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 Divide and Conquer: A Historian's View By Malcolm Ebright
Santa Barbara Permittees Take Grazing into the 21st Century By Mark Schiller
Sangre de Cristo Growers Revitalize Wheat Crops in Costilla Area By Kay Matthews
By Kay Matthews
Lucas Culin and Gabe Aldaz, two teenagers from Vallecitos, spent several months this year producing overlay maps of the proposed Agua/Caballos timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. This project, coordinated by Forest Trust, provides information on existing old growth, roads, timber types, perennial and intermittent streams, Mexican spotted owl habitat, semi-primitive designations, and previous timber sales.
Community members who attended a field trip to the Agua/Caballos area on Friday, June 11, used these maps as a resource to get an overview of the sale and walk specific areas to take a look at on-the-ground conditions. Representatives from Madera Forest Products, La Companía Ocho, the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club, Forest Trust, the Audubon Society, the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, and several other individuals attended the tour to educate themselves and to demonstrate that they are interested in promoting a good sale prescription that provides for forest health and meets the economic and personal firewood needs of the surrounding local communities. The Forest Service was not invited to attend this tour, although the group is working with El Rito District Ranger Kurt Winchester, who has expressed his willingness and enthusiasm to meet and discuss the sale with the group.
The Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit (VSYU) 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 VSYU 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 VSYU - the Vallecitos Association, Madera Forest Products, and La Companía. In 1995 La Companía Ocho 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 VSYU (the remaining 20% will be offered competitively to other approved operators in the area).
The Agua/Caballos analysis covers a large area of forest - 23,767 acres - and the Forest Service preferred alternative proposes a substantial timber cut, including fuelwood, thinning, and sawtimber of 10.6 million board feet. But the sale will actually take place over a period of years in smaller sale units in a 6,400-acre area. Both the Forest Service and many of those who participated in the June tour believe that the proposed harvest is sustainable and necessary to treat the overstocked and unhealthy conditions of much of the sale area. The net growth rate in the sale area is estimated to be 7.3 million board feet with a biological potential of 9.9 million board feet; the Vallecitos Association has recommended an annual harvest of 3.5 to 5 million board feet in the VSYU. In reality, La Companía, which still has 1.5 million board feet of timber to harvest in La Manga timber sale, also in the VSYU, will probably harvest less than a million board feet per year over a number of years in Agua/Caballos. The Forest Service, however, is anxious to release the sale after 5 years of planning, to provide for community fuelwood.
Several concerns were raised by those on the tour, which will be presented to the Forest Service when a meeting with Kurt Winchester is scheduled. Forest Trust has already submitted comments on the Agua/Caballos Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) concerning areas of potential harvest stands with poor soils, and will follow up to see if these areas are omitted from the sale (the Forest Service has already modified the DEIS in response to public comment, but that information is not yet available). They will also review plans for several riparian area roads to insure minimal impact; while the preferred alternative calls for the highest number of miles of construction and reconstruction of roads in the sale area, 59 miles of roads will ultimately be closed, including those existing roads which now impact riparian areas. The group will also raise the issue of how to provide input into individual stand prescriptions, and whether more of this information can be included in the plan before the individual sales are determined.
La Companía Ocho and Madera Forest Products, which is a non-profit community group producing firewood and value-added timber products in the VSYU (see May issue of La Jicarita) could potentially join forces (they are comprised of many of the same people) to keep 50 community people working in the VSYU. They need adequate equipment, however, including a larger capacity saw (the Vallecitos sawmill, formerly owned by Duke City Lumber, was donated to another community group, Las Comunidades, but must be refurbished before it can be used) and a kiln drier, as well as an administrative staff that could handle marketing, planning, and Forest Service liaison. Hopefully, this will be the next step in a progression of positive things that have happened in the past few years in the VSYU: community groups organizing and fighting for self-determination and economic parity; Duke City finally releasing its stranglehold and resigning as the approved operator; and the Forest Service changing its policies with regard to both meeting national guidelines for forest health and endangered species requirements as well as the needs of the local communities. Those who participated in the tour want to support these efforts and ensure that this sale will continue to protect and promote these past achievements of forest and community sustainability.
Planning for the second annual High Road to Taos Fiesta & Art Tour is already well under way. The tour is scheduled for September 25 and 26, with planned sites in Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Chamisal, Peñasco, and Vadito. More artists will be included this year, and additional venues will provide food and music. Organizers Tito Naranjo and Jane Cook are asking for community input and suggestions as well as shop and studio sign-ups: there will be a $60 fee for shops, families, and individual artists (additional artists at site will cost $25). Many applications have already been mailed, but if you need a copy or have any suggestions, you can reach Tito at 800-458-7323 and Jane at 505-820-6529.
The Conservation Fund is sponsoring a tour on Saturday, July 10 of the Valle Grande Grass Bank on Rowe Mesa. This is where the Santa Barbara Grazing Association cattle were located in May as part of the restoration project of the Santa Barbara Allotment (see page 4 of this issue). The grass bank was set up to assist family ranchers in northern New Mexico whose home allotments need restoration work. The grass bank is a partnership of The Conservation Fund, the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association, the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, and the Forest Service. Participants should meet at the Pecos Ranger station (located on NM 63 in the town of Pecos) at 9 am and will caravan to the grass bank. Bring lunch, a hat, and water. The tour is due to end at 3:00 pm.
Picuris Pueblo recently sued the New Mexico State Mining and Minerals Division and Franklin Minerals to stop the expansion of Franklin's mica mine on Picuris Peak, above the village of Vadito. The proposed expansion would increase the size of the mine pit from 5.7 acres to 63 acres, and create a 20-acre waste pile.
The Pueblo claims that state mining division approval of Franklin Minerals' proposal was an illegal tactic by state regulators to allow the mining company to avoid more stringent regulations. The area set aside for waste piles is inadequate to accommodate the waste that will be created from the expanded mine pit. In its original mining expansion proposal Franklin Minerals stated it would be necessary to expand the waste pits to surrounding Carson National Forest land, which would entail submitting an Environmental Impact Statement, a lengthy and expensive document. The company later withdrew that request and submitted its expansion plan only to the state mining division.
The area affected by the mica mine is considered part of Picuris Pueblo's aboriginal lands, and is the site of the micaceous clay they use to make their pottery. Some of their clay pits have already been destroyed by the mine; at a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Picuris Governor Red Eagle Rael stated that he would like to see the lands owned by the mine returned to the Pueblo. The Pueblo also sees its lawsuit as a move against the 1872 Mining Act, which allows mining companies to acquire patents and ownership of public lands.
By Malcolm Ebright
During 1998 two anniversaries were marked by conferences, discussions, and some direct action. The anniversaries were the 1598 arrival of Juan de Oñate to establish the first permanent settlement of Spaniards in an area already populated by 70 Native American Pueblos, and the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between Mexico and the invading United States. The debate and discussion during the conferences and outside the meeting halls caused some soul-searching and healing of old wounds. While there were disagreements, almost everyone agreed that these two colonizing events have repercussions still felt today. They also contain lessons that need to be studied and understood if we are to make the most of the healing process that is now taking place. The most important lesson is that in both conquests the small numbers of conquerors could only be successful if the principle of divide and conquer was utilized.
A divide and conquer strategy makes use of the splits in the opposition to splinter and weaken it. The best response to divide and conquer is to heal these divisions and then to unite and resist. But how does one go about doing this? One approach is to examine instances of cooperation between the Pueblos and the Spanish throughout New Mexico's history to see how they have achieved success.
After the Pueblo Revolt against Spanish rule in 1680 (which was itself the result of close cooperation and effective communication among the Pueblos), an era of accommodation between Pueblos and Spaniards began. Gradually during the 18th century, Pueblo rights to land, water, and religious freedom were increased. Many Pueblos became adept at using the Spanish legal system in New Mexico to gain recognition of these basic rights. The Pueblos were aided by a Spanish official called a Protector de Indios who represented them in numerous successful lawsuits during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Pueblos and Hispanos united in the Revolt of 1837 and the Taos Revolt of 1847, both of which, though ultimately unsuccessful, showed the power inherent in unity. Part of the groundwork for these rebellions was laid by the famous priest of Taos, Antonio José Martinez, though he was not directly involved in either revolt. Padre Martinez was able to unite the Indians of Taos Pueblo with the local Hispanos to pressure officials not to confer large land grants, like the Maxwell grant, to elites who closed off common lands used by both Pueblos and Hispanos. Taos had been a hotbed of revolt even before Padre Martinez arrived in 1826. A tax revolt in 1816 sparked such unity within a group of Pueblos and Hispanos that the governor was forced to replace an unpopular alcalde. The protest began when the alcalde read a proclamation concerning a 5% property tax to a group of almost 60 citizens at San Geronimo de Taos. Confronted by a group who disagreed with the tax, the alcalde arrested three of the loudest protesters. But the crowd did not disperse, demanding instead that they all be arrested. The alcalde complied, but as soon as he jailed this group, more Taos citizens appeared and demanded to be arrested. By the time the governor's representative arrived to calm the situation, 280 persons had been detained, enough to force some changes.
Such unity against a perceived injustice was part of a Spanish tradition of justice that can be traced back to medieval Spain. Whereas in Taos an alcalde was replaced and a tax policy moderated, in Fuente Ovejuna, Spain, a despotic ruler was killed and the murder was determined by Spanish authorities to be justified. The citizens of Fuente Ovejuna were able to document the crimes of the tyrant and they all accepted responsibility for the murder. Their unity was so stirring that the playwright Lope de Vega immortalized the events in his play Fuente Ovejuna. In the play, as in life, the crucial point in the investigation occurs when the townspeople are asked by the investigators to identity the person who killed the tyrannical leader. Every citizen gave the same answer: "Fuente Ovejuna." Because of their unity and the crimes of the tyrant, the village was exonerated.
There have also been some recent success stories resulting from Pueblo/Hispano cooperation. They include the superb effort that stopped Summo Minerals' proposed copper mine near Picuris Pueblo, and the stunning victory by Sandia Pueblo in which a federal judge ruled that the Pueblo and not the Forest Service owned Sandia Peak. In the first case a unified coalition was able to halt a development that would have had a highly negative impact on both Pueblo and Hispano communities. In the second case a Pueblo that in 1748 received a land grant similar to a Spanish grant obtained a ruling returning land to the Pueblo. Most readers of La Jicarita are familiar with the coalition that stopped the Summo mine, but many may not know all the details of the Sandia case.
The Sandia grant was made to a group of Indians who were being resettled from Hopi lands and who probably included many of the original residents of Sandia. Sandia Pueblo was abandoned after the Pueblo Revolt, so this was a new grant to 70 Pueblo Indian families. Like a Spanish community land grant, agricultural lands were measured, grant boundaries were determined, and the Indians were put in possession of their new lands by the alcalde performing the time-honored rituals signifying ownership of the lands by the Indians. The key boundaries were the Rio Grande on the west and the Sierra Madre called Sandia on the east.
A boundary of a mountain almost always meant the crest of the mountain, but when the surveyor general of New Mexico surveyed the Sandia grant the eastern boundary was placed at the base of Sandia Mountain. This meant that Sandia Peak became government land managed by the Forest Service, which eventually conveyed several tracts into private hands for upscale land developments. Among the property owners within these developments were Governor Gary Johnson and at least one prominent Albuquerque attorney. While the Forest Service gave members of the Pueblo access to the mountain for religious ceremonies at their sacred sites, and allowed them to gather medicinal and ceremonial herbs, it was also operating the Tramway and ski resort that brought in millions of dollars a year.
In the late 1970s the Forest Service and visitors to the mountain began to intrude on the Pueblo's sacred sites. Because of the Forest Service's failure to protect these sites, Sandia Pueblo filed a claim with the Department of the Interior. They requested a resurvey of their eastern boundary to the summit of Sandia Peak. The similarities between the Sandia claim and other land grant struggles, for example the Truchas Land Grant's Borrego Mesa claim, are striking. Even the arguments supporting the Sandia claim are land grant arguments. The Elena Gallegos Grant to the south of Sandia also had the Sandia Mountains as a boundary. It was surveyed to the summit, the point everyone in 1748 understood was meant when a mountain was called for as a boundary. This was substantiated by grant documents which included grazing and wood gathering rights, which could only be provided on the mountain.
These and other arguments were made to the U.S. Interior Department in 1983 when the claim was filed. The arguments were convincing, and a draft opinion was issued upholding Sandia's claim. Before finalizing its decision, the draft opinion was sent to the Forest Service for comment, with the request that it be kept confidential. Instead, the Albuquerque office of the Forest Service released the draft opinion to the press, claiming that the Pueblo intended to eject private land owners. This misinformation from the Forest Service generated so much political pressure on the Secretary of the Interior that he reversed his position and rejected Sandia's claim, forcing the Pueblo to file suit in Federal Court seeking a resurvey of its eastern boundary to the crest of Sandia Mountain.
When Judge Harold Greene ruled in favor of Sandia's claim last year, he criticized the government's handling of the claim. Undaunted, Regional Forester Ellie Towns wrote an op-ed piece in the Albuquerque Journal containing misstatements of historical fact and stating that she would recommend an appeal. In the meantime, she said, the Forest Service would continue its current management of the mountain.
To veterans of recent battles with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in northern New Mexico, this story will have a familiar ring. At times these agencies seem to be open to cooperative land management programs dealing with grazing and timber, but at other crucial times they refuse to cooperate with Pueblo and Hispano communities. The Truchas Land Grant has also claimed a surveying error similar to that of Sandia, yet the Forest Service has resisted setting up a joint administration in the area claimed by the grant. Perhaps more positive outcomes will be reached when the Forest Service, like Summo Minerals, is faced with a coalition of united communities.
1998 was a year of anniversaries, the year of the severing of Oñate's foot, the year of the Sandia decision, and the year of the Picuris/Rio Pueblo communities' victory over the Summo mine. Debate was heated in 1998, and if you listened carefully you could hear expressions of pain, even tears, often leading to apologies. Acoma Pueblo took responsibility for Oñate's foot as a Pueblo. The results have been mostly positive, with honest dialogue leading to healing. The Pueblos and land grant communities are becoming more united as they realize their common interests: to preserve the land, water, and air upon which their way of life depends. It is a communal way of life with spiritual values, and its existence is threatened. This is what is common to the Pueblos and Hispano communities. If the unity expressed at Fuente Ovejuna, by Acoma, by the Taos tax protesters, and by the Picuris coalition can be sustained, divide and conquer will be replaced by unite and resist. When the divisions among us and between us begin to be healed, then we may hear new watchwords: survive and prevail.
Malcolm Ebright is the author of Land Grants and Lawsuits in Northern New Mexico and president of the Center for Land Grant Studies. For a catalog from the Center call 505 387-2738 or write the Center at Box 342, Guadalupita, NM 87722.
By Mark Schiller
On Saturday, May 15, 202 cows, bulls, and calves from the Santa Barbara Grazing Allotment began a trip into the future, a future that permittees, land and resource management agencies, and community and environmental groups hope will conclusively demonstrate that economically viable ranching and environmentally healthy rangelands, forests, and watersheds are compatible.
Permittees from the Santa Barbara Grazing Association, in collaboration with the Forest Service, the New Mexico Environment Department, the Quivira Coalition, The Conservation Fund, and the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, are initiating an innovative three-year program to rehabilitate their allotment and scientifically monitor the results. If successful, this program will serve as a model for allotments throughout northern New Mexico.
The proposal entails five main projects: 1) remove all cattle for a period of two to three years (cattle will be grazed on the Valle Grande Grass Bank from May until October); 2) thin approximately 5,000 acres of overly dense trees within the allotment to reduce canopy density, stimulate growth of leave trees, and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire; 3) prescribe burn thinned areas to improve understory forage production, quality and quantify of water within the watershed, and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire; 4) develop upland water resources and fence riparian areas to reduce the impact of livestock on riparian areas and prevent conflicts between recreationalists and livestock; and 5) establish 20 permanent monitoring plots to track tree growth, canopy density, watershed stability, and forage response.
Smaller projects within this master plan include restoring an historic wetland on Bear Mountain by relocating a road which is currently draining it; restoring aspen stands which are being crowded out by conifers; thinning areas adjacent to established meadows to reduce encroachment; relocating sections of the Santa Barbara Trail that are causing stream sedimentation; repairing and maintaining Forest Road 1877 to reduce erosion; and obliterating and reseeding all unnecessary spur roads. Additionally, this project will provide green firewood sales for local residents and employment for thinning crews.
Ben Kuykendall of the Camino Real Ranger District, who is coordinating the project, told La Jicarita that this is one of the largest rehabilitation projects with a monitoring component attempted on a public lands grazing allotment in the Southwest. La Jicarita will monitor the progress of all of the projects in this proposal by doing periodic updates and soliciting commentary from the participants in our Puntos de Vista column.
By Kay Matthews
Only adobe ruins and stone fireplaces mark the three plazas that once were the life blood of the thriving Costilla village. Many of the fields that were once full of wheat and barley (nearby Top of the World Farm was called "the Breadbasket of the World") now lie fallow, and the railroad that supported a thriving population larger than that of Taos is a thing of the past.
But if the Sangre de Cristo Growers have it their way, the fertile fields of this high mountain valley at the New Mexico-Colorado border will again be filled with organic wheat that they currently mill in Colorado and sell to Willem Malten of Cloud Cliff Bakery in Santa Fe. Last year they produced 144,000 pounds of Westbred 926 wheat, and this year they've already planted 150 acres. Several crops that were planted in March will be ready to harvest in late August; those planted in May will be harvested in October. The ultimate goal of the Sangre de Cristo Growers, an association of eight farmers, is to not only grow the wheat in Costilla but mill it there, distribute it from there in different quantities of sack flour, and to even bake it there into their own specialty breads.
So far, they've had to rely on mills in Belen and Colorado. But with help from the McCune Foundation, the New Mexico Community Foundation, and others, they're on their way towards meeting these goals. They have a truck, tractor, and combine for harvesting; a friend donates the use of a storage silo that dates back to the area's former wheat-growing days; they recently acquired a Quonset hut that can house a mill; and they've purchased a screen cleaner (for cleaning the wheat before it is milled), auger, and conveyor table. They're currently looking for a mill. They are also negotiating with the nearby Garcia Morada to acquire a 14-acre piece of land for the Quonset hut, set up a storage center, establish test plots, and build more greenhouses.
The greenhouse they already operate is just a few yards away from the 14-acre plot. Here, Wanda Córdova supervises the youth who belong to the Young Farmers' Project, which was set up by the Growers to provide summer jobs and encourage local kids to learn more about farming. Each member of the Growers hired one family member to participate in the Project; they work 25 hours a week for minimum wage, attend an educational session on Fridays, participate in a recreational program at the school gym, and will be hired again in the fall to help with harvest.
At the greenhouse they have produced an abundance of bedding plants: domestic and wild flowers; vegetables such as squash, tomotoes, melons, chile, and cabbage; and an assortment of herbs. Outside the greenhouse they're preparing garden beds, and just down the road from the greenhouse they're growing chile, corn, beans, tomatoes, and squash. They sell the bedding plants in front of the town's service station on weekends, to the Taos Community Garden, to Ski Rio, and to whoever shows up (the Priest from San Luis stopped by the day La Jicarita was there).
The wheat fields themselves are spread out among the three villages that span the border of New Mexico and Colorado: Costilla, Garcia, and Jaroso. David Córdova, Wanda's husband, has fields in Garcia planted in wheat, alfalfa, and barley. Apparently the area used to produce a substantial amount of barley for Coors Brewery in Colorado. The Growers are interested in the niche market currently being created by all the new microbreweries, but hulling the barley is an expensive operation. Other Growers like Lonnie Roybal rent fields in Costilla: Roybal was unable to plant his fields until May, when the acequia waters he needs to irrigate are released. With the advise of Nathan Boone, who volunteers with the group as an agricultural consultant, Roybal also planted a "medic" crop of sweet clover with his wheat that can be plowed back into the land as fertilizer. The bran left over from the milling of the wheat can also be used as fertilizer, although at this point it is cost prohibitive to truck it back from the Colorado mill.
With the help of Juan Montes, a longtime Questa community organizer, Sangre de Cristo is reorganizing into both for-profit and non-profit organizations to address different needs. The day La Jicarita visited Costilla, a group of other farmers and acequia people were visiting as well, and when we met with the kids in the Young Farmers' Project, Montes had this to say to them: "The way plants grow is the way people grow, communities grow, organizations grow, from the bottom up and from the inside out." Sangre de Cristo Growers exemplifies this sentiment: local people taking control of their own destiny at the most fundamental grassroots level.
Two of the three Rio Arriba County Commissioners - Moises Morales and Alfredo Montoya - took a courageous stand at a packed county commission meeting on June 16 by declaring a 9-month moratorium on the subdivision of agricultural land. The moratorium enforces the Agricultural and Protection and Enhancement Ordinance while county planners prepare amendments to land use and subdivision regulations to protect all county lands that have water rights attached to them. The ordinance calls for no more than one dwelling unit per 10 acres of land.
Members of the planning department asked for this time to identify existing agricultural lands, hold public hearings, and develop comprehensive planning to address increased growth and development that is threatening these lands. Supporters of the moratorium were eloquent in their endorsement of the proposal. Many spoke of how important our farming heritage is to la vida y cultura of northern New Mexico. Others pointed out how we must save valley lands to insure a clean and plentiful water supply. Acequias representatives, who have worked for years to protect our water rights and the lands they irrigate, expressed their support: Wilfred Gu1tierrez suggested that we need a statewide moratorium on development until we actually know how much water we have to accommodate growth; and Aubrey Owen suggested that perhaps the county could offer incentives to keep lands in agricultural production.
Opponents of the ordinance were quiet until Richard Cook, an Española businessman who is proposing to develop 44 acres of agricultural land, made the claim that any county ordinance that restricts the use of private property is a denial of individual rights. That was to be expected. But he, and many others speakers who followed him, took the private property issue one step further and declared that citizens should also view their water rights as private property rights that are worth a lot of money on the open market. Trucker Bobby Garcia went so far as to say that farmers can't make money off their land anymore, young people don't want to work hard anymore, and that we all should just go to the store and buy food that is imported from all over the world.
It's a sad day when born and bred Rio Arribans speak in the same voice as the dominant society that is so anxious to commodify our water rights and sell them to the highest bidder. But we can thank the voices of Commissioners Morales and Montoya, who know the true value of our water: the life blood that maintains our way of life.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.