A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
A Controversy that Divides the Rio Gallinas Community By William R. Gonzales, San Augustin parciante, Northern New Mexico Legal Services paralegal
Andres Aragon Martinez, Mayordomo By Pat D'Andrea
Puntos de Vista By Manuel Trujillo, delivered to a joint session of the NM State Legislature
The themes of Rio Arriba County's State of the Southern Rockies Conference on March 12 were environmental health and self-determination. During the all-day gathering at the Oñate Center, the intertwining of tierra y vida surfaced again and again. The reason representatives from eighteen counties and eight Native tribes were invited - some sixty braved the snow to attend - was to review a document for which the Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians was requesting input. The document is called "State of the Southern Rockies: San Juan-Sangre de Cristo Bioregion: A Call for Collaboration on a Wildlands Recovery Strategy." The reason was also to assess the state of the bioregion and craft a community-based vision for its future.
In the morning session, Sam Hitt and Bryan Bird of Forest Guardians laid out their plans to double designated wilderness terrain to an area covering more than 20 million acres and institute conservation management of 40 percent of it. Asserting that community logging and small-scale grazing on public lands do not generate sufficient financial return while tourism and recreation do, they proposed an "economic transition" of the traditional mountain cultures. Having come under scrutiny nationally for his environmentalism-sin-gente, Hitt displayed a new and studied approach. He assured the audience that the "Native American ethic is important to me" and the "early Spanish settlers" used "a land ethic stressing communalism, rights of other species, and non-commercial use of natural resources." The plan, added Bird, "doesn't mean taking everyone off the land."
Attorney and conference organizer Santiago Juarez did a masterful job of setting a tone of respect for subsequent dialogue. Antonio DeVargas, also a conference organizer and president of the community-based wood-product operation La Compañia Ocho, responded by saying that the reason the mountains are so pristine is because of the very Native and Indo-Hispano stewardship the plan aims to transform into corporate consumerism. Attorney Richard Rosenstock reviewed the recent "Zero Cut" lawsuit Forest Guardians and four other environmental groups filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont to halt all timber production in national forests, requesting that the groups eliminate northern New Mexico forests from the suit. Further discussion ranged from disagreement about environmental knowledge, like the origins of contemporary elk stock in New Mexico, to perspectives on legitimate seats of authority. Rio Arriba County Manager Lorenzo Valdez questioned the Forest Guardians' sole reliance on biological science, advocating the addition of historically-proven cultural science. Española radio producer Norman Martinez praised the group's "child-of-the-universe philosophy" but wondered why they do not mind "taking away our heritage." Taos Valley Acequia Association President Palemon Martinez asked, "Who designated Forest Guardians as our saviors?"
The mood became charged when Santiago Juarez told of his good-faith attempt to negotiate with Forest Guardians on logging issues. While displaying a pretense of working together on such issues as the La Manga and Agua Caballos timber sales, the organization responded with a backhanded action: a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for Zero Cut. "That is not dialogue," said Juarez. "Not because of positions that you take - you can take any position you want - but don't come over and eat my food and then throw Zero Cut at us. Unilateral action is not dialogue." Rio Arriba County Commissioner Moises Morales reflected a growing sentiment. "Why don't you work against the folks who are really destroying the Earth?"
A sumptuous lunch followed: pit-cooked lamb, green chile stew, and enchiladas prepared by Cathy Juarez, Antonio DeVargas, Lisaida Archuleta, Crystal Hunt, and Jesus Juarez. The afternoon session featured a series of reports on the state of the southern Rockies: from the San Luis Valley, Ralph Curtis and Allen Davey of the Rio Grande Conservation District; Tony Suarez of the Sportsmen and Concerned Citizens of New Mexico; and New Mexico State Historian Robert Torrez. Caren Cowan of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association reported that the Forest Guardians proposed that members of her organization give up their livelihoods on the land to enter the computer industry. Howard Hutchinson of the Coalition of Arizona and New Mexico Counties critiqued the Forest Guardians' initiative and global corporate control, both of which seek to uproot federal, state, county, and Native sovereignty. He proposed that the counties and pueblos of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado collaborate to counter threats to environmental health and local jurisdiction. Rio Arriba County Commission Chairman Alfredo Montoya promised to convene a follow-up meeting in June.
By Kay Matthews
At lunchtime, during the Quivira Coalition's herding workshop at Ghost Ranch, I sat down with a group of Paonia, Colorado ranchers who told me their respective stories: a lifelong cattle rancher who last year sold his 300 head for 20 head of elk, which he raises for breeding stock; a woman with a masters degree in botany who runs 160 head of bison; a young cowboy who went to work for her after his own family couldn't support an extended family ranching operation on its 2,000 acre ranch. These stories were as diverse as the people who attended the workshop, anxious to learn about any new and creative methods that might enable them to keep their land and lifestyles viable in the quickly disappearing ranching West.
Joe Torres, president of the Valle Vidal Grazing Association, began the day with an explanation of his successful herding enterprise in the beautiful mountain meadows of the Valle Vidal. Inspired by his grandfather's stories about herding sheep, Torres organized an association of ranchers who now graze 800 head of cattle as one herd. A full-time range rider, hired by the association, moves the herd daily so the cows don't graze any given area for too long a time or damage the riparian areas on the allotment. Torres estimates that it costs the association about $20 a head per year to employ the herder: "It's worth it." He went on to say that their herding practice has enabled the association to establish a good relationship with both the Forest Service and local environmentalists: "We get them out there to work in the riparian areas with us. While I make the distinction between real environmentalists and so-called environmentalists, you have to keep them informed, show them that you're doing it right."
The next speaker, Steve Allen, is a neighbor of my lunch companions. A full-time rancher in Crawford, Colorado, he and six other association members run 1,056 pairs (cows and calves) of cattle on the West Elk Allotment. They move their cattle (ownership ranges from 35 to 300 head each) from elevations of 6,000 to 12,000 feet, working two or three days a week , sharing the task equally: "If it doesn't fit into your quality of life, it isn't worth it."
Steve works closely with Dave Bradford, the Range and Wildlife Staff Officer on the Paonia Ranger District. Bradford often rides with the permitees to monitor the condition of the allotment, and pointed out the advantages of herding as a management tool: 1) the flexibility of the ranchers to determine where the cattle should be grazing; 2) improvement of range conditions; 3) better relationships with other ranchers, the Forest Service, and environmentalists; 4) better health of the cattle, due to increased forage and low stress; and 5) the maintenance of secure rural communities and biological diversity.
After lunch Kirk Gadzia spoke more directly about holistic range management ( in which herding is a tool) and whether herding can be applicable to ranching in New Mexico. The underlying principle of holistic range management is that trampling of the earth - by either wild or domestic animals - is necessary to keep lands open and productive: seeds need to be dispersed, and the ground needs to be disturbed for the seeds to take hold. Our wild herds are largely gone or still recovering, and Gadzia stated that domestic animal herding can mimic their effectiveness in generating grass growth on open lands. He also pointed out that domestic herding has been employed for thousands of years to control the movement of stock animals, and that here in New Mexico only a generation ago sheep and cattle were managed in herds.
Today, as family economics, fire suppression, the elimination of predators, and unlimited grazing have extensively altered our landscape, we need to utilize all kinds of creative restoration tools, including herding, to keep land and communities healthy. Perhaps herding can be used in northern New Mexico's mountainous terrain if allotments join together, permitees and the Forest Service share the cost of range riders to monitor land and cattle, and increase thinning and burning projects to create open, diverse lands.
On March 4 the State Engineer's Office (SEO) convened a pre-hearing to consider the protest by 19 groups and individuals of the application to transfer 600 acre feet of groundwater from the Top of the World Farms near Costilla to the County of Santa Fe. As readers of La Jicarita are aware from previous articles, this transfer involves many important issues, including: an attempt to subvert the terms of the Rio Grande Compact which prohibit the transfer of water rights from above the Otowi Gauge to areas below the gauge; whether the groundwater being transferred has a direct hydrological connection to the Rio Grande, from which it will be diverted; whether the means of diverting the water, a shaft drilled down to the bedrock beneath the river, will negatively affect surface water flows in the river or groundwater levels in the vicinity of the diversion; and whether allowing such a diversion will open the door for developers, municipalities, and environmentalists to begin shopping for water rights to transfer below the gauge.
Ironically, almost none of these issues were addressed at the pre-hearing because owners of the farm contested ownership of the water rights in question by the sellers who claim they had bought and severed the water rights from the ranch. SEO hearing examiners decided that this question was a "threshold" issue which must be resolved by the county, the farm owners, and the parties that claim ownership of the water rights before the hearing could proceed. The SEO told these parties that this issue must be resolved on or before June 25. Attorneys for the Water Rights Division of the SEO, with the support of attorneys for the protestants, then claimed the issue of violation of the Rio Grande Compact also constituted a "threshold" issue. Hearing examiners instructed lawyers for the SEO and protestants to submit a list of any other threshold issues by March 26. The county was given until April 9 to respond to this list.
By William R. Gonzales, San Augustin parciante, Northern New Mexico Legal Services paralegal
What is this issue about? Who are the people involved and what is at stake? This issue is water! Water is a controversial issue that has divided our community for over four decades now. The City of Las Vegas, the Storrie Lake Water Users Association, the Gallinas Canal Storage and Irrigation Company, and the acequias all divert water from the Gallinas River. Without water none of these entities could survive.
When the first settlers came to the Las Vegas area in the mid 1830s, they built the acequias first before they established permanent homes. These acequias provided the mechanism for them to remain and have been instrumental in the development of our community. Many of these acequias continue to function much as they did when they were first built. Today litigation and development threaten their existence.
In the adjudication of water rights on the Gallinas River in 1933, the Agua Pura Company, who was providing the city's municipal water, was adjudicated an appropriative right to 2,600 acre feet of surface water of the Gallinas River, with a January 1, 1881 priority date. An adjudication suit is similar to a suit to "quit title", where ownership of a water right is determined. The Agua Pura Company's water rights were then acquired by the Public Service Company of New Mexico, who then transferred them to the City of Las Vegas in 1983. This same adjudication determined the quantity and priority dates for acequias, the Gallinas Canal Water Storage and Irrigation Company, the Storrie Lake Water Users Association, and other water right owners along the Gallinas River. Subsequently, the court issued this adjudication as the "Hope Decree."
Priority date is a very important part of a water right because it is used to determine the order of allocation of available water. New Mexico water laws recognize "prior appropriations law" as the way to allocate water within the state. This means when there is a shortage of water, those who first applied the water to beneficial use have the right to use the water before others who began using the water at a later date. A review of priority dates for water users along the Gallinas River indicates that the acequias (1835-1880) have "senior" priority dates, followed by the city (1881), the Gallinas Canal Water Storage and Irrigation Company (1888), and Storrie Lake Water Users Association (1909).
In 1991, the Office of the State Engineer (SEO) began the latest adjudication of water rights on the Gallinas River. In an attempt to settle the City of Las Vegas' appropriative claim, the State Engineer negotiated a settlement with the city in 1997. This settlement, if accepted by the court, would have given the city rights to 2,200 acre feet with a 1835 priority date and 1,900 acre feet with a 1881 priority date. This settlement was a "negotiated settlement" and was not based on the historical record. In exchange for this agreement, the city would withdraw its appeal in another case that is pending legal review by the New Mexico Supreme Court on the city's claim to a "Pueblo Water Right." That claim would give the city an expanding water right as the city grows. The city retained the right to pursue the Pueblo Water Right case if it was not satisfied with the court's decision. If satisfied, it would withdraw from the Pueblo Water Right case, a case that is disputed by the State of New Mexico and other water right owners and has been in litigation since 1958.
As part of the adjudication process, an expedited "Inter Se" hearing was held in District Court in Las Vegas in February of 1997, before Judge Byrd to determine the city's appropriative right. At this type of hearing, water right owners may dispute claims by other water right owners. Eleven community acequias located in and around Las Vegas, and the Storrie Project Water Users Association, whose membership includes the federal government, contested the settlement. After week-long testimony by the city's witnesses, Judge Byrd ruled that the City of Las Vegas had rights to divert only 2,600 acre feet of water from the surface waters of the Gallinas River, and that the priority date was January 1, 18881. That amount and priority date is what was previously adjudicated in the Hope Decree to the Agua Pura Company prior to the city acquiring the municipal water system.
Unsatisfied with Judge Byrd's decision, the city appealed the case, claiming Judge Byrd had made an error in not allowing the testimony of former city manager Les Montoya as an "expert", and that his trial management and rulings had deprived the city of a fair trial. Oral arguments by all parties were presented to the New Mexico Court of Appeals in December of 1998. Recently, that Court ruled that District Court Judge Byrd did not err in disallowing the testimony of Montoya as "expert" testimony, and that Judge Byrd had not abused his authority in the management of the court hearing.
Where do we go from here? Is the City of Las Vegas now going to ask the New Mexico Supreme Court to rule on the Pueblo Water Right Doctrine once and for all? Will the city decide to continue further litigation in an attempt to obtain more water rights and ask the Supreme Court to hear yet another case? [On March 16 the city filed an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court; it is up to the Court whether that appeal will be heard.] City leaders don't seem able to decide. One day it's the Pueblo Water Right theory with unlimited water rights and the next day it's the appropriation theory with 4,100 acre feet and a split priority date. One thing for sure, the city currently owns rights to 2,600 acre feet of water on the Gallinas River with an 1881 priority date. Another certainty is that the city is currently using more water than it has a right to. Acequia leaders are concerned the city will continue to over-divert water and will continue litigation. This over diversion continues to affect the availability of water for acequia members and has a tremendous impact on the entire agricultural community that depends on the water. Additionally, litigation costs continue to mount.
Why doesn't the city have enough water to service our community? Poor planning and uncontrolled growth have brought us here. These problems began at the turn of the century and continue today. Much of Las Vegas is built on lands that were once irrigated by an acequia system. No one thought about the water rights attached to the land. In the adjudication process, those water rights will be retired for non-use. This loss is not only a loss to the owner but, more importantly, to the community. As Las Vegas continues to grow and we construct buildings on irrigated land, more water rights will be lost to non-use. We are now looking to extend the city's boundaries again. Along with providing other services, the city will provide water to those areas. This trend may lead to the extinction of community acequia systems that have survived in this area since its settlement in 1835.
Acequias and municipalities must work together to maintain the water rights in the community for use by both the municipality and the acequia. Comments like, "We can get water from the Sapello River, Mora River, or even Eagle Nest," that have been heard from our city leaders, are not appropriate. What gives the city the right to impact other surrounding communities? A better comment would be, "We can control growth and use the water we have available to service our community" or "Let's work with the other water right owners to conserve more water to meet municipal and agricultural uses."
The city has already spent thousands of taxpayer dollars in litigation trying to get additional water rights, and it could cost thousands more proving a theory of the "Pueblo Water Right Doctrine," - a theory that is disputed by the State of New Mexico and other water right owners who believe that the Supreme Court would rule against the city. Other community acequia systems throughout the state are working with municipalities and other agencies to implement water conservation measures. Water leasing programs are being developed to meet these new needs. It's time the City of Las Vegas begins working with not only the acequias but other water right holders to construct an equitable water use plan for now and in the future.
By Pat D'Andrea
Editor's Note: With this story La Jicarita inaugurates a new Oral History feature, which we hope will serve to demonstrate the importance of knowing our past so they we may determine our future.
Andres Aragon Martinez was born in Ranchos de Taos on October 28, 1898, the son of Antonio Maria Martinez y Vigil and Marcelina Aragon. He died at home in Cañon on December 14, 1990.
In May 1989 I had several interviews with Andres. At our first meeting, before he answered any of my questions, he said he had a question for me. He wanted to know where the Rio Grande Reservoir was, exactly. When I told him it was about fifty miles above Creede, near the headwaters of the Rio Grande, he told me he had herded sheep up there in 1918, after the first world war. "They were mining gold there and, you know, there were little gold bricks in the windows. Nobody ever bothered them." He opened his eyes wide behind thick glasses, "I guess that wouldn't happen today." And then he smiled. "There was no dam up there when I was there," he said, and asked where the water was used. We talked a little then about the San Luis Valley and the land grants there.
He told me that land grant history "is not a happy story. My ancestors didn't have much money, they were rich though because they had plenty of land that was shared by everyone. They could farm, and raise animals, and cut wood, and in this way they survived well for centuries. But today, people in New Mexico are fighting the same battles they fought after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, to try to save their heritage.
"And it turns out today, the same as over a hundred years ago, that the laws don't really guarantee any rights at all. We can see that the traditional laws are easily bent, or changed, or simply ignored in order to benefit the moneyed interests who want to control them."
Andres Martinez finished high school at Menaul School when he was thirty years old; he had taken time off to earn money throughout his school days. Some years later, he married Dorothy Bergman, who came from the Ramah area. The newlyweds borrowed a pickup from noted anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn, Dorothy's nephew by marriage, and drove to the Hotel Don Fernando de Taos (now the First State Bank).
A farmer, sheepman, dairyman, shearer, store owner, devout Mormon, and leader in the generations-old fight to keep land and water intact in northern New Mexico, he had testified in Washington more often perhaps than any other private citizen in the state.
"Many years ago I went to Washington to ask the government to please let the small farmers of Taos have some irrigation water from the huge San Juan-Chama Diversion project. All of us in Taos were excited by the prospect of a dam in Taos, and enough irrigation water for all our land during the entire dry season. The government agreed to give us the water, and said they would build a dam 'almost free' for us in which to impound that water.
"Then we learned that we would have to form a conservancy district that could contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to build the dam. We learned the conservancy district could tax us for all kinds of things not even related to the dam and irrigation water. We learned that even in a dry year the government would keep water in the dam to preserve the tourists' trout fishing and boating privileges, even if the farmers had no irrigation water.
"We learned that the conservancy district would take ownership of the acequias of the valley out of each local community's hands and place it in the care of just five political appointees selected by a judge from out of the county. We learned about many hidden assessments for the dam and the irrigation water that would drive the local small farmers even deeper into the poorhouse. We learned that if we could not pay our conservancy assessments, the district could foreclose on our property.
"In short, we learned that the dam and the water and the conservancy district were really a wolf in sheep's clothing. It was a plan to drive the small farmers out of the valley so that the businessmen, the realtors, the bankers, and the developers could take over."
In 1970 Andres Martinez became president of the Tres Rios Association, which opposed the formation of the con-servancy district and the building of Indian Camp Dam. "It cost us a lot of time and money and effort, but we finally triumphed. And we're always aware that the govern-
ment can hatch another scheme at any moment to make a grab for our land and water rights again."
Andres spoke out often on issues of concern to his community, supporting Taos Pueblo's fight for Blue Lake as well as its stand against an airport extension. He also strongly supported the Taos Valley Acequia Association and served in many leadership positions.
"I say the greatest enemy of the acequias is the adjudication of the water. With a piece of paper you can buy water rights from me. You give me a piece of paper, and you get the substance and I get the symbol. It is unconstitutional." When I asked why, he said, "unconstitutional because it isn't natural."
Andres had a garden every year near the remodeled trailer he'd lived in since 1968. He was proud of the garden, explaining how rich the soil was and how much he'd worked it. He said, "It is fortunate that we dug a well years ago so that the corn, beans, squash, radishes, melons, and carrots can be watered any time they need it." He asked me to look for the tiny new carrots as we stood outside to take pictures.
Then he looked toward the Rio Grande, miles west of his house, and said, "I'll tell you what I feel about this river. I got this from the scriptures. Lehigh named a river after his son Labon and he said to that son, who was his worst son, 'Do you see the water running from this river, how steadily it is running, how constant it is? It is the richest fountain of all righteousness.'
"When a friend got married not long ago they asked me to say a little thing. The only thing I would like for you to do, I said, is to look at that river. It is continually flowing and firm and it never stops until it reaches the fountain of all righteousness. And you look at this valley; be like this land, firm and constant. I want you to be like this valley and this river, in keeping with the commandments of God."
Forest Trust, New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps and the Forest Service are cooperating to provide forestry internships for 35 youths (16-25) from forest dependent communities throughout New Mexico. The project will take place between June 1 and July 30. They will also be hiring five adults to provide training in restoration skills and supervisory oversight. For more information regarding these jobs contact Ryan Temple at Forest Trust, 983-3111, ext. 17; Ben Kuykendall of the Forest Service at 587-2255; or Ben Vasquez at Peñasco High School, 587-2502. Application must be received by April 30.
La Jicarita recently received a letter from one of our neighbors, Mary Steigerwald (which we unfortunately don't have room to print in its entirety) expressing concerns about the sanctity of designated wilderness and what she perceives as encroachment by humans on these "untrammeled" lands. Specifically, she asked in what context Paula Garcia used the term "wilderness" in her February Puntos de Vista.
After consulting with Paula, we would like to respond to Mary's concerns. Several years ago a group of northern New Mexicans signed an ad which ran in local newspapers called "Inhabited Wilderness: The question is not: do people belong in wilderness? The question is: where are the places in the natural world where people may live safely and sustainably - and where are the places that should be left alone?"
Historically, Euro-Americans have had a very schizophrenic conception of their relationship to nature, ranging from demonizing it to romanticizing it to setting it apart from human activity. We believe that there can be a more holistic way of integrating both cultural and natural landscapes in what is called a "core reserve - connecting corridor" model: a designated wilderness (off-limits to mechanized activity) like the Pecos, surrounded by buffer zones (former Indo-Hispano commons lands), and our watershed communities that maintain an ethic of place. That "ethic of place" can be maintained only by keeping people on he land and working the land, which in turn engenders stewardship of the land.
By Manuel Trujillo, delivered to a joint session of the NM State Legislature
I wish to convey to you the sentiments and concerns of the Acequia Community and its parciantes - a formidable task, indeed. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges, if not the biggest task I have faced in my life. I say this because, how can you condense 400 years of history, culture, and tradition? I say this because of the value and importance of the acequia. I am honored to have the responsibility to speak on behalf of the acequia parciantes.
Nuevo Mejico! La Tierra del Encanto. New Mexico! Land of Enchantment. What makes this state the Land of Enchantment? We in the Acequia Community believe and know that the acequia is more than a depression in the ground for moving water from point A to point B. The acequia is a major, and I emphasize major cultural icon in this mosaic we call the Land of Enchantment; La Tierra del Encanto. We also know that you cannot sever the water from the land (as some are proposing to do) and still have an Acequia Cultura as we know it.
El agua es nuestra vida - water is our life. Las Acequias son nuestra cultura, nuestras tradiciones. Son la esencia de quien somos. The acequias are our culture, our traditions. They are the essence of who we are.
For many, the word water means H or C on a water faucet. For others, it means computer chips. For others it means subdivisions, and for others, it means recreation. Fine, nothing wrong with that - except when it comes at the expense of the acequias.
There is no question that water is now the issue in the state. For us, the acequia is a way of life. It always has been, and it will continue to be. It is an established fact that there is only so much water - a limited amount, and even less in dry years such as the one we are experiencing now.
And so, the question is, or rather the questions are: Who has it, who wants it, and at what price? Herein the problems begin. When you attempt to commodify water, you also begin the process of severing it from the land. That cannot be done because there is a symbiotic relationship between the land and water in the Acequia Culture.
Various economic interests - for better or for worse - (in our case, for the worse), want market forces to determine the price and value of water. They want to place a dollar price on, or commodify, this precious community resource. I want to set the record straight that we do NOT measure the value of our culture in dollars, we do NOT measure our traditions in dollars, NOR do we measure the value of our lives and self-worth in dollars. We believe that Adam Smith did NOT have acequias in mind when he wrote The Wealth of Nations. How can anybody even attempt to place a dollar amount on life, culture and tradition?
The price you pay when you sever the water from the land is the demise and the disappearance of the Acequia Culture . . . forever! Once it is gone, it is gone. You cannot bring it back. Sure, we can have computer modeling to let us know where every car in Albuquerque is going to go before it leaves the driveway, and about water consumption habits. Great technology, I agree; but no computer modeling can bring back the Acequia Culture without the water. Can you replace a viable, living culture with a Virtual Acequia? We don't think so. What are we doing to the future of our acequia communities? What are we doing to the future of our children and grandchildren if we sever the water from the land? What choices are we leaving our children if we sever the water from the land? We believe that when you look at the concerns of the acequia community, the same foresight should apply to our water and land.
In the acequia community we know that there are special interests pulling and tugging at the thread that weaves the tapestry of the Acequia Culture. It is called Instream Flow - a great euphemism for the unraveling of this fabric. Their argument is: We need water for biodiversity purposes. But, is the real intent to take water from the acequias to keep their rafting business afloat, or even to expand it at the expense of the acequias? Our acequias accommodate and enhance biodiversity. We create sub-ecosystems, riparian areas, and recharge our domestic and municipal wells, as well as provide a return flow system of water to the river.
In the words of my mother, Josefa Trujillo, Para mi, para nos, y para los animalitos de Dios. That means: For me, for you, and for all of God's little creatures. We are the true environmentalists. It is imperative that we take care of the land and water. It is in our best interest to do so. After all, we live off of it. Why has the land and water in the acequia community remained so beautiful for the last 300 to 400 years? We are obviously doing something right. We are not the Chevrons or the other mega-corporations that overgraze the forests. We don't clear-cut our forests, either. We cut wood to keep warm and to cook our food. We gather our remedios. We live in harmony. We don't leave 60 basal feet per acre on our watersheds, as current State Forestry permits presently allow. In a recent National Geographic Magazine article, experts have concluded that the people who are closest to the land are the ones who are in the best position to make decisions about their biodiversity and culture; a land-based people. The human dimension. We are the ones who can make our own decisions about how water is managed within this Acequia Culture.
Let's talk a little about management and management practices. For many years it was argued that the best management came from a top-down approach; the Pyramid approach. In business we have come to learn from management gurus that in many cases the bottom-up approach is best. Perhaps this is the problem here . . . too many decisions are made from the top-down, when they should be coming from the bottom-up; from us. We the acequias want a place at the table in the decision-making process.
In the current Office of the State Engineer budget request before you, there is a request for 22 FTEs [full-time employees], approximately 3 million dollars. How many of these FTEs are assigned to represent the acequia interests? There should be at least two acequia ombudsmen experts. We are the closest to the land and the water.
The policy at the OSE should be proactive rather than reactive - specifically as it relates to the Endangered Species Act. Presently the OSE is bound by the provisions of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. My understanding is that the Supreme Law of the land is the Constitution, Acts of Congress, and Treaties; in our case, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, an international treaty. Our water rights are guaranteed by this treaty. Has it been repealed? Does the Supremacy Clause not apply here? Are the acequias exempt from the Treaty? Are we not afforded equal protection of the laws? We don't think so. It doesn't take a mayordomo to figure that out . . . or maybe it does! The Land Grant issue hasn't been settled yet. Many questions remain.
Let's talk about price and value. Recently I watched a TV commercial by a major credit card company that sends a message about price and value. I was relieved that some things are still priceless. Let's see what happens with price and value in New Mexico: Industrial Revenue Bonds: one-half to 10 billion dollars. 100,000 home subdivision. Price? 15 billion dollars. Acequia Culture in New Mexico. Price? PRICELESS. If the acequia is priceless, then it is invaluable. Because it is invaluable, the state should preserve it and keep it whole. We in the Acequia Culture believe that the whole is greater than any of its parts.
As a former member of this Legislature for six years, I realize that you have to represent your districts as well as the whole state. It is not an easy task, and your work is much. You have many difficult decisions to make. The Acequia Community and I want to extend our personal blessing to you as your do your important work: May your minds be blessed so that your thoughts may be pure and clear. May your tongues be blessed so that you may speak the truth. May your hearts be blessed so that you have the courage and strength to do what is right.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Mil Gracias.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.