Pecos River Management Plan Update

An Environmental Assessment containing the Pecos Wild and Scenic River Forest Plan Amendment and Management Plan was sent out for public review on April 23, 2003 thirteen years after its declaration as a Wild and Scenic River. The proposed management plan banned all boating in the Wild and Scenic Corridor as it "can only be done in short sections along the river during periods of high water flow, which commonly does not occur. Prohibiting floating would therefore not be expected to displace many users and it would enhance fishing within the corridor."

The Pecos River was declared a Wild and Scenic River in 1990. Above Cowles (mostly in the Pecos Wilderness) is designated wild. From Cowles to Terrero is designated recreational. The section from Cowles past Terrero to Windy Bridge is runnable by kayak, canoe and inflatable kayaks during spring high water each year. This is a period of heavy boating use of other rivers in New Mexico and the Pecos serves as an alternative run for boaters looking for more solitude. Although there is development along the road to Cowles, the sections of the river away from the road retain much of the wilderness characteristics of the surrounding Pecos Wilderness. The run is unique for New Mexico due to the clear water and forested environs that are reminiscent of rivers further north in Colorado and Idaho. Although the area is very popular for fishermen, they generally prefer lower water levels when the river is unrunnable by boaters.

Tom Robey (River Runners for Wilderness) noticed the public comment period for the management plan and Tim Scofield (Adobe Whitewater Club) discovered the prohibition on boating. Enlisting the help of Jason Robertson (American Whitewater Association) they undertook a campaign during Memorial Day weekend to send in comments. An excerpt from the comments submitted by Tom Robey stated:

"...There is no reasonable basis that eliminating boating would enhance fishing. It is evident that there have not been any recreational surveys of boating use on the Pecos River. Have you done any surveys of fishermen about their encounters with boaters? Have you documented any adverse impacts of boaters upon fishing? My experience is that very few fishermen encounter boaters and that encounters between fishermen dwarf any such impacts. As fast as the Pecos is moving during high water (there are few eddys) it is ludicrous to suggest that boaters have any impacts on the fish or fishing. Therefore I suggest that the management plan allow boating and that the Forest Service gather data before even considering any management action regarding boating between Cowles and Terrero."

The first item of the Decision Notice issued July 31st stated:

"Revised the provision to allow floating use. The Standard now reads, 'The use of non-motorized rafts, boats, or other conveyances to float down the river is permitted. No additional facilities (put-ins, parking areas) will be constructed to facilitate floating' "

The entire decision and other materials should be available at or upon request from the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District, PO Drawer 429, Pecos, NM 87552 (phone 505-757-6121).