ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico’s only Republican member of Congress has joined the fight between ranchers and the federal government over access to water on national forest lands, saying the state can do more to protect the private property and water rights of its citizens.
The U.S. Forest Service has fenced streams, springs and other watering holes to protect the habitat of an endangered mouse. The agency has repeatedly defended its actions, saying it has responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act to ensure the survival of the rodent.
But U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce told a group of reporters Wednesday that the agency is blindly implementing laws without regard to the effects on livelihoods, customs and culture in rural New Mexico.
“They’re required to look at those things, but they tend to enforce one piece of the law at the exclusion of the others,” Pearce said during a conference call from Washington, D.C.
The congressman, whose district covers most of the southern half of the state, said the federal government is trampling on property and water rights in New Mexico as it has in other Western states.