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 By Kay Matthews
Richardson Introduces Bill to Establish Land Grant Commission By Mark Schiller
Editorial by Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller
By Kay Matthews
Parciantes from Peñasco valley and Dixon/Embudo acequias decided on February 15 to postpone a vote to decide whether to officially form an acequia federation until they could consult with their individual acequia associations. While some of the parciantes who had attended previous meetings were prepared to vote, others felt that they needed more time and more information. They were given copies of the proposed bylaws and articles of incorporation to share with their fellow paricantes. Hopefully the more than 50 mayordomos and commissioners present at the meeting will be able to meet with their individual acequias this spring and come to a consensus by the next meeting, scheduled for June 14. Each acequia association needs to consult its own bylaws as to the proper procedure for making the decision whether to join the federation.
Ben and Verna Gurulé and Mark Schiller, who have been helping organize the federation, again reiterated that if 51% of the acequias decide to form a federation, our area will be setting the precedent of establishing a federation before the adjudication process begins rather than organizing in reaction to adjudication. By doing so, area acequias can be better prepared for defending their water rights with researched priority dates, mapping, and procedures for water banking already in place. It will also serve to demonstrate that a spirit of cooperation exists in the community.
Parciantes from the Dixon/Embudo community again expressed their interest in joining together with Peñasco valley parciantes in one federation. Everyone agreed that it makes sense for the federation to include all acequias within the watershed. An unofficial vote of confidence endorsed the concept of the acequia federation. Now we must communicate with our neighbors and fellow parciantes to bring the federation to fruition in June.
By Mark Schiller
As one of his last acts as U. S. Congressman from New Mexico, Bill Richardson has introduced a bill to establish the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Commission. The three-member commission would study land claims dating back to the end of the Mexican-American War, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed by the United States government, recognizing both Native American and Hispano land grants. Ownership of many of these land grants has been in dispute after numerous land grabs and the failure of the U. S. Court of Private Land Claims to recognize their validity.
This bill is the result of a series of meetings between Richardson and land grant groups from northern and central New Mexico. Estevan Arellano, director of the Oñate Center in Alcalde, and one of the principle organizers of these meetings, told La Jicarita that Congressman Richardson was the first member of the New Mexico congressional delegation "to have the guts to address this difficult issue." He went on to say that the grants have continually maintained the legitimacy of their claims since the 19th century. In more recent times, Reyes Lopez Tijerina spear-headed the movement, which resulted in the 1967 courthouse takeover in Tierra Amarilla. The violence that occurred during that action, while not the fault of grant members, Arellano said, turned many people away from the movement. Now, however, because more Hispanios and Native Americans have the skills to fight this battle within the confines of the legislative and judicial systems, indigenous land-based New Mexicans are hopeful their claims will finally be realized.
Arellano stressed that these claims pertain only to lands currently managed by federal and state agencies and not to lands now in the possession of private individuals. Furthermore, he went on to say, the ownership of these lands is not the primary issue involved. The grants are more concerned with the management of these once community-owned common lands. "Since the communities' claims to these lands are legitimate," he said, "then it seems obvious that they sould be managed for the communities' benefits." While the grants would like to assume community ownership, Arellano did not rule out the possibility of comanagement agreements, which would allow community members to work with government agencies to determine management policy for these lands. "Right now," Arellano said, "many of these agencies are extremely insensitive to the needs of the communities." He cited the example of Dixon and Embudo, where because of the lack of dry lands for these villages to expand to, a great deal of irrigated land is being used for residences. "Not only does this mean the loss of precious agricultural land and irrigation water attatched to it, but because of the shallow water table and the many new septic tanks being put in, ground water is being contaminated. If these agencies were more concerned with our communities and less concerned with the viewscape for tourists, we'd have healthier communities, healthier forests, and cleaner water."
Another provision of Richardson's legislation asks for one million dollars to establish a land claims study center at the Oñate Center, which would serve as an archive and research center for Spanish/Mexican land grants and acequia groups. "All of the archival material needs to be collected in one central location and resource people made available so that grants and acequia associations are able to do the historical research necessary to underwrite their claims," Arellano said. "This will also allow groups to share their materials and experiences so work does not have to continually be duplicated."
Arellano and other grant members are hopefull that Senators Domeneci and Bingaman, as well as Congressman Richardson's successor, will strongly support this legislation. He urged all grant members, whether their grants are active or inactive, to contact these congressional members and ask them to support House Bill 260. Congressman Richardson can be contacted at 1494 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM, 87505, 505-988-7230. Senator Domeneci can be reached at 120 S. Federal Place, Room 302, Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505 988-6511. Senator Bingaman can be reached at 119 Marcy Street, Santa Fe, NM, 87501, 505 988-6647.
By Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller
It is disheartening to see that the conflict between certain environmental groups and the land-based communities of northern New Mexico continues unabated. In reality, they both share the same concern for healthy forests and watersheds, but after many attempts to find some middle ground in how to best manage these lands, it seems that the only kinds of resolutions the environmentalists are willing to accept are decisions handed down by the courts. These decisions, unfortunately, often fail to make the distinction between corporate exploitation, bureaucratic mismanagement, and locally based sustainable needs. The year-long shut-down of Region Three forests due to the Mexican spotted owl lawsuit is a case in point. Environmental groups are now prepared to file a similar lawsuit with regard to region- wide logging and grazing activities.
The battle lines being drawn in nothern New Mexico mirror the internecine struggle within the national environmental movement. Those activists who come to the environmental movement with a background in social justice issues&emdash;labor organizing, civil rights, the New Left&emdash;are often called social ecologists: They see human beings as an integral part of the natural world that is being manipulated and exploited by the industrial, capitalistic economic system. Other activists, often called deep ecologists, come to the movement to save our wildlands as a moral statement apart from any value these lands may have to human culture. In the introduction to a book entitled Defending the Earth, in which social ecologist Murray Bookchin and Dave Foreman, one of the founders of Earth First!, come together to try to find common ground between these two philosophies, editor Steve Chase says: "While social ecologists . . . trace the roots of the ecological crisis to the rise of hierarchial and exploitative human societies, many deep ecology activists talk of the human species itself as a blight upon the planet . . . . Indeed, the deep ecology movement as a whole lacks a consistent or clear social analysis of the ecology crisis or even a consistent commitment to humane social ethics."
As editors of this newspaper we signed, along with more than 80 other concerned citizens (including many members of the environmental community), an ad which appeared in both The New Mexican and the Rio Grande Sun, called "Inhabited Wilderness." The ad, which initally appeared on February 2nd, the 149th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe, Hidalgo, stated: "On one side stand the advocates of pure wilderness, working to halt a toxic civilization by isolating areas away from human use; on the other, the Indo-Hispano communities of the north fighting for their lands, livelihoods, and culture. . . . We support both the preservation of wilderness and the rights of land based peoples. We are bringing our best hearts and minds to find solutions to this latest tragedy." As signees of the ad, we hoped that the environmental community could come to a concensus that the best way to protect our environment from exploitation by global corporations is to preserve our northern New Mexico communities as sustainable sanctuaries. As western lands become increasingly urbanized, cut up by resort developers and subdividers and sold at inflated prices, the last bastions of defense are viable, rural communities.
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 work together without more litigation and divisiveness. In all of the negotiaing sessions so far between norteños and enviros, it seems that the dialogue is never able to progress beyond what good resource management means, especally regarding old growth. While the enviros have repeatedly stated their bottom line position is that no old growth trees be cut, it has never been clarified as to what exactly constitutes old growth and how it should be managed to promote healthy forests. The enviros claim that they have the scientific knowledge to best make management decisions, but fail to recognize that indigenous cultures possess historical and site-specific knowledge of the sustainable uses of resources. Until both of these groups can sit down at the table and engage in substantive dialogue, without personal prejudices and animosities interfering, the Forest Service and the courts will continue to make decisions that are not in the best interests of the forests or the communities.
The Camino Real Ranger District recently released decision records approving three forest thinning projects in the La Junta Canyon and Holman Hill area, as well as three proposals to offer firewood, vigas, and house logs in areas near U. S. Hill and Rio Grande del Rancho.
The thinning projects are located in three areas: 1) the Picacho Ecosystem Project is in 59 acres of spruce/fir located off Forest Road 722 near Holman; 2) the Policarpio Ecosystem Project is in 45 acres of mixed conifer located off Forest Road 76 near Duran Canyon Campground; and 3) the Arellano Ecosystem Project is in 96 acres of mixed conifer located off Forest Road 76 near Upper La Junta Canyon. All three thinning projects propose to improve wildlife habitat and "maintain a healthy aspen component" by thinning trees from 5" to 14" in diameter. Post thinning treatment will include prescribed burning. According to the Forest Service, this will provide a healthy forage for wildlife by producing a productive ground cover, will reduce the chance of catastrophic fire, and will stimulate aspen regeneration. In all three projects, no new roads will be built, and several roads within the project boundaries will be closed and reseeded. Snags will be left for wildlife, and trees that are marked for removal will be available for firewood. None of the decisions is subject to appeal.
The proposed Borrego II firewood, viga, and house log project (as well as prescribed burn) is offered in response to community needs for these products. It is located across NM 518 from Amole Canyon. The Forest Service states that the thinning project will not only provide products to local communities but will also improve the growth rates of the remaining trees, decrease the potential for catastrophic fire, and improve both wildlife habitat and the watershed by increasing grasses. The Fuentes Ecosystem project, located off FR 114, is also a thinning project of ponderosa pine, where understory trees will be removed to improve grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Firewood, vigas, house logs, and Christmas trees will be made available to local communities. Public comment will be accepted on the Borrego II project until February 24, and the Fuentes project until March 31. The Forest Service also proposes four thinning areas in the Rio Grande del Rancho area called the Rincon Ecosystem Improvement Project. This proposed project includes 180 acres of spruce/fir vegetation that will be thinned and opened to several two-acre aspen regeneration clearings. Firewood, latillas, and vigas will be made available to the public. The district is accepting public comment on this proposal until March 1.
La Jicarita contacted Camino Real District Ranger Crockett Dumas to follow up on on the idea of district advisory boards, proposed by Max Cordova and the Truchas Land Grant, that would work with the Forest Service on projects such as the ones proposed. Dumas made available the work done so far to address this concern, and La Jicarita will have a more extensive article in next month's issue concerning this idea, and how to make public input more binding on district-level decisions.
By Kay Matthews
The Oñate Center near Española was the setting for a three-day observance, January 31-February 2, of the 149th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848. In signing the Treaty, the United States, in effect, recognized hundreds of Hispano and Native American land grants that had been deeded by both the Spanish and Mexican governments. Unfortunately, subsequent ownership of many of these land grants has been in dispute after numerous land grabs and the failure of the U. S. Court of Private Land Claims to recognize their validity. "It's really a day of mourning for us, because we lost a lot of our rights . . . that were supposed to be protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo," said Estevan Arellano, Director of the Oñate Center.
Celebratory events took place, nonetheless. Musicians and poets, including Roberto Mondragon, Chuey Negrete, and Jaime Chavez, read and performed on all three days. The center also hosted a traditional matanza, or sheep butchering, lowrider show, and art exhibit.
In an attempt to raise awareness and discuss the current political situation in northern New Mexico, several panels were also held. La Jicarita attended a panel discussion called The Northern New Mexico Community in 1997 with Ike DeVargas of La Companía Ocho, Max Córdova of the Truchas Land Grant, Chellis Glendinning, author and activist, Herman Agoyo, former governor of San Juan Pueblo, and Juan Sanchez of the Chilili Land Grant. DeVargas opened the discussion by questioning an article in The New Mexican reporting on the latest federal court decision that the La Manga timber sale shall proceed: "While I regard this as a victory for the people of Vallecitos, I take issue with the first line of the article that says 'The loggers are winning and the environmentalists are losing.' I refuse to be pigeonholed. I am an environmentalist as well." He went on to say that people in urban areas who see the issue reported this way, and who are being told that the forests of northern New Mexico are dying, are being taken in. The people of Vallecitos, La Madera, and Cañon Plaza have fought for the preservation of these forests against the corporations that have been ripping off local communities, as well as the rest of the American people, for years.
The figures he used to back up his claim were astounding. In 23 years, Duke City Lumber of Albuquerque, a subsidiary of Hansen Industries, a British conglomerate, extracted 90 million board feet of timber from the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. Hansen Industries reports a 165 billion-dollar base and an average annual profit of 2.6 billion dollars. The annual Rio Arriba County budget, by comparison, is around 12 million dollars. "We've been a colony of Her Majesty's Secret Service for 50 years," DeVargas said. And now that La Companía, a locally based logging company of five people, has been awarded the La Manga logging contract, "we are fighting obstructionists, not environmentalists, who can't see the difference."
Chellis Glendinning, author and activist, supported DeVargas' statements by putting the local battles in a global context: "The struggles here have global importance. These struggles mirror the struggles around the world. The issue is, of course, imperialism." Glendinning then gave a brief history of colonial exploitation from nation states to the current corporatization of world economic power, especially with the enactment of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994. Agreements like GATT, she said, enable corporations to plunder on a global scale. What this means in northern New Mexico is less self-sufficiency and more tension, clashes of values, weapons production, and more reliance on the cash economy and tourism.
Max Cordova added a personal note to the discussion by describing how he felt after participating in a demonstration in November of 1995 in which several environmentalists were hung in effigy to protest the Mexican spotted owl lawsuit. "We were called barbaric and sacrilegious. I came home to Truchas and was feeling terrible about the whole thing until one of the village elders came up to me and said: 'Remember that our culture is not hung in effigy, we're just hung!' I guess you just do what you have to do."
Another panel discussion took place on Sunday afternoon to discuss the 1967 Tierra Amarilla Courthouse "Raid." Participants included Rio Arriba County Commissioner Moises Morales, Joe Cordova, and Uvaldo Velasquez, who all participated in the raid. Morales summed up his feeling about the raid by saying that perhaps it wasn't the right time 30 years ago to win the fight to reclaim lost land grants, but that it has set the foundation for a movement today that seems to be gaining more momentum, especially with the newly introduced federal bill to establish a land claims commission (see page 3). In support of this bill, Roberto Mondragon and Georgia Roybal of Aspectos Cuturales handed out an information pamphlet which included sections of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hiladgo, a list of New Mexico land grant claims, and a petition asking people to support House Bill 260. If anyone would like further information about the legislation, or would like to sign the petition, you may contact them at 986-0799.
The New Mexico Environment Department will meet with community members at 7:00 p.m., March 5, at Picuris Pueblo, to share information they have been collecting on nonpoint source pollution problems in the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo watershed. Everyone is invited to attend.
Salamon Martinez, vice-president of the Truchas Land Grant, was named Española Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year for his commitment to the people of Truchas. According to Max Córdova, who nominated him for the honor, "Salamon went out of his way to make sure that whoever in the community needed wood got it, despite his own limited means and poor health."
Peter Wilkinson, Dennis Slifer, and Delbert Trujillo from the New Mexico Environment Department (ED) met with community members in Dixon on February 5 to gather input regarding possible sources of contamination to the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo watershed. Community representation included Esteven Arellano from Embudo, Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition members Clovis Romero and Harvey Frauenglass, also from Embudo, Elizabeth Winter and James Mermejo of Picuris Pueblo, Lloyd Bolander from P.A.C.A., and many other concerned citizens from both the Dixon and Peñasco areas.
The ED has received a $250,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a study of nonpoint source pollution within the watershed. Wilkinson explained that the EPA recognizes that this kind of pollution, which may result from timbering, road and off-road vehicles, mineral extraction, agricultural practices, or streambank destabilization, exists in the watershed, but that the community needs to help set priorities regarding these various problems. Hopefully, after a six-month period of evaluation, the ED can then undertake some mitigation measures and work with other government agencies to address some of the problems. Wilkinson then turned the meeting over to those present to hear their concerns.
It quickly became apparent that the problems identified by the group could be divided into upstream and downstream categories. There was much discussion among the Dixon/Embudo people that because of the way our lifestyle has changed, and the fact that government agencies control much of the surrounding lands, the river is suffering from too many houses too close to the river, too many septic tanks too close to the river, the loss of agricultural lands, the filling in of arroyos, which causes both siltation and flooding, the invasion of non-native riparian species, such as salt cedar and russian olive, and too much solid waste. Problems identified in the upper portions of the watershed, along the Rio Pueblo and its tributaries, included erosion of soils due to timbering practices, both hiking and off-road vehicle trails built too close to the river, mining activity, including the mica mine and the possibility of a copper mine, livestock contamination, and like on the lower river, too many houses too close to the river. There was also a discussion as to whether beaver activity was good for the ecology of riparian areas, and it was agreed that beavers were beneficial to the upper watershed, where in the smaller streams they can slow down the recharge of the aquifer, but in the more inhabited areas of the lower watershed, where the rivers are wider, they are not as beneficial and can actually be a nuisance, cutting down "people" trees and harming the acequias.
While it was agreed that the ED should come up to the area and conduct more water quality tests at various sites along the rivers, people expressed the need for a model that could somehow determine what the population carrying capacity is in the area, as a preventative tool. Dennis Slifer responded that while that is really a matter of professional judgement, the ED study could try to come up with an answer to this by taking into account geology, current densities, and various other indicators.
The next meeting is scheduled for March 5 at 7:00 p. m. at Picuris Pueblo. In the interim, Wilkinson said he would be in touch with various people who attended this first meeting, as well as anyone else who may wish to contact him, to tour specific areas of concern in the watershed.
By Mark Schiller
Representative Nick Salazar, D-Taos, Rio Arriba, Mora, introduced two bills to the House Outlay Subcommittee, requesting funding to underwrite a master plan to consolidate domestic water associations in the Peñasco Valley as well as study wastewater treatment needs. House Bill 20, which asks for $45,000, was introduced at the behest of Picuris Pueblo, and House Bill 257, which asks for $150,000, at the behest of the Santa Barbara/Rio Pueblo Regional Water and Wastewater Association. Both these groups have pledged to work cooperatively on this issue and have enlisted the support of legislators Carlos Cisneros and Bobby Gonzales, Ron Martinez of La Jicarita Enterprise Community, Bill Culbertson of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, M. A. Dumas of the U. S. Forest Service, and Carlos Miera of Taos County government. Subcommittee Chairman Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said that these proposals, like many other community projects, must be table until the legislature can determine how much of the state's severance tax bonds will be needed to fund Governor Johnson's request for new prisons.
In a related matter, the Santa Barbara/Rio Pueblo Water and Wastewater Association met February 10 at the old bank building in Peñasco to formalize that organization, discuss the pending legislation, and formulate strategy for future actions. Representatives from Rodarte, Placita, Vadito, Picuris, Rio Lucio, Chamisal, Llano Largo, Llano San Juan, and Peñasco voted to join the organization. Marcel Torres, who chaired the meeting and represented the Rodarte Water Association and La Jicarita Enterprise Community, told the 25 people in attendance that forming this association not only strengthened their voice in the legislature, but ultimately would be able to streamline services for all of these communities. The group also discussed the possibility of receiving funding from the state Environment Department and private foundations. M. A. (Crockett) Dumas, District Ranger at the Camino Real Ranger Station, said that the Forest Service may be able to provide some funding for the group through its rural development program. Elizabeth Winter, program director of the Environmental Office at Picuris Pueblo, told the group that the Environmental Protection Agency (assuming funding comes through as projected) will provide funding for a student intern to do a feasibility study for a community wetlands project. Wetlands, she explained, can provide a natural system for purifying waste water and is a low-impact, low-cost alternative to wastewater treatment plants. Lloyd Bolander, chairman of the Peñasco Area Communities Association explained that P. A.C.A. had included a provision for a federation of domestic water associations in their comprehensive plan, and that they would strongly support the group's efforts.
The association will now begin working on a set of bylaws and articles of incorporation and hope to adopt these and elect officers when they meet again. The next meeting will be scheduled pending the outcome of the grant proposals in the legislature.
In the last issue of La Jicarita we reported that the Taos County Commission had denied the appeals of the Taos Planning Commission's approval of the new health clinic in Peñasco, to be operated by Taos Hospital. There is still much concern that the Peñasco community cannot support two clinics that offer essentially the same services, and that one of the clinics (Health Centers of New Mexico operates the present Peñasco clinic) could be forced out of business. If that happens to Health Centers, then the Taos Hospital Clinic, which is not federally funded to serve low-income, will be free to raise its prices. Although a La Jicarita source told us that the Peñasco Clinic is presenty in good financial shape, if and when managed care assumes control of Medicaid, the Health Centers clinic may have to cut back services to meet financial restrictions.
At a community meeting in November, representatives of Taos Hospital stated that the hospital's rationale for opening a clinic in Peñasco is to provide a second choice of Taos hospital and doctor referral services&emdash;Health Centers of New Mexico refers to Española Hospital. Rita Campbell, Taos Hospital administrator, stated that any plan to integrate the two serves by establishing a joint referral system and sharing the cost of expanding the existing clinic, as proposed by Joe Gallegos of Health Centers, is logistically impossible. She also said that because Peñasco is classified an under-served area, and because Taos Hospital is mandated to serve the entire county (county revenue bonds for the hospital were raised in a county-wide bond issue), Peñasco is the best place for a new clinic.
In response to this statement, several Peñasco community members pointed out that the formula used to determine "under-served"&emdash;the ratio of doctors in the community to the number of people in the community&emdash; doesn't take into account those people who go to Española, Taos, or even Santa Fe for their health care.
They also said that they felt the money for the new clinic could be better spent on pay raises for the staff at Taos Hospital, where the turn-over rate is fairly high. Alan Siegel, owner and operator of Mountain Ambulance, based in Peñasco, told La Jicarita that because Taos County has now taken over the Peñasco Ambulance service, Taos Hospital will be the beneficiary, and Peñasco area citizens will have the higher costs of county service, as opposed to Mountain Ambulance, which has no contract with Taos Hospital.
La Jicarita asked Taos County Commissioner Sofio Ortega about the new clinic. "I don't see any reason for there to be two clinics in Peñasco. I think Health Centers has been doing a reasonable job of meeting the health care needs there," he said. He also said that he had suggested that the two clinics work together in a joint venture, under one roof, to serve the health needs of the community, but that Taos Hospital had rejected that proposal. As a county commissioner, Ortega said that the only authority he has is to interpret the county land use plan. The site request for the clinic is appropriate, he said, and they are following proper procedure.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.