion alternative projects that would provide water security for the region into the future. Supplying water for people through thoughtful water alternatives keeps water for wildlife flowing.

SWNMAS’ foundation was built on protecting the Gila River and a deep love for community. A more recent love story echoes that of Marian and her husband Dale. Sara Boyett, former President and current Program Chair, and Terry Timme, current President, discovered that they shared not just a love for the Gila River but also for each other. After years of working together to help the chapter protect the Gila River, they were married in 2016. They playfully suggest that their wedding vows should have included, “what Audubon has brought together, let no one put asunder.” They continue to be actively engaged in the struggle to find sensible solutions and common ground for all sides in the AWSA process and enjoy birding along the river that brought them together.

In New Mexico, water is love, life, livelihood, and according to a recent survey done by Colorado College, one of the first things on everyone’s minds. In New Mexico, rivers fuel a $9.9 billion outdoor recreation economy -- more reason to protect one of New Mexico’s last free flowing rivers, the Gila. New Mexicans’ love of their land and water runs deep. Seventy-eight percent of New Mexicans’ think the presence of public lands and our lifestyle of outdoor recreation make New Mexico a great place to live. In fact, New Mexicans are as concerned with inadequate water supplies, low levels of water in rivers, and pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams as they are with unemployment. It is no wonder so many love stories grow out of the river when we spend so much time on them, thinking about them, loving them.

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Deming Audubon
Water Future

SWNMAS holds Deming Audubon periodic meetings and everyone is invited to join us at the La Fonda restaurant at 5:15 pm. The restaurant is located at 601 East Pine Street in Deming. See and hear interesting meeting topics while enjoying Deming’s Mexican food. For meeting information, contact us: swnmaudubon@gmail.com.

Previous Audubon-in-Deming Speakers Series included Norm Gaume, former Director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and retired water resources engineer, Doug Wolfe of Center for Biological Diversity and fish biologist Dave Propst.

Western Rivers Action Network

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The Gila River, New Mexico's last wild river, has been named one of the country’s most endangered by American Rivers. Healthy rivers are essential to our livelihoods and wildlife. Audubon New Mexico is working to improve river health and resiliency. We CAN help.

Our Water Future

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Arrange a presentation for your civic group, call Lisa, 534-9284.
  • Your Water Future - local water issues program & discussion
  • Characteristics & capacities of our water resources in Southwest NM
  • Local water use patterns & factors influencing future water needs
  • Specific water conservation practices for households, farms, municipalities
  • Financial benefits of water conservation
  • Gila River value and citizens' role in water conservation plans

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