Las Cruces – The Southwest Environmental Center is demanding that New Mexico Department of Transportation immediately cease cutting down cottonwoods and other native trees along I-10, some of them 50 years old or more, and plant new trees to replace the ones already removed. NMDOT has temporarily stopped cutting down the trees.
In a letter sent to NMDOT District Engineer Frank Guzman, SWEC Executive Director Kevin Bixby said he is "shocked and disappointed" that NMDOT has decided to go ahead with removing the remaining trees, not for safety reasons apparently, but because a neighboring pecan grower has complained that the trees are shading his pecans, and using his water and fertilizer.
"It is ridiculous to say that trees on public land should be cut down because they are using water on adjoining private property," said Bixby. "That is taking the notion of water rights too far. Besides, the pecans are probably benefitting just as much or more from the runoff from the highway. There has to be a balance. Some of those cottonwoods were probably there before the pecans were planted."
Bixby also said that his group is disappointed that NMDOT has cut down more trees after assuring that it wouldn't, and that SWEC was not notified of the decision to remove the remaining trees.
"Cottonwoods are native tree species that were once commonly found along the Rio Grande and throughout the Mesilla Valley but are today relatively scarce," said Bixby. "They are an integral part of the bosque ecosystem, and they provide many benefits to people and wildlife. NMDOT needs to remember that it serves the public interest, not the desires of the adjacent property owner."
SWEC requested that NMDOT:
1) Immediately cease cutting any more trees;
2) Provide a detailed written explanation of its actions;
3) Plant native trees to replace the 45 it has cut down to date.