The Latest: New Mexico water official orders investigation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Latest on the dispute over the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

New Mexico’s top water official has ordered his staff to investigate complaints from ranchers about the fencing of watering holes on some national forest lands.

State Engineer Tom Blaine made the announcement Thursday after receiving a letter from dozens of state lawmakers who are concerned about the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

The lawmakers have asked Blaine to use his authority to stop the federal agency.

Blaine says New Mexico continues to be concerned with federal mismanagement of public lands and effects on farmers, ranchers and their livelihoods.

He says he’s committed to working with lawmakers and local communities to ensure access to needed water.


10:02 a.m.

Nearly half of New Mexico’s Legislature is stepping into the fray between ranchers and the federal government over the fencing of watering holes on national forest land to protect an endangered mouse found in three western states.

The 50 lawmakers say the government has overstepped its authority and is trampling private property and water rights.

They’ve sent a letter to State Engineer Tom Blaine, asking that he use his authority as New Mexico’s top water official to stop the U.S. Forest Service from limiting access to springs, streams and other riparian areas.

The Forest Service began ordering closures and installing fences in 2014 on the Santa Fe and Lincoln forests.

The mouse also is found in Arizona and Colorado, and federal wildlife officials recently set aside nearly 22 square miles in the three states as critical habitat.

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