A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Peñasco Area Acequia Federation Continues To Organize By Mark Schiller
Grandchildren Clauses By Elizabeth Winter
The "Greening" of New Mexico By Lynn Montgomery
By Mark Schiller
Community efforts to organize the Peñasco Area Acequia Federation continued at a meeting at the old bank building in Peñasco on December 1. About 30 parciantes met to discuss a list of articles of incorporation, review the revised set of bylaws, and compile an inventory of area acequias, their commissioners and mayordomos. It was announced that the group had received two grants, one for $200 from the Santa Fe Community Foundation, and one for $100 from the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition to help underwrite organizational efforts. Some of this money will be used to do a mailing to notify acequia commissioners and mayordomos of a meeting, probably in February, when a vote will be taken on whether area acequias want to participate in this federation, and if so, whether they want to adopt the bylaws and articles of incorporation as written. In order to incorporate, the group must have participation from at least 51% of area acequias.
Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of including Dixon and Embudo acequias in the group. In all likelihood the entire watershed, from Holman Hill to Embudo, will be adjudicated at the same time. Parciantes discussed the possible advantages and disadvantages of including these communities in the federation. Several representatives of Dixon and Embudo acequias were in attendance and expressed their desire to work with the group.
Because of the complexity of many of these issues, participants decided that it would be a good idea to obtain expert assistance. They have therefore scheduled a meeting for Saturday, January 11, at 1 p. m. at the old bank building in Peñasco, at which time David Benevides, a lawyer with Northern New Mexico Legal Services and a specialist in New Mexico water law, and Wilfred Rael, a paralegal and one of the organizers of the Questa Acequia Association, will discuss these issues and answer questions. For more information, parciantes can contact Ben and Verna Gurulé at 587-2528 or Mark Schiller at 689-2200.
Community Meets with Bureau of Land Management to Discuss Summo Mine: Are We Working Together on This Issue?
At a November 19 meeting at Picuris Pueblo, Mike Ford, District Manager of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), stated: "An open pit copper mine in this area [Copper Hill, near Peñasco] is inconsistent with our own management plan." The fifty or so people attending the meeting were happy to hear those remarks, but expressed to Ford that they feared the BLM was just paying lip service to them.
Ford explained that the critical environmental concerns that the BLM has identified in this area within the Rio Embudo corridor include watershed, viewshed, cultural properties, and endangered species: "It's an area we want to protect." Although Summo Minerals currently has a permit to drill exploratory holes along existing roads in the Champion Mine area on Copper Hill, if Summo decides that it wants to develop a mine in the area, it must file what is called a Mining Plan of Operation. At that time, Ford said, the BLM will require an Environmental Impact Statement for the project. "While we can't unilaterally tell them they can't file a plan, we have told them that it will be a difficult process," he said.
A member of the audience asked Ford to be more specific about the concerns in the area that he thinks cannot be mitigated. Ford stated that because of the area's inclusion in a Wild and Scenic corridor, because it is a habitat for endangered species, and because there are cultural concerns, mitigation efforts may be impossible. He stated: "If we're going to err in a BLM action, we're going to err on the side of Native American concerns." Ford also pointed out that Summo Minerals will have to jump through the regulation hoops of several state agencies: the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division, whose guidelines are actually stricter than those of the BLM; and the Office of the State Engineer, which must approve water rights transfers and ground water applications.
Questions concerning the Mining Law of 1872 inevitably arose. This law, long seen as anachronistic and unfairly biased in favor of the extractive industry by environmentalists, stipulates that mining is the "best use" of federal lands. Someone asked if Ford felt the law needed to be changed: his answer was, "Absolutely."
Several questions were asked about the rights of private land owners in the area in question. Ford explained that when these lands were sold, the federal government reserved the right to explore for minerals. It's called a split estate, where the surface rights and mineral rights are owned seperately. He did point out that a surface owner consent form is required before the mining activity can take place. When the daughter of one of the land owners stated that her parents had never signed this form, Ford explained that the consent form is not required until the actual land disturbing activity begins. He also said that if Summo and the private land owner cannot come to an agreement, the BLM has to come up with bond money to cover the costs of surface activities that are impacted by the minng activity, such as grazing, agriculture, timber, or other kinds of economic loss.
By Elizabeth Winter
The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth. &emdash;Chief Seattle, Duwamish Tribe
Some people dispute the attribution of this quote to Chief Seattle. It matters not. The sentiment remains the same, and has been expressed by many. A hundred years from now, when we are all gone, the legacy of how we have lived will remain. The vast majority of Americans, 91%, want their grandchildren to live in a world with a healthier, cleaner environment than we have today. This finding is reported by a team of anthropologists headed by Willet Kempton in their book Environmental Values in American Culture (MIT Press, 1995).
Here in northern New Mexico, the traditions of previous generations have left us much to be thankful for. But tradition is rarely preserved in a pure form, and small changes in tradition can have significant effects.
Acequias have been maintained for centuries, in a living example of sustainable agriculture. But more and more homes are being built below the acequias. Unlike previous generations, most homes now have septic tanks and use flush toilets and a variety of household chemicals such as chlorine bleach.
Modern agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, are used in domestic gardens. Automobiles drip oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and the like; underground tanks sometimes leak gasoline. The Forest Service promotes recreation but does not aggressively enforce against illegal dumping of sewage from vacation vehicles.
Inevitably, these substances mingle with the waters&emdash;both ground and surface waters. The result is pollution unknown in previous centuries, necessitating prevention and clean-up in response to these novel problems.
The volume of trash per capita has increased compared to years gone by, with many materials which don't easily break down. Discarding broken pottery and corn husks is a different matter than tossing Pampers, styrofoam containers and two-liter Pepsi bottles. Burning plastics, which give off toxic fumes, is a different matter than older, simpler materials. Increased use of toxic substances means increased danger of groundwater contamination from garbage dumps.
Common sense tells us changes in tradition mean new effects which may require novel methods to cope with them. Too often, pride in tradition is used as an argument against measures designed to protect against the detrimental effects of non-traditional practices. For example, recycling is a positive response to large amounts of paper products and disposable packaging materials in modern life.
In the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo watershed, our downstream neighbors in Cañoncito have recently been warned to boil their drinking water. Such advisories are issued when coliform bacteria are found in water supplies. These bacteria indicate contamination by fecal material&emdash;from humans or from domestic or wild animals. This can result from septic systems seepage or from contaminated surface runoff. Coliform bacteria are not hazardous in and of themselves, but where they are found, other disease-causing organisms may be spread, such as hepatitis, cholera, dysentery and yellow fever, among others.
Cañoncito is not alone in its water problems. The Taos County village of Arroyo Seco has required emergency measures, such as trucking in water for the elementary school by the National Guard, to protect the children from contaminated water. Many rural water systems have experienced comparable problems. These represent a clear and present danger to public health and welfare.
Monitoring of surface waters within the Picuris Land Grant by public health authorities in recent years has consistently found coliform bacteria. Many other possible contaminants have never been tested for. For this reason, and looking towards the future, the tribe recently had water quality standards approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are common sense standards, designed to protect the health and well-being of living organisms within the watershed, human and otherwise. If we reach the unfortunate but predictable eventuality of a water-borne disease epidemic, a solution to our water-quality problems will be found. Hopefully, it can be accomplished before it is forced by an entirely preventable crisis.
Many new regulations and laws arrive with "grandfather clauses", exempting in-place practices. No one enjoys the impositions accompanying regulatory enforcement. But almost everyone is willing to work for the benefit of their grandchildren. When it comes to protection and improvement of the quality of waters we all share, perhaps the solution to our problems lies in "grandchildren clauses."
Picuris Pueblo is currently starting up an Environment Office. Elizabeth Winter has been hired to coordinate this job. This article is supported by a grant from the EPA.
By Kay Matthews
In September of this year, Judge Edwin Mecham in Albuquerque ordered the Forest Service to release the La Mange timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, which would have allowed La Companía Ocho, entitled to 75% of the sale, to get to work after a two-year delay. The Forest Service, however, refused to release the sale because of the Region Three logging injunction, the result of a separate lawsuit over protection of the Mexican spotted owl (Judge Mechem claimed that the La Manga sale did not fall within the parameters of the injunction). The logging injunction was finally lifted on December 4. Now, unless the environmentalists who initially sued the Forest Service over the La Manga sale, claiming it failed to protect old growth forests, appeal Mechem's decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a lawsuit that has caused contention and dissension in the environmental community and economic hardship to the Vallecito loggers and their familes, is over.
Last minute agreements were hammered out among the lawsuit litigants: the environmental groups Carson Forest Watch and Forest Guardains; La Compania Ocho, (who intervened in the suit for economic reasons); and the Forest Service. The Forest Service has agreed to delay the award date of the sale to La Companía until the spring of 1997, so that the logging company will not have to come up with sale money until they can actually get into the unit (too much snow prohibits entry now). An initial agreement would have had the Forest Service compensate La Companía for lost wages, due to the delay caused by the lawsuit, and provide a road building credit, but the agency now says it will not do so unless the sale becomes a deficit sale.
The environmental groups have agreed to try and raise $500,000 for a timber buyout: The money would be paid to La Companía in return for their not logging the large diameter trees in the sale classified as old growth. This compromise was first proposed by Congressman Bill Richardson, whereby the Forest Service would have had to come up with $100,000, the environmentalists with between $200,000 and $300,000, and the balance from sources sought by the congressman. The Forest Service refused to follow through with the agreement, however, stating that it would be illegal to appropriate money to the loggers, despite the fact that the agency has agreed to compensate loggers in the Northwest to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
While the McCune Foundation of Santa Fe has been quoted as saying that this amount of money "is not out of reach," recent events indicate that the La Manga lawsuit may end up in appeals court, and more importantly, may further erode relations between environmentalists and loggers. Environmental groups have already filed what is called a consistency lawsuit in Arizona, demanding that all forest activities be consistent with biological decisions made by the Forest Service. They have included the La Manga timber sale in this lawsuit, despite the fact that Judge Meechem has declared that all decisions affecting the sale will be decided in his court. John Talberth of Forest Guardians has gone on record as saying that his group is prepared to file hundreds of lawsuits over sales that they feel do not conform with revised Forest Service logging plans. After five large diameter ponderosa pines were illegally cut in the La Manage sale unit the last week of November, Sam Hitt, also of Forest Guardians, called Ike DeVargas of La Compania Ocho an "environmental outlaw" and refused to ever negotiate with him again. This was in response to DeVargas' statement that while he was not responsible for the tree cutting, and he didn't encourage it, he was "sympathetic to it." DeVargas's sympathy was based upon his feeling that the illegal tree cutting was a demonstration of the frustration and outrage local loggers feel at being out of work for such a long period of time.
DeVargas has always maintained that his company initially offered to negotiate the 500 acres of old growth contained in the sale if the environmentalists had agreed to release the remainder of the sale. Now he says that unless the environmentalists can come up with the $500,000 well before the release of the sale, they "won't have saved an owl or a tree." However, he also points out that if the 500 acres are included in the sale, "only one or two trees out of ten large trees per acre will be cut."
About 30 residents of Vadito, Rodarte, Llano Largo, Peñasco, Rio Lucio, Chamisal, and Picuris Pueblo met in the old high school gym in Peñasco on December 9 to discuss joining forces to apply for state and federal monies available for domestic water and waste treatment. Participants are asking state legislators Carlos Cisneros and Bobby Gonzales to introduce bills requesting funding for a feasibility study for their project in the upcoming legislative session. Picuris Pueblo will also be requesting funds for the study from the Indian Affairs Committee. Projects included in the study will be building and implementing&emdash;or upgrading&emdash;domestic water systems, and building and implementing waste water treatment facilities in these communities. La Jicarita Enterprise Community is lending technical assistance to this group, and will be applying for funding from the USDA. Ron Martinez of the Enterprise Community is hopeful that if our area can present a unified front, further funding will be available through the Enterprise for implementation. The next meeting will be held January 9 at 7 p. m. at the old bank building in Peñasco.
A meeting of the Peñasco Area Acequia Federation will be held at the old bank building in Peñasco on Saturday, January 11, at 1:00 p.m. David Benevides and Wilfred Rael of Northern New Mexico Legal Services will be present to answer questions and assist in organizing efforts. Everyone is invited to attend.
A meeting to discuss the possiblity of upgrading Peñasco valley domestic water systems, as well as establishing waste treatment facilities, will be held on Thursday, January 9, at 7 p. m. at the old bank building in Peñasco. Everyone is invited to attend.
Last month several people called La Jicarita to complain about the practice of using radio-collared dogs to hunt bears. They were specifically concerned that too many bears were taken this year in the Las Trampas Canyon area above El Valle.
La Jicarita called the Taos office of the New Mexico State Game and Fish Department and spoke with Todd Stevenson, the District Wildlife Supervisor. He had received several calls already from citizens upset over the number of bears taken and the hunting method employed. He exlained that the State Game Commission determines regulations for hunting, and that the issue of using radio-collared dogs has come up before the Commission in previous years. Regulations for the years 1997 and 1998 were set at the 1996 meeting of the Commission, but according to Stevenson, it is not too late to express your conerns. If there is public sentiment that using radio-collared dogs to hunt bears is not "sporting," or if people feel the bear quotas are too high, then they should write letters to the Game Commission expressing these concerns. The address is: New Mexico Deptartment of Game and Fish Game Commission, P. O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM, 87504. He also urged anyone who observes dogs being used illegally (for example, the licensed hunter does not stay with the dogs or accompany the guide who owns the dogs), to call his office at 758-0244, or Scott Draney in Peñasco at 737-0802.
The issue of allowing hunters to use radio-collared dogs is a concern country-wide. Several states had proposals in this year's election to ban the practice, and some states already do. Stevenson emphasized that those people opposed to hunting with dogs are not necessarily opposed to hunting in general.
By Lynn Montgomery
New Mexico Green Party&emdash;Philosophy and Introductory Statement
New Mexico is blessed with beautiful and useful forests. For thousands of years these forests have provided the means of survival and fulfillment to humans. Because of ruthless corporate exploitation over the last 150 years, this resource has become limited and unproductive. This has caused inevitable conflicts among humans. It is now clear that New Mexicans cannot carry on "business as usual" concerning the forests, and that our very survival and ability to live here depend on healthy, extensive, and diversely productive forests and wildlands. All human activity directly depends on that essential, publicly owned resource; water. Our forest and wildlands provide that water, so we must focus our attention on the watershed. A long-term comprehensive plan must be conceived, agreed upon, and implemented if we are to avoid the slow suicide of resource degeneration.
Last summer the Sandoval Green Party Chapter, while grappling with the conflicts over forest use in northern New Mexico, decided to approach the problem from a more grass roots angle. There are many groups and organizations presently doing good work on these issues, but it seems there is a gap between the people and activists when it comes to actually getting things done. Thus, the New Mexico Green Regeneration Project was created. A statement was drafted and the Project was approved by the Green Party State Council on September 7, 1996.
There are two phases to the Project. Phase I is community forest restoration. This will entail constructing small, locally owned village greenhouses to grow trees and other plants to be set out in burns, riparian areas, and anywhere else revegetation is needed. Local people will be enlisted or hired to do the work. Local people will be consulted from the get-go, and nothing will be done without local input and approval, the goal being to return the management and use of the forest to local control. Phase II involves watershed preservation and regeneration. The watershed is critical to all New Mexicans. Currently, there is no entity that oversees and manages the watershed. Although the Project cannot possibly fulfill this role entirely, it is hoped that by actually going out and physically improving the watershed at a grass roots level, the powers that be will be encouraged to do their duty. Again, focus on locality will be done by consulting acequia parciantes and landowners. It is hoped the activities resulting from these phases will become part of established land management traditions.
Project coordinators Steve Perin and Lynn Montgom-ery have been visiting La Jicarita area this fall in order to connect with people and determine what is needed and wanted. Steve is an artist, outdoorsman, and small business activist; Lynn is a farmer, acequia parciante, and philosopher. Both are former members of the Southwest Forest Workers's Coop, and both hail from Placitas (the one near Bernalillo). Placitas is a microcosm of the north, home to a Spanish land grant, lots of counter-culture types, and bordered by Pueblo reservations and public lands. So Steve and Lynn, besides being very familiar with northern New Mexican social dynamics, also have the advantage of being uninvolved "outsiders."
This winter will be spent on more outreach and consolidation into an incorporated organization. Response to this proposal has been heartening, and much hope, energy, and knowledge has been given from La Jicarita area folks. Many thanks for these and the hospitality shown. For a copy of the Project's introductory statement, or if you have any questions or ideas, contact Lynn Montgomery at 505-867-9580.
La Jicarita: Can you tell us about the fuelwood plan you've been working on with Carson National Forest.
Córdova: Our communities are very territorial. They like to harvest resources from a certain area. And if you try to get these people out of that area and into another area there's a lot of resistance. So one of the things we've said is that we should do a study of historical and cultural uses and identify those areas that a community has traditionally used. Our forest management plan deals only with East Entrañas and West Entrañas, not the Peñasco area, but we feel that the people in Peñasco, Chamisal, El Valle, Ojo Sarco also need to be directly consulted about their historical uses. We prioritize things the way we see them. For example, in Taos the main issue is recreation. For us, it is getting at the forest resources. The idea is for the plan to be sensitive to the needs of each of these communities. I feel that should be one of the responsibilities of the Forest Service. Santa Fe National Forest has never done that. What they've told us is that they make the decisions, and we have to accept them.
Another thing we've discussed is district advisory boards. Through these we hope to address all issues impacting the forest including firewood, timber, grazing, and recreation. Initially we had talked about one advisory group for all of Region Three, and then after studying it a little while, we decided the advisory boards should be at the district level. From these district advisory groups, representatives could be elected to a Region Three advisory group. There's a lot of resistance, though, from the Forest Service. For example, when we brought the idea to Lori Osterstock of the Española District, she said federal law prohibited it. When we brought it to the Carson, they weren't sympathetic to it. The reason we're hoping to have this implemented is so that we won't always have to be pushing people to get things done. Not only today but in the future. We want to ensure that there is an avenue for the changing concerns of the communities to be addressed. We want the input of these advisory groups to be binding and long term.
La Jicarita: How do you insure that your input is going to be binding?
Córdova: First off, the Forest Service needs to be more grass roots. One of the things that I see is that a lot of these decisions are being made at upper management levels by people who really don't know the conditions of the forest or the needs of the communities. And they're not paying attention to those who actually know. Part of the problem is that at one time there was the idea that these forests belonged to us, the communities. From there, it went to the belief it was us, at the state level. And now it's us from Washington to Oregon. The bigger us says that the forest has to remain as intact as possible, but I don't think that the impact that local communities are having on the forest is really a major one. I think that we've been doing the right thing for a long time. The best stewards of the land have always been the local people. It's in our best interests to protect these resources. For example, we've gone on record as saying that we need to reintroduce the piñon and other natural vegetation into the areas that the Forest Service chained and bulldozed for grazing back in the 1950s and 60s. There's nothing growing there now; it's not good for cattle, it's not good for wildlife, it's not good for the environment. The important thing is that the piñon has always been the hand that feeds us, a cash crop for us and a way of life. We've asked the Forest Service to transplant piñon pines from areas that need to be thinned to the West Entrañas [8,000 aces of land between Truchas and Ojo Sarco on the west side of the highway], where they were all taken out. That way we wouldn't have to buy trees. It's an idea, but we don't know how far it's going to go.
La Jicarita: What other activities is the Truchas Land Grant involved in and just how extensive is the grant?
Córdova: We're supposed to be 22,000 acres, but when we went through the Court of Private Land Claims we went down to 14,000 acres. The government ordered us to recognize the private land claims of individuals within the grant, so we lost another 8,000 acres there. The private land claims have been giving us problems for many years. We've had to go to court almost every year just to prove that the land is ours. The last law suit cost us over $32,000. And we don't have that kind of money. We've asked the government to come in and survey all these private land claims as well as the exterior boundaries of the entire grant so that it can be restored to its original 22,000 acres. We believe this will extend the grant boundary on the south side to include Borrego Mesa, which the Surveyor General actually included when he switched the described north and south boundaries of the grant. The Forest Service has made a proposal that until the boundary issue is resolved, no resources will be extracted from the areas in question unless both the Forest Service and land grant agree to it. We've asked our congressional delegation for help in dealing with this issue, and one of the things that has happened is that Congressman Richardson has introduced what is called the Land Grant Commission. I don't think the land grant issue is going to go away until the grave injustices that have occured have been resolved.
The land grant is also involved in trying to bring some economic development to the area, including fishing ponds and a wood lot. I also think we were instrumental in creating La Jicarita Enterprise Community. We went to Mora [office of the Enterprise Community] and said that this is what we have in the communities, this is what we need, and this is how we feel the federal government can help. As a result of that this area was included in the Enterprise zone. But I don't think that so far La Jicarita Enterprise has lived up to the expectations we have for it. I don't really understand what's going on. For example, in this community they haven't had one meeting yet to explain themselves or to solicit our input. The original idea was that there were people in the community with the talent and gumption to establish businesses, but had no record of credit, so they were unable to go to the bank and apply for a loan. So the Enterprise was going to act as a big brother who was going to establish a revolving loan fund to get these businesses started on their way. But somewhere along the way the whole goal was changed. It seems to me that instead of being culturally sensitive to the way our communities do things, they want to go by the book, which basically means the Anglo way of doing things. I told them that this was not going to work here. I've been concerned that they've spent so much money and don't really have anything to show for it. They're also supposed to provide technical expertise for our communities. If that's going to happen, they should hold meetings and say, well folks, we have this guy here who can help you write a grant, or this is where we can send you to apply for money. But I don't see that happening. The important thing now is to turn this around and get the communities involved.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.