A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Puntos de Vista: New Mexico-In What Direction? By Miguel Angel, native of Las Vegas, NM, retired professor of Chicano Studies
Editor's Note: As part of our ongoing series of articles regarding the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project (CFRP), this month we take an in-depth look at El Greco, a community forestry organization based in Truchas that received a CFRP grant in 2003.
El Greco, located in Truchas, was founded in 1976 by Max Córdova (also the founder of the non-profit La Montaña de Truchas Woodlot) who has long been a major player in community forestry in northern New Mexico. Córdova has been at the forefront of the struggle by local communities to gain access to forest products and to reform Forest Service policy that for many years favored large-scale, corporate dominance of the timber industry. He also was instrumental in the founding of the Collaborative Stewardship Program on the Camino Real Ranger District, which brought together the Forest Service, forest-dependent communities, and environmental groups such as the Quivira Coalition, the Northern Group of the Sierra Club, and the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition to work on forest and watershed restoration projects.
El Greco's 2003 CFRP grant proposal El Greco addressed the problems of a hundred years of Forest Service policy that allowed clearcutting, overgrazing, and fire suppression to create overstocked forests of small-diameter, mono-aged trees susceptible to catastrophic fire. The proposal also discussed how forest dependent communities have been devastated by unemployment rates of 30%, high school drop out rates of 60%, and the attendant problems of drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. These social problems have been exacerbated by community members being denied access to areas where they traditionally utilized forest resources.
Borrego Mesa thinned area
El Greco's project goals include restoring the health of the forest, providing opportunities for community members to develop wood processing and forestry skills to create community-based businesses, and helping community members develop skills to manage, restore and monitor forest conditions on a longtime basis. Specifically, El Greco proposed to continue thinning and restoration work on contract stewardship areas in the Carson and Santa Fe forests; establish a monitoring program with the Truchas Montaña Youth Team; create carved vigas and work with a marketer to expand marketing strategies for high value products; conduct training programs in restoration, monitoring, and business skills; and set up biomass waste recycling projects including earthworm and mushroom growing, and wood treatment in cooperation with ZERI/New Mexico.
Unfortunately, the project has been beset with delays caused by the Forest Service and environmental groups. The first goal of the grant was to thin the Borrego Salvage Project in the Santa Fe National Forest. While the Truchas Montaña Youth Team completed the GPS survey of the area and set up the photo points, thinning work didn't begin until late summer of 2004. An appeal by Forest Guardians, Forest Conservation Council, Wild Watershed, and Santa Fe Forest Watch initially delayed work. Although the appeal was denied, the Forest Service waited to see if the environmental groups would then file a lawsuit and failed to obtain some necessary clearances. Then last summer's forest closure due to fire danger further delayed entry. To date, El Greco has thinned 39 acres of the Borrego sale, while InterMountain Resources of Montrose and a few local contractors have thinned approximately 80-100 acres of the 1,300 "workable acres" (many more acres burned but are inaccessible). Because of the delays and rapid deterioration of the trees, Córdova believes that not much marketable timber is left: much of it measures only 56% density.
Another obstacle has been the the position of the Forest Service that because El Greco's grant is administered by the Santa Fe National Forest only areas in that forest will be made available. However, El Greco based its proposal on doing work in both forests (Truchas sits on the edge of each forest). Once the work on Borrego is completed there is no guarantee that other thinning projects on the Santa Fe will be available.
In this first phase of the 3-year CFRP granting process El Greco has been cutting the timber for vigas, posts, and firewood and has contracted with Bill Moore, another northern New Mexico forester, to haul the sawtimber (Moore is selling the wood in Albuquerque for flooring and paneling). El Greco has ordered a Timberking B-20 bandsaw to mill 4 x 4s and 8 x 8s for landscaping. The company also plans to rope and carve vigas and corbels. Two professional fellers were hired at $15 per hour and six loggers are working in the thinning area to de-limb the trees at $10-12 per hour. Much of the slash will be left on the ground and pulled for erosion control. To date, Moore has taken approximately 85,000 board feet from the unit and El Greco has taken 37 cords of firewood. The company has also donated about 25 truckloads of slash to community people for firewood.
In the next phase of the project El Greco will set up the biomass waste recycling project in cooperation with ZERI/New Mexico. Wood chips from the forest slash will be used as a growing medium for domestic, exotic, and medicinal mushrooms. Earthworms for fishing and gardening will also be grown. Slash will be used to bake charcoal, venting the smoke to create a preservative solution for treating lumber, an alternative to chemical treatments, for landscaping and other markets. The company will also explore a heat furnace prototype using slash or dirty chips.
Córdova expressed concern that the Forest Service needs to make sure that the Borrego site is restored to healthy conditions. He believes many acres need to be replanted and that the Forest Service will need to reintroduce fire in other areas to reduce the amount of scrub oak. The largest benefit will be for wildlife and domestic grazing, as grasses regenerate in the burned areas.
La Jicarita News will continue to follow the progress of the El Greco Collaborative Forest Restoration Project and will take a look at the ZERI/New Mexico project as well.
Saturday, January 22, 1:00-4:30
Juan I. Gonzales Agricultural Center
202 Chamisa Road (just north of the Sagebrush Inn) Taos, New Mexico
Increasing land values place a burden on landowners hoping to pass on land to their children. Planning ahead can minimize inheritance taxes and help keep your landholdings open and intact from one generation to the next, ensuring the long-term health and productivity of your farm or ranch or wildlife habitat.
Learn how inheritance taxes can affect your land estate and how conservation easements and other mechanisms can help reduce or eliminate that tax liability for your heirs. Planning ahead benefits the land, your family, your community, and your wallet.
Presentations, questions and answers, and open discussion with:
Ernie Atencio, Taos Land Trust
Rick De Stefano, De Stefano & Paternoster, P.C.
Gigi Darricades, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust & Darricades & Associates, LLC
Fred Winter, Winter Accountancy & Heritage Trust Company of New Mexico
Special screening of Nuestras Acequias at 12:30
For more information contact Taos Land Trust at (505) 751-3138 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.taoslandtrust.org.
The folks from Think New Mexico, the think tank organization that was largely responsible for the repeal of the food tax, want to remind norteños that Farmers's Markets will be excempt from the tax along with retail stores. Farmers selling their products at the markets will no longer need to collect, record, or submit gross receipts taxes on their food sales. According to a recent Think New Mexico press release, the food tax was enacted in 1933 as part of a "temporary" and "emergency" measure to compensate for a severe shortfall in government revenues from property taxes during the Great Depression. Since 1933 New Mexico's food tax has risen from its original rate of 2.5% to as high as 7.25% in Red River and Taos Ski Valley. With the repeal of the tax New Mexicans will save about $6.50 on every $100 of groceries they buy, reuslting in an annual savings of nearly $250 for the average working family of four. For more information you can access Think New Mexico at www.thinknewmexico.org or at 992-1315.
The 2005 winter semester at EcoVersity in Santa Fe will begin in February with two certificate programs in Earth-based Vocations and Permaculture Design. Info at 505-424-9797, www.ecoversity.org, 2639 Agua Fria Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505.
The Village of Taos Ski Valley has quietly been working to implement a plan that could dramatically impact the Taos area and other parts of northern New Mexico. While on the surface the plan looks like a project to upgrade the efficiency of the community's aging wastewater treatment facility, it will actually facilitate the proposed development of hundreds of new condos and hotel rooms, more than 150 new residential lots and dwellings, 32 commercial lots, 2 restaurants, an athletic center, and increased retail space associated with existing businesses. All of this development could result in an increase of 2,335 residents and visitors per day by the year 2009. Furthermore, the Village seems to have assumed that the plan would pass through the regulatory process uncontested because, according to Village Administrator Rob Straebel, the Village's planning and zoning committee has already approved a portion of this development, which could push the current waste treatment facility beyond its capacity by the 2005-2006 ski season.
The Forest Service and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) are the two regulatory agencies charged with evaluating the potential impacts of the wastewater treatment facility upgrade and expansion. Forest Service Questa District Ranger Ron Thibedeau has chosen to turn a blind eye to many of the potential impacts of this project by looking only at the impacts to the four acres of Forest Service land on which the waste treatment plant is located, rather than the cumulative impacts, and then categorically excluding it from public appeal claiming ". . . there are no extraordinary circumstances related to the decision that may result in a significant individual or cumulative effect." The NMED, however, was mandated to undertake a thorough Environmental Assessment of the proposed upgrade and expansion of the waste treatment facility (which does include the right of public appeal) because the Village of Taos Ski Valley applied for a $2,000,000 federally funded loan from the "Clean Water State Revolving Fund," which NMED administers, to implement the project According to the NMED's Environmental Assessment, "Near and long-term development is expected to add an additional 55,700 and 68,450 gallons per day (gpd) to the wastewater treatment plant, respectively. As a result, peak daily flows are projected to increase from the existing peak of 100,000 gpd to exceed 200,000 gpd by the year 2020." The analysis then inexplicably fails to account for many of the potential impacts this enormous expansion of the waste treatment facility will have on our social and environmental resources. On page 13 the analysis boldly states: "The proposed project will not individually nor cumulatively over time have a negative impact on the quality of the human or natural environment." By failing to fully evaluate the cumulative impacts this growth will have on the area, the analysis provides no factual basis upon which to base such a claim.
I, for one, find it hard to believe that the NMED really thinks that an increase of this magnitude will not have a significant effect upon social and environmental resources throughout the area. Surely it is obvious that the development tied to the expansion of the waste treatment facility will also lead to expanded uses of the ground and surface water, as well as the surrounding forest and roads. These direct impacts will, in turn, have a spill-over effect on the communities downstream from the Village of Taos Ski Valley (Valdez, El Salto, Arroyo Seco, Arroyo Hondo, etc.). The traditional lifestyle and values of these communities are extremely vulnerable to the potential effects of an expansion of this magnitude. For example, upstream development in the Village of Taos Ski Valley will, as it has in the past, lead to increased pressure on downstream communities to sell their agricultural water rights to facilitate the development. This, in turn, will lead to a loss of agricultural land, impacting the ability of acequias to maintain the manpower, financial resources, and hydrological flow to function adequately. New upscale development will also lead to an increase in land prices resulting in, what could be for many area residents, a prohibitive increase in property taxes. While the Environmental Analysis unaccountably states "There will be no adverse impacts that are considered disproportionate to any particular population(s) based on ethnicity or income," the cumulative effect of these impacts will unquestionably affect minority (Native American and Indo-Hispano) and low income inhabitants of downstream communities more than they will the upwardly mobile Anglo residents and second homers.
The NMED was also mandated to analyze the potential impacts that increased discharge could have on the surface water quality of the Rio Hondo. Its analysis, however, essentially dismisses the entire issue by claiming the water quality issue will be addressed when the NMED issues a new discharge permit for the upgraded facility in 2005. The analysis states: "A new [discharge] permit will be required for the projected increased discharge volume. Compliance with current and future NPDES permit requirements will prevent adverse impacts to surface water quality." There is no further discussion or factual basis offered in the analysis to justify this claim. In fact, the current NPDES discharge permit has not prevented the discharge from the waste treatment facility from exceeding safe or even permitted levels on at least several occasions in the past. It seems obvious that a thorough study of the potential effects on the stream's ability to assimilate the increase in pollutants, with particular regard to decreased flow levels caused by the ongoing drought, is necessary before a "finding of no significant impact" is issued. The analysis is clearly "putting the cart before the horse" by issuing such a claim. The Environmental Assessment also neglects to consider or create an emergency plan should the waste treatment facility break down.
Unfortunately, the litany of the assessment's inadequacies does not end there. The analysis completely fails to evaluate the potential impacts to groundwater quantity and the effect increased groundwater pumping could have on downstream surface water. The one paragraph devoted to groundwater in the analysis deals only with the potential impact of the waste treatment plant on the groundwater. Nowhere is there any mention of the effect the increased pumping of existing wells and new wells associated with the development is going to have on the groundwater table. Nor does the analysis at any time address the connection between the ground and surface water and the fact that increased groundwater pumping could consultation with the state or county highway departments. What's going to be the effect of 2,335 people per day on the roads to the ski valley and the communities through which they pass? The analysis also fails to consider that an increase in development of this magnitude could very well trigger proposals to expand the ski area and the Taos airport, with all their attendant impacts.
Finally, I think the analysis needs to consider the overarching issue of economic growth versus economic development. In an article in the January 1998 issue of La Jicarita News, Maria Varela, a community organizer, professor at Colorado College and MacArthur fellowship winner stated: "Growth increases the amount of money running through a community's economy but may not increase that economy's capacity to steer its own direction. Growth is characterized by dependence on outside capital, technologies and management talent. Economic development, conversely, increases the capacities of the people in the community to attract and pool capital and acquire technologies and management skills. Most of the wealth stays in the community. An example of economic growth is the economy of Taos County, New Mexico, which has become extremely dependent on resort or destination tourism. In the 1950s local people were told that expanding resort and recreational tourism would increase jobs and incomes. Since the 1960s Taos County's gross revenues have risen commensurately with the popularity of alpine skiing and other recreational activities, more than doubling between 1980 and 1990 from $80 million to $172 million. But the poverty rate of the county remained unchanged. Destination tourism offers primarily minimum wage jobs. The jobs lowest in wages and opportunities usually go to those who do not share the same class, ethnicity or educational background as the visitor. According to the 1990 census 67 percent of the families in Taos County, where a little more than 70 percent of the population is Hispano and Native American, make less than $25,000."
In other words, Taos County has become a playground for the rich at the expense of the poor. The economic growth implicit in this project will simply reinforce this vicious cycle of exploitation and disenfranchisement rather than help break it.
Having said all that, I want to make it clear than I am not opposed to the Village of Taos Ski Valley upgrading its waste treatment facility to make it more efficient. My concern is increasing its capacity to facilitate growth. Regulatory agencies, municipal planners and developers need to acknowledge that every watershed has a carrying capacity, both environmental and social. The carrying capacity of the Rio Hondo Watershed, in my opinion, has already been exceeded.
By Miguel Angel, native of Las Vegas, NM, retired professor of Chicano Studies
In August 1846, General Stephen Watts Kearney told a crowd at the Las Vegas New Mexico Plaza that New Mexico no longer belonged to them and if they resisted the occupation by invading U.S. troops, they would be "hanged". The complete proclamation is on a bronze plaque at that very spot commemorating that ignoble event.
La Raza has never recovered from the invasion and subsequent theft of individual properties and land grants that were the backbone of the Mexican-Hispanic culture. Both state and federal governments conspired with railroads, mining and timber groups, and ambitious Anglo merchants and ranchers to conduct one of the greatest robberies of land in modern history.
Land was the source of economic power and social stability and when Mexicanos were divested of their land they were cast into permanent second-class status and victimized by racism, which still rages unabated today.
It is important for Chicanos to understand that racism exists because it is extremely profitable. The true essence of racism is economics. The fact that Indians and Mexicanos occupy the lowest rungs on the economic ladder is no accident. Wage differentials, educational and health deficiencies, and environmental malpractices are there because they make corporations richer: they promote corporate statism where pollution abounds; they divide "Hispanics" from our Mexican neighbors so that we blame them for our poverty and social problems; they create the brain drain and the breakup of families when members seek employment elsewhere; and they fuel the economic draft of young Chicano men and women into the armed forces to become canon fodder for corporate wars that benefit us not one iota.
Wage differentials, health and education deficiencies, and an aggressive assault on the environment is the corporate strategy for perpetuating unemployment and social problems such as crime, child poverty, and the breakup of stable, land-based communities. Our government promotes the idea that our Mexican neighbors are our adversaries simply because they need to work and make a living, just like every Chicano.
Our continuous underdeveloped status is the fundamental reason why we lose our youth, especially if they are well educated. Salaries and opportunities commensurate with education are vastly undervalued in this state, thereby contributing to the brain drain.
The most tragic outcome resulting from our economic condition is the economic draft. By pressuring ambitious, energetic youth to accept the idea that one of the few avenues to upward mobility is the armed forces, the U.S. government is attempting to convey the idea that it is all right for working class Chicanos to go to Iraq (VietNam) and kill Iraqi workers so the ruling class can conduct its business.
Francisco Apodaca, an activist from the Raza Environmental Caucus, has clearly outlined the destructive results produced by corporate mining, weapons development, and military bases in New Mexico. These so-called economic development activities represent the antithesis of land-based grassroots efforts that should be the directed approach for the restoration of a truly viable economy.
Economic development cannot be achieved by building more prisons, constructing hazardous waste dumps, or by building even more weapons facilities. These are dead-end ventures that only give the illusion of development.
You can't eat plutonium waste.
You can't plow a field with a tank.
Security Guards don't produce anything-except more recidivism.
Two New Mexico Communities, Las Vegas and Santa Fe, have taken the first halting steps to pursue some grassroots alternatives that look beyond the confines of the socio-economic box that has dominated the state's development. The affiliation of these two communities with the U.S./Cuba Sister City Association has opened a window of opportunity for economic and community development. La Raza, native people, and their supporters must construct a new survival mazeway. Through their contacts with the various parts of Cuban society they have found that by using creative strategies Cuba has overcome many similar problems that exist here in Northern New Mexico. The Cuban people have mastered the use of human capital. Cuba continues to forge ahead, establishing the best primary health care system in the world, free universal education and housing, and many cultural and sports achievements.
In the year 2000 Cuba offered 500 fully-funded medical scholarships to socially and economically disadvantaged youth in the United States. Currently there are 88 U.S. students at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Havana. Three are from New Mexico and they have committed to returning to practice in medically underserved communities.
Another project undertaken by New Mexico Highlands University students, in conjunction with sister cities, is exploring the possibility of trade with Cuba. New Mexico could provide organic ranch and farmproducts that would invigorate organic agriculture in the state. This has given impetus to revisiting the importance of water use. If acequias and water storage were organized into unified socio-economic units, they could be used to create and support a viable organic farming/ranching industry that could supply good, clean food to many parts of the globe. Hundreds of organic bakeries are seeking organic wheat to expand their sales. New Mexico, once known for its organic farming and ranching, could once again revitalize a healthy and productive economic environment. These are but two of many people-to-people exchanges that could contribute to the economic development in New Mexico.
New Mexico Highlands University is considering academic ties with Cuba in Spanish language, social work, and biomedical programs. This relationship with Cuba could add far-reaching dimensions to bilingual, multicultural relations in New Mexico.
Cuba is arguably the model for development for poor and third world communities. In spite of an illegal and brutal 43-year economic blockade and countless other draconian U.S. laws prohibiting investments and travel to the island, Cuba forges ahead, building its infrastructure and improving its health, education, and social service systems. Most importantly, it demonstrates solidarity with the poor people of the world through direct aid and training programs. Any country that can do all this deserves our respect and emulation.
We have the backbone and the brains. Ahora, necesitamos la voluntad!
For more information on the U.S./Cuba Sister City Association and Cuban Medical Scholarships, contact Miguel Angel, 505-454-6771 or email@example.com.
The Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance was formed in March of 2004 by non-Pueblo citizens involved in the Aamodt adjudication who want to see a fair and equitable settlement to the 40-year old adjudication. The Alliance opposes the terms of the current proposed settlement agreement and was instrumental in getting District Judge Martha Vasquez, who presides over the adjudication hearings, to extend negotiations until March 2005.
The Alliance recently hired Taos water attorney Fred Waltz to represent Alliance members in these ongoing settlement negotiations (attorney Mark Sheridan continues to represent the Rio Pojoaque Acequia and Water Well Association). Waltz represented the Alliance at the most recent negotiation meetings, which are held in monthly, closed sessions. Judge Vasquez will hold a Public Court Status Conference, open to the public, on January 12.
In an essay Waltz published in the October issue of La Jicarita News he stressed that courts need to recognize the long-standing practice of water sharing among all water users. The proposed Aamodt settlement agreement is based strictly on the doctrine of prior appropriation, whereby the Pueblos are guaranteed existing and development water rights to 3,660 acre feet of water while non-Pueblo residents must agree to cap their existing domestic wells and hook up to a water delivery system. It remains to be seen if Waltz will be able to persuade the parties involved in the Aamodt adjudication to accept approaches that recognize custom and equity as they attempt to negotiate a settlement.
The Alliance, which represents the villages of Tesuque, Chupadero, Rio en Medio, Cuyamungue, El Rancho, Jacona, Jaconita, Pojoaque, and Nambé, continues to consult with lawyers, hydrologists, and the scientific community to formulate other alternatives to present at the negotiation hearings. The group's position is that the capping of wells is not negotiable and also strongly objects to tax dollars being used to provide the Pueblos with an additional 2,500 acre-feet of water. Instead, the Alliance proposes that the federal government purchase additional water rights for the Pueblos to satisfy their claims. The organization would also like to see a wastewater collection and treatment system included in a settlement, which could return water to the aquifer and reduce the amount of the Pueblo claim.
To join the Alliance or to get more information call 505-992-8787 and leave a message. The mailing address is PBWA, P.O. Box 3885, Santa Fe, NM 87501.
The Tecolote Land Grant, located near Las Vegas, has been involved in legal fights on two fronts for a number of years. In both cases certain land grant heirs claim legal ownership of portions of the common lands of the community grant. On November 22, the New Mexico Court of Appeals handed down a landmark decision that resolves one of the cases in favor of the grant. In the Board of Trustees of Tecolote Land Grant versus Ignacio Griego, Jake Griego, and Zeke Griego, the court reversed a district court decision by rejecting the "adverse possession" claim of the Griegos to 572 acres of the grant
The definition of adverse possession is occupation and possession of land that has at all time been "open, exclusive, uninterrupted, notorious, hostile and adverse to Plaintiff." In this particular case, the Griegos claimed possession of the 572 acres of the grant through a number of activities that included building a road, grazing and raising animals, fencing the land, removing natural resources, and constructing and collecting money from a racetrack on the land. The land grant board argued that except for the use of 147 acres for a home, the Griegos use of the land was "permissive," not "hostile." In other words, the Griegos, who began to occupy the land in the 1940s, did not give notice to the Board until 1989 and 1994 that they intended to claim exclusive rights to the land.
The appeals court reversal of the district court decision was affected by a recent case, In re Estate of Duran, which clarifies the legal requirements for a tenant in common to establish individual title to common lands by adverse possession. In the appeals court decision, the justices pointed out that "all heirs to a land grant are considered to hold title as tenants in common, each of whom is entitled to the reasonable use, occupancy, benefit, and possession of the common property." It is therefore necessary for the cotenant who claims exclusive rights to the grant to do something that clearly indicates that his or her permissive use has changed to hostile and "must give specific notice to cotenants of an intent to claim exclusive ownership of part of the common estate." It takes ten years after such notification of adverse possession for the land to pass to the occupier. This decision will hopefully prevent other adverse claims to land grant ejidos.
In the other grant lawsuit, the Montoya family claims that 9,000 acres of the 48,000-acre grant were deeded to them by the Mexican government in the early 1800s. The same district court judge Daniel Sanchez, who decided in favor of the Griegos, has verbally sided with the Montoyas but no final order has been issued.
The daylong meeting will focus on the negotiated settlement of long-term water conflicts in four major river basins in New Mexico and their significance in state and regional planning and administration of the state's water. The day will be organized around four panels discussing negotiated settlements in the Gila, the lower Pecos, the San Juan, and the upper Rio Grande basins. Panelists will talk about their interests and concerns, their efforts to reach common ground and difficulties they encountered, the settlement reached or the current status of those efforts, and the role of regional water planning in resolving conflicts. For registration details and further information, call John Brown at 505-898-9551 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Jicarita would like to thank all of you who generously sent in your subscriptions and donations during December. We would especially like to thank the Robert Haspel & Lynda Taylor Social and Environmental Justice Fund, a Donor Advised Fund of the New Mexico Community Foundation. We ask those of you who have not yet renewed your subscription to please do so for 2005. It's still a bargain.
Copyright 1996-2002 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.