A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, and Rio Embudo
Goodby to Summo Corporation on Copper Hill By Mark Schiller
Just What Does Constitute Forest Health? By Kay Matthews Photos by Eric Shultz
Puntos de Vista By Patrick O'Toole
Editorial By Mark Schiller
Editorial By Kay Matthews
By Mark Schiller
In a press release dated July 27, Summo Minerals Corporation announced that it is abandoning its interests in the Champion mine on Copper Hill as well as the Caslin mine in western Colorado. Citing a loss of $1.5 million for the first half of the year "composed principally of a non-cash write-off in its investment[s] in the Caslin and Champion exploration properties . . .", the corporation claims that the abandonment of these properties "will allow the Company to focus on the due diligence required to acquire the Johnson Camp Mine . . . a fully constituted open pit heap leach facility [in southwestern Arizona]." The company can then "become a producer of cathode copper immediately and generate positive cash flow in 1999 while . . . [they] work towards bringing the Lisbon Valley Project [in Utah] into production."
What all this means is that given the current low price of copper, Summo feels they need to cut their losses and invest in operations which can produce an immediate profit. They will be using the Champion and Caslin mines as a tax write-off and are abandoning all exploratory work at these sites. Opponents of the Champion mine, which include Picuris Pueblo, Taos/Rio Arriba Mining Reform Alliance (TRAMRA), Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, Taos County Commission, Santa Fe City Council, Rio Arriba County Commission, Eight Northern Pueblos, the Sierra Club and National Congress of American Indians, are hopeful that this turn of events will lead to permanent withdrawal of this area from mineral extraction. La Jicarita spoke with Sam DesGeorges of the Taos office of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages this area, and he informed us that their decision concerning retiring these mining rights could not be made until the beginning of September. La Jicarita will write an article about this decision in our October issue.
Some of the folks who have worked to keep Summo Corporation out of the sacred Copper Hill area: Picuris Pueblo Environment Department staff Catalina Muniz, Julia Geffroy, James Mermejo; Picuris Governor Manuel Archuleta; Gerald Nailor, Land Use; Eagle Rael, Tribal Sheriff; Cliff Larson, Sierra Club
Chairman of TRAMRA, Robert Templeton, speculated that overwhelming community opposition contributed to Summo's decision. TRAMRA will continue to work with communities on mining issues in the area, including the proposed mica mine on Picuris Peak and gravel operations in the Velarde area.
The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department will hold a public meeting on Franklin Iindustrial Minerals' (FIM) permit application for expansion and closeout plan on their mica mine on Picuris Peak near Peñasco. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 16, 1998 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Picuris Pueblo Gymnasium. If you need more information you may contact either Picuris Pueblo at 587-2519 or Brian Johnson of the Minerals Department at 827-5991.
The Bureau of Land Management released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Rio Grande Corridor Plan on August 28. If you are not already on the mailing list you may contact John Bailey, acting Taos Field Office Manager at 758-8851 to see about getting a copy. Comments on the more than 500-page report must be submitted by September 30, unless the comment period is extended.
Local artists, artisans, and all community members who grow and prepare regional food products will share the fruits of their labor on the High Road to Taos Fiesta De Las Artes, Culture y Cosecha Arts and Harvest Fiesta, a tour of galleries and artist studios. The dates are Saturday and Sunday, September 26-27, and the locations include Truchas, Las Trampas, Ojo Sarco, Peñasco and Vadito. The weekend fiesta will also include music performances, stories, children's art, and more. For more information, please call the coordinators: Tito Naranjo, 587-1687 or 1-800-458-7323; Jane Cook, 747-1067; David Lopez, 689-2565.
Dear La Jicarita:
My granddaughter, who lives in Chimayó, sent me the August issue of your newspaper, La Jicarita. I'm writing to comment on your editorial. I want to let you know that while I agree that elitist environmental groups often victimize working class people and lay the blame on others, I must take exception to your reference to the "proverbial grandmother from Cleveland." As a real life grandmother from Cleveland, I want to let all parties know that I'm quite capable of representing myself and fully intend to do so. I've enclosed a picture of myself so you can see what a "grandmother from Cleveland" really looks like. Also, would you please put me on your mailing list. Keep up the good work.
Putting Wood To Work: Forest Products Business Development Opportunities in North-Central New Mexico by Jan-Willem Jansens
A Review by Kay Matthews
In contract with the Adelante Resources Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Inc., in Las Vegas, New Mexico, this feasibility study was submitted in June of 1998 to provide base-line data about the forest products industry in northern New Mexico (the five-county area of Taos, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Mora and Colfax). The author of the study, Jan-Willem Jansens, is a self-employed consultant with a long history of research and employment in community forestry. Jansen's report basically details what resources we have to work with in our forests, both private and public, and what kinds of businesses can best be retained and expanded to utilize these resources.
Historically, the forest-products industry has been vital to the area's rural communities. These communities have a heritage of living close to the natural ecosystems, and small scale use and responsible stewardship have sustained families and businesses through time. Much of the land that is now under Forest Service management was Spanish and Mexican land grant; heirs to the grants still live in communities dependent upon that land.
Most forest products operations in northern New Mexico are small and privately owned, operated by members of one family; markets are local as well, and business is conducted by word of mouth. The primary forest products are sawtimber harvested from ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and aspen, and poletimber harvested from white fir. Aspen also is used for latillas and fencing material, and Douglas fir and Engelmann spruce are harvested for corbels and spiraled columns. Specialty forest products include Christmas trees, transplants, moss rock, seeds, nuts, cones, herbs, mushrooms, roots, bark, twigs, leaves, dead-and-down firewood, and "character wood." All of these products play a central role in the remaining subsistence economy of the rural north, and Jansens cautions against the commercialization of these products in order to protect against competition.
The majority of timber harvesting and processing businesses get their supply from private lands. A few businesses in Taos and Rio Arriba counties rely on national forest timber. According to Jansens, the supply of products on public lands has become increasingly limited because of the following factors: 1) large-scale logging in the 1970s and 1980s; 2) statutory and regulatory protection of national forest lands for old growth and critical habitat, scenic rivers, traditional uses, etc.; 3) cutbacks in Forest Service budgets; 4) litigation of forest management decisions, which delay and cancel harvesting; and 5) increasing volumes of small-diameter, lesser-used trees which increase the incidence of tree defects and reduce market prices for finished products. He estimates, however, that a future timber supply, from both private and public lands, is estimated at 35 million board feet a year, which is sufficient to sustainably support about one hundred small sawmills or ten medium-sized operations and 65 small mills in the five counties of the study.
With this historical information and current constraints, Jansens concludes that development of primary processing businesses - logging and milling - is "not prudent and efficient, and most likely not feasible." However, the expansion and diversification of growing product lines such as rough-sawn lumber, house logs and pole timber should be supported. Most importantly, the secondary manufacturing industry shows promising business development opportunities: log homes; architectural wood products; and small, specialty, indoor wood products. With direct assistance from economic development organizations, it may be possible to establish new manufacturing businesses in northern New Mexico, including machine-stress-rated (MSR) lumber, glulam applications and preservative treatment that produce trusses, beams and other engineered structural lumber products, a fuel pellet plant, a plant for the manufacture of wood composites with wood chips, and regionally-specified lumber and sale yards. He points out that while the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, is researching new product opportunities and related technologies, rural businesses in northern New Mexico do not have access to the higher quality timber required or the proximity to manufacturing and marketing centers.
The study also explores the feasibility of three business development models: a cooperative; a private micro-enterprise; and a corporate spin-off from an economic development organization. He finds that micro-enterprises appear to be the most feasible and culturally-appropriate. These enterprises are usually family owned and operated. They can cover a wide range of products and services, can be flexible in management and operational structure, can rely on an easy tax system, have few liability conditions, can together with other businesses provide a large number of jobs and income in a community, and are usually environmentally and community friendly.
For a copy of the study please contact the RC&D Council at 1926 Seventh St., Las Vegas, NM, 87701, and for technical information contact Jan-Willem Jansens at 982-9805
By Kay Matthews Photos by Eric Shultz
The playing field is huge, the desires diverse (and often contradictory), and any consensus illusive, but everyone came together anyway over the course of four consecutive Saturdays to try to flesh out a common vision: Just what is it that constitutes forest and community health and how do we achieve it?
Senator Jeff Bingaman, in conjunction with Forest Trust, the Audubon Society, the Land Grant Forum, and Western Network, invited environmentalists, community activists, and Forest Service personnel on two tours to the Jemez Mountains and Borrego Mesa, near Truchas, to look at on-the-ground conditions. These same participants then chose to attend one of two roundtable discussions, in Española or Santa Fe, to sit down and discuss what they had seen, and what they thought about it.
La Jicarita attended the Borrego Mesa tour and the Española roundtable, where Senator Bingaman put in an appearance and asked the essential questions: Do we have consensus on existing forest conditions? Do we know what we want them to be? How do we get there?
The Borrego Mesa tour answered the first of the Senator's questions: No, there is no consensus on what people see in the forest when those people come from diverse backgrounds, hold diverse interests, and promote different political agendas. But there is a common desire to talk to each other and listen to each other and maybe find some common ground.
The areas we visited represented different management prescriptions the Carson and Santa Fe forests had used since the 1980s, ranging from near clearcuts to restoration projects designed to regenerate larger trees and reduce fire hazard. Many local land grant and community members saw the 1990 Rio Medio sale as a good prescription: it provided much needed firewood to their communities, reduced the hazard of catastrophic fire by thinning smaller diameter trees, and replaced clearcuts with sustainable, selective cutting in this former land grant area that has been used historically since 1781 (the Truchas Land Grant is currently involved in management talks with the Santa Fe Forest while its claim to this area is researched).
Representatives of the Audubon Society and the Southwest Forest Alliance saw the Rio Medio sale differently, however. David Henderson said, "This is a products cut, not a restoration project" because it lacked landscape diversity, including different-aged trees, dog-hair thickets, a variety of forage, open spaces, and adequate grass cover. While others agreed that there was a need for forest diversity, Bill Armstrong of the Santa Fe Forest pointed out that the particular soil type in this area could not support ground cover growth as well as areas with more productive soils. Others noted that we were looking at one very small area of the landscape, right next to a road, that was not necessarily representative of the entire forest landscape. Jan-Willem Jansens, a private forest consultant with extensive knowledge of both the Carson and Santa Fe forests, suggested that we try to be open to a more abstract vision that leads towards a landscape image which includes communities and then works down to goals for individual sites.
Most importantly, as Shirl Harrington of Forest Trust pointed out, is that there be no separation of "restoration" and "product" discussion, that there are links between the two from beginning to end. The notion that a fully diverse, functioning forest can produce sufficient resource products to forest dependent communities was also supported by Craig Allen, an ecologist with the USGS, one of the few scientists who attended the forums.
Leonard Atencio, Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor, agreed that the Forest Service could now emphasize forest restoration and small-scale forest products: "We don't have timber targets that we have to meet anymore." Ben Kuykendall, wildlife biologist on the Carson National Forest, who led the participants to another site on the Carson forest, said that he felt his district was meeting the needs of forest dependent communities by providing firewood, vigas, and latillas, but that many more acres (5,000 to 6,000 acres per year) needed to be thinned and burned to counteract the effects of heavy logging by the Santa Barbara Pole and Tie Company in the early 20th century. With flexibility in the prescriptions, he said, the district could improve winter range for deer, future range for goshawks, and important grass production.
There was general agreement among the participants that while we have a lot to learn about what conditions we are restoring our forest to, and how to get there, restoration should not exclude small-scale commercial thinning and restoration that can benefit local economies. This was largely because environmental proponents of the zero-cut agenda did not participate. While the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club voted to prohibit members from representing the Club at the tours and roundtables (see August issue of La Jicarita), Sierra Club members from both Santa Fe and Arizona came to the tours and the Española roundtable.
The Española workshop, facilitated by Western Network, was attended by an even more diverse group of people than the tours, including a large contingent of Catron county ranchers, land grant representatives, environmentalists, and Rio Arriba county employees. Rich Shrader of Western Network summarized the concerns expressed on the tours in a list of twelve points; the rest of the group then added an additional sixteen issues. Everyone then rated these issues in importance, and a priority list was established. At the top of the list was the concern that locals have been left out of forest management decisions. Other high priority concerns included: the need to protect ranching communities and local economies to preserve open space; the protection of community watersheds and acequias; determining a healthy forest canopy to protect water resources; too much litigation driving forest planning; and a lack of scientific data and monitoring of forest practices.
The participants then broke down into random small groups to try to incorporate these concerns into vision statements. My group, comprised of several Forest Ser-vice employees, a member of Forest Trust, a Catron County candidate for land commissioner, and several other concerned individuals, came up with a basic vision that called for an ecologically functioning forest that serves communities, with a need for diversity of all components of the landscape, including people. Attributes included in this vision are clean and abundant water, the preservation of acequias, clean air, stable rural economies, management that is collaborative and inclusive, a global connection to other people and resources, and recognizing that while some uses compete with each other, across many jurisdictions, stewardship that values functioning ecosystems must prevail. Other groups came up with similarly broad and inclusive statements which emphasized that the health of forest dependent communities is inextricably linked to forest health.
All of this led to the discussion, of course, of just what it is that legislative action can achieve. The question was raised with cynicism, especially in light of the forest health hearing held by the Republicans later that afternoon across town. There, Representatives Bill Redmond and Helen Chenoweth, head of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and a well-known environmental basher, took testimony from ranchers and loggers who have suffered under various injunctions to curtail their activities on public land. The hearing was in marked contrast to the roundtable's collaborative dialogue, especially when Chenoweth delivered a tongue-lashing to John Horning of Forest Guardians at his claim that New Mexico forests should be no differently managed from other national forests: This was a "white man's" opinion, she said. But as one participant put it, "Unfortunately, I think the only people who attended the afternoon hearing who wouldn't call themselves environmentalists, and who have little concern for the land, were Helen and Bill." So what legislative action comes out of all these hearings remains to be seen: While we wait for a vote on Redmond's land grant bill and what form Bingaman's commitment to forest health will entail, there's still a lot of work left to do.
By Patrick O'Toole
Editor's Note: La Jicarita has been highly critical of the Western Water Policy Commission report which advocates that the "highest and best" use of our northern New Mexico water is urban, industrial and recreational. The following letter is the dissenting voice of Patrick O'Toole, a commission member, who wrote this alternative view of the future of western water from his position as the only agriculturalist on the commission. It was addressed to Professor Denise Fort, who is head of the commission and a parttime resident of Ojo Sarco.
This alternative view of the Western Water Policy Commission (WWPC) report is designed to present the perspective through the eyes of productive water users and of those who make the planning and structural decisions in the miasma of the current water policy structure.
I agreed to take this appointment to the WWPC because of my sincere belief in the ability of Western Americans to solve problems. Everyone on the Commission was hard-working and well-meaning. I was unique among the Commissioners as a self-employed agriculturist and an irrigator. After two years of meetings, extensive public testimony and many hours of private discussion, I remain steadfast in my belief that the problems caused by the demands of population growth on an ever scarcer essential resource - water - can be solved by reasonable people. It is unfortunate that the efforts of aggressive, radical environmental interests, whose ends are served by gridlock and continuing conflict, stymie the most determined problem solvers.
It is important to evaluate every input when determining policy, but today's water decisions are more likely to evolve because of fear of lawsuits or the ever increasing demands brought about by population growth. In fact, we are now in the unfortunate position in which growth drives policy, rather than policy determining growth.
The victims in this new process are the rural and productive sectors, the open spaces of the West - particularly riparian areas - and, ironically, the values that make the West so desirable to emigrants. When Senator Hatfield opened the first WWPC meeting, he spoke eloquently of the need to break the gridlock which overwhelms most efforts to find solutions. In the interim period between that hopeful beginning and today, there has been little evidence of problem-solving and much evidence of the exponential expansion of the role of government. This juxtaposition has been at the heart of much of the testimony that was given to the Commission. . . .
The inability of Congress to deal with the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act exemplifies the inherent conflicts faced by today's water policy makers. Unfortunately, the struggle for synthesis in policy is not evolving in a vacuum. As we fiddle, Rome burns. As we wrangle, the land and water resources are being assaulted by the forces of development. The subdivision of prime farmland has reached alarming levels, and there is no end in sight. The extreme environmentalists prefer gridlock to action, and the resource pays the price. There is no discernable benefit to the status quo, yet we do not see a revolutionary move toward recognizing the quintessential American process of local decision-making. The local empowerment that comes with this process leads to a significant devolution of power from the federal side. Without this step, very little progress can be expected.
In the end, I voted against the majority report because of its insistent tone on accepting what is cavalierly described as the inevitable transition of water use from agriculture to other uses. A strong, stable and redundant food supply is the very base of America's strength as a world power. It is the height of arrogance for a nation to attack its own food supply. It is possible to symbiotically balance agricultural use with biological needs, but it is not possible to grow food and support biological systems while simultaneously encouraging unrestrained growth of population centers. This, in my view, is what many of the recommendations in the report would inevitably lead toward.
The report discusses how agricultural uses would be "transitioned" out as cities drain farms for their water and land. This reminds me of a recent interview by filmmaker Michael Moore with a manufacturer who was moving his business to Mexico. The manufacturer was asked what would happen to his former American employees who would be replaced by eighty cent-per-hour Mexican workers. His reply? "We will help them as they are 'transitioned' ."
I believe that we are at the point when policy should strongly discourage the "transition" of productive agricultural land to population growth. This report encourages that change and regards it as inevitable. Current policy is putting family operations out of business and pushing us toward "factory farming." This trend has already swept through the dairy and hog industries. Although technology, genetic improvement and other "Green Revolution" techniques give us the short-term ability to produce food more efficiently, I believe that the following statement by the American Farmland Trust is true: "The United States will be a net food importer in 60 years." This statement, based on current trends shown by satellite imaging, is the most powerful one I heard in the two years that I served on the Commission.
One other concept ran through the report which I found profoundly troubling - the concept of "sustainability." I believe that this concept, as presented in the Commission report, is a recipe for disaster. The basis for the ability of American to feed herself is based on redundancy - when a crop failure occurs in one area, the need will be filled by production in another area. As agriculture shrinks, our vulnerability grows. Food production is intrinsically interwoven with the natural world and its [vagaries] and vulnerabilities. I believe we are leading ourselves down a treacherous path by defining sustainability as our baseline for policy. We have taken for granted the bounty of our agriculture. To squeeze it in the name of "sustainability" is to create a subsistence economy where none presently exists.
It is my fond hope that the philosophy espoused in the alternative document resonates with decision makers. The consequences reaped by granting opportunities to empower are much preferable to those resulting from the temptation to control. A lack of trust permeates the process. Reed Benson, a representative of environmental interests, expressed distrust of local decision makers at the final meeting. To achieve success, and avoid gridlock, the governmental agencies, local communities, and involved individuals must develop a level of trust. That trust must form the very underpinning of successful solutions to the many problems plaguing the development of future water policy in the West.
By Mark Schiller
The New Mexico environmental community and the Democratic and Green parties better wake up and read the writing on the wall. They're about to lose the battle and the war. The traditionally progressive Hispano and Native American vote is being won over by reactionary Republicans who know how to play hardball and deliver on their pork barrel promises. We might also see the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act gutted in the process. By failing to take action that addresses the impacts of environmental lawsuits on rural communities and the importance of land grant sovereignty to Hispano and Native American heirs, these three groups have left the door open for Bill Redmond, Heather Wilson, Gary Johnson, and Pete Domenici to win over this important voting block.
Don't kid yourself that the Hispano and Native American communities are politically naive. After 150 years of being exploited and ignored, after 18 months of forced forest closure because of the spotted owl injunction, after a series of lawsuits have drastically reduced grazing allotments, and after state Democrats have consistently tried to eliminate or overtax Indian gaming, these human communities are fighting back. It's hardly naive to vote for candidates who deliver on their promises to address these issues even if the rest of their agenda is reactionary. Any port in a storm, as they say.
You may be asking yourself why we've included the Green Party in this indictment. Their platform, after all, supports land grant sovereignty and land-based communities. However, their actions speak louder than their words. While they can go to court to roust Daniel Pearlman from their ticket because they feel his iconoclastic lifestyle doesn't represent Green Party values, we haven't heard one word of protest about Sam Hitt running as their candidate for State Land Commissioner. Hitt is the president of Forest Guardians, the Santa Fe environmental group that has initiated many of these lawsuits. He has also been outspoken in his condemnation of the Land Grant Review Commission and land grant sovereignty.
The Redmond-Chenoweth hearings demonstrated how dangerous the situation has become. We may well see two more years of Redmond, four more years of Johnson, and Domenici forever unless the Democrats and Greens can get together and run candidates who truly represent and speak for the interests of northern New Mexico. The Hispano and Native American communities, the poorest and least enfranchised people in the state, will continue to organize and fight for their rights. As Georgia Roybal, a member of the Land Grant Forum, pointed out at one of the Bingaman-sponsored forest tours, if the environmentalists and politicians don't include land grant heirs in the dialogue, the tables may soon be turned (witness the recent decision that Sandia Pueblo's 10,000-acre land claim is valid) and they may be the ones left out of the conversation.
By Kay Matthews
Once again David Orr, Chair of the Sierra Club's No-Logging Task Force, is on the rampage. This time he is accusing anyone who has participated in the Rio Arriba Roundtable forums of being "Wise Use." In particular, he's after Sierra Club folks who feel the Club's no-logging position is insensitive to northern New Mexico and counterproductive to working towards healthy forests and forest-dependent communities. Also included in his indictment is La Jicarita, of course.
The "Wise Use" label has traditionally been applied to those who support the corporate attack on environmental laws. One-issue environmentalists like Orr now include those of us who struggle to be inclusive, culturally sensitive, historically informed, and cognizant that all environmental issues are also issues of race, class, and gender framed within a corporate global economy. La Jicarita, which has attended many roundtables, feels lucky to have such good company: Rio Arriba county officials, members of the Sierra Club, the Quivira Coalition, San Ildefonso Pueblo, the McCune Foundation, the Truchas Land Grant, Ghost Ranch, Ganados del Valle, the Taos Valley Acequia Association, La Companía Ocho, and the Southwest Forest Alliance.
There is no "official" membership of the group: After initial forums broke down in discord due to the presence of certain enviros whose agenda does not include dialogue with opponents of their no-logging, no-grazing on public lands position, the rest of us kept meeting without them. However, I don't imagine anyone who showed up at the door would have been turned away.
Orr also indicts those who participated in the recent roundtables sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman to discuss forest heath and possible legislation to address the issue. He lumps these roundtables together with the Rio Arriba Roundtable, and with his backing, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club prohibited any individual from representing the Club at these meetings. Much of the Club's good work is being compromised by these positions. We would hope that the national Sierra Club board takes a good look at Mr. Orr's simplistic and inaccurate broadsides to determine if this is how the Club wants to be represented.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.