A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Chamisal ReUse Center&emdash;PACA Solid Waste/Recycling Update By Jean Nichols
By Kay Matthews
On Sunday, August 25, fifty people met at the Oñate Center north of Española for what was called a teach-in, but was in reality a four-hour brain-storming session. With the statue of Juan de Oñate standing sentinel outside, fifty people probed, questioned and analyzed the current "bad dynamic" that exists between the environmental community and the people whose livelihood depends upon the use of public lands in northern New Mexico. Organized by Antonio "Ike" DeVargas of La Companía Ocho and Chellis Glendinning, a writer from Chimayo, attendance was diverse: Green Party members from Rio Arriba, Taos, and Santa Fe counties (including Mike Castro and Abraham Gutmann); New Mexico Public Interest Group from Albuquerque; Jan-Willem Jansens of Forest Trust; Maria Varela of Los Ganados del Valle; George Grossman of the Sierra Club; Tony Povilitis of the Greater San Juan Coalition; Janice Varela of La Gente del Rio Pecos; Donna House, Native American activist; Richard Rosenstock, attorney for La Companía Ocho; Santiago Juarez and Moises Morales, longtime community activists; and various community members from Placitas, Ojo Caliente, Tierra Amarilla, Los Alamos, and Antonito, in Colorado.
In her opening remarks, Glendinning set the tone: "We are living in an imperialist society where we are treating our Chicano neighbors as our fathers did and their fathers before them." According to Glendinning, the bad dynamic that has been occurring is the result of four behavior patterns: 1) a need to control; 2) a life lived too fast, where the quality of attention is lost; 3) blaming the recipients of colonization instead of the perpetrators; and 4) deifying conflict, where "in your face" politics is promoted as the only way to accomplish anything. To break down these patterns, she said, "we of the dominant culture need to listen and learn."
Ike DeVargas moderated the remainder of the meeting, stating that his purpose in participating in this dialogue and in all his activism was to promote Chicano culture and sovereignty. In a brief synopsis of local history, he described how Hispanics went from being subjects of Spain to that of the United States, with a brief interlude under Mexican control. Now his "isolated culture" is caught between corporations who want to rape the land, corporations who want to take the land for recreation, and government agencies "that treat us like rats in a lab." He also pointed out that because of the increasing loss of their land base&emdash;"in the old days no one ever would have built a house below an acequia"&emdash;his people have become increasingly dependent upon timber resources.
The meeting was opened up for general discussion, and a courteous, but obviously charged exchange, took place between several Green Party members and Santiago Juarez. One of the Green Party members stated that the remedy to imperialism is participatory democracy, and that the Green Party advocates grass-roots democracy, challenging the Forest Service to open its planning process, and mandated councils at the community level.
Juarez immediately challenged the Party by accusing it of accepting the imperialist idea that these are public lands, without acknowledging the history of land grants that were governed by merceds. By not doing so, he said, "You've given up my sovereignty already."
Mike Castro of the Santa Fe County Green Party was quick to respond: "I don't know what you're reading, Santiago, but the Green Party platform does support that. We'd like to see some of the former common lands returned. We do believe that there can be sustainable logging in Vallecitos, but we have to make sure that the bottom line ecology is not compromised." He also added that the use of an indicator species [such as the Mexican spotted owl] may not be the best way to do that.
The abuse of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was a recurrent theme throughout the day. Richard Rosenstock, the attorney representing La Companía Ocho in the La Mange timber sale lawsuit, stated that it is the misuse of the ESA that is causing hardships in northern New Mexico by limiting grazing and timbering. He explained that the federal court injunction prohibiting all commercial logging in northern New Mexico has severely impacted the lives of norteños because "that's [logging] the only game in town right now."
Maria Varela of Los Ganados del Valle, a sheep and wool cooperative in the Tierra Amarilla area, told the group: "We need to be aware the Forest Guardians has filed suit to enjoin grazing on the forests of northern New Mexico. While none of us has all the answers, some of the traditions that were here are based on sustainability learned over thousands of years. There is a role grazing can play in the environmental balance."
Donna House, a Native American activist from Española, supported Varela's position: "This is a return of the battle Los Ganados fought eight years ago to find grazing land for their sheep. There is still a grave lack of understanding of the economics of land-based communities." She stated that the misuse of the ESA has had a negative impact on Native American communities, and pointed out that a San Ildefonso man was being prosecuted for religious use in violation of the act.
Tony Povilitis of Pecos, a member of the Greater San Juan Coalition, gave an overview of the owl's range, from northern Mexico north along the edge of the Sangre de Cristo range and into Colorado, citing it as a "friend who can help us" because of its status as an indicator species. He accused Rosenstock of sounding like an industry oilman, insisting that an endangered species has never been sighted to clear the way for exploiting a resource.
There was more verbal sparring back and forth, with Rosenstock responding "The owl is not a friend to the people of northern New Mexico who are out of work" and Povilitis asking not to be pigeonholed with the people who are abusing the ESA and are becoming a part of the imperialist culture.
Ike DeVargas attempted to quiet tempers by explaining that the Vallecitos area is on the fringe of owl habitat and the "abuse of discretion" by the Forest Service has caused economic hardship in the area.
Sam Hitt of Forest Guardians and John Talberth of Forest Conservation Council were not invited to the gathering, but their names frequently came up in discussion. Varela accused both of "smashing" La Madera Forest Products by refusing to release sales it needed to operate. If environmentalists in the room didn't want to be "tarred with the broad brush" of Hitt and Talberth's actions, she said, they should stop the spread of misinformation by being more vocal. Rosenstock added that in his opinion Hitt and Talberth have "usurped" the environmentalists' voice and power. The ensuing exchange between environmentalists and norteños about who does speak for the environmental movement revealed that the bad dynamic is far from being resolved. Earlier in the dialogue Maria Varela stated: "I get suspicious of these democracies where urban environmentalists over speak and out vote us. Until you walk in our moccasins, don't preach to us about what is sustainable." Santiago Juarez added to that sentiment when he said, "The people in Vallecitos fought for years against Duke City and against clearcuts, before Forest Guardians were ever there. Local communities are not dupes."
The gathering ended on a positive note, however: Everyone agreed to meet again, this time at a campout near Vallecitos, where they could walk parts of the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, specifically the La Mange timber sale, to see what is there and what will actually be cut. Land grant historians and ecologists will be invited to the gathering to add their expertise to the on going dialogue.
(Editor's note: On September 10, a federal judge ordered the Forest Service to move forward with the La Manga timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. He also ordered the FS to offer the sale to La Companía Ocho, an intervenor in the suit brought against the FS by environmental groups. The judge cited that the injunction halting all commerical timber sales in Region 3 does not apply to the La Manga sale.)
Coalition Meets with Forest Service Regarding Illegal Use of Off-Road Vehicles in La Cueva Canyon Area
On Wednesday, September 11, Terry Dilts of the Camino Real Ranger District Recreation Staff met with members of the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition to discuss illegal off-road vehicle (ORV) use of trails in the La Cueva Canyon area. While Dilts acknowledged that there was a problem, he told the group that because of budgetary constraints and other pressing issues facing the Forest Service, there was not much his office could do at the present time. He explained that the Forest Service uses three methods to limit illegal traffic on forest trails: signs, design of the trail (including barriers and gates), and law enforcement. Dilts said that because the Carson National Forest contains 1.6 million acres and has only two law enforcement officers, illegal off-road traffic in La Cueva Canyon is not an important enough priority to justify assigning one of the officers to the area. He also told the group that there has been an active campaign by some of the violators to destroy Forest Service signs limiting access in that area. Without the signs in place, the Forest Service can do nothing to enforce restrictions. He did say that Forest Service personnel have made a new batch of signs from quarter inch steel plate&emdash;making them hard to destroy or remove&emdash;but does not have the manpower to install them. He told the group that the Forest Service would be happy to work with volunteers to install the signs. As far as limiting access through trail design, Dilts explained that the Forest Service will begin drafting a new plan for the Carson in 1997, and some trails in the La Cueva Canyon area will probably be redesigned to limit access and erosion. He also warned that budgetary constraints may force the district to actually close part of the extensive trail system in the Angostura-Agua Piedra area, where off-road vehicle abuses also occur.
Dilts maintained that the vast majority of ORV users are law abiding, responsible forest users, and that most of the violators are unlicensed teenagers. He suggested that the coalition initiate a program to involve ORV clubs and the Bolander family, owners of Sipapu Ski Area, who sponsor and host ORV groups, to install the signs and heighten awareness of the problem.
Maps of the Carson National Forest, showing the trails designated for ORV use, are available at the Camino Real Ranger Station in Peñasco and the Carson National Forest Supervisor's Office in Taos.
Our friends downstream in the Cañoncito-Dixon-Embudo area have recently been experiencing both water quality and quantity problems. Several coalition members reported that their domestic wells are not providing as much water as is expected for this time of year. While winter water levels sometimes drop, wells are normally replenished by spring snow melt and summer rains. This last month of summer has seen little, if any, water available for irrigation as well. Because of the obvious hydrological connection between ground and surface waters, there is concern that not only drought conditions but overuse (and perhaps illegal use) of water resources by a growing population are contributing to the problem.
With regard to water quality, the New Mexico State Environment Department (ED) recently detected fecal coliform in the Upper Cañoncito area's public water system. Residents were advised to boil all their drinking water until the ED could effectively chlorinate the system. This is the second time in two years that coliform&emdash;a bacteria usually found in humans and animals&emdash;has been present in the Upper Cañoncito system. It is a surface water system, where water from the Rio Embudo is filtered and chlorinated in an infiltration gallery. A spokesperson from the Española Field Office of the ED said that they really don't know how the water is being contaminated, and as this paper goes to press, are still advising residents to boil drinking water until the department receives the latest test results. They have also been testing varying levels of chlorination to see what amount is effective.
The meeting to discuss forming a central acequia association in the Peñasco valley has been rescheduled for Sunday, Septem-ber 22 at 3:00 p.m. at La Jicarita Enterprise Community office (old bank building in Peñasco). Please call Verna Gurule at 587-0074 for further information.
The Carson National Forest Environ-mental Analysis for the proposed rehibilitation and improvement of Santa Barbara Campground and Hodges Campground should be released within the next two weeks. La Jicarita will report on the Forest Service recommendation in its next issue; there will be a 30-day public comment period upon the release of the EA (copies will be available at the Camino Real Ranger Station).
John Stiles lives in society's margins&emdash;literally. That's him you've seen stopped alongside the road between Taos and Mora, feeding his donkeys on the "margins" of grass between highway and forest. He has 14 of them, along with a mule, four goats, and a handful of chickens. For the last 18 years he and his menagerie have been wandering the highways of not only New Mexico but California and Oregon as well. "I walk, I don't ride," he says. One wagon serves as his home, the other carries food for the animals.
Originally from Arkansas, like many others who came of age in the 1960s, he first traveled to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, then made his way to a commune outside of Taos. Here he learned dedication to "Mother Earth" and the importance of community. But to really be able to farm and live sustainedly, he decided he needed some teaching: "I went back to live with the Amish in Illinois and the hillbillies in the Ozarks to learn how to survive without the use of Stihl chainsaws and Troy-built rototillers, to use draft animals to plow the fields. I came back west in a covered wagon, with no idea that I'd end up doing this for the rest of my life."
He did settle down temporarily in Ledoux, near Mora. "I farmed there, with no mechanized equipment, and was self-sufficient at 7,000 feet, the ultimate challenge." But it was a tough two years, and "while I clung to Mother Earth, I began to consider what the term Papa Sky might be." Stiles was converted to Christianity: "I don't call myself a Christian, that's presumptuous, but I profess the faith and hold to the revelation as a reference point."
Stiles does indeed look as if the Amish faith rubbed off on him&emdash;his gray beard extends down his chest and a wide-brimmed hat covers a weather-beaten face. But he espouses his own particular brand of philosophy, backed up with extensive readings of both European and American writers who have warned of the dangers of society's increasing dependence upon technology. He has no use for computers, of course: He believes that the "global electronic concentration camp" that they are creating will make decisions affecting all of mankind&emdash;about the economy, education, transportation, nuclear defense, medicine&emdash;without any moral or ethical criteria. "Nobody is questioning if we should be doing all this. The only question being asked is can we."And without your "bar-code microchip laser-beam tattooed implant and your holy trinity of personal computer, cable TV, and telephone, you won't be able to participate" in the system at all.
He believes that a return to sustainable agriculture is the only salvation for mankind."There are three kinds of food production in existence today," he says. "There's the peasantry, as it's existed for thousands of years, that is non-mechanized, labor intensive, and produces the most diverse crops. Then there's the family farm of a few hundred acres or so where they use farm machinery to harvest corn or wheat or whatever but it's still a farm that's been in the family for generations. And finally there's the agribusiness farm, if you can call it that, like in California, where thousands and thousands of acres are being farmed by huge combines that are run by a computer in San Francisco. They come out of the fields like giant beetles, spreading poison and destruction." The only hope, as he sees it, is to recreate a world based on the concept of homesteading, whereby every person who has the vision, the energy, and the commitment is guaranteed a piece of land to farm in a healthy, non-polluting way. "Nothing short of a revolution will take back that land for homesteads, and it's probably already too late."
If the promise of the August 25th meeting at the Oñate Center is to be realized&emdash;that the environmental community will work together with the indigenous community towards a common goal&emdash;the release of the La Mange timber sale must not be an occasion for more dissension. Instead, it can provide an opportunity for these two groups to promote the health of both forest resources and local village economies. The next gathering in Vallecitos, where people will actually walk parts of the sale, can open the dialogue to specifics, such as how we can balance old growth, the role of fire in forest ecology, wildlife, watershed, and biological diversity with the economic needs of local communities.
The La Manga timber sale is a particularly appropriate setting to accomplish these goals, as it lies within the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, an area set aside by the federal government in the 1940s to both protect timber as a renewable resource and to help stabilize the economies of the small, forest-dependent communities adjacent to the unit through the sale of forest products. Unfortunately, there has been continuous conflict in the management of the unit caused by too much indiscriminate cutting for too many years (primarily by Duke City Lumber, the largest logging company in New Mexico), and discrimination against small, local loggers, specifically La Companía Ocho.
The result has been numerous lawsuits filed against the Forest Service by both environmentalists and norteños. The level of distrust between the indigenous population and Anglo environmentalists, who so often have an urban orientation, has increased exponentially, culminating in the 1995 Mexican spotted owl lawsuit filed against the Forest Service by environmental groups in New Mexico and Arizona. In August of 1995, a federal judge in Arizona issued an injunction that halted all logging on the affected forests, including the Carson and Santa Fe forests in New Mexico. Even though the plaintiffs and the Forest Service negotiated a settlement, releasing certain areas for firewood gathering and small sales, the injunction will not be lifted until the Forest Service complies with the judge's directives to complete forest plans to satisfy the Endangered Species Act.
The La Manga timber sale has been hung up since 1994, when Forest Conservation Council, Forest Guardians, and other other environmental groups, filed suit claiming the sale failed to protect old growth. La Companía intervened in the lawsuit, citing economic interests. In a previous lawsuit La Companía filed against the Forest Service, citing that agency's lack of commitment to communities within the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, La Companía was guaranteed 75% of the timber from the La Manga sale.
The release of the La Manga sale&emdash;a sale which by law must benefit the local loggers of Vallecitos&emdash;can set the stage for the kind of compromise and negotiation between the loggers and environmentalists that should have taken place before any lawsuits were ever filed. If Earth First!ers in northern California can successfully negotiate with local loggers against the Forest Service and timber barons trying to cut a magnitude of timber unheard of in New Mexico, we ought to be able to settle the La Manga sale without more litigation and divisiveness. It's time that norteños and environmentalists unite to face the real enemies of our forests and communities: mega-business interests expoiting our land and re-sources and government agencies mismanaging our public lands.
By Jean Nichols
It has been months and nothing has moved forward at the Chamisal Dump&emdash;at least not on the surface. Behind the scenes, we have been working very hard, wading through the bureaucracy in an attempt to make some progress. At least the dump has been open on a more regular basis! Again, the county assures us they are about to begin an upgrade of the site.
Meanwhile, we are trying to get all the permits necessary to build an alternative building. When we told the Forest Service that we would like to build a pole-barn type structure, officials said no, they liked the idea of building out of "trash." The county had rejected tires because it was too permanent. They wanted us to assure them that the building could be removed if need be. We then decided to compromise and build a pole barn with walls filled in with many different type materials, such as bottles, cans, books, etc. We are still considering this, although in the meantime, Merv Thornton suggested we use an "eco-bale" structure&emdash;a ready made 1600 pound building block made out of shredded paper. A 26 by 50 foot building could go up in one day and would fit the criteria of being removable. The bales are fork-lifted into place, secured to the foundation and each other with angle iron spikes (old metal fence posts), and then a channel is cut in the top for a cement bond beam.
Thornton had been looking for a way to get his building up so he could test it and go through the steps necessary to get "eco-bales" approved as a building material. It seemed the perfect solution to both our problems. However, jumping through the hoops necessary for approval has proved exhausting. We drew up plans and received initial approval by Taos and Sanco, only to find that we also need to get a state permit. We have to go before the Construction Industries Board and plead our case, with all the appropriate specifications, licensed architects and engineers in tow. It is a "Catch 22" situation: Eco-bales need to be tested before a permit for building can be issued. On the other hand, how can you ultimately test a building without getting permission to build it? Because recyling markets are so low, there are thousands of these bales stockpiling in cities or needlessly being dumped at landfills. The building could be a wonderful experiment that would draw more funding and ultimately create another local industry. Since the grant we received is also for research and development of economic opportunities using materials from the wastestream [everything that goes into a landfill], building and testing this eco-bale would also satisfy that goal.
We are at the mercy of a weighty bureaucracy. The process to get straw bales approved costs $10,000. It is no wonder that our environmental progress is so slow. Many inventors are left out in the cold, with good ideas for alternative energy, fuels, and buildings, but with no financial backing, too many bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and corporations with vested interests in keeping things as they are&emdash;inefficient and wasteful.
We will make every effort to gain necessary state approval and will report back on our progress. We had hoped a building would be up by this fall, but if the process drags out any longer we may have to wait until next summer. We may also go back to the previous plan of using materials from El Norteño to build a basic shed. The administration of this grant has become a full-time commitment, and still we have no local recycling. We have asked the county to at least provide us with the service that Rio Arriba County has&emdash;a monthly collection service. (Visit Dixon Elementary on the last Saturday of the month to see how it works. It's a good interim system).
We welcome ideas and involvement. Come to our regular monthly meeting on the last Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Bear Paw Pizza. The last meeting was well attended and we accomplished much. Hopefully, at the next meeting (September 26), we will have good news and a date for construction to begin.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.