A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Editorial: Community Forestry - Troubled Times in Northern New Mexico By Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller
Changes to the Active Water Resource Management Regulations By Kay Matthews
An Intimate Look at the Valles Caldera Preserve By Kay Matthews
By Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller
In the July issue of La Jicarita News we wrote an article critiquing the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project (CFRP) created by Senator Jeff Bingaman to address the health of Region 3 national forests by expanding community capacity and developing niche markets for the small-diameter wood coming off thinning projects. It did not paint a pretty picture: very limited acreage has been treated and the granting process has created competition among forest-dependent communities and largely failed to increase capacity.
This article was to be the first of two: in the second article we wanted to take a close look at who got funded and why. After reading through a box 9 x 18 x 12 inches in size that weighed more than 30 pounds and contained the grant proposals and evaluations for the last four years of the project, we decided we needed to broaden the scope of our analysis to better account for the failure of community forestry to become a more viable component of rural economies in northern New Mexico. This became an even more poignant question when an old friend of ours, who is writing a book about the political life of forests in northern New Mexico, asked us what had happened to the energy and commitment among community foresters he had observed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Our answer, sadly, is that that energy has been dissipated by incompetence and a lack of accountability both inside and outside the communities.
Community Forest Restoration Project
We believe the main problem with the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project in northern New Mexico is that with a few notable exceptions, the infusion of dollars is not creating sustainable, long-term community forestry businesses that can work to significantly reduce the risk of wildfire. In our review of the granting process we found that too much funding was directed to technical assistance groups rather than community-based foresters. The rationale for this is that these assistance groups can provide the necessary training to help community foresters develop a dependable workforce, skilled in both forestry and business. Unfortunately, the technical advisors often maintain control of the projects and are the main beneficiaries of the funding. Instead of working directly with a forestry business to help develop internal leadership and capacity, the groups often train a temporary crew to work on a single thinning project that isn't meant to evolve into a sustainable business. Salaries reflect a huge disparity between the technical advisors and the on-the-ground workforce.
While CFRP funding provides a short-term infusion of money that allows groups to buy some necessary equipment and pay their workforce, it is short sighted. As we pointed out in the July article, unless it is coordinated with Forest Service policy that provides the necessary NEPA-ready land and consistency of contracts, community forestry businesses cannot remain viable.
The Forest Service and Community Divisiveness
The Forest Service, since its inception, has played a paternalistic role in northern New Mexico. While it pays lip service to community involvement, particularly with regard to wildland/urban interface forest restoration, it continues to control the purse strings and make the managerial decisions.
A case in point is the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit (VSYU). Created by an act of Congress in the late 1940s, the VSYU was designated to directly benefit members of its isolated and impoverished forest dependent communities. Until the Forest Service was sued in the 1990s by La Companía Ocho, a small, community-based designated operator, it managed the Unit for the benefit of a multi-national logging company, which took more than 60 million board feet from 1971 to 1986.
Although the VSYU has the largest NEPA-ready analysis area in all of northern New Mexico, none of the community-based logging companies there have been awarded CFRP grants. As a matter of fact, in one of the grant proposals Carson Forest Supervisor Martín Chavez goes on record stating that "I am prepared to recommend discontinuing the VSYU if significant progress is not made within the next three to five years."
In the evaluation of one of the VSYU-based CFRP proposals is the comment "Lack of demonstrated collaboration among identified partners." Forest Service policy is largely responsible for the divisiveness in the VSYU among competing operators. The Vallecitos Association, comprised of community loggers and activists, spent years fighting the Forest Service and environmental groups to gain access to the VSYU, while loans loggers needed to support infrastructure accumulated unmanageable debt. Meanwhile, attempts to negotiate with the Forest Service and resolve lawsuits brought by environmentalists left the operators fighting each other over the spoils. By the time sales became available, many of the companies were insolvent. According to Ike DeVargas, founder of La Companía Ocho, "The Forest Service and the environmentalists have succeeded in getting the people of the Sustained Yield Unit villages fighting each other. And until we find a unity of purpose, we will have nada. We're a community divided, beating each other up for the crumbs."
NM Community Based Forestry Alliance
Many community forestry people had high hopes for the New Mexico Community-Based Forestry Alliance. It's stated purpose was to bring community foresters together to ensure that CFRP and other restoration-directed monies were fairly dispersed without unnecessary replication of services and equipment and hit the ground in the most efficient ways possible. While CFRP failed to underwrite these efforts, the Forest Service and other funders did provide seed money to help with initial Alliance organizing: a steering committee was formed and an action plan formulated. However, a series of coordinators and legal advisors failed to implement organizational plans in a timely fashion, and many of the community foresters who had initially been enthusiastic about joining the Alliance became disillusioned with the process. As a consequence, the largest thinning project in northern New Mexico was awarded to an out-of-state operator, as were several other large restoration projects.
The failure of community-based forestry to become a viable part of economic and environmental sustainability in northern New Mexico is emblematic of the problems that pervade so many of our efforts to maintain our land-based communities. While there are isolated CFRP-funded success stories, those of us who were actively involved in the Collaborative Stewardship program that initiated real collaborative efforts among federal land managers, communities, and environmental groups hoped for a much broader and more effective result.
In a forthcoming issue of La Jicarita we will take a closer look at some ongoing CFRP projects to see what kind of on-the-ground-work has been accomplished and if the grantees are succeeding in increasing community capacity.
A NUCLEAR ACCIDENT AT LOS ALAMOS
Another out of control wildfire
A possible terrorist attack
Nuclear fallout from a LANL facility accident
ARE WE READY?
JOIN US FOR AN EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FORUM
BRING YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERS, AND ISSUES
Saturday, November 13th
Dixon Elementary School Gym
Public officials will make presentations, answer questions, and discuss issues.
Sponsored by the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group and the Community Radiation Monitoring Group.
For more info call 579-4076 or 428-2557.
The Quivira Coalition will hold its 2005 Annual Conference - "Half Public, Half Private, One West: Innovation & Opportunity Across Boundaries" - on January 13-15 at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque. Keynote speaker will be Allan Nation, publisher and editor of The Stockman Grass Farmer. Sessions and symposiums include: Uniting Common Ground and Common Good; Tools that Work Across Boundaries; The Shape of the Future: New Directions; Getting Started (how to obtain grants and start a 501c3); Getting Going (Safe harbor agreements and conservation easements); Like Water in the Bank; The Promise of Alluvial Storage; New Mexico Range School: Looking at Land From the Ground Up; Minor Breeds, Major Possibilities: A Celebration of Animals; and the Saturday evening award Banquet with Michael McGarrity and Deborah Madison. Cost of the two-day conference is $65 for Quivira members, $90 for non-members, and $35 for students. Registrations are due by January 4. Send your registration to: The Quivira Coalition, 1413 Second St., Suite 1, Santa Fe, NM 87505, by fax at 505 955-8922, or call 505 820-2544 for more information.
Sustainable Communities/ZERI-NM (SCZ) forestry project, funded by the Community Forest Restoration Project, is creating value added products from small diameter thinned trees, including the creation of natural wood charcoal and native fungi to grow mushrooms. Recently, mycology expert Dr. Ivanka Milenkovic, from Serbia, came to New Mexico to work with SCZ on the program to grow mushrooms and to test the spent substrate for use as an animal feed for cattle and dairy cows. As part of the forest restoration program, SCZ will inoculate cut stumps, downed trees, and thinned brush and branches with both edible and decomposer mushrooms found in that ecosystem, and the inoculated slash will be placed on the forest floor in the area thinned to reduce erosion, create more soil, maintain greater moisture, and produce more native mushrooms for harvesting. For more information about the project, go to www.scizerinm.org. La Jicarita News will write a more extensive article about the project in a forthcoming issue.
Adobe 2005 will be the third annual conference of the Adobe Association of the Southwest. It will be dedicated to the celebration of the work of Simone Swan. Conference dates are May 20, 21, and 22. The Call for Papers has gone out and abstracts will be accepted until November 22, 2004. For more information go to www.adobeasw.com/2005/cfp05.html or call Quentin Wilson, Conference Coordinator and Speakers Committee Chair at 505 581-4156.
The Santa Tomås Apostol Del Rio de Las Trampas Land Grant heirs now have a Town of Las Trampas website: www.townoflastrampas.com. The site contains the towns charter, a response to the GAO land grant report, and information regarding furture events and meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for December 4: check the website for time and location.
By Kay Matthews
In response to numerous comments and concerns from the public, the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) recently released its revised Active Water Resource Management Regulations (see La Jicarita News, August/September 2004).
At a hearing at the Roundhouse, State Engineer John D'Antonio and OSE attorneys told the audience that while they had made what they felt were significant changes to the regulations - the "overarching statewide framework" - they would also devise specific rules for each region where priority administration will likely occur: the San Juan River, Rio Chama, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque rivers, the lower Rio Grande, Mimbres, Rio Gallinas, and the Pecos River.
Many of those who commented on the proposed regulations expressed concern whether due process was sufficiently provided with respect to replacement plans (the ability of junior water users to lease senior water rights without going through the formal water transfer process) and the strategy for expedited marketing and leasing. The OSE response to these concerns was to clarify that replacement plans would only be available in regions where a Water Master District has been declared, a Water Master appointed, and priority administration has been initiated. According to the OSE, replacement plans "do not adjudicate your water rights but are only an interim determination for administration and can be superceded by the courts." Replacement plans would be limited to two years, which the OSE claims would prevent developers from transferring water rights without a full public hearing.
The OSE also claims that with expedited marketing and leasing the proposed regulations do not attempt to move water to a "highest and best use" but "treat all beneficial users equally." However, in its written response to the public comments the OSE states, "[it] is essential to protect, for example, a steady drinking water supply for municipalities, many of which have junior priorities." At the hearing, one of the attorneys stated, "We will not deny drinking water and showers to urban dwellers." The response goes on to say, " . . . the State Engineer believes that cultural and other values will nevertheless be protected. For instance, acequias and community ditches are expressly exempted from Expedited Marketing and Leasing provisions." This refers to the 2003 legislation (NMSA 1978 72-2-9.1) that authorized the OSE to promulgate new regulations for priority administration and hydrologic models to promote expedited marketing and leasing but expressly exempts acequias and community ditches from these rules.
Although the acequia community generally favors efforts by the OSE to administer water rights to protect senior water users, many believe that these proposed regulations remain contrary to state statute and deny due process. In comments submitted to the OSE, the New Mexica Acequia Association (NMAA) said, "A replacement plan is, in effect, a transfer of the senior water right. In order for a transfer to be done legally, it must include the various public protections regarding public notice and an opportunity to protest." Many believe that replacement plans are the same as water leases and should be subject to administrative protest before the transfer takes place, not after, as the new regulations stipulate.
While the proposed regulations provide for policies and procedures for alternative administration that is based on water sharing agreements, the NMAA believes the proposed regulations are unclear how a water sharing agreement will be determined and who would make that determination. Alternative administration should explicity recognize long-standing agreements among acequias for shortage sharing. Customary practices and laws predate the United States and have been codified into New Mexico state statute.
Parciantes question the assurances from the OSE that the proposed regulations do not support the movement of water to the "highest and best use" as the state continues to look for new water sources to supply unlimited growth and development, particularly in the county and city of Santa Fe. Several parties to the Aamodt adjudication were at the hearing and expressed concern that the water delivery system in the proposed settlement to the adjudication may well supply not only the domestic water they give up by capping their wells but further growth in Santa Fe County. While the pueblos will be afforded all their water rights and additional water rights for future development, the acequia communities remain vulnerable to urban and suburban pressures for more water. As one woman in the audience put it, "It's all about money."
The OSE hopes to finalize the revised regulations by the end of October. Public hearings will be held before the regional regulations are formulated.
Editor's Note: The annual meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association will take place Saturday, November 13 at the Alcalde Community Center from 9 am to 5:30 pm. For more information call 995-9644.
On a rainy but celebratory Monday afternoon Chimayó writer Chellis Glendinning, dressed in top hat and tails, selected the following winners of the Española Farmers' Market biggest vegetable contest:
First Place: Jeff Sandoval, Los Alamos, 486 pounds
Second Place: Jose & Luz Lopez, Nambe
Third Place: Gene & Rosina Lopez, Lyden
Biggest Heirloom Squash:
First Place: Floraida & Tranquilino Martinez,
Second Place: Ted & Carmen Martinez, Chamita
Third Place: Eufelia Martinez, La Puebla
Biggest Root Vegetable:
First Place: Floraida & Tranquilino Martinez,
Second Place: Eufelia Martinez, La Puebla, red
Third Place: Jose & Luz Lopez, Nambe, carrots
First Place: Gene & Rosina Lopez, Lyden
Second Place: Ted & Carmen Martinez, Chamita
Third Place: Euralia Vigil, Chimayó
First Place: Eufelia Martinez, La Puebla, carrots
Second Place: Rudy & Bernie Córdova, Hernandez, tomato
Third Place: Rudy & Bernie Córdova, Hernandez, green chile
La Puebla poet Joan Logghe was the poetry judge. She selected two winners and also extended the deadline for entries until November 11th. Student poets should send entries to the market at P.O. Box 96, Abiquiu, New Mexico 87510. A volume of poetry winners will be published this winter. The winners are:
First Prize: Floyd Jr. Gonzales, Santa Cruz Ele-mentary School
Second Prize: Vanessa Gonzales, La Puebla
It's been a year since our last fund raiser when we asked readers to "make an investment in La Jicarita News, which is also an investment in the health of the communities and forests of northern New Mexico." Your response was gratifying. As we head into 2005, we urge those of you who have not renewed your subscriptions to please do so now. (Many thanks to those of you who have already renewed.)
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By Kay Matthews
La Jicarita News recently had the opportunity to get a good look at the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) when we were invited to participate in monitoring the grazing program in the Valles Toledo. Several of the individuals who helped with the monitoring during the week of October 4 are members of the Valles Caldera Coalition, a group of organizations that advocates sustainable stewardship of the Preserve.
Our group of volunteers accompanied Jill Taylor, field assistant to Will Barnes who established the range monitoring program. In a handout to the volunteers explaining the day's work, Taylor wrote: "Today you are assisting with a part of the VCNP's range monitoring program. In order to better understand the immediate impacts of cattle grazing on the amount of vegetation (or biomass) present in the grassland valles, we have designed a monitoring program consisting of small exclosures. Exclosures are designed to keep cattle out of a particular area. By excluding the cattle from one area and comparing it to another area that did receive cattle impacts, the VCNP science staff can begin to understand some of the effects of cattle grazing."
Volunteers Jules Rochan and Terri Rolland beside San Antonio Creek
Volunteers cutting grass inside and outside the exclosure
We were participating in the third cutting, or measurement of grass inside and outside the exclosures, in a square meter, at the end of the growing season. The first cutting was conducted before the cattle were brought to the Preserve in June, the second, when they were removed from the pastures at the end of the summer.
Although the lush green grasses of the Valles had turned brown by the time we arrived, the beauty of the vast 89,000 acre Preserve was still intact. We drove into ranch headquarters where historical cabins built by the Otero and Bond families now house the Preserve staff. Like many of the most beautiful tracts of land in New Mexico, the Preserve is a former land grant, the Baca Location No. 1. The 100,000 Baca grant was part of a settlement to the Cabeza de Baca family who claimed land in the Las Vegas Grant that conflicted with another claim. The family was allowed to pick five tracts of land of about 100,000 acres each anywhere in the former Territory of New Mexico; the Baca Location No. 1, in the heart of the Jemez Mountains, was confirmed by the Surveyor General in 1860. The grant stayed in the family until 1899 when it was acquired by the Valles Land Company, F.J. and M.S. Otero, Jr. The Redondo Development Company became the owner in 1909 and the timber rights were leased to the New Mexico Timber Company in 1918 for 99 years. Grazing rights were leased to the infamous Frank Bond in 1918 and he acquired the property in 1926. After his death his family sold it to Texas oilman James P. Dunigan. The federal government finally reacquired the property in 2000 and today it is managed as the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The Valles Caldera Preservation Act outlines the many purposes of the Preserve, including the protection of the "scientific, scenic, historic, and natural values of the Baca ranch." More specifically, it calls for managing the Preserve as a working ranch that is supposed to be self-sustaining by 2015.
The cabins sit an an area recently thinned by the same Montana logging company that is thinning the Santa Fe Watershed. Old-growth ponderosas stand amidst lush grasses, recreating a forest that once existed all over New Mexico before clearcutting and fire suppression created the overgrown forests we see throughout the Jemez and the rest of the state.
We traveled through the valles Seco, Santa Rosa, and San Antonio to the Toledo. This time of year, the vast herds of elk (estimated at 5,000) that populate this area of the Jemez Mountains were in hiding from the hunters. (There were herds in the Valles Grande, the large valle visible from the highway, which is closed to hunting.) Coyotes were in evidence, however, trotting across the open meadows oblivious to the many vehicles - monitoring volunteers, road contractors, staff, law enforcement - we encountered traveling back and forth throughout the Preserve. We passed movie sets and the extensive paddock built by the Dunigans to train race horses at high elevation. The Preserve was heavily logged under the ownership of the Dunigans (the New Mexico Timber company retained the rights). The hundreds of miles of roads in the Preserve are largely in need of repair, primarily due to their location along the edges of the valles, where water draining from the forested hillsides surrounding the meadows erodes the road surface.
As we worked at our exclosure sites, located in both the upland, dried grassy slopes and the riparian valley bottoms, we saw a wide variety of grasses, sedges, rushes, and forbs. The valles are a complex grassland system with over 80 species of grass and 20 species of sedges, which are related to grasses and are important to streamside plant communities. The Rio San Antonio, which flows through the Valle Toledo, is one indicator of the health of the valle: for the most part, the stream meanders through the meadow following a natural water course, with thick sedge vegetation lining its banks. There are some areas, however, where head cuts in the banks reveal grazing impacts. This summer was the first time the Toledo has been grazed in five years. Hopefully, the results of the monitoring will help Preserve scientists gauge the impacts of both the cattle and elk, which have been consistently present in the valle.
On the ride back to ranch headquarters at the end of the day we took a detour through what is called Obsidian Valley, where shiny obsidian pieces littered the road, sparkling in the sunlight. The slow ride along the rough road gave us time to discuss some of the management issues that the staff and board are dealing with. There has been considerable controversy, particularly within the Valles Caldera Coalition, over grazing management in the Preserve: how many cattle should be run; how long the season should be; how they should be managed (e.g., with herders); and in which valles they should be allowed. Because of the Preserve's mandate as a working ranch, the board and staff are currently developing a management plan that maintains a grazing program, but there is considerable room for innovation and experimentation within that framework. The Caldera has a long history of grazing: the original grant was grazed by sheep, and after the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s, primarily by cattle. It provided the opportunity for land grant heirs and local ranchers to maintain their herds of cattle. The goal of the Preserve is to provide that same opportunity to local ranchers, including Jemez Pueblo, while at the same time maintaining the ecological integrity of the valles and providing for other multiple uses such as recreation. The public is clamoring for more access to the Preserve, and each year it has been opened to more hiking, cross-country skiing,and horseback riding as the infrastructure is improved to accommodate visitors.
The consensus among the workers in my group was that special interest groups need to keep the larger picture of the Preserve in mind as they lobby for recognition of their concerns. The history of the grant is one of speculation and private gain, so we are fortunate that the Preserve is now in the public domain instead of the hands of rich ranchers or geothermal producers or real estate developers. While it is indeed an ecological jewel, it is not a wilderness; it has a long cultural history that should help determine how it is managed in the future. As one volunteer in the groups said, "It seems like everyone is trying to micromanage the place to death. Let's all take a step back and allow the board to make a good faith effort at finding some middle ground."
La Jicarita News will follow up on the results of the cattle grazing monitoring project when the data has been analyzed. A prescribed burn that was planned for 1,900 acres of the Valles Toledo has been postponed until spring.
Coppola Mining continues to haul sand-and-gravel from its State Land Office site in Velarde while negotiations between the Land Office and members of Vecinos del Rio, the group that has been fighting the mining operation, are on-going. State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons told members of Vecinos del Rio that in the interest of the community he is looking to relocate the mine to another tract of state land.
Here is an overview of the history of the mine, excerpted from the Vecinos del Rio newsletter.
"In late June the State Land Office (SLO), with fewer than 48 hours notice, held a public meeting at the Oñate Center to 'inform' the community that they had withdrawn the lawsuit filed by former Land Commissioner Ray Powell against Richard Cook relating to the High Wall [site of Cook's sand-and-gravel mine] in Velarde. Then, to add insult to injury, the SLO announced that the current State Land Commissioner, Patrick Lyons, had leased 160 acres of State land adjacent to the Cook property and the Velarde village to a new entity, Coppola Mining, LLC, for further sand-and-gravel mining. This 5-year lease (with options to renew) was negotiated and entered into without any public input or advance notification. Within days of the execution of the lease between the SLO and Coppola, the SLO denied another lease application for the same tract of land because it was 'not in the best interest of the people of New Mexico.'
"On July 5, Coppola started mining sand-and-gravel on the state land, trucking it out through Velarde. [The company] at times haul[s] over 200 loads a day (400 truck trips), operating up to 6 and 7 days a week starting at 5:30 am. On August 9, the law firm of [Mary] Humphrey & [Connie] Odé, acting partly pro bono and representing Vecinos and residents living in Velarde, filed a Writ of Mandamus in the First Judicial District Court. [The Writ of Mandamus accuses the SLO of failing to follow the law in awarding the mining lease and to address reclamation of the dangerous 150 foot-high wall left from Cook's previous mining operation on the property he owns that abuts the state land.] Judge Hall scheduled the hearing for August 27, at which time he determined that there were technical defects in our Writ filing; but rather than throwing out our application, he gave us until September 27 to make corrections and re-file, which Humphrey and Odé did on September 24. The new hearing was to take place on November 9, but the Land Office attorneys subsequently requested, and we agreed, that we give them a 2 to 4 week continuance so that a mediator could be brought in to hopefully help us settle the issue out-of-court."
Even if Commissioner Lyons relocates the mine elsewhere something must be done to remediate the high wall left by Cook's operation, and negotiations continue to address that issue. While Coppola has been removing sand-and-gravel from behind the wall in the hope that it will collapse back onto state land, total remediation of the wall depends upon Cook to go back into the site and collapse the wall from the front. He will need a permit from Rio Arriba County, which passed a sand-and-gravel ordinance several years ago, and will have to follow all the rules and regulations set down by that ordinance.
Ogelby Norton Specialty Minerals, the company that owns the controversial mica mine on U.S. Hill just north of Vadito and the milling operation in Velarde, has suspended both operations while it initiates bankruptcy proceedings in federal court.
In February of this year, Picuris Pueblo, which contends that the mining operation destroyed its ancestral micaeceous clay pit, filed an aboriginal land claim for the approximately 200 acre mine site. The Pueblo's lawsuit alleges that Ogelby Norton trespassed on tribal lands, denied access to tribal members, polluted the area with mine waste, and caused loss of income for tribal potters.
Roderick Ventura, a lawyer with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center that is part of the Pueblo's legal team, told La Jicarita that Ogelby Norton's initial bankruptcy plan was rejected by a federal court in Delaware where the company is headquartered. This means that Ogelby Norton will have to amend its plan to address whatever shortcomings the court identified and resubmit it.
Ventura went on to say that Ogelby Norton had successfully moved the Pueblo's land claim from state court to federal court. The company then asked the federal court to dismiss the suit because the United State Government, which had been the previous owner of the land and had patented the claim, had not been made party to the suit. The Pueblo's legal team plans to respond to this motion to dismiss before the end of October.
While the land claim and bankruptcy proceedings are pending, Ventura said that Ogelby Norton must still present a plan to the New Mexico Environment Department to address groundwater contamination violations at the mill site. However, the company continues to try to sell both the mine and the mill site and is not required to implement a closeout plan at this time.
Copyright 1996-2002 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.