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Mayor, not minnow, is to blame

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Dear HCN,

Following the lead of our Illustrious and Infallible Leader, Emperor Bush the Second, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez has declared war on the endangered silvery minnow. Chavez has promised to appeal the decision of Judge James Parker, Chief Justice of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court (HCN, 10/14/02: Albuquerque is dragged into Rio Grande fight). The minnow represents a clear and present danger to the children of Albuquerque, according to Chavez. A new phase of a Middle Rio Grande Water War has begun.

In a move of uncharacteristic generosity, Mayor Chavez sold and released 70,000 acre-feet of water earlier this summer to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. This move was done in flagrant disregard of the anticipated drying of the river in the midst of the drought and in disregard of needed Endangered Species Act requirements that could be readily anticipated at the time. Now there is noise being made by New Mexico's congressional delegation about changing the protections guaranteed under the Endangered Species Act. And even Gov. Johnson is considering an appeal to the Endangered Species "God Squad."

It's time for concerned citizens to engage in this battle for life and the river. Call your city and federal representatives to uphold the Endangered Species Act. The city needs to learn to build a conservation program that goes beyond its existing one. We need to establish a program of rainwater harvesting and catch basins. We need a moratorium on the construction of golf courses within the city and ongoing water audits for commercial, institutional and industrial users. It is time for public officials to act responsibly and for all of us to act as responsible stewards for a species being threatened with extinction.

But to the mayor of Albuquerque we should say simply: You have painted yourself into this corner and you deserve to pay the political costs for your irresponsibility and lack of foresight. You have failed to implement a serious conservation program that takes into account changing conditions and federal requirements. You have acted as though there was no drought throughout the summer. We can not support any manipulation or subterfuge to obscure the real culprit in this matter. It is not the minnow, but it is Mayor Chavez.

Martin Zehr

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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