A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, and Rio Embudo
Picuris Pueblo says "NO!" to Mica Mine Expansion By Kay Matthews
Sierra Club Chapter Refuses To Participate in Bingaman's Roundtables By Courtney White
Rio Arriba County Upholds Gravel Mine Approval Story and photos by Eric Shultz
minding by Chellis Glendinning
Puntos de Vista By Mike Connelly, Oregon rancher
Editorial By Mark Schiller
By Kay Matthews
Picuris Pueblo is making it clear that it will fight any proposed expansion of the existing mica mine on Picuris Mountain. The mountain is the site of the micaceous clay Pueblo artists use to make their pots, and, as Governor Manuel Archuleta says, "That whole mountain is sacred."
The Pueblo sponsored a Peñasco area community meeting on July 1 where local environmentalists and community members, including Taos/Rio Arriba Mining Reform Alliance (TRAMRA), Amigos Bravos, Carson Forest Watch, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and several representatives of Acoma Pueblo, expressed their support of the Pueblo's position. The proposed expansion by Franklin Industrial Minerals of Velarde (with corporate headquarters in Tennessee) would increase the size of the mine from 10 acres to 270 acres, including over 200 acres of Forest Service land. The mining operations could continue for 20 years and the private land could be patented and subsequently developed.
Currently, activities at the site include clearing of vegetation and top soil. Once the ore is exposed, it is extracted using a dozer, loader, and haul trucks. The ore is screened to desired size and stockpiled until transported to the plant site in Velarde.
The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Department (MMD) is the state agency responsible for the permit and closeout plans for the mine. These permits must be approved by the end of the year or the mine will have to shut down or ask for a variance. Brian Johnson of the MMD told La Jicarita that his agency is doing everything it can to move forward on this permitting application: the permitting process has been in the works since 1994. There has been some confusion regarding the required public notification. According to Johnson, the MMD officially notified the public of the period to request a hearing on the project in August of 1997; no requests were received. Then, several months ago, this public notice somehow reappeared and his department began receiving phone calls regarding the proposed expansion. While the official period for a hearing has ended, Johnson did say that the MMD takes comments on the project anytime and tries to incorporate them into its permitting process. He also stated that the department will hold an "informal" public meeting sometime this summer.
The MMD has requested that Franklin Industries address several issues in a revised permit application and closeout plan (due August 24). They must submit a technical standard for revegetation productivity, cover, and diversity that meets the requirements of the state mining act; a surface water quality plan is needed to address run-off concerns; and a waiver from pit reclamation must be justified. This last issue is one that is causing considerable concern.The company wants to leave the mine pit open in case they decide to mine it again at a future time. According to Doug Wolf of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which is acting in an advisory capacity to the Pueblo, this could set a bad precedent that defines future mining as post-mining land use. It's also an excuse to avoid reclamation.
In a common scenario, Franklin Industries has thus far failed to conduct an archeological and cultural survey of the proposed expansion, which is not required on private property but is encouraged (new mines fall under more stringent regulations regarding historic and cultural concerns). Cultural surveys on public lands are part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. Although the company says it will be three to five years before there is any mining on forest land, the Pueblo's objections to the mine on cultural grounds poses a huge obstacle. Forest Service officials recently discovered that Franklin Industries had actually extended some of its current operations onto federal land without a permit and has ordered the company off the land. According to Crockett Dumas, Camino Real District Ranger, it is up to Franklin Industries to initiate the NEPA process with a formal mining request. The company will have to foot the bill for all the involved costs: scoping, impact studies, cultural survey, etc.
La Jicarita asked Johnson about several other concerns raised by community members: the impact of the ore trucks traveling through rural communities to Velarde and access to traditional clay pits in the area. Johnson said that his department has no jurisdiction over the transportation once the trucks leave the mine area and if people are concerned about traffic impacts they should contact the state highway department (how often have we experienced the fragmented approach federal and state agencies bring to bear on issues such as this). Johnson also explained that while Picuris Pueblo has a formal agreement with Franklin Industries to access its clay pits, if individuals potters are concerned about maintaining access to the area's micaceous clay they should contact Franklin Industries in Velarde.
La Jicarita asked Johnson to notify the paper as soon a a time and place for a community meeting are scheduled so that we can let people know.
from Truchas to Rockwall & Picuris Pueblo
we invite you to be part of
HIGH ROAD TO TAOS
FIESTA DE LAS ARTES Y COSECHA
GALLERY & STUDIO TOUR
SEPTEMBER 26 - 27, 1998
Artists and craftspeople may open their own studio or gallery to the public or join with other artists at the Peñasco and Ojo Sarco Community Centers and other participating sites. People are also invited to sell harvest products. The Fiesta will include music, stories, children's art, and more. It will be well publicized to many visitors interested in buying art and food.
To take part, for information, locations, please call:
Tito Naranjo, 587-1687 or Jane Cook, 747-1067
La Jicarita now has a website on the Internet, thanks to the efforts of Michael Trujillo of the University of Texas. The address for La Jicarita is: http://wwwvms.utexas.edu/~tierra/lajicarita.htm
La Jicarita Enterprise announced on Monday, July 13, that the Rural Utilities Service, a department of the USDA, has awarded funding to area domestic water associations to improve their systems under the Water 2000 Initiative. To date, 85 communities have been given $155 million, including 11 communities in New Mexico. Communities within the La Jicarita Enterprise zone received priority consideration.
On hand for the presentations were various local politicians or their representatives, staff of Rural Development, and members of the water associations boards of directors. Acting Rural Development Director Gil Gallegos presented Blanca Surgeon of the Rural Utilities Service with a plaque recognizing her hard work and dedication in helping the water associations apply for this funding. Gallegos then presented the officers of the water associations with oversized replicas of the checks they will be receiving. La Placita will receive $134,000 to pay for their new system which replaces the well Ernest Vasquez, president of the association, donated to the community back in the 1940s. Richard Holland and Jose Armijo accepted a check for $473,000 for the community of Ojo Sarco, which just accepted a bid on its new system. Association President Alex Lopez received $292,000 for the Las Trampas community, which has been plagued with water problems for the last year. The Truchas community received $300,000, presented to David Montoya, David Trujillo, and Alfredo Padilla. Padilla, retired Presbyterian minister, also pointed out the need for communities and funding agencies to address the lack of adequate sewage disposal.
Contrary to all predictions, the monsoon came right on time - maybe even a little early - and the results, pictured below, were devastating. On July 8, a fierce thunderstorm hit the village of El Valle, as well as surrounding communities, causing the arroyos to run full force and the Rio de las Trampas to overflow. All three community acequias incurred significant damage: mud and debris filled various sections; culverts filled up or collapsed; and individual compuertas were lost. The wall of water that came rushing down the river took out most of the landowner's fences along with significant chunks of land. A few homes, especially Gilbert Aguilar's, pictured below, ended up in fields of mud.
Although our southeast part of the county is notoriously under serviced (the people in the northern section of the county say the same thing), this time the county responded in a timely fashion. The day after the storm County Commissioner Trujillo was on site with the road maintenance supervisor and the road grader, grading the road through the village. Shortly thereafter, the county sent Manuel Trujillo out to assess the damage; he then notified the state, which is in the process of conducting a preliminary damage assessment of the acequias. The community also met with Mauro Rosales of Taos Soil and Water about acquiring funding for riverbank stabilization, but no monies are available until next year.
Meanwhile, there is no water in the acequias and ranchers are having an especially difficult time watering their animals and keeping their cows out of their neighbor's fields. Most people in the village can't remember a time when the river ran this high and fast, although there is evidence of former damage along the river banks. It's been several decades since the last of the indigenous beaver were removed from the river. Maybe it's time to bring back these natural flood-control critters.
By Courtney White
In late June, the Executive Committee of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club voted to prohibit any individual from representing the Club at the upcoming Roundtables on Forest Restoration in northern New Mexico.
Yes, you read that right. Executive Committee members actually voted to exclude the Club from having any official presence at informational sessions on this critical conservation issue - sessions sponsored by a friendly Democratic United States Senator, no less.
Every other major environmental organization will be represented, including Audubon, the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Southwest Forest Alliance, Forest Trust, and others.
So, why would the Sierra Club Chapter refuse to participate? It is a very good question. Committee members called the Roundtables a "sham" and their purpose, to restore health to our forests through thinning and burning, a "euphemism for clearcutting." They didn't want the Club to be "tainted" by a collaborative process, they said, and chose to stay home.
It is a very sad day when the Sierra Club, which has a long history of "being at the table," refuses to listen and talk about an important conservation issue. If it doesn't like what it hears, the Club can always walk away and raise its objections publicly. But by refusing to be a player, it damages its credibility.
This is a disturbing development, and I think everyone should know about it. Increasingly, the Chapter is opting for confrontation and "no compromise" over dialogue and persuasion. An adversarial position can be an appropriate one, especially as a last resort. But to START with a confrontational stance, as the Chapter has with the Roundtables, is wrong.
One reason for this move toward "no compromise" is the rising influence of Forest Guardians within the Chapter. A determined effort by members, family, and friends of Forest Guardians to bend the Chapter to their "take no prisoners" conservation philosophy is now underway. And it is succeeding, as the Roundtable vote demonstrates.
For example, Charlotte Talberth, President of the Board of Forest Guardians and wife of its Executive Director, is attempting to become the Forest Issues Chair for the Rio Grande Chapter. A friend of hers is trying to become the Chapter's newsletter editor.
Forest Guardians has been trying to strong-arm the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club for the last six months, demonstrating, through their actions, that they will not tolerate dialogue and collaboration. They certainly do not tolerate dissent.
None of this helps the environment. "We win and you lose" and "Good guys versus Bad Guys" will not solve the ecological crisis confronting us. Perpetual brawling only loosens teeth and makes enemies. Casting the other person as an adversary to be defeated at all costs can only hurt our efforts to protect the land, especially when the attack is aimed at your fellow conservationists.
Ghandi put it best when he observed that "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Long-term environmental health will not arrive through lawsuits and arm-twisting alone. It will only come with substantial change in human behavior, which can only be achieved through dialogue and the pursuit of new ideas in partnership with communities. It comes by respecting people's differences, tolerating dissent, and shaking hands.
The environmental movement will only succeed if it expands its base of support instead of contracting it, as Forest Guardians, and now the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, would have us do. The movement must embrace new ideas that HELP people, especially rural people, reach commonly shared goals.
The public, I believe, wants the Sierra Club at Senator Bingaman's Roundtables; so do the rank-and-file of Sierra Club members. To not be there is nuts.
Story and photos by Eric Shultz
At a special July 15 hearing, the Rio Arriba County Commission reaffirmed its approval of local mining magnate Richard Cook's contested Velarde gravel operation. In addition, they directed the county planning office to monitor the mining. The commissioners stood by their prior approval of county planner Patricio Garcia's acceptance in March of landowner Jerome Romero's application to mine five acres of a 14 acre site on the town's south side. Citizens opposed to the mine filed an appeal in state court on June 29, charging that mining began immediately upon approval of the application without time for appeal as provided by county process.
Velarde residents at the crowded hearing informed the commissioners about the mine's negative impact on their lives, including respiratory problems from dust, heavy traffic, and the threat of siltation damage to an acequia. Also discussed was the June 25 inspection of the site by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which cited the operators for "significant and substantial" safety violations. An MSHA official told The New Mexican (July 15) that the problems had been abated and no fine was levied. That opinion was challenged at the hearing by area residents and former federal safety compliance officer Kathryn Creek, who testified that equipment operators have continued with unsafe practices, and that the worksite has no fence to deter children from entering. The property owner and an Española accountant spoke in favor of preserving jobs and property rights.
The Velarde mine is the sole source of aggregate for Cook's Española Transit-Mix concrete business and fully 300 jobs depend on the mine staying open, Cook told reporters during a break in the hearings. He also pledged to address community health, safety and environmental concerns. Opponents will proceed with their appeal and expect a new fight in the near future when Romero applies to mine the remaining nine acres of his property.
minding by Chellis Glendinning
By Mike Connelly, Oregon rancher
Editor's note: We came across this essay in the Spring 1998 issue of Chronicles of Community, a Montana-based newspaper that "explores emerging and changing ideas of community in the western United States." Connelly's piece reveals that his "bioregion" is not so different from our "bioregion" - at least in our skirmishes and our attempts to work them out. Reprinted with permission from Chronicles of Community and Mike Connelly.
The Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC) has recently announced the "Oregon Wild Campaign" . . . . The public outreach segment of this campaign is the "Adopt a Wilderness" program, whereby individual supporters become "parents of place" by helping with the assessment, interpretation, monitoring, and advocacy for a particular tract of land.
The point I'd like to make about this program is that, like urban American environmentalism in general, it seems to me rooted more in the institutionalized separation of humans and nature than in an acknowledgement of interconnectedness and interdependence, more in unwitting assertions of human superiority than in moves toward ecological humility.
First, it describes nature as a "life-support system" that provides us with "important resources" and "ecosystem services." Human economic activity (or even social and cultural activity, if it is sedentary) constitutes a kind of suicidal wrench we are throwing in the ecological clockworks that sustains us all.
Second, nature is described as a kind of "therapy" which "rejuvenates our spirit" and provides us with "the simple pleasures of human powered recreation." Of course, nature has not always been seen this way. Early in this continent's Euro-American history people celebrated the "City Upon a Hill" as a haven from the dark and dangerous wild without. But then sometime during the nineteenth century those cozy little cities became stinky, poisonous, violent, and noisy industrial monsters, and all of a sudden it was the "wildness of nature" that seemed more like a haven. The important point here is that, for Euro-Americans, the world has always been split into "civilization" and "nature," and that what we now call "environmentalism" was made possible by simply sliding nature from the bad to the good side of the split.
Finally, nature is described as a kind of "citizen" whose value should have nothing to do with its usefulness to human beings, as one of the many competing "interests" with all the rights that citizenship grants (but not, you'll notice, any of the responsibilities). "We've done pretty well including humans in our moral contracts," proponents argue; "now it's time to include nature."
All three of these metaphors, while they seem on the surface to be promoting greater respect for nature, rely heavily on the classically Euro-American separation of human communities and the ecosystems in which they are embedded. The first two make it very clear: nature is a "resource," a pool of stuff "out there" that can help us with our own physical, emotional and spiritual health. The third, while it disassociates the value of nature from human needs, also pits human communities and nature against each other in a Hobbseian legal struggle of all against all. Worse yet, it seems to be saying to nature, "We realize that the concept of rights has not occurred to you, or that you have found no use for it, but we have concluded that it is in your best interest, so we are going to force it on you."
In the case of the ONRC's Oregon Wild Campaign the connection between their political brand of nature appreciation and the traditional American segregation of civilization and nature is just too blatant to ignore. How else could the ONRC see a solution to the problem of "mankind's alienation from nature" in the bureaucratic designation of wilderness areas? How else could they see the systematic exclusion of human communities from certain landscapes as the only way to foster a sense of respect for those landscapes?
They are able to come to these conclusions because, frankly, they live in cities and suburbs, where the suppression of wildness is so basic that even members of the ONRC don't notice how thoroughly it influences their lifestyles. Whether or not they like to think so, they have bracketed off their own lifestyles - relentless wonderlands of technological artifice and corporate insinuation - as the "norm," as the only possible way for humans to live this day and age. They reluctantly resign themselves to the fact that their own "places" are sort of industrialized sacrifice areas, beyond hope. They recognize that the human animal needs a closer connection with nature than urban life provides, so they resolve to make sure there is some wilderness out there "somewhere."
But even for those hapless urbanites sitting at computers on the fourteenth floor, there is wilderness all around them and, for that matter, all through them. Somewhere fourteen floors down is some dirt; and mixed in with that is the residue of the plants and animals and human communities that the dirt used to support. Somewhere under that asphalt you drive home on are biota frozen since the machines rolled over, some weeds waiting for sunshine. And I suppose we all know that, one of these days, they'll get what they're waiting for.
What I'm trying to say is that it's just plain lazy to think of nature or wilderness as something that only exists somewhere else. Yes, you urban folks have done a much better job mangling native landscapes than we rural folks have, but I guess I don't see that as a good reason to write them off, spending all your time and effort trying to preserve distant landscapes, just so you can go there once in a while and remind yourself how far gone your own home is.
There's that word again: Home. That shimmering mist of people and place all drawn together by shared stories. You have it there, in the cities and suburbs, whether you see it or not. Nature, "untrammeled by man," is under your feet, over your head, and bubbling all through your hearts and minds, but for all the reasons we've talked about, you feel the need to find it elsewhere.
I suppose it is possible to "love" a federally designated wilderness area, but it seems clear from the "Adopt a Wilderness" program, it will be the condescending love of a parent for a child. Or it will be a kind of puppy love that focuses on the "simple pleasures," rather than a living, breathing, grownup love that keeps front and center the fact that, as Gary Snyder put it, "there is no death that is not somebody's food, and no life that is not somebody's death." . . .
A federally designated wilderness area can never be home to anybody - any human being, anyway. I realize that's the point, but I guess it just feels like we're faking it. In Klamath County some farmers and ranchers have recently established a watershed council, and one of the ways we describe the work we do is simply "good housekeeping." We do this work not to save the earth, and not to feed the world, but for the same reason we do our dishes, sweep the floor, mow the lawn, and dust our bibles. We live here, and we need to keep things in good working order. It's our home, and we tend to it. This landscape of ours is the here and now that tells of generations of shared history, and every time someone says to someone else, "Remember when that happened there?" our local communities settle a little more into place.
There's that other word: Place. I think it's the same thing as home, and I guess I'm suggesting to the ONRC that, rather than being "parents of place" you consider being married to it; that instead of neglecting your own homes for the sake of the occasional casual affairs with some distant landscape, you give yourself up to your own landscapes "for better and for worse." Instead of mapping potential wilderness sites, start mapping the landscapes where you live, and instead of interpreting data, start interpreting the stories and histories that connect you to your home and to the people you live and love with.
By Mark Schiller
Recently I attended a forest sustainability conference in Lakeview, Oregon which focused on third pary certification of logging on federal lands. Third party certification is an international program initiated by the Forest Stewardship Council to accredit independent certifiers to evaluate forest eco-systems and cutting prescriptions and assess whether they meet regional and international standards. The intended result is to provide private landowners, public lands managers, and loggers objective assurance that the projects they are working on meet state of the art scientific standards and ethical guidelines. This in turn, it is hoped, will produce a niche market (much like organic certification of food) which can assure consumers that they are purchasing a product from an area which is being holistically managed, sustainably harvested, and does not exploit indigenous people or communities.
This process has proven successful on private lands in the U.S. but hasn't, as yet, been applied to public lands. Certification, of course, flies in the face of environmental groups pursuing a "zero cut" agenda on public lands and, not suprisingly, the conference was boycotted by groups backing this position. Many of these groups, however, publicly advocate "restoration" projects which include thinning overly dense timber stands. While most people involved in forest mangement agree that healthy forests are characterized by multi-aged well spaced trees, many grassy openings, and an understory clear of forest debris, how to arrive at that condition has been the source of great debate. Conference participants, who included environmentalists, public lands managers, community members, private landowners, certification agents, and private restoration companies, therefore tried to address the issue by discussing how to distinguish between prescriptions for "restoration" and presriptions for "commercial harvesting" and generally agreed that certification standards for private lands commercial harvests must differ from public lands standards whose emphasis should be on restoration.
I returned home hopeful that collaborative efforts such as the conference in Lakeview could find answers to the problems which presently gridlock forest mangement. My optimism, however, was soon dampened by news of yet another lawsuit filed by Forest Guardians demanding that all timber projects on public lands demonstrate that they're economically profitable. Like Richard Nixon invoking the "silent majority", a lawyer for Forest Guardians proclaimed, "We want to show the court that Mr. and Mrs. Middle America are adversely affected by the Forest Service's commitment to run a timber program come hell or high water. " It seems obvious to this writer that Forest Guardians is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. While demanding that our national forests be returned to pre-logging and pre-grazing conditions, they are preventing public lands managers, who are finally demonstrating some willingness to make forest restoration a priority, from working towards that goal. By fanatically promoting their "zero cut" agenda they fail to make two important distinctions: 1) that values protected by "restoration" work cannot be measured economically; and 2) there's an enormous difference between corporate land rapers and small local operators whose best interests are served by working to promote forest health. By their own admission, timber harvests in the southwest are at " . . . the very bottom of [U. S. forests] in terms of board feet cut", the multinational timber corporations have been driven out of the region, and " . . . not one new mile of road was built in the southwest region this year." Other recent statements such as a Forest Guardians intern's ridiculous assertion that there's a difference between "commercial thinning" and "non-commercial thinning" and that " . . . thinned stands burn hotter and faster than other forest types", and a Forest Guardians executive's inflammatory (forgive the pun) and vindictive statement that the Forest Service should "Let it burn" in reference to the Osha Wildfire, which could have meant an incalcuable loss of resources, make it clear that Forest Guardians is prepared to defend either side of the issue as long as the result is denunciation of the Forest Service. Speaking as a person who often has been critical of Forest Service policy, I find this attitude unconscionable.
Ironically, all parties involved in the forest management controversy claim to be speaking for the proverbial grandmother from Cleveland. I suspect, however, that before the debate is settled the poor old lady is going to be ripped to shreds by all our kindly attention, and our national forests still won't be any closer to being "restored."
On July 27 Summo Minerals posted on the Internet their decision to abandon the Cashin and Champion exploration properties. This hopefully opens the door to now retiring forever the Copper Hill mining rights on BLM land, which the community has long sought. We'll do a follow-up article in the next issue.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.