A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Puntos de Vista: Talking about Drugs and Alcohol In Peñasco By Vicente Villareal
High Road MarketPlace in Chimayó Promotes Local Arts and Crafts By Mark Schiller
Editorial: Water on my Mind By Kay Matthews
By Kay Matthews
In a display of community solidarity, Picuris Pueblo and local supporters stood on the access road to Oglebay Norton's mica mine off State Highway 518 to protest the company's plan to expand its mining activity onto 60 additional acres: Aboriginal lands of the pueblo and the site of their traditional micaceous clay pits. The group of protesters, armed with signs reading "Mining is Destroying Mother Earth" and "Pollution Knows No Boundaries", prevented two trucks - a mine truck and a logging truck - from accessing the area. The driver of the logging truck, who was hauling logs from the site to Rio Grande Lumber, apparently called the State Police, who arrived several hours after the protest began. Picuris Pueblo Governor Clarence Chile then asked the crowd to disperse.
Lt. Governor Gerald Nailor
The pueblo has been fighting the expansion of the mica mine for almost four years. Previously owned by Franklin Minerals of Tennessee, the mining operation digs mica from an open pit on Picuris Peak and refines it at a mill in Velarde. The Picuris pits, which supplied clay for the pueblo's traditional micaceous pottery, are now buried under tons of waste rock.
In 1998 then owner Franklin Minerals applied to the New Mexico State Mining and Minerals Division to expand the mine pit from a size of 5.7 acres to 63 acres over the next 20 years. Picuris Pueblo sued the state mining division in 1999, claiming that its approval of Franklin Minerals' proposal was an illegal tactic by state regulators to allow the mining company to avoid more stringent regulations. The area set aside for waste piles is inadequate to accommodate the waste that will be created from the expanded mine pit. In its original mining expansion proposal, Franklin Minerals sought to expand the waste pits to 150 acres of the surrounding Carson National Forest land, which would entail submitting an Environmental Impact Statement. However, under federal mining and public land law, the Forest Service cannot approve a plan of operation that uses federal land solely for dumps, stockpiles, and other non-extractive uses. Subsequently, the company withdrew that request and submitted its expansion plan only to the state mining division.
The pueblo's lawsuit was denied at the district court level in 2000 when State District Judge Stephen Pfeffer ruled that the provisions of the 1993 New Mexico Mining Act require that the pueblo appeal the mining permit to the state mining division. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which represents the pueblo, argued that the pueblo has the right to bring a Citizens' Suit before the courts, and appealed the district court decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. That appeal was dismissed in September of 2001, and the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to hear the case in October.
The Pueblo is now taking its case to the court of public opinion and will explore other options as well. According to Picuris Lt. Gov. Gerald Nailor, the pueblo is going to make the mine a federal issue by trying to get the area on the federal historic register, by pushing the Forest Service to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement, and perhaps by suing in federal court under the Clean Water Act. He expressed his concern that waste from the mine is eroding into the Rio Pueblo watershed, pointing in particular to the mica rock the company recently used to surface the access road.
Richard Mermejo, a cultural officer at the pueblo, addressed the crowd in Tiwa and then in English, thanking all the "leftover hippies of the 60s" who came out to support the Pueblo in its efforts to ultimately "shut the mine down." Carl "Cat" Tsosie, Picuris Housing Commissioner, said he preferred to call the "leftover hippies" survivors, those who have fought many battles in the past to protect what is their land and forest, too. Frances Martinez, an 86 year-old potter, whose work was on display at a table in front of the protesters, also thanked the crowd, telling them that she, too, would like to see the whole mine put out of business. The protesters included residents of Peñasco, Llano, Vadito, Dixon, and members of Vecinos del Rio, who are fighting for more stringent regulations at the Oglebay Norton processing site in their community.
Signed by Joe Ciddio; Harvey Frauenglass; Clovis Romero; Alfredo Martinez; John Shriner; Jonathan Kingston; Lou Malchie
We are writing to express some serious concerns about the work to expand facilities at Sipapu Ski Area and Summer Resort, which was illegally allowed to begin during the summer of 2000 and was recently allowed to continue because of a court-ordered injunction. We feel that this is part of a long and very disturbing history of negligence on the part of the Forest Service with regard to the ski area, which has now resulted in the public being denied due process in a matter that could have grave social and environmental consequences for our watershed.
On July 3, 2000, Bruce Bolander, then owner of the ski area (we will return to the issue of ownership later in this letter), wrote a half page letter to Camino Real District Ranger Cecilia Seesholtz briefly outlining work the ski area proposed to undertake as part of a work plan to expand its facilities. This letter contained no site specific work plan, no work schedule, and most importantly, no mention of environmental assessments which must be done in accordance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in order to gauge the potential impacts of this work on the forest, the Rio Pueblo, and the infrastructure and social fabric of the community.
On July 12, 2000, Seesholtz wrote a three sentence response to this letter stating "We have received your summer operation plan and have found it within the parameters of your special use permit." As a result, several areas within the permitted boundaries were clearcut, others selectively cut, and at least 125 cords of wood and sawtimber were removed. The ski area also purchased a new triple chairlift and other equipment necessary to implement this expansion.
In November of 2000, as a result of ski area advertisements in the Taos News and on the radio, community members became aware of the work and contacted Seesholtz to ask how this work could have been permitted without necessary assessments and public input. She responded that assessments had been done years ago which gave her the authority to permit the work. The community members then asked to see those assessments. Seesholtz said she would find them. Two days later she called and admitted that she had been misled by members of her staff, that there were no assessments in place, and that she had ordered the ski area to stop all work and seal off the affected area.
In an effort to gain permission to proceed with the project, the ski area sued the Forest Service for injunctive relief. On September 4, Federal Judge Bruce Black granted a hearing on Sipapu's claim that it would suffer irreparable financial harm if it was not allowed to proceed with the project. On September 11, Judge Black issued a preliminary injunction granting the ski area the right to proceed with the project and ordering it to post a $100,000 bond against possible environmental degradation. He also ordered the ski area to work with the Forest Service to plan and undertake environmental assessments.This decision sets a horrible precedent by undermining the intent of the NEPA process: allowing work on public lands to proceed before there is an assessment of what the potential impacts of that work might be. It also, once again, denies the public the right of due process. Furthermore, a $100,000 bond is not nearly sufficient to cover potential damages.
Our concern about this gross lapse in fiduciary responsibility by the Forest Service is compounded by the fact that in the early 1990s the agency wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to undertake an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed expansion outside the permitted boundaries of Sipapu facilities. This EIS failed to adequately assess potential historical, social, and environmental impacts, determine if the ski area owned adequate water rights and necessary permits, or even substantiate that there was a need for such an expansion. That document was subsequently withdrawn and the Forest Service has conceded that it is both inadequate and outdated. Moreover, on the very day Seesholtz signed off on the summer operation plan she had met with more than 20 community representatives to hear our concerns about the ski area's expansion plans. During that meeting, she was asked to inform our group of any proposed actions on public lands associated with Sipapu. She failed to do this.
Now we have learned that the Bolander family, which has continually insisted that the ski area is a locally owned mom and pop business that is sensitive to local concerns, has sold the majority interest to outside investors who are on record stating that this expansion is just the first phase of a multiphase plan to dramatically expand ski area facilities. Despite investing over $500,000 and creating a new business (Sipapu Recreation Development II), these investors insist that there has not been a change in ownership that would necessitate a new special use permit for the operation of the ski area. The Forest Service, to its credit, is contesting this assertion in court. We urge the Forest Service not to include this new area in any permit it may issue until all necessary assessments are completed in accordance with NEPA guidelines and the public is allowed to review and comment upon these plans. We also urge our watershed neighbors and other norteños to voice their concerns to the Forest Service and the ski area.
By Mark Schiller
The success of the annual High Road to Taos Art Tour has spawned a new business, the High Road MarketPlace on the Santuario Plaza in Chimayó. The store makes the work of many of the artisans who participate in the annual fall tour available at a local retail outlet from March through December. It opened for business on June 23 and had a grand opening party the weekend of September 8 and 9.
Both the tour and the High Road MarketPlace were organized through the efforts of La Jicarita Enterprise Community (LJEC), a federally funded program which channels grant money from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other funding sources into economic development for low income communities within the empowerment zone. Former LJEC employee Jane Cook initiated both projects, obtained grants, and secured non-profit status for the tour. The store, which obtained start-up grants from the Rural Business Enterprise division of the USDA and the Social Security Block Grant program operates under the fiscal sponsorship of LJEC.
Nuestra Señora de las Flores - A floral sculpture by Marie Coburn at the High Road MarketPlace
The High Road MarketPlace currently represents the work of 95 artisans whose arts and crafts include sculpture, painting, woodworking, art glass, weaving, jewelry, santos, retablos, quilts, greeting cards, calligraphy, pottery, wreaths, and sheep skin clothing. Prices range from three dollars to $18,000 and store coordinator Ann Hendrie, (known locally as "Funny"), said the variety appeals to all tastes. She went on to explain that 75% of the store's artisans live within the enterprise community and the other 25% come from other communities within northern New Mexico. Artisans consign their products for a period of at least one month and receive 70% of the retail price when sold. This compares well to other local consignment galleries which normally take 50%.
Funny and Juliet Garcia-Gonzales, the project coordinator, share administrative duties and work with staff person Kate Myers doing sales. They emphasized that representing friends and neighbors and contributing to the local economy made the job much more rewarding than normal sales work. "The store has a warm, welcoming atmosphere that many of our customers have commented on," Funny told La Jicarita. "We have a 'kids' corner' stocked with toys made by our artisans which we encourage the children of shoppers to try out. Customers have also told us that they think our prices are substantially lower than Santa Fe and Taos and that they like the idea of buying from local artisans and keeping the money within the community." She noted that they have a close relationship with the other stores on the plaza who all make an effort to be non-competitive and supportive. Juliet pointed out that the store tries to promote diversity and that the staff gives all artists an opportunity to display their products and lets the customers determine their marketability. "Another advantage of having the store in close proximity to the homes and studios of the artists," Funny explained, "is that if customers would like to see more work by a particular artist we're able to call them up and send the customer right to their front door."
With the help of grant money the store and the annual tour created a website (www.HighRoadNew Mexico.com) and a thirty page color directory and guide. The directory contains pictures of many of the artisans' work along with their telephone numbers and addresses. It also gives background information and lists of other local art tours and festivals, restaurants, and area lodgings for travelers.
Following the Christmas season the store will suspend operations for the months of January and February. During that time the store space will be available to artisans who want to conduct workshops or hold personal exhibitions. "Several artists have already expressed interest in the possibility," Juliet said. "We feel it's a good way to utilize the store during the normally slow months for retail sales. We'll open again March 1 to take advantage of the tourist activity in Chimayó during Lent and Easter, which is early this year."
The store is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and anyone interested in additional information or a free copy of the directory and guide can call 351-1078 or toll free 866-804-5702.
By Kay Matthews
As we head into what well may be another dry winter, water, or the lack thereof, is on everyone's mind. In several recent Santa Fe newspaper articles, John Horning of Forest Guardians has voiced his group's agenda loud and clear: Blame the agricultural and rural communities for wasting the water that should be left in the streams for ecological restoration.
Two of the activities the Guardians are currently pursuing - the restoration of the Santa Fe River and the Rio Grande silvery minnow lawsuit - have recently resulted in some unanticipated consequences, at least from the Guardians' point of view, and Horning quickly diverted blame from his organization to the agricultural users. But it is exactly these "unanticipated consequences" that reveal the problems inherent in the absolutist policies so often promoted by environmental groups like Forest Guardians. Let's look at these two recent examples to see what I mean.
As part of a settlement agreement to the silvery minnow lawsuit (to which Forest Guardians is a party), the Bureau of Reclamation recently released a huge amount of water from the Jemez Dam above Bernalillo to keep the river wet in the minnow habitat below Socorro. The "unanticipated consequence" was the death of numerous sandhill cranes who landed and got stuck in the muck left in the depleted dam. The cranes traditionally land at the dam on their way south to their wintering grounds at Bosque del Apache. When the press went to Horning for a comment (which, unfortunately, they continue to do like lemmings) his self-righteous response was, see, hasn't Forest Guardians been telling you for years that because we continue to manipulate the river there will be dire consequences. There was no acknowledgement that this particular manipulation of the river was a direct result of the minnow lawsuit, that the release of waters that are necessary for silvery minnow habitat may also be necessary for crane habitat (or in the case of the endangered species call on the Klamath River in Oregon, the habitat necessary to maintain huge numbers of other species on wildlife refuges that dried up as a result of the action). There was no acknowledgement that these waters are also needed for the agricultural lands that sustain our rural communities and open space, that the solutions some environmental groups propose not only impinge upon other needs but also abysmally fail to balance a system that is indeed out of whack.
Horning's other attempt at deflecting criticism continued his disinformation campaign against rural water users. Forest Guardians' campaign to restore the Santa Fe River south of town by planting cottonwoods has recently been criticized by the residents of
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.