New Mexico’s 2023 legislative session has started! Since most readers of the Mid Rio Grand Times are dependent on the health and future of the Rio Grande watershed, we want to bring your attention to certain bills and committees. To get started, we have to know who our Senators and Representatives are and which committees they are on, as they are more inclined to listen to constituents. has a menu bar at the top of the page where you can look up your legislators. Go to ‘Legislators,’ then ‘Find my legislator,’ and ‘Search by name or district.’ When the photos pop up, scroll down to find your district’s legislator. On each legislator’s page, you will find their e-mail and office room number. To find out about the content, analysis. and location of a specific bill, go to ‘Legislation’ and work through that series of prompts to find out which committees it will go to. It helps to know the bill number. This all takes time and you will likely go down some blind alleys, but trust us, eventually it can be figured out. 

There are some comprehensive bills relating to water which have been introduced and need support. The nm website is updated daily and has the latest committee bill assignments. When contacting a representative or senator, always put the bill number in the subject line of the e-mail as they tend to bring up bills by number in committee meetings and floor sessions. They will then see all the comments that have been sent to them regarding that bill. Here are some water bills which need support: (abbreviations for the most likely committee to which they will be assigned are: SCONC = Senate Conservation; SJC = Senate Judiciary; SRC = Senate Rules; SFC = Senate Finance; HAFC = House Appropriations and Finance, HENRC = House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources.)

SB 1 Regional Water System – This bill would allow smaller communities to merge and form a larger water system which can share expertise in management and maintenance. Now in SJC

SB 57 Water Trust Fund – This bill would allocate 250 million dollars to expand a permanent, sustainable fund for grants and loans to water projects statewide. Now in SFC.

SB 58 Interstate Stream Commission Membership – This bill proposes an eight member commission and includes qualifications for those members and the entities from which they would be chosen, i.e., municipalities, acequias, tribal lands, irrigation districts, and research groups. Now in SCONC

SB 195 Water Protection Permanent Fund – This would establish an annual appropriation of $150 million to hire employees to plan, design, construct, repair, and improve reservoirs, diversions, and dams statewide. Now in SFC

HB 42, (SB 5 is the companion bill) is on climate resiliency and funds the Department of Health to respond to health threats related to climate change such as floods, pandemics, and heat waves.

The Climate Solutions bill, which maybe will be called the Water Security Planning Act, is still in drafting. This bill will present actions recommended in New Mexico’s 50 Year Water Plan/Leap Ahead Analysis and by working groups comprised of water experts. The process has been overseen by the Office of the State Engineer. This is a critical bill which would develop umbrella policies that are needed for cohesive planning.

After these Senate bills clear committees and are passed off the Senate floor, they go to the House. One would assume that most will be assigned to House Energy and Natural Resources Committee (HENRC) to start.

Water Action Day at the Roundhouse is February 9th. There will be many exhibits in the rotunda and a chance to speak with your legislators or at least leave them a note.


She says we have stolen our children’s childhoods and their dreams.

Their future projected on smaller screens where there are now

    large blank spaces

that once were filled with species which used to color the world.

The world reduced to memories of what we used to love

And enlarged by what we need to learn:  how to survive the heat,

how to live without oceans and their coasts,

how to move entire cities to higher ground,

how to grow food without water,

how to breathe without air.

     By Mary Dudley, 1943 – 2023, from “Civilization in Crisis,” edited by White and Wilder

Photo: Katherine Chilton

Our birds come and go along the Rio Grande flyway. As our climate warms, more birds are staying year-round, such as robins. Backyard birders may be seeing different species these months. Some birds will “wander” rather than take a long migration depending on winter food availability. For example, the Pine Siskin may come down from the mountains if pine seed supplies are low there to feed on the sunflower or nyger seeds in our feeders. Heavy snow may cause disruption in the Evening Grosbeak’s food supply, and they may wander to where there is more food, moving from mountains farther north down into the mid Rio Grande. Much more information on birds in our region this time of year can be found at the website of Wild Birds Unlimited.

Rio Grande Bird Research, Inc. was started by two high school students in Albuquerque. The group studies Rosy-Finches at the crest from November to March. One of the founders tragically died, but another man joined in to continue their project. They are now partially funded by Audubon as a research project. They regularly update their Facebook site with pictures and information about the birds they encounter.

The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park has bird walks throughout the year. Recently on a Sunday in January, they saw 42 different species. Some of the unusual birds which they have seen this year include the Brandt Goose, Tundra Swan, and Snipe. And of course, they are seeing coyotes, porcupine, and rabbits. More information is on their website.

During Audubon New Mexico’s 2022 Christmas bird count in Albuquerque, the group of volunteers saw 115 species in one day. This number has been about the same since 2000.

An update on the massive die-off of migrating songbirds in the fall of 2021: autopsies have shown that many of these birds died from malnutrition rather than toxins. They left earlier than usual as there was a warm period in fall followed by a cold snap. Did they not have time to eat enough before migrating or was there not enough food available? How then can we keep this from happening again?

Planting more native plants is a partial solution; seed- and nectar-eaters who nest here can find nourishment in them. Plants which attract butterflies and moths are also helpful, as caterpillars are important food for nesting birds. Now is a good time to plan your garden for spring!