A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Puntos de Vista By Bruce Richardson, President, Chimayó Crime Prevention Organization
Sierra Club Hears From Minorities Locally and Nationally By Kay Matthews
By Mark Schiller
The San Juan Agricultural Cooperative was founded in 1992 at the behest of tribal elders who wanted to revitalize the Pueblo's long and rich heritage of farming. It's mission statement lists three main objectives:
1) Develop and improve the Pueblo's agricultural lands; 2) Provide income and jobs for tribal members; and 3) Educate the youth of the community about past traditions and future opportunities in agriculture. Now in its seventh season, the coop manages approximately 200 acres of irrigated land and at the height of its season, employs 20 people.
General manager Lynnwood Brown and processing manager Jeff Atencio told La Jicarita that the cooperative currently consists of approximately 40 Pueblo families who have committed the use of their tribally assigned lands for a period of at least 10 years. The coop is governed by a seven-member board of directors elected by the membership, who determine policy and direct coop staff.
Lynnwood and Jeff explained that initially the coop grew chile, corn, tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumbers, and bell peppers, which they sold at farmers' markets in Santa Fe and Española and supplied to specialty stores such as Wild Oats. They also managed several large plots planted in alfalfa and hay. In 1996, in an effort to expand their operation into value-added markets, the coop developed a 2,400 foot dehydration and packaging facility and created its own line of New Mexico cuisine dried food products. Because dehydration has been the Pueblo's traditional method of food preservation for centuries, and because it allows for easy shipment, coop members felt this was a perfect fit. Based upon traditional tribal and northern New Mexico recipes, the facility produces and packages Green Chile Stew, Posole Stew, Spicey Black Bean Stew, Three Sister Stew, and Smokey Corn and Tomato Stew. They also dry and package melons, apples, chicos, and smoke-dried tomatoes. Coop products have been featured in Sunset Magazine and are available in 30 in-state stores, many out-of-state stores, and through the coop's website: www.puebloharvest. com.
The coop also works with farmers from outside the Pueblo community to dry their vegetables and fruits, either on a fee-for-service basis or for a percentage of their produce. The drier operates at temperatures between 130 and 150 degrees and has a capacity of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of wet produce per 24 hours.
In 1998 the coop built a 3,000 square-foot greenhouse for their vegetable and melon starts and expanded their operation to include flower starts, which they supply to commerical greenhouses. Realizing that much of the irrigable land on the Pueblo is unsuitable for row crops because of the high water table and alkaline soil, coop members are hoping to use some of that land to grow cottonwoods and other bosque-related plants for reclamation projects on the Pueblo and throughout northern New Mexico.
The coop also sponsors an annual youth garden project to introduce Pueblo children, ranging in ages from eight to sixteen, to the joys and tribulations of farming, and distributes produce from the garden to elderly and needy tribal members. Jeff and Lynnwood explained that "part of the coop's strategy is to serve as a hub for smaller projects which serve essential but non-money-making priorities such as youth education, cultural preservation, and encouragement of individual entrepreneurship. The coop seeks out grant funds to support these efforts."
In the future, the coop hopes to utilize the knowledge of some of the Española valley master farmers, like Don Bustos, to mentor tribal coop workers so that they can improve farming methods and efficiency and expand crop variety. They hope to have 500 acres under cultivation over the next few years. Lynnwood and Jeff would like to see the coop become a partner in an extended valley effort to restore its agricultural roots and maintain its acequias. As the description of the coop on their website states: "The cooperative's continued growth and success are proof that economic development and cultutal preservation can and must go hand in hand."
The Camino Real Ranger District is proposing a prescribed burn in the Angostura area, west of the river drainage from Indian Lake to the ridge south of the Knob. They also propose to temporarily open the old road (now a trail) to provide fire engine access and then reshape the road to prevent erosion and provide only trail access. This area was heavily logged by the Santa Barbara Tie and Pole Company in the early 1900s and subsequently produced dense regeneration. The prescribed burn would thin the understory and provide better forage for wildlife, as well as reduce the risk of intense wildfire in the area. The project falls within the categorical exclusion category of NEPA, and a "Burn Plan" will be prepared. If you have any questions or concerns about the project contact Carol Holland or Manuel Romero at 587-2255.
The High Road to Taos Fiesta & Art Tour will hold several community meetings in August for those interested in participating in the Tour: Tuesday, August 3, at 7:00 p.m. at the Ojo Sarco Community Center; and Thursday, August 5 at 7:00 p.m. in Peñasco at the Centro de los Comunidades (for Chamisal and Vadito participants as well as those from Peñasco). For more information, call Jane Cook at 689-2905. A registration form is included on page 8 of La Jicarita.
A Quivira Coalition sponsored workshop - Ecologically-Sensitive Ranching is Possible - will be held on Saturday, August 7th, from 8:30 am-4 pm in Albuquerque at the Sheraton Uptown (located at the corner of Menaul and Louisiana). Speakers include: Bill deBuys of The Conservation Fund; Dan Dagget, environmentalist and author of Beyond the Rangeland Conflict: Toward a West That Works; Kris Havstad, Supervisory Scientist of the USDA's Jornada Experimental Range; Jim Winder, a southern New Mexico rancher; Terry Wheeler, an Arizona rancher who is reclaiming mine tailings to demonstrate the role cattle can play as agents in restoration; and Courtney White, executive director of the Quivira Coalition. Everyone is invited to attend and a free lunch will be provided.
By Bruce Richardson, President, Chimayó Crime Prevention Organization
During late 1995, a concerned group of Chimayósos began meeting in a grassroots roundtable forum to discuss rampant crime revolving around heroin use and trafficking. By early 1999, the group had testified before a Congressional sub-committee in Española, catalyzing action and bringing focus to a problem that had existed for generations. With time, a perspective and vision evolved that includes people, place, and culture.
The group became the Chimayó Crime Prevention Organization (CCPO), a non-profit whose goal is to improve the quality of life by reducing the threat of crime through community involvement. Community policing has been and will continue to be our first priority. Community policing is essentially community involvement with the criminal justice system. The responsibility for crime prevention rests as much, if not more on the community as it does with law enforcement agencies.
As we engaged the criminal justice system, we learned that without community input and oversight the system functioned poorly. Inter-generational drug use has been the norm here for years, and law enforcement agencies have been fully aware of the problem. The message sent to area youth is that no negative consequences will occur as a result of illegal activities. Our achievements have resulted from identifying local initiatives which we could implement, and by building upon our successes and learning from our failures. Requiring accountability of agencies and elected officials has restored a sense of justice, and positive approaches have replaced bureaucratic apathy. Conditions within the community began to improve as lines of communication opened and trust was earned through mutual respect.
After a year's existence, it became obvious that law enforcement could provide short-term gains, but long-term solutions must involve education and public health initiatives. Addressing the dysfunctional cycle of addiction led us towards the concept of community co-dependency. Virtually every family in the area has been touched by some form of tragedy related to substance abuse: overdoses, murders, vehicle fatalities, domestic violence, etc. Families have become victims of substance abusers by assuming responsibility to cover for and enable the abusers to continue their habits, thus delaying the users from assuming personal responsibility for their actions. The extended nature of families in Chimayó moved co-dependency from a residential scale to a larger community co-dependency. Such a community norm complicates if not defies conventional approaches to intervention and treatment.
We've begun to address this issue by engaging our educational system in the same manner as we did the criminal justice system. Community involvement and accountability remain the key elements. To date, we have sought new leadership at the elementary school; made appropriations for computer labs; provided after-hours availability of school facilities for sports leagues, etc.; and scheduled a community-sponsored Math & Science Camp this summer. Offering our youth healthy alternatives to crime and incarceration is essential to the future vitality of the community.
Whenever changes occur, options must be available. As law enforcement curtails the supply of drugs (prevention), education and public health (intervention and treatment) must respond with alternatives. Our position is that options be based on immediacy of need, be cost-effective, and culturally appropriate. The loss of cultural identity is perceived to be central to the use of intoxicating substances as a way of coping with a lack of identity and self-esteem. It has been said that a culture that has forgotten its past has no future. A strong cultural foundation coupled with spiritual guidance and awareness can provide the beginnings for community recovery and renewal.
The concept of community policing is evolving toward community justice and finally, community governance. While community policing and community justice are reactive models, they differ in that community justice focuses on victim restitution. Community governance, as the ultimate goal, is proactive, and involves every segment of the community in defining goals and objectives. As a rural, unincorporated area, we prefer to recommend desired outcomes rather than have them dictated by outside interests. We believe our CCPO programs are innovatively designed to meet this goal.
CCPO has received a $1,000 grant from the LANL Foundation to open an office in Chimayó. Grants are pending to fund a youth conservation corps to provide adolescents with vocational, educational, and life skills. A voluntary, community-based, coordinated natural resource and land-use planning initiative is being developed to create a long-term work plan for the youth corps. Labor costs for plan implementation by land and water management entities would be deferred because the labor force involved would be funded youth corps members. For every dollar spent on the youth program, multiple benefits may accrue towards crime prevention, youth development, economic development, and water-shed rehabilitation. The youth corps is a keystone program and represents capacity building in action. The vision is that as these projects become reality, kids will become productive members of society. Their work will rejuvenate pride in their culture, an ownership of their place, and a faith that tomorrow will be a better day. It's incredible to think it all started around a grassroots roundtable with some people who took responsibility and action on behalf of the entire community. We're moving from co-dependency to interdependency, just like the good old days.
By Kay Matthews
In a recent issue of The New York Times a full-page letter appeared addressed to the Sierra Club from The Greenlining Institute, a California coalition of black chambers of commerce and civil rights organizations, urban leagues, Hispano and Asian organizations, and black churches. The letter was titled "Elitist Sierra Club Pushes Narrow Agenda at Minorities' Expense" and stated that the Club has "hindered our legislative efforts to revitalize our communities" by emasculating a bill intended to provide clean-up of inner city "brown fields" - contaminated industrial sites - for potential development. According to the Institute, as the Sierra Club rushes to implement its own anti-urban sprawl agenda it has failed to dialogue and work with inner city groups already trying to address the issue through economic development and minority self-determination.
While this particular letter takes the largely white, middle-class national Sierra Club to task on urban issues, some folks here in New Mexico are accusing the Club of supporting national environmental policies that discriminate against and disenfranchise rural norteños. The issue was raised more than a year ago when the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club made it known that they felt the Sierra Club initiative to end all commercial logging on public lands was an absolutist policy that makes no sense here in New Mexico, where overstocked forests are in dire need of thinning and burning and issues of Native American and Hispano sovereignty are part of a long and complicated history of public lands management.
The Santa Fe Group found itself battling not only a national mandate but for its very survival. In the August 1998 issue of La Jicarita, Courtney White, former conservation chair of the group, lamented the Club's drift towards confrontation and no compromise on issues like commerical logging, and specifically pointed to Forest Guardians' rising influence in the state 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." Several Forest Guardian members hold leadership positions in the Zero Cut Campaign, now called the National Forest Protection Campaign, and have been trying to get elected to chair and executive committee positions in the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, parent of the Santa Fe Group. White went on to say how this was affecting the group as well: "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."
The issue that finally turned theoretical disagreement into all-out war was the Agua/Caballos timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit of Carson National Forest. The Sustained Yield Unit was set aside in 1948 to provide forest products and economic support to Vallecitos and neighboring communities. For many years, however, the approved operator in the Unit was Duke City Lumber of Albuquerque, and the local people worked only as subcontractors or employees, with no real stake in the sales or opportunity for self-determination. In the 1980s and 90s community people formed various organizations, both non-profit and for-profit, to fight for economic justice in the Unit. In 1995, La Companía Ocho, a locally-based small timber company, was guaranteed 80% of the Agua/Caballos sale as settlement of a lawsuit the organization brought to force the Forest Service to comply with the terms of the Sustained Yield Act.
The Forest Service released the Agua/Caballos Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) this spring, and he Santa Fe Group's forest issues chair, George Grossman, submitted comments to the Forest Service supporting Preferred Alternative C, which calls for a harvest of 10.6 million board feet in a 6,400 acre sale area. According to Grossman, the heavily overstocked sale area of the
Unit can not only support this kind of a cut but is badly in need of it. In his letter Grossman acknowledged that while Sierra Club policy calls for no commercial logging on public lands, at present there is no legal mandate behind this policy and that it is impossible to manage the forests, under current budget constraints, without commercial logging. His comments were approved by the group's conservation chair, Cliff Larsen.
All hell broke lose two months later when Bryan Bird, the Conservation Biologist/Appeals Coordinator of Forest Guardians who is also Secretary of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, filed a complaint stating that Grossman "violated club policy, misrepresented the Sierra Club, and misused the Sierra Club name and letterhead in an official capacity." He also stated that Grossman "should step down from his position with the Santa Fe Group and no longer volunteer his services to the Club." Why he waited two months to file his complaint is unclear, but according to Santa Fe Group members, Byrd submitted his letter to at least one national board member before he submitted it to the group, which contravenes Club procedure. Accusations among the group, chapter, and national started to fly once Bird's action became public, and the situation quickly degenerated into a Trial by Email, as several group members called it.
The implication of any kind of "Trial" of George Grossman is offensive to many Club members and environmentalists familiar with Grossman's long and illustrious history. In particular, as Carson Forest issues chair for the group, Grossman is intimately familiar with the entire forest, was actively involved in the creation of the Forest Plan in the mid-1980s, and has successfully fought inappropriate timber sales like the Angostura on the Camino Real Ranger District. In fact, he was named a National Sierra Club Environmental Hero in 1992 for his work.
The inherently hierarchical nature of the Club became apparent when the National Conservation Governance Committee issued a letter to members of the executive committees of the group and chapter requesting that a formal letter be sent to the Forest Service withdrawing the support of the Sierra Club for Alternative C, and that any further communication with the Forest Service or the press be made jointly from the group, the chapter, and the national. The group and chapter were given less than a week to address this request.
Many of the local members viewed this letter as essentially a threat and a gag order. That opinion was expressed at a chapter conservation committee meeting on June 19, but the committee voted to bring the national's directive regarding Grossman's letter before a chapter "issues" committee. At the request of this committee, chapter chair Gwen Wardwell wrote a letter to the Forest Service stating that Grossman's comments were being replaced by the chapter's comments submitted in her letter. (The Forest Service has stated that Grossman's letter will remain in the official comments to the DEIS). Wardwell's letter went on to say that because the Sierra Club opposes any commercial logging on public lands the Club cannot support any alternative in the DEIS. She then expressed the Club's generic opposition to road building, its concerns about endangered species, forest restoration efforts, etc.
Wardwell's letter insures that the Sierra Club will be absent from the negotiating table where the Forest Service, community members, La Companía, and environmentalists continue to engage in dialogue about the sale. Although the official comment period is over, the Forest Service has been receptive to additional input regarding Alternative C, and has already modified its analysis and proposed action.
Members of the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, one of the groups involved in sale negotiations, were invited by several Santa Fe Group members to make a presentation at the June 19 conservation committee meeting regarding the timber sale and the ongoing negotiations. After the presentation, a member of the El Paso Group complained, "I didn't drive 9 hours to listen to this crap." And in what some participants later described as a "racist and offensive diatribe", an Albuquerque member said: "There is a tendency for this group to wander away from the pure environmental focus to the sociological . . . When I graduated from high school I left home with $123 in my pocket and I educated myself. . . . I would love to live in a small rural community. Every day I go to work and walk 300 yards down a hall with no natural light to a room with no natural light to work so that I can make sure that my family is fed and I can educate my children. I have had to choose to nail myself to this particular cross. If I live long enough I hope to enjoy life in some of these small villages, if they are still there. . . . People seem to think they have a right to live rurally and they can take it off the backs of the taxpayers any way they want."
As part of a campaign to discredit people who question their policies and tactics, Santa Fe environmental group Forest Guardians (FG) is now taking the position that they represent a politically progressive or radical point of view, and their opponents are pawns of the reactionary Wise Use movement. At an Earth Day presentation in Santa Fe several months ago, they went so far as to claim that they are heirs to the movement which began with the Abolitionists in the 1860s and continued through the women's suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement of our own era. In light of these claims and accusations, let's take a look at what FG advocates, who their policies directly affect, who they are accusing of being Wise Use, and who they actually represent.
The three major initiatives endorsed by the group are the Zero Cut Campaign (now called the National Forest Protection Campaign), a campaign to end grazing on public lands, and a campaign to create instream flow through litigation. The National Forest Protection Campaign would end all commercial logging on public lands, even if it is small-time, locally based, sustainable, and contributes to forest health. The issue came to a head here in New Mexico when FG sued the Forest Service to stop La Manga timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit and nearly bankrupted La Companía Ocho, the Vallecitos-based timber company that fought to kick Duke City Lumber out of the Unit and and reduce prescriptions to sustainable levels. La Companía eventually obtained the sale, but now faces the threat of another lawsuit - "We will appeal and . . . we will litigate" said John Talberth, executive director of FG - over the Agua/Caballos timber sale, also in the Unit. Zero Cut's one size fits all perspective is simply unworkable in northern New Mexico. Environmentally, decades of Forest Service mismangement have created an overly dense forest canopy, desperately in need of thinning. Financially, our rural communities are dependent on sawtimber, viga, latilla, and firewood sales to maintain a diversified rural/agricultural economy.
FG has also fileds lawsuits against the Forest Service to shut down grazing allotments in New Mexico and Arizona, citing degradation of riparian areas and threats to endangered species. Once again, FG fails to make the distinction between land-based, small-time, subsistence ranching that helps sustain rural economies, and corporate ranching which exploits and degrades forest resources. While grazing permittees, such as those in the Peñasco-based Santa Barbara Grazing Association, demonstrate their willingness to implement innovative and environmentally sound practices on their allotment, John Horning, Water Protection Coordinator of FG, dismisses their efforts by saying, "Too little too late."
FG's most recent lawsuit, to implement instream flow for silvery minnow habitat, once again demonstrates that the group's unilateral, heavy-handed legal approach to complex issues victimizes the wrong people. While municipalities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and industries like Intel, fail to implement meaningful water conservation programs or limit growth and development, FG President Sam Hitt points the finger at small-time irrigators as the culprits in the impending water war. Recently Hitt called into a KUNM radio program to complain, "I'd like to point out one major problem here is that agriculture uses 90% of the water in New Mexico and about one-third of that water actually reaches the fields. I mean we're using a technology from the 19th century, flood irrigation, that's what's causing the degradation of our rivers." This statement is both false and misleading. In the first place, Hitt completely ignores the fact that agriculture is the highest and best use of our water resources and the state of New Mexico has historically and legally recognized it as such. Moreover, while acequias account for 80% of the state's diversionary rights, they return at least 50% of that water and therefore account for only 40% of statewide water use. Where does Hitt come up with the notion that only one-third of the water actually reaches the field? Finally, acequias and flood irrigation not only produce our food, they create riparian areas upon which much of the biodiversity of northern New Mexico is dependent. We thought that's what Hitt is in the business of protecting.
Each of these three campaigns scapegoats the poorest, most disenfranchised people of northern New Mexico. Instead of taking on the corporate polluters, resource extractors, or the municipalities where they themselves live and work, FG directs its action at our rural communities. By their own admission, the group has never sued a corporation: "I have no illusions about fighting the corporate world. I'm not. I just want to see streams and watershed in the Southwest in better shape." (John Horning)
So who are these activists they claim are reactionary Wise Use advocates? They are, of course, the people of northern New Mexico who fight for land grant rights and traditional land-based activities such as logging, grazing, farming, and firewood gathering. According to FG, they represent some libertarian or Republican movement that advocates private property rights and unbridled exploitation of forest resources. They also claim they act as a smokescreen for corporate interests and promote violence and terrorism, directed at environmental groups. These are ridiculous accusations to level at people whose political histories define the concept of social and environmental justice. They are the people who were the founders of La Raza Unida Party in New Mexico, who fought for civil rights during the 60s, who called for nuclear disarmament, who demonstrated to end the war in Vietnam, who demanded equal rights for women, and who are now fighting for economic, ethnic, and gender freedom for norteños. They are the true progressives and radicals while FG are "fundamentalist environmentalists" - narrow-minded and absolute.
Finally, who does FG actually represent? They claim to hold a mandate from the majority of the American people, citing hollow plebiscites voted on by a tiny percentage of the population who are unaware of the on-the-ground conditions in our forests and the social circumstances in our forest adjacent communities. Former FG board of directors' president Charlotte Talberth recently wrote that "Local partnerships actually work against democracy by disenfranchising the majority of the population and empowering those with vested extractive commercial interests." In other words, people who have lived for generations in rural New Mexico, who have an intimate knowledge of its forests and whose culture, traditions, and economic future are dependent upon their stewardship, will, if given the opportunity, rape and pillage their resources for short term gain. Give us a break.
There's no question that the majority of the American people are concerned about protecting our forests. The majority of the people in northern New Mexico's rural communities are too. But while short-sighted environmentalists like FG are pointing their finger at small-time ranchers, loggers, and farmers, the real villains - corporate interests, developers, and municipalities - are licking their chops on the sidelines.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.