A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Oral Histories: By Bud Córdova, Mary Bissell, Derick Arellano, and Max Schiller
Book Review By Kay Matthews
Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin Edited by Devon G. Peña, University of Arizona Press
Editor's Note: This article is the first of a series in which La Jicarita will focus on community-based sustainable businesses. The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition feels it is essential for the maintenance of northern New Mexico's rural communities that economic development be appropriate to the rural/agricultural make-up of el norte. This means enterprises that allow people to maintain their ties to the land and keep capital in the community. We have already become too dependent on tourist dollars, which provide primarily low-wage service jobs and exploit our resources (both human and environmental). As one congressional candidate recently put it, New Mexico must provide its citizens "a living wage, not a minimum wage."
Madera Forest Products Association was founded in 1988 by members of the communities that surround the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit (VSYU). The VSYU was created, along with several other sustained yield units in other parts of the country, after World War II by an act of Congress. This act recognized the need to create employment opportunities in remote forest-dependent communities by setting aside tracts of land within the national forest to be managed specifically for community economic development. Unfortunately, in the case of the VSYU, this was not done until Madera founding members Manuel Gurulé, Ike DeVargas, Joe Samora, Luis Torres, and Arón Martinez forced the Forest Service to address community concerns. Up until that time the Forest Service made timber sales within the Unit so large only contractors such as Duke City had the capital and equipment to obtain them.
These sales provided some seasonal employment for community members, but the vast majority of the profits left the community. Furthermore, cutting prescriptions were formulated to exploit forest resources rather than manage them sustainably. Through the efforts of Madera members, the Allowable Sale Quantity within the Unit was reduced and small, locally-based contractors were guaranteed a percentage of the sales.
While Madera had initially hoped to focus on value-added wood products, lack of equipment forced them to concentrate their efforts on firewood. They therefore established a woodyard and successfully marketed firewood in the Santa Fe area. They also acquired a house in Vallecitos through donation and received the contract to restore the old Forest Service ranger cabin on Borracho Creek. In addition to restoring the cabin they obtained a special use permit from the Forest Service to use the cabin as an office and the approximately three acres surrounding the cabin for a woodyard.
Building on the success of the woodyard, in 1992, through foundation funding, they acquired a state of the art, large-volume wood splitter. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Forest Service changed its management focus for the area and only put up thinning sales, which included trees five to nine inches in diameter. The new wood splitter, designed to split logs twelve inches and larger, was rendered useless. This set-back was followed by the spotted owl injunction, which shut down northern New Mexico forests for a period of 18 months. The combination of these factors pulled the plug on Madera's plans to expand into value-added wood products. Luis Torres left the community in frustration, and Ike DeVargas, who had by this time organized the cooperative for-profit logging company La Companía Ocho, concentrated his efforts on that enterprise. As a result, Madera went into a period of dormancy.
Undaunted, Manuel Gurulé, who had joined DeVargas in La Companía Ocho, began reorganizing Madera. In 1996, along with Sandra and Joe Samora and Cindy Seely, he contacted Maria Varela, who has a long history of community organizing in northern New Mexico, including Ganados del Valle and La Clinica Medical Center in Tierra Amarilla. Maria helped Madera members draft a new mission statement, which included firewood and value-added wood products, but also diversified their goals. She now acts as their grant writer. Operating under the non-profit umbrella of Southwest Research and Information Center until they are able to acquire their own non-profit status, Madera has received several grants to expand their programming. Most recently they were awarded $41,000 by the State of New Mexico Division of Energy, Mineral, and Natural Resources to develop a program using small diameter, round lumber to build pedestrian bridges, logging skidder bridges, scaffolding, and greenhouses. They are now in the process of buying the former Methodist Church and adjoining house in Vallecitos. Madera has set up its office in the church's former office space and is renting the house to help defray expenses. Manuel serves as president of Madera, Cindy Seely is the office manager, and Sandra Samora is grant program manager, responsible for making quarterly reports which account for all grant appropriations.
Madera's new goals now include: a fuelwood marketing program, which features sustainably harvested fuelwood; a contractual association to provide office space and financial record keeping for La Companía; a woodwork shop and crafts center; a forest-related job training program for men, women, and youth; a learning place where people can get their GEDs; an employment center where people can find out about jobs in the forest with La Companía, other local contractors, and the New Mexico Department of Labor; an artisan development program to assist artists with design, production, and marketing; a community services support program which will include partnerships with non-profit private and public health-care services to provide health screening clinics and preventive health care; a child development program; and summer arts and sports program for youth.
Tech-Net, Inc. of Albuquerque recently gave Madera four computers, which has allowed Cindy to initiate a computer skills class on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Community participation in this program has been very good. The office is also able to provide Xerox, fax, and notary services for community residents. Madera directors hope to initiate their crafts program in traditional tin work, furniture making, and retablo painting when the basement of the church has been refurbished.
In conjunction with Shirl Harrington and Ryan Temple of Forest Trust, Madera was able to hire two teenagers from the Vallecitos area to collect information for a mapping overlay study of the proposed Agua Caballos timber sale in the VSYU. Information in that mapping project included existing old growth, existing roads, timber types, perennial and intermittent streams, Mexican spotted owl habitat, semi-primitive designations, and previous timber sales. This information will help the Forest Service and La Companía, which has the right to 80% of the timber, make this sale environmentally and economically viable.
Another project Madera would like to pursue is building a green house to provide seedlings for reforestation or native plants for commercial nurseries. While their program goals may seem ambitious, their long history demonstrates an ability to persevere. Madera directors realize that they will not be able to accomplish all of these goals overnight, but are committed to expanding their funding base as well as community involvement. "We're here as community advocates," Sandra Samora says, and "we'll build on our successes and learn from our failures."
Picuris Pueblo will be hosting a Native American Permaculture Design Course at the Pueblo from June 7-18. Courses of study include: land restoration; home garden and backyard biodiversity; global community building; site analysis and landscape language; water harvesting and quality; and solar energy. Presenters include: Indigenous Permaculture Center; Native Seeds Search; Taos Pueblo Range and Agriculture; Seeds of Change; Tesuque Natural Farms; Zuni Conservation Project; Flowering Tree Institute; and Rio Grande Foundation. For more information call Picuris Pueblo Environment Department at 505 587-0110 or Traditional Native American Farmers Association at 505 983-2172.
The Camino Real Ranger Station will be issuing permits for dead and down firewood beginning May 3. Most of the district is open to dead and down firewood collection, but check with the district personnel about restricted areas. The green firewood permits should be available sometime between the middle and the end of May. District personnel have already marked sales in West Entrañas, Alamo Dinner, Bear Mountain, Fuentes area of U.S. Hill, and La Junta Canyon (this area is aspen only). Henry Lopez of the Camino Real suggests that community residents get their firewood early, because it is very likely the district will be affected by fire restrictions sometime during the summer. He urged woodcutters to be especially cautious about fire danger and be sure they have spark arresters on their chainsaws.
By Kay Matthews
The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), in the first of a series of 1999 workshops, sponsored a discussion on the issue of water banking on April 17 in Las Vegas. The workshop was cosponsored by the Rio de las Gallinas Acequia Association, which has been involved in litigation with the city of Las Vegas over water management and acequia concerns (see April issue of La Jicarita). Prior to the afternoon workshop, the Gallinas Association held its annual meeting and elected William Gonzales, area parciante and water adjudication specialist with Northern New Mexico Legal Services, as its president.
Paula Garcia, director of the NMAA, opened the workshop by asking the parciantes present to help the association identify acequia issues that can be addressed in subsequent workshops. These issues were then categorized into major areas of concern. Water conservation practices, such as better ditch maintenance and equitable water distribution, were encouraged. To help effect better water management, parciantes suggested making sure everyone - especially newcomers to the area - is aware of the historical role and cultural and economic import of the acequias. Parciantes pointed out that there needs to be better individual participation at acequia meetings, better representation at the state level, mechanisms to share water when necessary, and better long range planning. They acknowledged that it is sometimes hard to ensure better participation and management because of a lack of time, equipment, and money. All of the parciantes present agreed that the city of Las Vegas must engage in good faith negotiation with acequia representatives on water issues.
Three panelists then addressed the concept of water banking, or water pooling, a practice that is being implemented by individual acequias and has been proposed as a state-wide program. David Benavides, staff attorney with Northern New Mexico Legal Services, opened the discussion by posing the problems and concerns water banking can address: 1) to prevent loss of water rights due to nonuse; 2) to protect acequias from outside threats such as municipalities and developers; and 3) to reestablish community control of its water resources.
Essentially, water banking is a mechanism to assign, lease, or convey individual water rights to an entity, preferably an acequia, that will put the rights to beneficial use or otherwise protect them from being lost to the community. State statute currently dictates that if an acequia owns a water right, rather than an individual parciante, that right cannot be lost because of nonuse or condemnation.
There are many things to be gained in setting up a water bank. For instance, an individual who is not irrigating, for whatever reason, or who wishes to make a donation, can give a water right to the acequia and not have to worry about forfeiting that right. Once the right is donated to the acequia, the parciante would not have to worry about tracking whether the water right is being beneficially used. A parciante can lease a right to an acequia, through the SEO permitting process, and set up the lease in a specific way so that he or she would not have to go through the permitting process again to terminate the lease and regain the right. And if the right is leased or assigned to the acequia, the parciante would not surrender ownership of the right.
Once the acequia is in effect "banking" these rights, it can use the water within the acequia as needed (unless the acequia is using 100% of its water entitlement, which is very unusual). The acequia can further protect and beneficially use these rights by drafting covenants to prevent the transfer of the right out of the acequia. In fact, a Manzano area land grant is considering making a declaration that its water rights are community rights, not individual rights, and the rights will always be kept within the acequia system, in their area of origin.
Because so much of the water banking discussion is still theory and not practice, the Taos Valley Acequia Association (TVAA) has been trying to set up a water conservation program that would allow member acequias to bank water rights. Geoff Bryce, TVAA Program Director, told the workshop that the TVAA set up a pilot water conservation program (see November 1998 issue of La Jicarita) in 1996, which would protect all water rights assigned to the program from forfeiture. This program was submitted to the SEO for approval (to basically test exactly what constitutes approval and/or permitting), and 60 parciantes assigned rights to acequias. Then in 1998, the SEO informed the TVAA that its submitted guidelines were not adequate, and the association is currently working to revise the guidelines. Several additional issues TVAA will be addressing in this revised program include protection of water rights from abandonment based on hydrographic survey information, and assurances that acequias will be able to lease banked water only within the service area of the acequia. Even though the process has been long and arduous, TVAA wants to continue to push for this program because of a bill on this year's legislative agenda which would have set up a state-wide banking program. Both the TVAA and the NMAA continue to promote acequia-basedwater banking programs.
Arnold Lopez, representing the Acequias de Chamisal y Ojito, was the last speaker. This association filed a Declaration of Water Conservation Program in 1998 with the SEO "to make available a supply of water and water rights for management by the Acequias de Chamisal y Ojito for the benefit of its members and itself, which would include but not be limited to storage of water." So far, the SEO has not responded to the declaration, so the association has proceeded independently with the program. Twelve parciantes have contracted with the association (which includes nine acequias in the two communities) to place their water rights into the community water system, which shall have all rights of management. The parciantes retain ownership of the rights.
David Benavides then discussed what advise he would give acequias that want to set up their own banking programs, given the two examples of the TVAA water conservation program with the SEO and the Acequias de Chamisal y Ojito independent banking program. While we wait to see if the SEO grants approval to the TVAA conservation program, or if the Chamisal association is challenged, acequias can do two things. In the public arena, acequias can submit applications to the SEO to allow alternate places of use of water rights (for example, moving the water rights not being used on one field of the acequia to a different field). Privately, acequias can turn over the authority of water use to the acequia comisión. As a community effort, parciantes would assign management of their water to the acequia, a gesture that could reinforce the idea that water rights are a community resource and are not for sale to the highest bidder.
By Bud Córdova, Mary Bissell, Derick Arellano, and Max Schiller
Editor's Note: La Jicarita was invited to visit Sue Gottschau's 4th grade class at Peñasco Elementary to talk about journalism in their career opportunities program. We asked the students to conduct interviews with friends or family to contribute to our Oral History feature. It's particularly interesting that many of them interviewed their parents, for they are the most important role models and bearers of history for 10-year old kids.
On May 5, 1946 a boy was born in a small house in Buena Vista, New Mexico. He was born in the house with a midwife name Doña Gabrielita to assist his mother. He was born on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
When he was young he played marbles and swam a lot. While he was growing up he rode horses and bucked hay. He started school when he was six, but didn't like it much, for he had problems with his classmates. When his dad came back a year later he went back to school.
When he was 17 he joined the military and became a helicopter mechanic. But the first time he left home was when he was 13 and went to Cheyenne, Wyoming. When he was there he stayed with his sister-in-law for 3 months.
He was married at 19 and had one son whose name was Marty. After some time he divorced and later married a woman named Sue Bissell. She has three children whose names are Elena, Amanda, and Mary.
He now works with kids as a social worker. He now knows that he doesn't know as much as he would have liked to know, and thought he knew more.
- Mary Bissell
Tomás Montoya was born December 31, 1930 in El Valle, New Mexico. He was born in a house next door to ours, with no doctor, just a midwife.
He went to school in the old El Valle schoolhouse until he was sixteen. He went to be a sheepherder in Wyoming during the summer, and then he went to Gillman, Colorado to work in the mines. He worked there for eight years. Then he went to Hollister, California to work in a tomato packing plant.
When he was a child in El Valle, he thought life was better than it is now because he didn't have to worry and all the people in the village helped each other. Nobody had cars, just horses and wagons. His family never went further than Peñasco and Truchas, and they grew most of their own food. When they went to the store they only went for clothes, sugar, and coffee. They grew their own wheat to make bread and took it to the mill in Vadito to be ground. His father was also a miner, sheepherder, and logger. When he worked as a sheepherder he only returned home once a year. When he worked in the mines he came home once a month. When his father was away, his mother had to take care of the children and the land and animals.
When Tomás returned to El Valle he was about thirty years old, and he started working as a bus contractor for the school. He built the house he lives in now. He also built and operated a gas station, grocery store, and pool room from 1969 to 1990. Today, he has two grown children and two grandchildren who live in El Valle. He raises cattle, drives the school activity bus and a fire bus, and is the mayordomo for one of the village acequias. He is a very good neighbor to us.
- Max Schiller
My dad was born on September 1, 1965. He is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 145 pounds. He likes to fish, play basketball, football, watch wrestling and boxing. He works for Gossett Bros. in Los Alamos. He used to have a small farm when he was small. When my dad and his sisters were small my grandma and grandpa went somewhere and they had to watch the goats. But they were playing instead of watching the goats. The goats went inside the house. They ate all of the food and were standing on the table. The goats used to climb trees. My dad is now 33 years old. Everyone says I look like my dad when he was small.
- Derick Arellano
I'm interviewing my father, José Córdova. He thinks things were better when he was a child. The community helped each other a lot. He also says it is harder to get help now than when he was a child. He was the only one born in a hospital out of 12 children. He worked on a farm and the Rio Grande railroad. He is now retired and is back to work on the farm. He is a married man and is a father of three and loves his family very much.
- Bud Córdova
By Kay Matthews
Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin
Edited by Devon G. Peña, University of Arizona Press
Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin, edited by Colorado College professor of sociology Devon Peña, should be required reading for every New Mexican (or Upper Rio Grande Rio Arriban, actually) who calls him -or herself an environmentalist. Just as European society requires that we read the books that promote and maintain the values of that society, so must we open ourselves to the values of Rio Arriban land-based communities which connect cultural and political systems into a world that embraces diversity. This book, a collection of essays by Devon Peña, Rubén O. Martínez, Reyes Garcia, Laura Pulido, Gwyn Kirk, Malia Davis, and Joseph C. Gallegos, is a great place to start.
Peña has brought these particular writers together to present a mixed bag of academic analyzes and stories - acequia tales, activist tales, and homeland tales. The first part of the book deals with issues of bioregionalism and Indo-Hispano land ethics. The second part of the book brings these issues closer to home by discussing the histories and current environmental politics in the Upper Rio Grande watershed, including chapters on Ganados del Valle's struggles to find grazing land, and La Sierra's attempts to regain land grant rights in the mountains above Costilla. This is where Peña himself put on the activist mantel as he joined the local community first in its fight against a gold mine and then a massive logging operation on the Taylor Ranch, the former land grant commons.
In his introduction, Peña explains the meaning of the book's subtitle "subversive kin", or Chicano environmentalism: an antidote to Western "reductionist" thinking - a separation of facts and values that holds to universal truths - which instead allows a sense of place and identity to integrate ecology with politics and economics. It embraces the diversity of life, in both human and natural landscapes, and defines new ways of thinking about what constitutes bioregionalism.
Several chapters deal with the concept of bioregionalism. In the chapter "Los Animalitos" Peña credits sociologist Bill Devall with the clearest statement of what defines a bioregion: a perspective that links the study of cultural and natural areas based on biotic shift (the change in plant and animal life from one region to another), watershed, sense of place or spirit of place, and cultural distinctiveness. He emphasizes that this applies to existing, endangered cultures rather than just the people who lived and defined a bioregion before industrialization. The next chapter, written by Rubén O. Martínez, associate provost at the University of Southern Colorado, builds on the premise that it is critical for Chicano communities to organize at the bioregional level, just as ethnic minority groups throughout the world organize to secure autonomy. Strategies to counteract western development and the forces of the free market economy must be based on synthesizing political economy, cultural ecology, and environmental history on a bioregional basis. In Chapter 3, Réyes Garcia, who lives on his family's Conejos County ranch and teaches philosophy at Ft. Lewis College, furthers this discussion by focusing on the Indo-Hispano concept of homeland and sense of place, which are articulated through personal history and analysis.
Subsequent chapters tell the story of Ganados del Valle, critique the work of certain environmental historians that fails to credit Hispanos with a conservation ethic, and delve into ecofeminist issues as well. The last two chapters tell the story of just what is at stake in Rio Arriba, as Joseph Gallegos, a fifth-generation San Luis farmer, attempts to govern acequia water, just as his forefathers have done for generations, in the face of a gold mine and massive logging operation that threaten el agua with pollution and waste. This whole book is his story, really, just as it is the story of Antonio and Molly Manzanares, Ike DeVargas, Sandra Samora, Moises Morales, Lonnie Roybal, and Alfred Trujillo. The are our subversive kin.
On April 13 Camino Real District Forester Carol Holland and timber sales manager Eppie Romero ran a follow-up session to their February 17 Contracting with the Government Workshop. This session focused exclusively on timber sales and included "a mock timber sale" to acquaint community residents with all the steps involved in acquiring and processing a timber sale. About eight area residents participated in the class.
Participants gathered in the Entrañas area off Forest Road 155 to take a look at a small sale that had been cut about four years ago. Eppie and Carol explained that the first step to acquiring a sale is to get your name on the mailing list of ranger districts in which you are interested in working. The Forest Service will then mail you the "prospectus" for all sales on that district. Once a sale has been advertised, prospective buyers can contact the district office to inspect the sale with Forest Service personnel and determine if they are interested in bidding on it.
Eppie and Carol also spoke about estimating timber volumes, orienting skid trails to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impacts, and hauling and milling the logs.
The field portion of the workshop was followed by a session at the district office to go over paper work necessary to bid on a sale. Subjects covered included: acceptable bid rate; understanding the terms of the contract; payment for the sale; performance bonds; and financial assistance. Participants then engaged in a mock sale in order to get a feel for the auction process.
Carol and Eppie emphasized that they are available to help contractors better understand the timber sale process and encouraged interested parties to contact them at 587-2255.
In a dramatic move, State Engineer Tom Turney, without recourse to a formal hearing, denied the application of shock jock Don Imus to transfer 100 acre feet of water from the lands of Francis Gusler in the village of San Miguel to a nearby 3,000-acre parcel Imus owns east of the village of Ribera. Turney personally showed up at a meeting of more than 100 community residents concerned that the transfer could impair already existing wells throughout the community. Members of the El Valle Water Users Coalition said they also invited representatives from the Imus ranch to attend, but none did so.
Nicasio Romero, former president of the New Mexico Acequia Association and member of the water users coalition, told La Jicarita that coalition members felt all along that Gusler's claim to 1160 acre feet of water per year was bogus. That claim was based on the overall capacity of an artesian well on the 2.5 acre Gusler parcel. However, Pete Hurtado, whose family sold the property to the Guslers, showed Turney his family's original declaration for that well, which amounted to only 4 acre feet.
Turney explained that his office is "deluged" with applications like the Guslers and must scrutinize them closely because New Mexico has been unable to meet its obligations to deliver water to Texas. He said that New Mexico has already spent approximately $50 million to acquire and retire water rights on the Pecos River in order to meet that obligation.
While coalition members were delighted by the state engineer's decision, they said that they intend to keep a close eye on the Imus operation in the future. Many area residents fear Imus may still attempt to purchase existing water rights in the area which could imperil their wells or acequia water rights.
La Jicarita will publish a combined June/July issue, so look for the next installment at the end of June. Thanks to all our subscribers and readers for their input and support.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.