A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Parciantes Meet Again to Organize Acequia Federation By Mark Schiller
Community Turns Out in Force to Tell President of Summo Minerals: "We Don't Want Your Copper Mine in Our Neighborhood!"
By Kay Matthews
There was a surprise attendant at the October 23 community meeting at Picuris Pueblo to discuss the threat of a copper mine near Peñasco: The president and CEO of Summo Minerals, currently doing exploratory drilling in the area, came to the meeting and faced a crowd of almost 100 people who let him know in no uncertain terms that they don't want a copper mine on Copper Hill.
Gerald Nailor, Picuris Tribal Governor, opened the meeting with this statement: "As a tribal leader, I have been taught to protect our resources and people . . . . We're going to stop this mining that is going to be detrimental to not only us at Picuris but to our neighbors as well . . . . We are prepared to go to battle." Lt. Gover-nor Carl Tsosie then introduced Gregory Hahn, Presi-dent of Summo Minerals, based in Denver, Colorado, who began his presentation by stating: "I am absolutely astounded at the turnout here." He went on to state that his company is currently only in the exploration stage of mining, but that the results have shown that the area is "amenable to processing." One hundred and thirty-three exploration holes have been drilled in the area since 1959, 400 to 600 feet deep and approximately three to four inches in diameter. (Summo drilled 18 holes this year and plans to drill another 22 next year). All have been dry holes. There appears to be a 200 foot-thick belt of copper close to the surface. If the company decides to go ahead and apply for the necessary permits to mine the area, it would take at least four years for mining to begin.
He then gave a demonstration of the technology involved in mining for copper. He proceeded to pour a solution of water and sulfuric acid over a glassful of crushed rock containing copper. On the ground, this would happen on top of a plastic liner, where the copper comes out of the rock into the solution. Questions immediately erupted from the audience regarding the reliability of liners in preventing leaks of acid into the water-
shed. Someone then asked whose water the company was going to use in this process. Hahn responded that Summo would have to compute its water needs, but at its proposed copper mine in Utah, the company has asked for permission to pump 900 gallons of ground water per minute. He stated: "I can almost categorically assure you we wouldn't use surface water here, unless there is no ground water available. We would have to purchase water rights, as rights in this basin have already been prescribed."
This assurance didn't win much favor from the crowd. Carol Miller, Picuris Health Planner, stated: "I see that creating water rights [purchasing water rights] is in reality dividing our water rights." A resident of Dixon and mayordoma of her acequia, Marie Coburn, told Hahn that the area is already experiencing a drought, and any use of water, be it ground water or surface water, will be opposed. Hahn responded by asking the community to "keep an open mind" until they had all the necessary information, and that he believed his company could design a facility that "doesn't impact any of you." He also stated that the project would be dead if they do not find sufficient water.
Throughout the meeting Hahn stressed that Summo would be able to mitigate impacts from a mine, but community member told him that he would never be able to mitigate the impacts upon the traditional and spiritual integrity of their communities. Hahn acknowledged that this sentiment may be "unique to northern New Mexico." Hahn stated that if Picuris Pueblo opposed the project, federal approval "will probably not happen."
Hahn then tried to muster some support by asking if anyone at the meeting was interested in job opportunities that could encourage young people to stay in the area. This elicited a big laugh from the audience. Wilfred Rael of Questa quickly dispelled any notions about mines providing secure job opportunities by sharing his experiences with the boom-bust cycles of the Molycorp mine, stating that the mine not only "took our minerals" but "mined our labor" as well, making people dependent upon mining jobs that are now gone. Another woman in the audience made a very eloquent statement that "we don't need your jobs and money. . . . Our children may leave the area for awhile, but they will come back if we protect our traditions and culture."
Hahn was also asked how much money Summo has already invested in this project. He estimated that to date his company has spent approximately a half million dollars on exploration drilling and various overhead costs. He also denied any connection with Japanese investors. Summo is a "Development Stage Company" with zero revenue at this point. People expressed their concern about what would happen if the company were to run out of money during the mining process, and Hahn responded that bonding by the government is required, and insurance money would be equal to reclamation costs.
Representatives of the Taos office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were also at the meeting, and addressed questions regarding the mine approval process. If Summo makes the decision to operate a mine, the BLM would probably require that Summo fund an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A woman in the audience proposed to Henke that the community be involved in writing an EIS, and a member of the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition immediately proferred a formal proposal to Henke that the BLM work with the coalition if an EIS becomes necessary. Many people expressed their frustration with the Mining Act of 1872, which heavily favors the leasing of mineral rights on public lands. Everyone was encouraged to lobby Congress to repeal or change the law.
Herman Agoyo, Picuris Pueblo Planner, summed up public sentiment by formally asking Hahn to "pack up and not come back. We'll save a little money and you'll save a lot."
Several New Mexico newspapers made calls to Hahn later in the week at his Denver office, and he is quoted as saying: "The meeting [at Picuris Pueblo] doesn't change our direction." He stated that the company would proceed with its exploration drilling next year and begin to study the water resources and the nature of the affected communities.
What's Happening in the Rest of New Mexico: Norteños Force Forest Service to Issue More Wood Permits
By Kay Matthews
On Halloween morning, norteños and their supporters, armed with chainsaws, headed out to Borrego Mesa, prepared to cut firewood, illegally if necessary, in a Forest Service thinning area set aside for commercial use. The day before, Max Córdova, president of the Truchas Land Grant, along with Ike DeVargas and Rio Arriba Green Party members, had arrived unannounced at the Española office of Lori Osterstock, District Ranger, with a letter stating that if the Forest Service didn't meet community members at La Joys de Arriba on Borrego Mesa and issue the firewood permits they claimed the Forest had initially promised them, they would harvest the wood without Forest Service permission.
The Forest Service arrived bright and early Thursday morning at the junction of the two forest roads which lead to the thinning areas, with a large, hand-lettered sign which read: "Firewood Permits Here." A timber staff technician was already at the thinning area, felling trees, which were being sold as "dead and down" at $15 for two cords. At least five armed Forest Service law enforcement officers watched the proceedings (Max Córdova later told La Jicarita that he was offended by their presence). Community members from Truchas, Chimayó, and Rio Chiquito immediately purchased permits and headed up the snow-covered road to the thinning area, in the Borrego burn area just before Borrego Mesa Campground. Ike DeVargas, Max Córdova, Santiago Juarez, Sam Hitt of Forest Guardians, various Green Party members, and lots of reporters and photographers headed up with them, and those with chainsaws started bucking up the trees while everyone else helped load the trucks.
This thwarted confrontation was the result, according to Max Córdova, of Santa Fe National Forest's failure to offer 800 cords of woods that the grant deemed necessary to meet the firewood needs of the Truchas area (Truchas, Córdova, Cundiyó, Chimayó, Rio Chiquito). In the letter delivered to Osterstock, Max Córdova states that on August 6 the Truchas Land Grant Commission met with Forest Service representatives and environmentalists Sam Hitt and John Talberth (whose groups are parties to the spotted owl lawsuit, which resulted in the Region Three logging injunction), and everyone agreed that the two Borrego Mesa thinning areas, historically used by these communities, would be offered for fuelwood. Córdova goes on to state that subsequently the Forest Service reneged on this agreement and set aside these units as commercial sales.
At the Borrego Mesa thinning area, Osterstock responded to this allegation by stating that the Forest Service had previously offered fuelwood in a less accessible Borrego area, but when all the permits were not sold, and muddy roads forced a closure of the area, she assumed that there was no more demand for fuelwood. Córdova said that the sale Osterstock referred to was open only for two days, and advertised only in Truchas and Córdova.
Above and beyond the accusations made concerning the Borrego Mesa thinning area, valid concerns are being raised about the lack of local communities' involvement in forest decisions that affect them in very real and meaningful ways. In Córdova's letter to Osterstock, he also charges that the overall management plan of the Española District "is causing irreparable harm to our communities and our culture." He points out that the Forest Service is actually harvesting products from land patented to the Truchas Land Grant (Nuestra Senora del Rosario San Fernando y Santiago Land Grant) by the United States Government. According to Córdova, when the United States Surveyor General surveyed the grant, he switched the described north and south boundaries of the grant, which resulted in the inclusion of Borrego Mesa within grant boundaries. Córdova accuses the Forest Service of mismangement of Borrego Mesa, employing clearcutting techniques rather than selective cutting, and favoring commercial use over traditional use, which displaces and destroys culture.
The Truchas Land Grant is currently negotiating with the Forest Service on a firewood management plan that could be implemented in the entire Region Three forest area. They are asking that the plan include district advisory boards, implementation of the 1972 Region Three policy plan (see interview with Max Córdova), and language that would explain the importance of firewood gathering to the communal traditions of northern New Mexico. Talk of less dependency upon firewood as a fuel source is meaningless unless families can get the money to install solar systems, add greenhouses, or buy natural gas. Once again, the powers that be forget that activities like firewood gathering continue to connect people to the land. According to Córdova, once that connection is lost, there will be less regard for and less stewardship of the land. "Reckless disregard" of community needs by the Forest Service or urban environmentalists, who favor litigation, will only result in further degradation of national resources. While this time Sam Hitt gave his support to the norteños, he acknowledged that there remain serious differences between Forest Guardians and the loggers in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, and that the La Manga lawsuit will in all probability only be resolved in court.
Carson National Forest has chosen its preferred alternative for the rehabilitation of Santa Barbara and Hodges campgrounds. The Environmental Analysis, released on October 31, will be available for public review for 30 days. Comments should be submitted by December 2 to Terry Dilts of the Camino Real Ranger District, P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM, 87553.
The Initial Scoping Statement for the rehabilitation of the campgrounds was released to the public on February 10, 1995, and a Detailed Scoping Statement was released on May 16. Because of the nature of public comments, the Forest Service eliminated from consideration two alternatives: The Expansion Alternative , which called for expansion of both campgrounds, dispersed areas, and the Santa Barbara trailhead; and the Closing and Restoring Expansion, which would have restored both areas to their previous natural conditions.
In the Environmental Analysis, the Forest Service considered three other alternatives, and has chosen Alternative 3 as preferred. According to the Forest Service, this alternative best responds to the deteriorating conditions of the campground areas and to the public's traditional use of the campground sites and trailheads. In general, this alternative provides for a broader range of improvements than the other two alternatives, and for slightly increased levels of developed recreation.
Alternative 3, entitled "Meet Changing User Needs and Keep Vehicles Away From the Creek," would make the following changes in Santa Barbara Campground: replace the existing toilets; lengthen some parking spurs and provide some pull-throughs to accommodate RV's; provide for a campground host; replace cable barriers with stone and wood barriers; and replace fire and charcoal grills. Lower Santa Barbara Camp-ground would be closed. A loop turn-around and parking would be provided for day use, fishing, and picnicking.
Wilderness parking in the campground would be rearranged to provide space for parking and turn-around of stock handling vehicles. The trailhead corral&emdash;presently too close to the river&emdash;would be removed, and an overhead stock picket cable installed. Parking capacity would remain unchanged. A trail would be developed along an historically used route in the bottom of Santa Barbara Canyon to connect Hodges with Bear Mountain Trail, Indian Creek Trail, and West Fork Santa Barbara Trail. The alternative would also deal with dispersed parking and camping along Forest Road 116. At the concrete bridge, between Hodges and Santa Barbara, small areas for parking would be designated for day use. Dispersed areas along the road that are in bad shape from heavy use would be treated. Sites immediately adjacent to the stream or on slopes would be closed and restored to a natural condition.
Forest Road 116 would be surfaced with gravel and drained. At the present washout in upper Hodges, the road would be closed and a turn-around loop constructed. The road would also be closed 300 feet from the junction of FR 716. Between these two closures, the road would become a trail.
There will be an all-day meeting at the Oñate Center in Alcalde to discuss Summo Minerals' mining activity in the Copper Hill area near Peñasco. The date is Saturday, December 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Round-table discussions will be organized, and experts will be on hand with information to share. The center will provide lunch, with proceeds benefitting the anti-mine effort. The public is invited.
A meeting of the newly formed Peñasco Area Acequia Federation will be held at the old bank building in Peñasco on Sunday, December 1, at 6 p.m. All interested parciantes are invited to attend.
By Mark Schiller
The Peñasco Area Acequia Federation finally looks like it's going to become a reality. On Sunday, Novem-ber 10, twenty-seven parciantes, representing acequias on the Rio Pueblo, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio Chiquito, and Rio Las Trampas, met at the old bank building in Peñasco to discuss the adoption of bylaws and other steps necessary to organize this group. Using the bylaws of the Taos Valley Acequia Association as a model, the group was able to agree upon a 10-page list of bylaws to formalize the organization and establish procedures to elect officers. The group also created a committee to do an inventory of all the acequias using water from these four rivers and determine a contact person person from each acequia. Once an inventory has been compiled, the group will need the participation of 51% of the acequias in order to have legal standing and elect officers.
Group members hope that this organization can help area parciantes be better informed about their water rights, the adjudication process, monies available from state, federal, and private sources for the maintenance and improvement of acequias, and conservation and water banking programs, which can help keep as much water as possible within our communities.
The next meeting of this group is scheduled for December 1 at 6 p.m. at the old bank building. At that meeting, the inventory of the acequias will be reviewed, and a plan established to contact a representative from each acequia. Members will also discuss and adopt a list of articles of incorporation and begin taking steps towards obtaining nonprofit status. For more information, parciantes can contact Verna or Ben Gurulé at 587-0074 or 587-2528.
(Editor's note: Parciantes in the Dixon-Embudo area have also shown interest in an acequia federation. The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition will sponsor a meeting in Dixon early in 1997 to discuss this possibility.)
At a November 8 public meeting, Peñasqueros expressed a healthy scepticism about the wisdom of two health centers serving Peñasco. Holy Cross Hospital recently won approval from the Taos Planning Commission to open a clinic in Peñasco, where Health Centers of Northern New Mexico has operated its Peñasco Clinic for 15 years.
Rita Campbell, chief executive officer of Holy Cross, along with other hospital officials, attended the Peñasco meeting and explained that the clinic would provide preventive health care services, specialty clinics with rotating physicians, primary care (physician's assistants), and lab work on site. They also provided a sample fee schedule, which basically duplicates Health Centers discounts for low income families (a $10 minimum fee). They explained that Taos Health Systems, a nonprofit corporation that operates Holy Cross Hospital, will pay for the building costs of the clinic from excess funds generated by Holy Cross. Campbell also pointed out that because the new hospital is being paid off by county revenue bonds approved by county tax payers, including Peñasco residents, it is only fair that they should have access to Holy Cross services.
Questions and comments from the audience focused on three main concerns: the hospital's timing of this decision, with managed care looming on the horizon; the duplication of services; and the need to improve health care in Taos or other rural communities that lack any health services. In response to a question concerning exactly what managed care means, Dr. Michael Kaufman, Director of Medical Services at the hospital, explained that with managed care patients will have to choose a primary care physician who will be responsible for all their primary care as well as referrals: "We want patients to choose Taos doctors, who can come into the clinic in Peñasco. Competition benefits the community by providing higher quality health care." In response to this statement, Sheila Miller, a former EMT, said, "You don't like it that business is going south to Española. You're talking business here, not health care."
La Jicarita asked Campbell to respond to the January 6, 1996 letter from Joe Gallegos of Health Centers, ad-dressed to Campbell, that proposes that the two health centers, rather than compete with one another, establish an integrated health care system. Specifically, the letter proposes that Health Centers establish a referral system with physicians in Taos affiliated with Holy Cross, or that Health Centers recruit a family practice physician who would be based in Taos, with admitting privileges, and who would serve as the primary care physician in Peñasco and Embudo. The letter also proposes that the two organizations share in the cost of expanding the present clinic, with additional exam rooms to accommodate specialty care providers from Taos to practice at the Peñasco clinic. Campbell's response was that "if the two organizations merge, Health Centers would be in jeopardy of losing some or all of its federal funding."
Joe Gallegos, Executive Director of Health Centers of Northern New Mexico, responded to this statement by clarifying that he was not proposing that the two providers "merge" but that they pool their resources within the same facility to better integrate services and provide better primary care. Betsy Martinez, physi-cian's assistant at Health Center's Peñasco Clinic, pointed out that poor people in the Taos area are forced to go to the Holy Cross emergency room for primary care because the hospital does not provide services for poor people in Taos. One of the hospital administrators replied that the hospital provides "charity care", but not during regular hours. Several other members of the audience said they felt that perhaps Holy Cross should address the needs of the uninsured and poor people of Taos instead of opening another clinic in Peñasco.
Several appeals (from residents of the area, the P.A.C.A. Board of Directors, and Mountain Ambu-lance) of the Planning Commission's decision to approve the special use permit for the new clinic (located on SH 73) will be heard before the Taos County Commission on Novermber 26. According to Dave DiCicco, County Planner, he will submit a "finding of facts" to see if the Commission erred in its judgement. But, as he stated, "It's not the Planning Commission's job to decide if a business is sound or whether competition is good for the community."
Editor's note: This interview will be continued in the December issue of La Jicarita.
La Jicarita: Why do you think it's gotten to the point where communities have to threaten to cut firewood illegally in order to force the Forest Service to respond to their needs?
Córdova: Well, the agency, I believe, has gotten very bureaucratic. I was surprised when they said it was a grassroots organization. In reality, we've never looked at it like that. Also, I believe that for a long time, communities haven't really asked the Forest Service to address their socio-economic needs. I think we've come to realizie that they do have an obligation to our communities. Especially in our county, because 70% is state or federal land, 15% is owned by the Native American community, and 15% is land grant and private. I really wish we didn't have to confront the Forest Service, but a lot of times, that's the only way you can get them to move. We encourage communities to get involved, but there's a huge resistence from the national forests. For example, in Santa Fe National Forest this week, they didn't want our people to cut the trees because they were scared we might fell a tree on ourselves. It's ironic, because we've only been doing it for 400 years.
La Jicarita: Has the Carson National Forest responded to the Truchas community's needs in a better fashion?
Córdova: I'm surprised that both the Santa Fe and Carson are not more receptive to the needs of the communities. They have to be pushed into helping the communities. I think that's where we were last year with the Carson. As a result of that we saw huge strides being made by the communities. We've been asked, for example, to participate in the Carson management plan. While it's not perfect, it's at least the first step toward addressing the needs and putting emphasis on local communities. We were consulted on socio-economic needs as well as recreation, grazing, and other sustainable practices. We prioritized the needs of our community, and then we asked the Carson to take the plan around to other communities for their input so that everybody will have a sense of participation in the plan. We don't want to make decisions for people in El Valle or Peñasco. These communities have enough leadership to decide for themselves what their priorities are with regard to the national forest. In Truchas, our emphasis is fuelwood. In Vallecitos, the emphasis is logging. Another community might have more emphasis on grazing. The plan's framework is just being done now, and the Forest Service is currently going to these other communities to identify their needs.
La Jicarita: Has the Forest Service given you any assurance that once they've obtained this information they're going to make it policy?
Córdova: One of the things we're pressing for is that the 1972 Region Three Policy be used to manage the forests. That policy mandates the Forest Service to meet the social and economic needs of the indigenous Spanish and Native American cultures. I feel that this policy obligates the Forest Service to deal with our communities in a special way, but it's never been implemented. The policy acknowledges that 22% of the Carson and Santa Fe forests were formerly Spanish and Native American land grants, and that people feel a special attatchment to the land as a result of that. It also clearly states that the Forest Service feels that if they don't implement this policy, there will be chaos and misunderstanding. Which is exactly what is happening here. Chip Cartwright, the Regional Three Forester, has actually endorsed this policy, and directed the Carson and Santa Fe Forest Supervisors to implement it. The problem we're having now is at the district level, where a lot of the rangers don't feel that it should be implemented. These rangers, a lot of times, are not culturally sensitive to the needs of the people they're serving. And we also have the problem that when we are able to establish a good relationship with a ranger, Forest Service management has very often moved them to another district. We've challenged the Forest Service to empower people in their organization who know and understand the needs of the community, such as Henry Lopez at the Camino Real District, to take over more of the day to day management. I know that Lori Osterstock [Española District Ranger] has said that she feels she needs a liason between her and the communities that she serves, but I really feel that's really part of her job, too. In fact, she should be more aware than anybody else.
La Jicarita: You and other community leaders talk about "urban environmentalists" and their lack of understanding of rural needs. What do they need to do in order to work with you instead of against you?
Córdova: At first I thought it was a matter of education. So what we did was have a series of 12 or 13 meetings to educate Sam Hitt [Forest Guardians] and John Talberth [Forest Conservation Council] as to how unique our communities are. After the 5th or 6th meeting I came to realize that it wasn't simply a matter of education. It went beyond that. A lot of it is their dedication to the work that they do. I think they're very dedicated people. I also feel that they serve a useful purpose. But they're still not sensitive enough to the role our communities play in the preservation of our forests. For example, we believe that the Endangered Species Act is a good act, but it needs to be revisited and perhaps modified. I know that our community would protect any species on the endangered species list, but the question is how do we protect it in a way that will not have a negative impact upon our culture. The other thing about Sam and John is I think that they need to try to get the communities more involved. I think they tend to make decisons, and come to us much too late, after they've already filed a lawsuit, andthen say, hey, what do you think about this. I've told Sam and John they need to come to the communities during the decision making process to explain their position, solicit our input, and try to get the communities that are impacted to work together with them. But that's not happening yet. I think one of the problems is that communities waited too long to demand that both the Forest Service and the environmentalists acknowedge the necessity of implementing the 1972 Region Three Policy. But I don't blame the people because I've come to realize that a lot of people did not understand what was written in the policy and didn't understand the law. It's basically my generation that is reexamining these policies and we're able to understand and react accordingly. For example, when I told my Dad, who is 76, that we were going to demand that the Forest Service give us wood on Borrego Mesa, he thought, you can't go against the government. His understanding was that the government was an entity too big to take on, and we had to take whatever they dished out, and hope that it was in our best interest.
La Jicarita: Do you think John and Sam's attitude shows an inherent distrust of the local people's ability to manage these resources?
Córdova: I was very astounded when Sam took everything he learned from those meetings and added it to the Green Party platform. So he was listening. But I also think that Sam and John take the communities for granted, that they think that we're very ignorant. We've never harvested more than we need. We've always done the best that we can to manage the forests. I think our people have been environmentalists all their lives.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.