Heritage Waters Coalition

This group was formed to fight Gila River conservation efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. It has ties to the mining and ranching industries, and a board member who is a public official. It claims to be a nonprofit, but does not appear to be registered.

About Heritage Waters Coalition

Heritage Waters Coalition is a New Mexico group formed in 2020 with the apparent sole purpose of opposing efforts to protect the Gila River in New Mexico, including the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild & Scenic River Act. 

Heritage Waters’ position on protecting the Gila is closely aligned with international mining giant Freeport McMoRan. 

Heritage Waters purports to represent “property owners” along the river, but fails to mention on its website that the mining corporation Freeport McMoRan is the area’s “largest landowner of Riparian habitat.” 

Catron County Commissioner Haydn Forward serves as the organization’s leader, spokesman, board member, and co-founder. Forward’s dual role as county commissioner and board member of the Heritage Waters Coalition raises questions about conflicts of interest. 

Forward gives presentations to other county commissions and speaks at meetings in opposition to President Biden’s effort to conserve 30% of lands by 2030 (known as 30×30), and waters where he describes the “dangers of wild and scenic designations.”

Haydn Forward and Heritage Waters Coalition lobby extensively against the legislation to protect the Gila River. The Coalition has paid over $120,000 since April 2020 to Freemyer & Associates, a lobbying firm that routinely represents mining companies

The Coalition’s opposition to federal legislation to protect the Gila is the interests of multinational copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan. As the largest riparian landowner in the region, Freeport McMoRan called the attempt at Gila River protections a “land grab” and encouraged its employees to comment on the legislation. Heritage Waters Coalition lists the company on its membership and support page

However, without public disclosure of the company’s finances and Freeport-McMoran’s refusal to confirm whether the mining company donates to Heritage Waters, it is unclear whether Heritage Waters is funded by Freeport-McMoRan’s $11 million foundation.

Our detailed report can be found here.

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