A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
La Jicarita News Enters It's 14th Year With Renewed Determination to See a Mission Change at Los Alamos National Laboratory By Kay Matthews
A Statewide Conversation on Industrial Wind Facilities By Kay Matthews
Editorial: Where oh Where is the Taos Regional Water Plan Now? By Kay Matthews
Corrupt Surveyors General Contributed to Loss of Land Grants By Mark Schiller
La Jicarita News Enters It's 14th Year With Renewed Determination to See a Mission Change at Los Alamos National Laboratory
By Kay Matthews
On every alternative news site and blog progressive activists are urging U.S. citizens to "seize the day", to take the election as a mandate for progressive change on whatever front we can effect. Here in New Mexico, the "third largest nuclear arsenal in the world," that mandate must be to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons development and production from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory. While the recent Department of Energy decision to maintain the current level of plutonium bomb triggers, or pits, at 20, is much better than the proposed 80 to 100, it's not enough. Any notion of LANL becoming the center of pit production, which is proposed in the DOE Consolidated Centers of Excellence Environmental Impact Statement, must be resisted. Rocky Flats, outside of Denver, which was previously the center of DOE pit production, became a cesspool of contamination that was forced to shut down.
We already have our own contamination problems at LANL through years of mismanagement - improper disposal of radioactive contaminants in Los Alamos canyons, unregulated air emissions - and because of the Cerro Grande Fire, when radioactive ash fell on downwind communities and flashfloods carried water run-off through the canyons into the Rio Grande. The lab also continues to contribute to the disparity of wealth in our poor state. According to Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, LANL scientists and administrators make 250% of the average non-lab New Mexico worker. A federal dollar spent at LANL or Sandia National Laboratories creates about one-half as many jobs as a dollar spent elsewhere in the New Mexico economy.
As we enter 2009, it's important to be aware of and become involved in all the activities that may effect future management of the labs and the future of our physical, economic, and spiritual health. Following is a list of outstanding issues that are currently being negotiated or will soon appear center stage as Congress is forced to make decisions regarding future funding and mission mandates at the labs.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released its Record of Decision (ROD) for this EIS on December 19 and chose the Preferred Alternative of consolidating its nuclear weapons work at three locations in the U.S.: 1) Manufacturing and research and development involving plutonium will remain at LANL and the NNSA will construct and operate the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility as a replacement for portions of the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility (although along with its October announcement to maintain the current level of plutonium pits to 20, the DOE also stated it would put this new building on hold); 2) Manufacturing and research and development of uranium will remain at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the NNSA will construct and operate a Uranium Processing Facility to replace the existing facility; and 3) Assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons and high explosives production will remain at the Pantex Plant in Texas. There is no deadline for an administrative appeal of this ROD under the National Environmental Policy Act. Anti nuclear activists are hoping that with the new Obama administration the ROD will be withdrawn.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency, was passed to regulate hazardous and non-hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is responsible for issuing a RCRA permit for LANL; a draft permit was issued for public comment on August 27, 2007 to replace a previous permit that expired in 1999. A revised draft permit is currently being negotiated by NMED, DOE, LANL, several non-governmental agencies, including Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), and the Pueblos of Santa Clara and San Ildefonso. It has been an intense process, with long, weekly meetings that are scheduled to end this month, before the legislative session begins. Concerns being negotiated include: the storage of 40,000 drums of transuranic waste in ripped fabric domes at Area G (many of the groups believe that Area G is currently operating illegally and should be closed in its entirety); open burning of hazardous waste as a "treatment"; open detonation of explosives; the need for more monitoring of contaminant transport through the air, water, and soils; and the problems with wells that monitor the level of contaminants in the regional aquifer below LANL. Another public hearing will then be held in the spring.
Joni Arends, above, of CCNS, and Marian Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo
Clean Water Act Lawsuit
In February of 2008 Communities for Clean Water, a coalition of community groups, environmental justice activists, religious organizations, and anti-nuclear groups, filed a Clean Water Act Lawsuit against LANL. The suit claims that LANL has failed to comply with the terms and conditions of its stormwater National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit at 59 dump sites, where contaminated stormwater is allowed to run off into the soils, surface water, and shallow groundwater of the Los Alamos Canyon and Pueblo Canyon watersheds. Specifically, the suit claims LANL is violating by 25,000 times New Mexico's water quality standards for PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, whose manufacture was banned in 1977. The lawsuit is currently on hold until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releases a stormwater permit for LANL, supposedly this month. The EPA attempted to enforce stricter stormwater effluent standards regarding levels of metals, which the DOE and NNSA appealed to the Water Quality Standard Commission in August of 2008. The state argued that the appeal was not timely, and the appeal was denied in October. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing the stormwater permit and will hopefully release it this month.
In 2008 CCNS brought the issue of LANL contaminants to the table in discussions with the City and County of Santa Fe concerning the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, which will divert Rio Grande surface water for domestic use. Since the Cerro Grande fire in 2000, elevated levels of radionuclide contaminates have been found in stormwater run-off that is being deposited in abandoned channels and flood plains along the Rio Grande. The CCNS appeal (along with Amigos Bravos) of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management environmental impact statements, whose lands will be impacted by the diversion project, was denied, but CCNS continues to dialogue with city council and county commission members who have expressed concern that the water being diverted for consumptive use may be contaminated by LANL run-off. There is no guarantee that San Juan/Chama project water, which will supply most of the water for the Buckman Diversion (5,605 afy) will be sufficient if drought conditions continue. None of the Indian water rights settlements, which also depend upon San Juan/Chama water rights, have been funded, and in the current economic climate, those settlements may remain unresolved.
Funding is an issue for more than just the Buckman Diversion Project. The House of Representatives has already taken some steps to reduce funding for weapons-related production at LANL, Sandia National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, citing concerns about the lack of policy with regard to weapons production and security breaches. Now that Tom Udall has replaced nuclear weapons and nuclear energy head cheerleader Pete Domenici in the Senate, perhaps new leadership there will redirect funding to new missions at the labs, including alternative energy and cleanup of the mess made by weapons work, particularly at LANL. As Greg Mello states in his New Year's Letter from the Los Alamos Study Group, "It is very much up to New Mexicans - that's us - as to whether our two Democratic senators will represent the 3% [who benefit from nuclear weapons work], or the 97% [the rest of us], in this state."
Funding to fulfill the terms of the NMED Consent Order for cleanup at LANL also remains subject to change. For 2009 LANL received approximately $220 million for cleanup, which includes $80 million extra than was originally available for drilling more test wells. For 2010 LANL is asking for $340 million. The new administration's budget, which is due the first of February, will set the stage for whether that request will be met by Congress.
By Kay Matthews
Two counties in northern New Mexico - San Miguel and Taos - are currently dealing with applications to establish industrial wind farms on private and state land. There is significant opposition to these proposals, both from folks who live near where the wind turbines would be placed, and activists in the alternative energy field who believe industrial wind farms are inappropriate and inefficient.
The folks who live near Bernal Mesa, in the Pecos Valley near Villanueva and Ribera, have already organized as the New Mexico Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (NM CARE) to oppose the Chicago-based company Invenergy LLC's proposal to place 47 forty-foot tall wind turbines on the Mesa. The group sponsored what they called a "Statewide Conversation on Industrial Wind Facilities" on January 6, and the meeting room at the State Library in Santa Fe was packed with people: community members, alternative energy experts, representatives from the state Mining and Minerals division, the Bureau of Land Management, Public Regulatory Commission, county planners (including Nathan Sanchez from Taos County, where another large wind farm is being considered), the State Land Office, Senator Bingaman's office, and many more.
Several alternative energy experts and community members were invited to speak before the meeting was turned over to the public for comments and questions. David Bacon, Santa Fe's well known Green Party activist, contextualized the conversation by saying, "The real battle is not wind versus coal or oil and gas, it's local versus national, or absentee, control." He explained that the proposed wind farm is a centralized system feeding into nearby transmission lines and would eventually lose more than half its energy efficiency, much like our current utility grids. He contrasted that with a "distributed system" of energy utilizing alternative sources such as wind, solar, and biomass, that are locally owned and operated, feeding a decentralized system that is able to use all the sources to complement each other.
Harry Anderson, an economics professor at Highlands University, raised an issue that was echoed by several others later in the meeting: What Invenergy is proposing is a classic colonialist strategy. Why should we allow a corporation to exploit our resources to sell out of state, particularly when it is dependent upon tax exemptions in lieu of tax revenues that community owned utilities could generate.
Keely Meagan, a member of NM CARE, gave a short presentation on research being conducted with regard to the noise impacts of large wind turbines. Here in New Mexico, the Public Regulatory Commission only regulates entities that create more than 300 megawatts of electricity, but the low frequency noise generated by wind turbines has caused concern both here in the U.S. and Europe. Ambient noise levels in rural areas are affected if the wind farms are located within a half-mile of residents, which will be the case in the Bernal Mesa development. Also, research indicates that people who live in close proximity to industrial wind farms suffer from inner ear, respiratory, and even epileptic ailments. There is also controversy over the noise impact on wildlife (as well as the problem of migratory wildlife being killed by the turbines).
Once the conversation was opened up to everyone in the room, concerns became centered around three main issues: the lack of regulatory oversight that stipulates where industrial wind farms should be placed; the idea of "distributed energy" as opposed to centralized grids, which can be owned by individuals, municipalities, or counties; and that here in New Mexico we should be focusing on solar and geothermal solutions to energy rather than wind.
According to UNM professor Kim Sorvig, who has been working on oil and gas regulations with Santa Fe County, affected counties are behind the game right now without ordinances that specifically deal with these kinds of proposals. The Taos County Planning Commission approved a preliminary application for an industrial wind farm near Tres Piedras, against the recommendation of the Planning Department, which is only now including ordinances that deal with turbines, cell phone towers, and solar devices in its Comprehensive Plan. Sorvig said that a bill is going to be introduced into this year's state legislative session (SB 0017) that will take away counties and municipalities' authority to regulate gas and oil exploration and drilling, setting a precedent to regulate alternative energy. Because the Bernal wind farm is on both state and private land, there need to be agreements that respect the autonomy of the various agencies, including federal. A representative of the State Land Office who attended the meeting assured the crowd that her office will conduct a comprehensive analysis and take into account community input.
A representative of the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center urged everyone to put the burden of proof of community impacts on the developer: that providing local jobs means just that, hiring local people, and that industrial wind farms are located in areas that are not harmful to humans or animals. An alternative energy activist emphasized that the social and environmental costs of developing wind, as opposed to solar, have to be looked at in light of the current "capital meltdown," where we will have to rely on the local, not the global.
By Kay Matthews
Engaging in conversation with Taos Soil and Water Conservation Director Peter Vigil is always an adventure, as the talk segues from fixing your compuerta to speculation about Carlos Castenada's Don Juan. The last time he sat at our kitchen table for a site visit (re our application for a new headgate for one of our acequia sangrias) the talk turned to the Taos Regional Water Plan. Peter was a stakeholder at the negotiations for the plan's development over the last four years, but he wasn't interested in hearing me complain about the demise of the Public Welfare advisory board, which I've written about extensively in La Jicarita News. Peter's mantra was "implementation, implementation, implementation": unless Taos County takes the lead in hiring a team to start implementing the directives of the plan, the entire process, not just the Public Welfare component, will have been for naught. This is the same mantra echoed in a 2008 op-ed piece in the Journal North by Frank Splendoria, a representative of the Mora-San Miguel-Guadalupe Regional Water Plan, who quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: "[G]ood thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they are executed."
So I decided to call Alan Vigil, who led the county stakeholder team during the drafting of the plan but was forced to take leave because of illness and is now working as a planner for the Town of Taos. I also called Nathan Sanchez, who took over from Vigil at the county planning department, to see if anything is being done to set up an implementation program. According to Vigil, he and Sanchez are going to resurrect some of the subcommittees that were set up during the planning process to work on implementation. The Technical committee, under the direction of Tony Benson, has continued to work in conjunction with UNM Taos. The Governance committee needs to look into how to structure a permanent administrative board to oversee implementation, the Public Welfare committee could join with the Outreach and Education committee, and Vigil plans on contacting several former steering committee members to continue to serve on the Conservation/Environment committee. These committees need to maintain communication with the stakeholders who helped draft the plan. Vigil agreed with Peter Vigil that the County and City need to take the lead in getting an administrator hired to oversee implementation, and Vigil suggested that perhaps the stakeholders, such as the incorporated municipalities and other governmental agencies, could all contribute towards a hiring fund. Then perhaps additional monies could be leveraged through the legislature or other funding sources.
In the meantime, Simeon Herskovits, who chaired the Public Welfare committee, is working on final changes to the Public Welfare Implementation Program, which would set up an advisory board, before submitting it to the Taos County Commission for approval. The county has agreed to incorporate the implementation program into an ordinance.
In a recent article for the New Mexico Water Dialogue, Herskovits wrote a brief history of the Regional Water Plan that took place over the last four years and the subsequent political fallout over the incorporation of the Public Welfare implementation component in the plan. While his overview was comprehensive, and for the most part, an accurate description of what happened, I believe he failed to capture just how insidious the machinations employed by the "decision makers" in disenfranchising all the stakeholders in the county, which in turn resulted in the derailing of the concept of an advisory body that could represent their interests.
In my conversation with Peter Vigil, he raised the issue of how an advisory body, whose purpose was to assess whether proposed water transfers within or out of the area adhered to the terms of the Public Welfare Statement criteria, could be representative of a diverse constituency without undue political pressures. I guess my answer to that question is that this was the best plan we could come up with to make the issue of water transfers transparent and in the public domain. The state legislature has failed to mandate, year after year, that there be a requirement of notification of proposed transfers beyond publication in a "general interest" newspaper. As the state's water rights continue to increase in value, the demand for their movement to the highest bidder will increase as well. When the County of Santa Fe applied to transfer Top of the World water rights from northern Taos County in 1998, only a handful of us found out about the application and were in a position to file a protest. You have to remember that one of the criteria the Office of the State Engineer uses to decide whether a transfer application should be approved is whether it is in the interest of the public welfare. Well, just what the public welfare constitutes has never been defined, and unless there is a public, open process, such as the proposed implementation review committee, where everyone can engage in a conversation about the ramifications of each and every proposed transfer, we'll never get any closer to a definition.
The 2009 New Mexico Organic Conference will take place in Las Cruces this year. Although that's quite a trip for norteños to make, there will be a cornucopia of workshops and presentations to attend. These include: raising organic livestock, including goats and cattle; organic fruit production; how to take advantage of the increased farm bill resources; managing pests; how to live with the wild (gophers, deer, javelinas) while keeping your ranch or farm economically viable; organic certification; water harvesting; putting poultry to pasture with a new design for chicken "tractors"; keeping bees without chemicals; garlic; pruning and grafting techniques for healthy trees (from northern New Mexico's Gordon Tooley); alternative energy; drip irrigation and microsprayers in orchards; and strategies for weed management. The conference will take place on Friday, February 27, and Saturday, February 28 at the Hotel Encanto, 705 Telshor Boulevard, Las Cruces. You can register online at www.farmtotablenm.org. Fees are $100 for both days; $65 for each day, and accommodations are available at the hotel for $89 per night (866-383-0443). The conference is sponsored by Farm to Table, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, and the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Applications for the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) are due by Monday, March 2, 2009. CFRP is a federal grant making program for forest restoration projects on federal, tribal, state, county, land grant, or municipal forest lands in New Mexico. Individuals, businesses, groups, and other organizations are encouraged to collaborate on the design, implementation, and monitoring of projects that value local and traditional knowledge, promote healthy and productive forests and watersheds, and build community ownership. Contacts for proposal development are:
Carson NF, Ignacio Peralta, 575-758-6344
Cibola NF, Ian Fox, 505-346-3814
Gila NF, Craig Cowie, 575-388-8210
Lincoln NF, Connie Zipperer, 575-434-7297
Santa Fe NF, Reuben Montes, 505-438-7892
Application proposals can be downloaded from the Forest Service Southwestern Regional website: www.fs.fed.us/r3/spf/cfrp. They should be mailed to: Attention: 2009 CFRP Proposal, USDA Forest Service, State & Private Forestry, Cooperative and International Forestry, Room 329, 333 Broadway Blvd. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
The Forest Service will host the annual 2009 Collaborative Forest Restoration Program Annual Workshop on January 27-29 at Santa Fe Community College. The Workshop provides an opportunity for grantees and other interested parties to share lessons learned and discuss the degree to which the projects are addressing the program objectives. The Workshop also provides new applicants with an orientation to the program and an overview of multi-party monitoring. You can also contact Walter Dunn at 505 842-3425 for more information.
By Mark Schiller
The June 2004 General Accounting Office Report on Community Land Grants in New Mexico focuses considerable attention on the controversy surrounding the grossly exaggerated surveys of the Maxwell and Sangre de Cristo grants executed by the Office of the Surveyor General, but suggests that these were a result of a "defective system" of review (pg.70). While the Report concedes that there were "allegations of fraud and corruption in claims being submitted to the Surveyor General" (pg.74), it completely fails to address the issue of corruption within the Office of the Surveyor General itself. This is a curious omission as there is significant evidence that federally appointed Surveyors General colluded with land speculators to defraud and dispossess the legitimate owners of Spanish and Mexican land grants in New Mexico. In point of fact, historian Malcolm Ebright notes that, "Of the nine men to hold the office [surveyor general], three were blatant land speculators: T. Rush Spencer (1869-1872), James K. Proudfit (1872-1876), and Henry M. Atkinson (1876-1884). Spencer and Atkinson each had land grant holdings while they were in office." Surveyor General Atkinson's review of the San Miguel del Vado claim and his subsequent involvement in attempts to control and sell it graphically demonstrates just how corrupt this process often was.
The adjudication of the San Miguel del Vado land claim by the federal government began in March of 1857 when Faustin Baca y Ortiz, "a resident of San Miguel, . . . for and in the name of the inhabitants of" the eight settlements on the grant, petitioned the Office of the Surveyor General for confirmation of the tract, "embrac[ing] all cultivated and uncultivated lands of the above mentioned settlements," with the boundaries as stipulated in the original 1794 petition and act of possession.
Astonishingly, the Office of the Surveyor General did not review the petition till 1879. There are several possible explanations for the twenty-two year delay including the fact that Congress grossly under funded the Surveyor General whose office was overwhelmed by more than two hundred Spanish and Mexican land claims and the intervention of the Civil War. Whatever the reasons, the San Miguel del Vado claim was finally reviewed by Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson, a man whose tenure was marked by unfettered corruption.
By the time Atkinson became Surveyor General in 1876 the value of land in New Mexico had dramatically increased due to the advent of the railroad and the ensuing growth of the cattle industry. Land speculation had become a thriving business and Atkinson, during his tenure as surveyor general, not only facilitated the exploitative schemes of others, but was himself part owner of three land and cattle corporations, which bought and sold interests in land grants. In partnership with men such as cattle baron John P. Casey and lawyer Thomas B. Catron, the "Godfather" of New Mexico land speculators, Atkinson plotted, in the words of Catron's biographer Victor Westphall, "to gain control over as much land as possible, regulate the water rights, and then sell them to Eastern capitalists for a substantial profit." Not surprisingly, Atkinson was also the man who awarded the contract for the exaggerated survey of the Maxwell grant to John T. Elkins, brother of the notorious land speculator Stephen Elkins, who owned a substantial interest in the Maxwell grant.
From the speculators perspective the San Miguel del Vado grant was particularly desirable because it not only contained several hundred thousand acres of lush grasslands for grazing but was bisected by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad easement as well.
In his review of the claim, Atkinson employed a strategy Catron had used to great advantage during the investigation of the Tierra Amarilla claim and Atkinson would later use on the Anton Chico claim: asserting that a grant that was clearly given to a community of settlers was "legally" owned by only one or two individuals within that community. This subterfuge was predicated on the fact that the petitions of many community grants were made by one or two named people (pobladores principales) on behalf of a larger unnamed group. Ignoring the Congressional Act of 1854 that instructed the Surveyor General " . . . to ascertain the origin, nature, character and extent of all land claims under the laws, usages, and customs of Spain and Mexico . . ." the Surveyor General, citing Anglo-American law, argued that he could only recommend confirming the claim to the person or persons actually named in the petition rather that the entire community of settlers referred to in the petition, grant, and act of possession.
In the case of the San Miguel del Vado petition, the poblador principal, Lorenzo Marquez, requested the grant on behalf of himself "and in the voice of [emphasis added] fifty-one men [heads of households] accompanying me." Furthermore, the 1794 act of possession stipulated that the grant was to be held "in common not only in regard to themselves [the initial fifty-two families], but also to all the settlers who may join them in the future." Moreover, an 1803 archival document was also introduced into the confirmation proceedings that recorded the distribution of agricultural lands within the grant and specifically named 104 heads of households. Atkinson, however, summarily dismissed all that evidence.
In other words, the Surveyor General deliberately chose to misrepresent the nature of the grant in order to facilitate misappropriation of the tract by land speculators. By confining title to a small, largely guileless group of Marquez' heirs, he made it possible for speculators to buy up their private interests cheaply and thereby assert ownership of the entire grant, which included more than 300,000 acres of common lands that were clearly meant for the use of the entire community. As previously noted, this was a technique first employed in the Tierra Amarilla adjudication by Catron, resulting in him gaining control of that grant's common lands, amounting to almost 600,000 acres, from which he netted nearly a million dollars in royalties and sales. Atkinson employed the same ruse in his recommendation for the patent of the Anton Chico grant. In that case one of the land and cattle corporations to which Atkinson and Catron were both party bought the interests of the heirs of the poblador principal and claimed ownership of the grant's common lands despite vehement opposition from grant residents, whose appeals Atkinson conveniently overruled. Although the residents ultimately regained control of the majority of the grant after a lengthy legal battle, they had to cede 35,000 acres to Catron, who "legally" held title to the grant's common lands, and 100,000 acres to the lawyers who represented grant residents in the litigation through which they regained title.
The chain of title, following Atkinson's recommendation of the San Miguel del Vado claim, is labyrinthine, involving not only Atkinson and Catron and their cronies, but several elite residents of the grant, a wealthy New York merchant and a prominent politician and businessman. All of them profited, or attempted to profit, from sales of the grant.
Atkinson issued his recommendation to Congress to confirm title to the heirs and assigns of Lorenzo Marquez on 13 November 1879. Later that month he authorized Deputy Surveyor John Shaw to undertake a preliminary survey of the grant, which found it contained 315,300.8 acres.
Documentation suggests that even before Atkinson made his recommendation, the deal between Atkinson and Catron to appropriate the grant was put in motion. Beginning in February of 1879, two residents of the grant, Celso Baca and Benigno Jaramillo, began purchasing the holdings of the Lorenzo Marquez family and by November of 1882 they owned almost all of them. Baca was a rich and powerful man, the largest cattle and sheep rancher in the area and the founder of the community of Santa Rosa. Jaramillo was also an important person in the community, the Justice of the Peace for San Miguel. According to historian Kent Howard Gompert, the County Clerk's records show that Baca and Jaramillo acted as official witness for each other to the purchase of these tracts, some of which were bought for as little as one dollar. It is a sad and commonly overlooked fact that Hispano elites often actively participated in the exploitation of the poor and less sophisticated members of their own communities during this period of frenzied land speculation. Baca, in fact, was convicted of land fraud in San Miguel County in 1884, along with former business partners of Surveyor General Atkinson, deputy surveyor William H. McBroom and head of the territorial land office Max Frost.
There can be no question that Baca and Jaramillo were working in league with Catron and Atkinson because Catron and Louis Sulzbacher (Atkinson's personal attorney and another notorious land speculator who was also involved in the attempted misappropriation of the Anton Chico grant) subsequently brokered a deal to sell Baca and Jaramillo's interests to wealthy eastern investors.
Both Baca and Jaramillo turned a neat profit by selling their holdings to Bernalillo merchant William Woodside, a close personal friend and business associate of Catron (they jointly operated a trading post at Fort Wingate). We can surmise that Woodside, like Baca and Jaramillo, was a "front," probably to hide Catron and Atkinson's involvement in the proceedings from other speculators, because he sold his interests in the grant two days after purchasing them from Baca and Jaramillo in a deal that was engineered by Catron and Sulzbacher.
According to a memorandum found in Catron's papers housed at the University of New Mexico entitled "Memo of Documents left by Mr. George Penniman at the offices of Messrs. Morton, Bliss and Co. October 17th, 1892, in the matter of the SAN MIGUEL DEL BADO GRANT in New Mexico-said documents to be held by Messrs. Morton, Bliss and Co. until called for by Mr. Penniman," Catron and Sulzbacher signed an agreement with George H. Penniman on 21 May 1881 to sell half of the Marquez' interest in the grant to Penniman, a wealthy merchant from New York, for $16,000. This memorandum references ten other documents that clearly implicate Atkinson in the chicanery, including:
A letter from Atkinson to Penniman, which enclosed the contract between Catron and Sulzbacher and Penniman, confirmed that the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Rail Road easement ran through the grant and that the Land Office had approved confirming the grant to the heirs of Lorenzo Marquez.
A letter from Atkinson to Penniman enclosing a list of the Marquez heirs and stating that Celso Baca had already secured the interests of three-quarters of them.
A letter from Atkinson to Penniman stating that Atkinson was delaying recording the deeds that had been purchased so that other speculators would not be alerted.
An agreement between Levi Morton and Penniman conveying a twenty five percent interest in the grant to Penniman.
This extraordinary document demonstrates conclusively that Atkinson, above and beyond misrepresenting the communal nature of the grant, was working covertly with Baca, Catron, and Sulzbacher to promote and broker a deal with Penniman who represented the interests of Levi P. Morton, an enormously successful businessman and equally successful politician.
Morton began his political career as a Congressman from New York and subsequently served as United States ambassador to France from 1881-1885, Vice President of the United States during the Harrison administration (1889-1893), and Governor of New York from 1895-1896. According to a study of Morton's Investment Company by Dolores Breitman Greenberg, Morton's interest in the grant stemmed primarily from the fact that the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company, as Atkinson's letter to Penniman noted, was building its main line directly through the grant, and Morton's investment company, Morton, Bliss and Company, had a history of investing in western railroads that dated back to 1870. Between 1879 and 1884 Morton purchased the entire Marquez holding, including twenty-nine conveyances, twenty-six of which were from Baca and Jaramillo.
Although Morton's interests in the grant were subsequently limited by the infamous Sandoval decision, which erroneously determined that title to the common lands did not vest in the community, the participation of Surveyor General Atkinson in the attempt to defraud the legitimate owners of San Miguel del Vado grant of their title to the common lands is unquestionable and emblematic of the corruption that pervaded that office. Readers interested in learning about other land grant adjudications affected by collusion between land speculators and the Office of the Surveyor General can read Michael J. Rock's article, "Anton Chico and Its Patent" and David Correia's forthcoming article in the Journal of Historical Geography, "Making destiny manifest: United States territorial expansion and the dispossession of two Mexican property claims in New Mexico, 1824-1899."
Copyright 1996-2006 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.