A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
La Montaña de Truchas Restoration Partnership Grant By Mark Schiller
Editorial By Mark Schiller
Editorial By Kay Matthews
By Mark Schiller
From a group of over 200 applicants, La Montaña de Truchas Woodlot is one of only 22 groups to recently be awarded a $40,000 planning grant by the Ford Foundation. This money, as outlined in the grant proposal, will be used to develop a five-year management program to "address the degraded forests of Borrego Mesa [in the Santa Fe National Forest] and the grasslands of Desmontes [in Carson National Forest]. The proposed project will build on La Montaña's present-day program by creating community capacity to restore forest health, monitor future conditions, and participate effectively with public lands managers and private partners."
La Montaña was organized as a nonprofit in 1998 [see September 1999 La Jicarita] to enable community members to take advantage of forest restoration contracting opportunities. With technical assistance from Forest Trust, and financial assistance from the Forest Service, the New Mexico Community Foundation, and the Noyes Foundation, La Montaña has been able to employ 30 community members who cut and market firewood, fence posts, vigas, and latillas.
If La Montaña is one of the 10 to 14 organizations chosen from the core group of 22 to obtain funding from the Ford Foundation to implement the proposed five-year strategy, they will expand their program in three areas:
1) Forest Restoration will be designed to train community members to carry out restoration activities such as tree planting, understory removal, thinning, road decommissioning, and erosion and invasive weed control. These and other restoration activities will take place in coordination with partner organizations such as the Forest Service and Forest Trust, and will create diverse, multi-age forests that will be managed for species diversity and future small wood products harvesting.
2) Business Development will build on La Montaña's current activities and will focus on building their operation to effectively harvest and process value-added timber. This will entail providing training to expand community members' knowledge of forest harvesting techniques and wood processing, including wood carving, viga carving, and construction of basic furniture products.
3) Ecological Monitoring will be conducted by a group of partner organizations and members of La Montaña who will be trained in basic forest ecosystems planning, monitoring, and evaluation. With the proficiency to assess basal area, soil conditions, tree growth rates, and basic ecological principles of forest management, the community will be able to link ecological conditions with community needs and changing market conditions.
This project could also set precedents for community participation in local public lands management. The proposal calls for Memorandums of Understanding with the Carson and Santa Fe national forests, establishing comanagement procedures and goals for Desmontes and Borrego Mesa. This will give community participants more binding input in the planning and implementation of the project.
In addition to Forest Trust and the Carson and Santa Fe national forests, the proposal calls for La Montaña to work directly with the Picuris Pueblo forestry crew to expand community participation, and La Jicarita News to train young people from the community to write and publish a newsletter which will monitor the progress of the project. Max Córdova, president of the La Montaña Board of Directors, emphasizes the importance of this program to the youth of the Jicarita-Quemado watershed communities. "With an unemployment rate in Truchas of over 28%, and a high school dropout rate of 60%, it's imperative that we create educational and employment opportunities close to home. It's been my experience that healthy forests and healthy rural economies go hand in hand. This project has the potential to address both of these issues and act as a model for a broader network of similar initiatives throughout the area."
The $40,000 planning grant will be used to pay community members and private consultants to develop infrastructure necessary to implement the five-year project, and to purchase a computer system. These consultants will focus on a wide variety of areas including: rangeland management; watershed and soils management; forest conditions; socioeconomic conditions; mapping in Borrego and Desmontes; strategic planning; market planning; business and work planning; youth development; computer skills; bookkeeping; interface of science and traditional knowledge; grant proposal writing.
Outreach committees are in the process of contacting acequia, grazing, logging, and environmental interests, the Eight Northern Pueblos, and other community groups to involve them in the project. Max Córdova told La Jicarita that the information and skills developed through this process can be used to develop and implement other proposals if the Ford Foundation doesn't fund the second phase of this project, or to supplement this proposal if it does.
From the Editors:
January 2000 begins the fifth year of publication of La Jicarita. The newspaper now has its own nonprofit status, and while we still work closely with the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition (and remain on its board of trustees), we are now separate entities. The issues we cover extend beyond the boundaries of the watershed, and we felt it was time to recognize that La Jicarita is a community advocacy newspaper for all of el norte. We will continue to mail the paper free of charge to watershed residents (we want to add Dixon and Embudo to the mailing area when funding is available), as well as to the larger norteño community (and all over the country, actually). We welcome subscriptions: they're a bargain at $5.00 per year. A new La Jicarita website is currently being constructed by our friend and computer guru Robin Collier (with a grant from the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin Coalition), and should be up and running sometime after the first of the year.
We also want to thank all of you who contributed to the paper this year: Puntos de Vista contributors, story writers, photographers, consultants, and the subjects of oral histories and economic development features. The community you all create is critical to our work, and the resulting friendships are invaluable.
Please note the paper's new address: Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico, 87521. The phone number and fax remain the same: 505 689-2200.
By Mark Schiller
During a recent conversation with one of the people involved in the Santa Barbara Grazing Allotment Rehabilitation Project, I said I felt permittees and other shareholders had been "misled" by former Camino Real District personnel about the scope of the work and the schedule for its completion. I was immediately upbraided for implying there was "malicious intent" where there was only "simple incompetence". Although I wasn't trying to impute "malice ", this person seemed to be saying that what he termed "incompetence" was excusable because there was no "intent". He urged me to be more sympathetic to an already "beleaguered and demoralized" Forest Service staff. While I sympathize with the new district administration because of the difficult situation in which it has been placed, and while I realize projects of this magnitude and complexity are bound to hit unanticipated snags, I think the "incompetence" demonstrated by former staff members is inexcusable. Let's look at the facts.
The project was designed by the Forest Service and the New Mexico Environment Department to reduce nonpoint source pollution (primarily from erosion) within the upper watershed. From the grazing permittees' perspective, one of the principle incentives for participating in the program is that some of this work, thinning and burning overstocked areas of the forest, will result in a healthier understory which creates better habitat for wild and domestic animals. In 1998 the Santa Barbara Grazing Association agreed to remove all cattle from the allotment for a period of 2-3 years while, they were told, Forest Service crews, private contractors and community members would thin and burn somewhere between 2500 and 5000 acres. However, an October 26, 1999 amended version of the project plan revealed only 800 acres would be treated within that period. The reason given for this drastic turnaround is financial constraints. This would be a legitimate excuse if the budget had been reduced between 1998 and October of 1999, but it hadn't. If most of this work couldn't be done with the money that was budgeted, why didn't the Forest Service realize that in 1998? Furthermore, permittees and other shareholders were never notified of this change. I found out by requesting a copy of the amended project plan from the New Mexico Environment Department. Most importantly, however, this change in scope raises a question critical to permittees: Will enough area be treated within the prescribed period to sustainably maintain the number of permits currently allocated to the allotment? Since permittees based their decision to move their cattle to the grass bank on Rowe Mesa ( a decision involving considerable work, inconvenience and expense) on work estimates 3 to 6 times higher than what is now projected, I think I can legitimately say they were "misled", innocently or otherwise.
It was also recently revealed that a wildlife survey which the Forest Service previously thought unnecessary must be completed before any further thinning occurs. This survey, assuming it proceeds as scheduled, can not be completed before the middle or the end of next summer, thereby further delaying the work. Once again the Forest Service made no attempt to communicate this information to other project members. Moreover, at the end of last summer when it became obvious that work was not proceeding at the projected pace, I suggested to the Forest Service that they organize a meeting of all shareholders to discuss a more realistic schedule and a process for monitoring that schedule. I was assured such a meeting would be convened, but no action was ever taken.
These revelations about the project underscore the assertion we made in last month's La Jicarita that "the high turnover of Forest Service staff slows projects down and leads to misunderstanding." The Camino Real District has recently undergone a wholesale turnover in administrative staff. This includes the ranger, wildlife biologist, range management supervisor, and archeologist. Outgoing staff assured permittees and other participants that the project was on track and that continuity would be maintained. Now a new ranger and range management supervisor are being forced to address the mistakes and shortfalls of the previous administration and community members are hearing the same tired refrain we've heard over and over in the past, "I wasn't on board during the planning stages of this project and now I'm dealing with the fallout as best I can." If the Forest Service really intends to develop innovative, long-term programs for ecosystem management, they must create financial and other incentives for keeping staff in place from planning through implementation.
Having said all that, I don't want to leave you with the idea that all the news about this project is bad.Three hundred acres have been thinned and will be burned this winter or spring as weather and other conditions permit. Plans to develop upland water resources, fence cows out of sensitive riparian areas, develop monitoring procedures and plots, and rehabilitate parts of the Santa Barbara hiking trail are all proceeding as scheduled. And finally, after speaking with the new ranger and new range management supervisor about these problems I am hopeful they will effectively address them and extend the project for as long as it takes to accomplish all of the work we envisioned in 1998.
By Kay Matthews
Biomass power plants that use sawdust, small diameter wood products, and urban wood waste to produce steam currently supply 2% of the state of California's electricity. Some of the citizens of the Angel Fire area of northern New Mexico want to follow California's lead and explore the possibility of building their own biomass plant in the Moreno Valley to not only supply power but, in the words of Terry Gilmore, one of the main movers behind the project, "to address the health of the surrounding forests." With grants from the Western Regional Biomass Funding Project and Carson National Forest, a study team called the Southwest Technology Institute, based at New Mexico State University, is writing a feasibility report for a Biomass/ Natural Gas Power Plant to serve the area.
In November a task force made up of various interests - environmentalists, Vermejo Park and other private land timber managers, a New Mexico Environment Department representative, Carson National Forest, Angel Fire town government and county officials - met with the study team to discuss the project and provide input. Gilmore, of the small timber company Rocky Mountain Forest Resources based in Angel Fire, explained that the impetus for the project came from concerns in the valley that overstocked forests were creating unhealthy forest conditions and fire danger to valley communities, and that market sources for small diameter timber products are desperately needed to address these concerns. Much of the land surrounding Angel Fire is privately owned: Philmont Ranch (the boy scout camp), Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch, and other large ranches border Carson National Forest lands. The project would partner with these private lands to provide wood products for the power plant. Perhaps ultimately, as in California, the Forest Service could contract with the plant for its thinning and restoration wood products.
As the study team explained, there are many tasks to complete to find out if a biomass plant is feasible in the valley. The first task is to conduct a fuel assessment: determine the kinds and amount of fuel available, including forest thinning, natural gas, sawdust waste, construction waste, sewage sludge, etc. Part of this study must also include an assessment of availability and costs of processing and transporting these types of fuel. Currently there is no natural gas line available in the Moreno Valley; the study will determine if it's economically feasible to combine natural gas with other fuel sources, and if so, to what extent.
Similar to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, the study will also include alternatives to utilizing wood products, for example, markets for value-added products like vigas and latillas, molding, millwork, and house logs.
Another task is to compile an energy needs assessment to determine the current and projected population of the valley and its energy needs. This will include a study of low and high period use of electricity that would determine generating capacity requirements. Along with this assessment would be an overview of what power is currently available and what other alternate kinds of plants are available. At this point in the process, the study team has yet to determine where the plant might be located or how large an area it might serve.
A preliminary cost estimate will come up with a dollars per kilowatt figure that will determine whether this project is "in the ball park or not." The task force is seeking additional funding for the study team to complete the final report, which will be an important tool to assess not only the feasibility of this project but other power plants in other areas. The study team is keeping fuel sources and marketing options flexible, e.g., looking at "green" power or "perking" (extra) power that the plant might market outside the region to make it more cost effective. The range of megawatts generated may vary from 2 to 25, although consultants have recommended that the larger capacity plants are more cost effective.
Several of the government agency people at the meeting raised concerns regarding their potential involvement in the project. The Environment Department representative told the group that her department had already conducted a survey in the Moreno Valley that revealed high levels of particulate and CO2 pollution from incomplete combustion of wood stoves, and cautioned that any biomass plant would have to meet air quality standards (which is already a prerequisite for the plant). But she expressed support of the project as a potential means of dealing with sawdust and septic sludge that valley communities have no where to dispose.
Audrey Kuykendall of Carson National Forest spoke about the restraints involving national forest lands as a source of wood products: Her agency has to look at the capability and condition of the land rather than as a source for end products, and must obey laws and regulations as well as deal with the politics involved in any forest land projects. For the time being project members are looking only at private land resources, and the timber managers from the Vermejo Park, who are interested in participating in the project, are currently thinning 4,000 to 5,000 acres of forest a year. La Jicarita wll follow the progress of the study during the coming year.
Lucero's Tiendita in Chamisal has served the community since 1921, when George Lucero's father Fermin Lucero first opened the store on the village plaza. With $112 that he had saved from $18 a month World War I disability payments, Fermin kept the community supplied with hardware, clothes, food, gasoline, tires, and furniture. "My dad was a kind man and never turned anyone away empty handed," George said. "When many of the village men had to leave to find work as sheepherders, potato pickers, or in the mines in Colorado and Wyoming, he kept a ledger for their families until they returned and could pay their bills - sometimes as long as three or four years.
"As far as I know nobody went hungry, and everybody did their share. Life here was pretty simple because there was very little money. Everybody had a little piece of land and some animals.When someone would butcher their hog, all the neighbors would go out and help them and take home a little piece of meat. Then the next week somebody else did the same thing so everybody always had something. And of course what they grew. They put up canned fruits and vegetables and made jerky and stored the food in underground cellars for the winter. But it was hard as far as clothing was concerned. The kids around here mostly went barefoot. If they had shoes they saved them for school or for a special occasion, like a wedding. I was lucky, I always had shoes."
George went to school in Chamisal for one year and then went to the mission school in Peñasco. Because the road wasn't paved until 1958, and the weather was so bad in the winter ("I remember that there was much more snow then") he would spend the week days with his aunt in Peñasco and come home on the weekends. George said his wife Lillian, who grew up in Upper Ojito, used to walk with the other village kids across the hills to Peñasco to get to school.
As a child and teenager George helped his father in the store. He learned how to service and clean the kerosene powered refrigeration units, keep accounts, and wait on customers. He also accompanied his father on buying trips to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, which took four days in their 1937 truck, traveling 10 miles an hour on unpaved roads to Santa Fe. They'd leave at four o'clock in the morning to get to Santa Fe by noon, and then on to Albuquerque, where they spent two days buying clothes, shoes and furniture. They bought the groceries in Santa Fe on the way home. Suppliers didn't deliver to the Peñasco/Chamisal area until many years later.
"My dad was a good businessman, even though he only went as far as the sixth grade," George said. "We were one of the only families in the area that had electric power. My dad bought a generator and once a week he'd charge a 12-cell battery, and the house was wired for 32-volts. We used that just for lights and a radio." A kitchen hand pump supplied water. Electricity didn't come to Chamisal until 1948 or 1949. People heated water outside in iron tubs to wash their clothes.
George was 17 when he married Lillian, and shortly thereafter was drafted into World War II. When he returned to Chamisal he attended a cabinet making school in Peñasco that the government had established for vocational training. Students were given $120 a month to attend the school. George used the money to build a house, which he estimates cost $485. "The whole family helped build the house," George said. "My father-in-law gave me the land and my cousin and his wife made me 2,000 adobes for $50."
However, George made the decision to leave Chamisal to go out on his own. He worked at an Army depot in Utah from 1950 to 1956 and then transferred to a Navy depot in Nevada. His six younger children were born during this time (he and Lillian have nine children). His father and younger brother Manuel continued to run the store on the plaza in Chamisal. Fermin died in 1960 and Manuel stayed on at the plaza location until 1969.
George retired in 1975 from the Navy depot and returned with his family to Chamisal, where he opened the store at its present location in 1977. His children were enthusiastic about returning to the area, as they had all spent time every summer visiting relatives in Chamisal. They particularly enjoyed attending the San Lorenzo Fiesta, celebrated on August 10, which brought together the Hispano and Native American communities. All of George's children currently live in New Mexico: one in Grants, one in Taos, and the rest in Chamisal.
George recalled that the relationship between Picuris and the Hispano community was very close, and the two communities shared work and a spiritual connection. Several members of Picuris attended the Chamisal morada, one of the largest in the area.
George expressed regret that community relations are no longer as close as they were in the days when he was growing up. "There is something terribly wrong today," he said. "Money has changed everything. There used to be a lot more respect. Respect for people's rights, property, respect for the elders and your neighbors. Nobody ever locked the door. There were no fences. Animals were kept in their proper place place until the harvest, when neighbor helped neighbor pick up the harvest and the animals were allowed all over to clean-up.
"World War II brought all the changes. People started going out to work, all over Colorado, California, and a lot of them sold their land and never came back. A lot of the young people would like to move back now but their families have no land. But I never let go of my land."
When asked if he thought the quality of life was better before World War II, he said, "Yes, definitely. People were happier and they had time for everything. Kids got home from school and did their chores, and then had time to visit with the neighbors. There was always something to do. People played music; I still have the guitar my mother gave me in 1937.
"Everybody was close. The neighbors used to get together to visit in the afternoon after work. But nowadays you don't even visit your neighbor for years. We don't have time. We go and go and go but we don't get anywhere. Before, everything was in its place: there was a time to work, a time to visit, a time to enjoy. Every Sunday after church everyone came to my mom's. They didn't have to be invited. They just knew they were welcome. There was no money to worry about. That's the problem today, I think, the money."
George talked about how Father Peter Cooper came up from Dixon in a horse-drawn wagon to celebrate mass in Chamisal. "He had money of his own and used to help the people here a lot," George said. "He bought food and clothing for the people, regardless of their religious belief. He didn't care. If you needed something, you got it. He was the one who brought the nuns to Peñasco to start the mission school. Father Cooper backed up the morada all the time. Now the morada is gone, most of the people who were members are gone."
George also expressed concern that the culture is threatened due to the loss of the language. When he was growing up, very few people in the community spoke English, although a few students who went to the Presbyterian school in Santa Fe learned to speak the language. "I'm not against the children learning to speak English, they need it, but if they're not able to also speak Spanish they can't keep the culture. My dad was able to read both Spanish and English and helped teach his children to speak and read both languages. In a few more years it's all going to be gone. When my generation dies, the younger ones aren't going to care who their grandma and grandpa were and what they were like.
"Life now seems harder. I'd rather go back to those days. There was discipline and respect. Peace on Earth is respect for other people's rights. Why do you think we have all these wars?
"The mighty dollar is driving the world."
By Kay Matthews
Several weeks ago I attended the "Unity Through Diversity Forum" in Santa Fe, sponsored by Re-Visioning New Mexico and the Progressive Alliance for Community Empowerment (PACE). Hispano and Anglo community organizers from el norte were brought together to talk to their urban colleagues about the need to collaborate on work that crosses cultural and color barriers. This kind of collaborative work is essential to our survival: to prevent being subsumed by the global economy we must unite locally and globally to sustain communities that embrace democracy, diversity, and sustainability (Viva la "Battle in Seattle," a first step towards establishing that consciousness).
The norteño activists who work in all areas affecting rural life - forests, acequias, grazing, land grant sovereignty - spoke about not only what these issues are, but how they have come from different constituencies to work to resolve them. Ike DeVargas of La Compañia Ocho and George Grossman of the Audubon Society talked about forest issues, primarily in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, where they collaborate to insure good logging prescriptions that sustain both the forests and the small loggers who are the designated operators in the Unit (after many years of struggle to kick the multinationals out). Bill deBuys of The Conservation Fund told how he and norteño permittees were able to "separate their positions from their interests" and work together to establish a grass bank on Rowe Mesa that helps cattlemen improve their home grazing allotments and maintain their livelihoods and traditional land-based culture. Paula Garcia, director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, and I, a board member of the Association, spoke about the consciousness of those who are committed to living on the land that allows cross-cultural work on issues of water, which is the lifeblood of land-based communities. We both asked our urban colleagues to lobby their own communities for better water management and conservation, to prevent the commodification of water as cities look to el norte to purchase additional water rights. Eric Shultz of Tesuque and Sammy Córdova of La Montaña de Truchas have both worked with the Truchas Land Grant on issues of sovereignty. Shultz spoke about the need to redefine progressive politics to encourage diversity so we can continue to work together to promote economic and social justice. And finally, Lauren Reichelt of the Rio Arriba Family Care Network explained how Rio Arriba County had traveled the long and arduous road from being one of the most fragmented health care providers in the state to now being in a position to influence policy nationwide.
We thank those who came to listen: peace activists, economic development proponents, health care workers, campaign reform advocates, and others. And we thank Santiago Juarez, community organizer with Re-Visioning, whose personal contact with norteños sustains the vision. With the united efforts of rural and urban organizers, we can, as Eric Shutz said, use progressive politics to bridge the gap between our two communities and work together for justice.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.