A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Rio Arriba Roundtable Meets at Ghost Ranch to Tour Ranchlands By Kay Matthews
City and County of Santa Fe Pose Water Threat to Northern NM By Mark Schiller
Leonard Peltier: A Tragic Injustice By Mark Schiller
By Kay Matthews
The Rio Arriba County Roundtable is a group dedicated to resolving the issues that have divided New Mexico environmentalists, traditional land based communities, and the Forest Service. The group has been meeting for over a year to try to come to a consensus on land use practices and management, as well improve Forest Service accountability. Some of the environmentalists responsible for lawsuits that shut down individual timber sales and temporarily halted all logging and firewood activity on the forests of northern New Mexico were initially involved in the Roundtable but have not been invited to the last two sessions. Roundtable policy now excludes organizations that are currently involved in litigation that negatively impacts land based communities.
Because of recent litigation to halt grazing on numerous forest allotments, the December Roundtable focused on innovative and sustainable grazing practices. Virgil Trujillo, Superintendent of Ranchlands at Ghost Ranch, along with Lauren Reichelt and Santiago Juarez, hosted the meeting which included discussions and a tour of the ranch. A diverse group of people attended: Maria Varela of Ganados del Valle; Courtney White and Barbara Johnson of the Quivira Coalition; Juan Montes of Questa; Lorenzo Valdez, Rio Arriba County Manager; Palemon Martinez of Taos; George Grossman of the Sierra Club; Randy Schofield, a Tres Piedras rancher; Gilbert Sanchez of San Ildefonso; Leonard Atencio, Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor; Bill deBuys of The Conservation Fund; Ike DeVargas of La Companía Ocho; Owen Lopez of the McCune Charitable Trust; and Jeremy Kruger of the Southwest Forest Alliance.
The morning's discussion centered on grazing lawsuits and the proposed Forest Service purchase of the Baca location. Leonard Atencio told the group that the Forest Service has shortened the time frame within which it will attempt to bring all Region Three grazing allotments into compliance with forest plans. Forest Guardians' "notice of intent" to sue was heard before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in November, where the environmental group asked for an injunction on Region Three grazing until allotments are in compliance. Atencio said that the Forest Service has a list of priority allotments that will be brought into compliance first. Lorenzo Valdez stated that Rio Arriba County has received notice that all forest allotments are subject to the environmentalists' proposed injunction. He also told Atencio that the Forest Service position that "grazing is a privilege and not a right" does not address traditional community, land grant, and tribal usufructuary or prior rights to resources.
Denise McCaig of the Forest Service then discussed the proposed sale by the Dunigan family of the 100,000 Baca Location in the heart of Jemez Mountains caldera. The family has given the FS two years to complete the purchase, which is being pursued with funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund&emdash;funds specifically set aside for land acquisition. There was general agreement that if the land is put into the public domain, the Forest Service, rather than the Park Service, would be the appropriate management agency so that current activities such as hunting and grazing (6,000 head of cattle are grazed on the ranch) be maintained, as well as opening the area to recreational activity. However, Gilbert Sanchez of San Ildefonso informed the group that the Pueblo currently has a claim against the Dunigan family over ownership of a certain portion of the ranch. He stated that unless the FS recognizes both tribal and Hispanic land grant claims to the land before the purchase is completed, the agency may find itself faced with multiple lawsuits. While Atencio stated that the FS will address claims if the agency acquires the land, several participants strongly expressed the position that tribes and abutting land grants need to be at the table during the purchase negotiations, not after.
After lunch Virgil Trujillo led the group on a tour of the ranchlands, where 400 head of cattle, owned by 50 local ranchers, graze the 21,000 ranch acres. Trujillo has been implementing a modified Holistic Range Management (HRM) program (a system developed by Alan Savory) that attempts to recreate the concentrated herd patterns of wild animals, whereby the soil is vitalized by impact and manure, and the herd can be better protected from predators (there is currently no shooting or poisoning of predators on the ranch). A system of solar powered electric fences serves to keep the cows in these concentrated herds.
The group stopped at an enclosure plot that has been fenced off for 47 years to provide a comparison with surrounding grazed lands. The group observed that there was similarity in the grass density both within and without the enclosure, but that within the enclosure the sage and other woody plants have grown to a size that saps soil nutrients. Trujillo told the group that along with this comparison plot he would like to see the ranch participate in more monitoring programs as well as work with the HRM people to formulate guidelines for good range management for a wide diversity of rangelands.
Ghost Ranch also sponsors programs such as an animal husbandry program, a winter grazing program, and a young ranching program to encourage teenagers to own their own cattle and participate in the management of the ranch.
When the group returned to ranch headquarters Maria Varela of Ganados del Valle gave a talk on the economics of sustainable ranching and agriculture. Long an advocate for the revitilization of northern New Mexico communities, Varela has seen several businesses develop beyond the initial sheep and wool cooperative, and is currently involved in a meat producing business called Ranchers Choice.
Varela pointed out that the natural foods market in New Mexico is growing fast, and that while the state is well positioned it is poorly equipped for marketing and distribution: "We're in a colonial situation. We grow and ship out." She stressed that markets can be developed locally, and warned that local growers "get killed when we try to mimic the big boys." She asked the FS to be more flexible to new grazing methods and be more receptive to sheep: with "the damn fences" down ranchers could revitalize "transhumance" and better move the cows and sheep to change the forage base. Without viable economic opportunities, our kids will continue to leave: "The more people move away from the land, the more the land will be degraded."
The Mineral Policy Center, based in Washington D. C. but with an office in Durango, Colorado, held a November workshop on New Mexico mining issues in Dixon. Attending the workshop were citizen advocacy groups from northern New Mexico, attorneys, and mining officials whose decisions impact local communities.
In the morning representatives of three citizen groups gave updates on the mining issues these groups are currently dealing with. Robert Templeton, coordinator of the Taos/Rio Arriba Reform Mining Alliance (TRAMRA) presented background information on the proposed Summo copper mine near Picuris Pueblo. To date, Summo Corporation (now called Lisbon Valley Mining) has spent approximately $428,000 on exploration drilling in the Copper Hill area, which includes 4,500 acres of primarily BLM land: There is one section of state land and three private inholdings of less than 1,000 acres within the claim area. Summo has yet to decide whether to begin the lengthy administrative process necessary to develop a mine at Copper Hill. In the meantime, because the area is included in a BLM proposed mineral withdrawal, there has been extensive discussion as to how to get these mineral claims permanently withdrawn to prevent mine development. The BLM itself first proposed the idea of a swap of Copper Hill mineral rights for patented lands near Moab, Utah, where the company is trying to proceed with development of another copper mine. That project is currently being litigated, however, and there is a government moratorium now in place on patenting lands. There has also been discussion of different kinds of land swaps or buyouts involving foundations or conservation trusts. In the meantime, after a tour of the Copper Hill site by representatives of the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division revealed that Summo had failed to adequately reclaim the exploration sites, the company has agreed to do so to meet BLM standards.
TRAMRA also discussed its long term commitment to other mining issues within Rio Arriba and Taos counties, and the need for both counties to adopt land use ordinances similar to that of Santa Fe County.
Members of the Jemez Homeowners Alliance presented background on the El Cajete pumice strip mine in the Jemez Mountains. This mine, near the East Fork of the Jemez River and within a National Recreation Area (NRA), is approximately 2 miles wide and comes to within 350 feet of residential areas. Trucks come and go from the area constantly, carrying the pumice south to San Ysidro or east via Los Alamos to Española, where Richard Cook, who owns the mining rights, is headquartered.
The group appealed the Forest Service Environmental Impact Statement which allowed the mine to proceed, but the appeal was turned down because of the 1872 Mining Law, which guarantees Cook the right to mine the public land site. The group is now trying to get the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division to classify El Cajete a new mine, to prevent patenting. Cook claims that the El Cajete mine is an extension of the Las Conchas mine (an already developed mine near El Cajete) and therefore does not fall under the parameters of NRA regulations that prevent patenting. Cook is currently suing the US government for taking away his right to patent under these regulations.
The alliance is also looking into safety violations which occur when mining trucks try to negotiate the steep, mountain highway, NM 4, via Los Alamos: state law stipulates that vehicles cannot cross double yellow lines on curves.
Vecinos del Rio is a citizens group that has been dealing with gravel and rip-rap pits in the northern Rio Grande Valley, which are being mined by Cook's Española Transit Mix. The group worked with San Juan Pueblo to impose a weight limit on NM 582 near El Guique, the heavily impacted village where one of Cook's gravel pits is located. Now, a rip-rap mine on Black Mesa (the group claims the mine is called rip-rap rather than gravel to avoid a permitting process) is causing negative impacts to neighboring communities and has potential impacts to the acequia system and archeological sites. While the Bureau of Reclamation has a contract on 34,000 tons of the material, the agency claims it has no regulatory jurisdiction on mining on private land. The group had numerous meetings with the highway department and the Attorney General's Office to maintain weight limits on the access mine roads, but nothing definitive has been set. Everyone at the forum agreed that the state needs to formulate sand and gravel mining regulations, just as hard rock mining is regulated.
In the afternoon session Dr. Tom Power, Chairman of the University of Montana Economics Department, discussed how the mining industry has impacted Western economies. A panel of mining officials fielded questions and discussed state and federal regulations. The panel included Rich Whitley of the BLM, John Bartlit, the new state Mining Commissioner, Bill Brancard, the Deputy Director of the New Mexico State Trust Lands, and several officials from the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division.
Antonio Medina, President of the Mora Land and Water Protective Association, opened the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) meeting on December 7 with an impassioned discussion of what constitutes the "highest and best use" of our northern New Mexico water resources. Various government agencies, along with commercial interests, are telling us that this use is defined solely by economics and are willing to buy water rights at any price. "The water battles we see today are only the beginning," Medina said. He stressed that we cannot let these interests isolate the water issue from the context of our entire cultural tradition and legacy. The integrity of our communities, which are inclusive of all people who share a consciousness and sensitivity, is dependent upon them retaining their agricultural land base, the source of our spirituality, our arts and crafts, our economic system, and our diversity.
The NMAA passed four resolutions during the all-day meeting. The first of these opposed efforts by the city and county of Santa Fe to transfer water rights to the Santa Fe area from north of the Otowi Gauge, which is prohibited by the Rio Grande Compact. The county seeks to buy and transfer groundwater rights from Top of the World Ranch, on the New Mexico-Colorado State Line, to surface rights on the Rio Grande within Santa Fe County. The city and county jointly plan a pilot project to transfer water acquired from an infiltration gallery which would collect ground water from Rio Grande tributaries on San Ildefonso Pueblo, as their portion of San Juan/Chama surface water rights (see article page 3).
The next resolution passed was in opposition to the so-called "Water Conservation Incentives Act" that would establish rights or take water for "instream flow" and other purposes by compromising the historic diversion rights of acequias and parciantes. The resolution points out that acequias have used water resources sustainably for centuries, providing biodiverse habitats along their banks and contributing to aquifer recharge. The water rights of both parciantes and the acequias are protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the community values of these rights are recognized in the state water transfer stature in its "conservation" and "public welfare" clauses.
The third resolution passed supports the efforts of the Taos Valley Acequia Association and the Rio de Chama Acequia Association to establish water conservation programs and to implement a water banking system. These programs seek to identify eligible water rights and to enable parciantes to place them in a water conservation program to be managed by the associations for traditional agricultural uses and for the benefit of the community. The resolution urges the State Engineer to approve these programs.
The last resolution passed encourages acequias to assert the "public welfare" doctrine wherever warranted in protesting water rights transfers. It also expresses appreciation for those who successfully challenged Intel's recent transfer application. The resolution recognizes that "Sin agua, la tierra no vale nada" and that tradition and common-sense support the understanding that water rights must never be severed from appurtenant irrigable land. Spanish and Mexican law did not recognize that water could be individually owned rather than community owned. Now, under superimposed Anglo-American law, we are dependent upon the "public welfare" provision of the state water transfer stature that allows communities to assert control over its water resources. The resolution calls for acequias to protest harmful water rights transfer applications, including the proposed Mora fish hatchery transfer, the Sipapu Ski Area transfer, and the La Joya Acequia transfer.
The NMAA elected eleven new members to the Board of Directors, for one, two and three-year terms: Michael Coca and William Gonzales from Las Vegas; Harold Trujillo from Ledoux; Antonio Medina from Mora; Nicasio Romero from Ribera; John Carangelo from La Joya; Manuel Trujillo from Ensenada; Kay Matthews from El Valle; Josie Lujan from Chimayó; Wilfred Rael from Questa; and Ida Talalla from Placitas. The new board will meet in January to elect officers and discuss upcoming New Mexico legislation that will affect acequias and water resources in northern New Mexico.
Elena Arellano, Embudo Valley Librarian, would like to invite residents of the upper watershed to visit the library in Dixon. Membership is available to all area residents. Library hours are Monday through Friday, 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The Library will be closed from December 22 to January 5 of 1998.
The Camino Real District of Carson National Forest is requesting public input regarding the proposed Hodges Ecosystem Improvement Project. This project proposes to thin, prescribe burn, and repair erosion problems along access Forest Road 1877. The project is in the Santa Barbara management area and is comprised of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, white fir, and aspen. You may contact Henry Lopez or Ben Kuykendall at the Camino Real Ranger Station, P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 87553, or call them at 587-2255.
By Mark Schiller
A new threat to the water rights of northern New Mexicans is currently looming on the horizon. The city and county of Santa Fe are finalizing plans to build an infiltration gallery on San Ildefonso land to divert water from the Rio Grande above the Otowi Gauge and pipe it to the Buckman Well Field (Santa Fe's main source of water). Why and how this is being done could be one of the most insidious chapters in the history of water banditry in New Mexico.
The Rio Grande Compact, which governs the distribution of water from that river within Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, divides New Mexico into three sections and forbids the transfer of water from one section to another. The three sections comprise the area from the Colorado state line to the Otowi Gauge (where the Otowi Bridge crosses the Rio Grande between Pojoaque and Los Alamos), from the Otowi Gauge to Elephant Butte Reservoir, and from the Elephant Butte Reservoir to the Texas state line. The Otowi Gauge is so named because it is the location of the gauge indexing the river flow and determining how much water must be delivered to Elephant Butte Reservoir.
This project is a brazen attempt to circumvent the rules of the Rio Grande Compact by diverting water above the Otowi gauge and piping it to an area south of the gauge. If this project is successful, it could set a precedent for other municipalities and developers to acquire water rights in northern New Mexico and transfer them to other locations throughout the state.
Specifically, the county of Santa Fe is attempting to transfer groundwater rights acquired from the Top of the World Ranch near the New Mexico-Colorado border. These rights, to be severed from 600 acres on the ranch, may never have been exercised and may therefore not even be valid. Furthermore, according to Northern New Mexico Legal Services attorney David Benavides, ". . . to transfer groundwater rights whose effects have not reached the river to a direct diversion from the river is in effect a new uncompensated diversion from the river, adversely affecting both the river and other water users."
In the case of the city of Santa Fe, city officials are claiming that they will only be diverting water which they already hold rights to from the San Juan/Chama rivers which empty into the Rio Grande above the infiltration gallery. They claim that because of the mechanics of the infiltration gallery their diversion will not actually be affecting the flow of the Rio Grande. Many critics, however, claim that assertion is highly questionable. Critics also assert that the diversion may adversely affect groundwater in the vicinity of the infiltration gallery.While city officials Mike Hamman and Cris Moore told a meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) that the city will only be seeking the water from the San Juan/Chama rivers, will not be seeking additional water from northern New Mexico, and that this is only a pilot project, NMAA members were not convinced by these assurances. City officials also claimed that this project would be an enormous economic benefit to San Ildefonso Pueblo. However, despite tribal council approval of the project, there are indications that some tribal members are not happy with the project.
A protest of the proposed county transfer is currently being organized by David Benavides. La Jicarita will do a more in depth assessment of this project in an upcoming issue.
By Mark Schiller
Many readers may be familiar with the case of Leonard Peltier from Robert Redford's film Incident at Ogalala (available locally on video at Lucero's in Chamisal). Peltier is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for murder in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. For those of you who have not seen the film or read about the case, here is an outline of the facts.
Between 1973 and 1975 the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which at the time consisted of 10,000 people, had a higher number of violent crimes than the entire rest of the state of South Dakota. This was due to a reign of terror imposed by Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson to bring tribal traditionalists in line with policies which exploited tribal lands and people. In response to this policy, which resulted in over 60 unsolved and often uninvestigated murders, tribal elders in March of 1975 appealed to the leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) to help provide protection for their people. AIM members sent a contingent of young Native American people to aid and protect tribal members who were threatened by Dick Wilson's "goon squads." The federal government, already paranoid about AIM after the 72-day stand-off at Wounded Knee in the early 1970s, immediately sent more than 60 FBI agents to "monitor" the situation and put the local National Guard on alert.
On June 26, 1975, two of those agents, supposedly searching for a young Native American man accused of stealing a pair of used cowboy boots, followed a pick-up truck onto the reservation. A shootout subsequently erupted, involving the people in the pick-up and the FBI agents. AIM and tribal members who were encamped nearby, came running to the scene with their guns and participated in the shootout. The two FBI agents and a Native American man were killed.
Within hours of the shootout hundreds of paramilitary-clad FBI agents and federal marshals staged a dragnet throughout the reservation, during which innocent people were intimidated and houses ransacked. AIM members fled the scene aided by tribal members, but were subsequently captured by government agents.
Leonard Peltier and two other AIM members who were present at the encampment were indicted for the murders. Because Peltier, who was a Canadian citizen, had fled to his homeland, an extradition hearing had to be held. The judge in charge of the case, fearing the extradition hearing would force a long delay, decided to proceed with the trial of the two other AIM members.
After a highly publicized trial these two men were found innocent. While there was no question that they were on the scene at the time of the shootout, the government could produce no evidence that they had actually killed the FBI agents. Information which has surfaced since 1981 seems to indicate that FBI agents, stung by the acquittal of these two men, decided to "manufacture"evidence that would link Peltier, who was subsequently tried separately, to the killings. While over 6,000 pages of documents related to the crimes have still not been released by the government, defense lawyers have ascertained through documents released under the Freedom of Information Act the following information.
1) The most crucial piece of evidence, a .223 shell casing that the government asserted was proof that Peltier fired at the agents, could not have been fired from the rifle the government contends was in Peltier's possession. A firing-pin test documented in an FBI teletype determined that there was no connection, yet the government withheld these findings and argued to their contrary.
2) The AR-15 rifle said to be in Peltier's possession was found in an exploded vehicle on the Kansas Turnpike. Peltier was not in the area. The government argued that this weapon could be linked to Peltier because he was the only person seen that day with an AR-15. Evidence has subsequently surfaced that there were at least four other AR-15s involved in the shootout.
3) The only eye witness to the shooting that the FBI produced, Myrtle Poor Bear, has since recanted her testimony and stated that she was coerced by the FBI. The government used her to secure the affidavits needed to get Peltier extradited from Canada. When the defense attempted to put several of her family members on to their witness list, the government conceded she was not a reliable witness. In the words of prosecutor Lynn Crooks, "She's a fruitcake."
4) During the trial of codefendants Butler and Robideau, the government argued that the FBI agents who were killed had been in pursuit of a red pick-up truck. This changed during the Peltier trial because he could not be linked to such a vehicle. He could, however, be linked to a red and white van which belonged to a friend. The FBI has refused to release transcripts giving the exact description, make, model, year, license, and number of occupants of the vehicle being pursued on the grounds of national security.
5) The court has found that the FBI may not have been telling the truth that witnesses appeared to have been coerced, that the trail judge erred in his rulings, preventing the defense from cross-examining important witnesses, that evidence may have been fabricated, and that exculpatory evidence (evidence of innocence) was withheld from the defense. Despite all this the government
found that there was not enough evidence to meet Supreme Court standards in granting a new trial. Since then Senior Judge Gerald Heaney, the man who wrote the decision on Peltier's appeal for a new trial, has written to the President asking for leniency for Peltier.
It is obvious that a gross miscarriage of justice has occurred in this case. Congress is presently considering oversight hearings on FBI misconduct during the prosecution. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee is asking President Clinton for executive clemency. Fifty-five members of Congress (both Republican and Democrat), Amnesty International, the National Conference of Christian and Jews, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, 78 world religious leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Redford, the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, and many other groups and individuals have all called for a new trial and investigation of this case. After being incarcerated for over 20 years, Peltier is in poor health.
Readers wishing to support the movement for clemency should contact President Clinton at The White House, 1600 Penn. Ave., Washington, DC 20500, 202-456-111; Attorney General Janet Reno, Dept. of Justice, 10th & Constitution, Washington, DC 20530; Bill Richardson, U.S. Mission to United Nations, 799 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017; and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, SH-838, 2nd & C St. NE, Washington, DC 20510.
For more detailed information about this case readers can consult Peter Matthiessen's book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse or write to the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund, P. O. Box 583, Lawrence, Kansas 66044, 913-842-5774.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.