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 La Jicarita

A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the

Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo

Volume IV

September 1999

Number VIII


Current Issue




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La Montaña de Truchas: Restoration and Woodlot Program By Kay Matthews


National Riparian Team Comes to Peñasco By Courtney White

Protecting Things We Cannot Bear to Lose By Mark Schiller

Puntos de Vista: Why Do We Say "Illegals" By Pat D'Andrea

Bureau of Land Management Officially Withdraws Copper Hill From Surface Mining

Senator Bingaman Introduces Community Forest Restoration Act for Northern New Mexico

La Montaña de Truchas: Restoration and Woodlot Program

By Kay Matthews

A group of southwest foresters, entrepreneurs, and community people, as well as policy makers from Washington, D. C., recently got to see firsthand the work La Montaña de Truchas is doing in the Carson National Forest. Participants in the Four Corners Sustainable Forestry Initiative Roundtable toured the woodlot and nearby thinning areas to take a look at forestry restoration in action.

La Montaña began as a restoration contract stewardship project on the Camino Real Ranger District. The Truchas community and the district entered into a Collaborative Stewardship agreement to thin the densely overstocked forests in the East Entrañas area of the forest and supply much needed firewood and other forest products to community members. Three ecological sites were included in the project: piñon/juniper, ponderosa pine, and mixed conifer. The environmental goal on each site was to reduce the danger of catastrophic fire, create more forest diversity and habitat, and improve watershed conditions. Community goals were to create locally-based jobs, provide firewood, latillas, and vigas to the community, and offer training in a range of forestry and restoration activities.

La Montaña Woodlot grew out of the restoration program. With technical assistance and fiscal management aid from Forest Trust, start-up grants from the Forest Service, the New Mexico Community Foundation, and the Noyes Foundation, the woodlot organized in 1998 as a non-profit corporation to market wood from the restoration projects. The mission of the organization is to develop a profitable and ecologically responsible wood-using business that provides employment and subsistence wood products for the community as well as high-quality wood products for buyers in surrounding areas.

Focusing initially on firewood, the woodlot provided over 30 jobs for community members who hauled wood to the woodlot. Long-time Truchas resident Jerry Fuentes was hired as woodlot manager, and over the course of the past year the woodlot has expanded into posts, latillas, and vigas. Sammy Córdova was hired as sales manager, and Jacinto Romero and Manuel Nevarez are hauling wood from the Llano Abeyta area of the forest to the woodlot. Córdova has worked up a price-list brochure that he is disseminating to the public; he can be reached at 689-2284 for additional information.

On the tour with the the folks from the Four Corners Initiative, Max Córdova, who is on the board of directors of La Montaña de Truchas Woodlot, spoke about the need to restore a sense of forest ownership to local people, which ensures good stewardship. All of the lands currently being restored in the project were formally part f the Truchas Land Grant and supplied the heirs' resource needs. After these lands were lost to timber companies, corporate barons and corporations, they eventually ended up in the hands of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Until recently the large timber companies continued to dominate the woods products industry on public lands. Now that timber quotas have been reduced and Forest Service management emphasis has changed to ecosystem management, the large operators are yielding to locally-owned, community-based companies. As Córdova pointed out, we now have a unique situation for local people to once again become actively involved in the management and stewardship of these lands.

The restoration areas the group toured were testimony to the good results that stewardship has spawned. As we drove through a series of areas that had been thinned over a five-year period, the differences were obvious: dense, dog-hair thickets of ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper dominated the untouched landscape; in last year's thinning stand grass was beginning to grow on the barren ground; and in the five-year thinned stand, large diameter pines grew in a savannah-like opening of grasses, oak, and wildflowers. Elk, grouse, and songbirds have returned to the area.

It remains to be seen to what extent and effect these kinds of pilot projects have on the Carson and other southwest forests. Much of the conversation at the subsequent meetings in Taos of the Four Corners Sustainable Forestry Initiative focused on how to encourage forest restoration through sustainable, community-based forest enterprises. Public agencies do not have the economic resources to underwrite the huge amount of restoration needed in our forests: at $300 to $700 per acre (thinning, burning, reseeding, etc.) the total figure reaches into the millions of dollars. Even though the Camino Real pilot contract stewardship programs have thus far been very successful - district personnel have a hard time keeping up with the demand for the 1-acre thinning blocks they assign to individuals - the district needs to restore 2,500 acres per year to achieve any kind of comprehensive success.

La Montaña de Truchas, Forest Trust, and La Jicarita were recently awarded a grant to begin planning a large-scale restoration project in the Borrego Mesa and Desmontes areas of the Carson National Forest. This project will train community members in restoration activities such as tree planting, thinning, road closure, erosion and weed control; business development in community forestry; and ecological planning, monitoring and evaluation.


• Salvar la Tierra, an art auction to benefit Vecinos del Rio, a non-profit organization working to protect the traditional agricultural villages along the Rio Grande between Dixon and San Juan Pueblo, will be held Saturday, October 16, from 3:00-7:00 pm. The event, which will include both a live and silent auction, as well as refreshments, will take place at the Santa Fe Hilton. Tickets are $12. Vecinos del Rio has worked closely with Rio Arriba County and state and federal officials to monitor and regulate inappropriate and illegal strip mining in the Española Valley. If you would like to donate your art work or make a contribution to the auction, please contact: Rosella Jardine at 672-1648; Katherine Wells at 852-2055; Gerry Edwards at 852-2407; or Karin Syversen at 852-4504.

• Chimayó writer Chellis Glendinning will celebrate the publication of her new book, Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Imperialism, the Global Economy, and Other Earthly Whereabouts, with a book signing and reading in Taos. The event takes place on Wednesday, September 15, between 5 and 7 pm at Brodsky Bookshop, located at 226 B., Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Glendinning is also the author of My Name Is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization and When Technology Wounds. Bienvenidos todos.

National Riparian Team Comes to Peñasco

By Courtney White

Can cattle grazing and healthy riparian (streamside) areas be compatible? Of course they can. And an upcoming workshop can prove it.

The Quivira Coalition, in partnership with the Santa Barbara Grazing Association and the United States Forest Service, is proud to host the National Riparian Team for a two-day workshop in Peñasco.

The dates are September 25-26 (Sat-Sun), all day.

The National Riparian Team is a group of federal biologists and grazing specialists whose goal is to accelerate riparian and wetland restoration by bringing together communities of people to use a common vocabulary for evaluating the health of riparian areas.

This assessment tool is called Proper Functioning Condition (PFC). Its goal is to help ranchers and land managers make decisions on how to restore and maintain our streamside areas as they are being grazed.

The use of PFC is a critical first step in getting people to put aside "values" and focus on the physical function of riparian areas. A properly functioning system is a resilient system, able to provide a variety of values (grazing, fishing, wildlife habitat, etc).

PFC is a relatively easy system to learn and use, too.

The first day of the workshop will be spent inside studying the basic concepts of Proper Functioning Condition. The second day will be spent outside applying what we have learned to two or three riparian areas.

The workshop is free, but space is VERY LIMITED. Reservations ARE REQUIRED.

Please call Courtney White, of the Quivira Coalition, at 820-2544, in Santa Fe for more information.

The National Riparian Team has assisted ranchers and land managers around the world. This is an outstanding opportunity for anyone interested in cooperative, scientific, and progressive solutions to riparian problems.

Protecting Things We Cannot Bear to Lose

By Mark Schiller

On Monday, August 9, the Santa Fe Land Use Resource Center presented a symposium on "Acequias and Traditional Villages" at Northern New Mexico Community College. Long-time acequia activist Nicasio Romero of Ribera hosted the event, which included seven presentations and a question and answer period. The audience of about 100 people included regional water planners, foundation representatives, parciantes, land grant activists, and the State Engineer.

Professor Sylvia Rodriguez of the University of New Mexico led off the event with a discussion of acequias' historical, economic, and social significance and future needs. She explained how acequias had transformed the New Mexico landscape by creating riparian habitat upon which much of our biodiversity is dependent. She went on to say that acequias are the oldest public works system in the United States and the cornerstone of rural New Mexicans' identity and sense of place. With regard to the future needs of acequias she stressed that water transfers out of agricultural use launch our most precious resource "on an irreversible trajectory which can never be changed." She suggested instead that acequias keep water in agricultural use, which will allow rural communities to maintain economic development options.

José Rivera, author of Acequia Culture, and also on the faculty of UNM, followed with a discussion of acequia communities. He told the audience that while the New Mexico acequia community remains viable, other parts of the country have not fared as well. San Antonio, Texas, for example, which once had seven major acequias, now has only one functioning acequia. He pointed out that our presas (dams which divert water from rivers into acequias) are the birthplace of community and that acequia commissions are the oldest form of democracy in the United States. He suggested that it was vital for acequias to place more emphasis on educating the public about their importance "because it is difficult to value something you don't understand."

Josie Lujan of the Santa Cruz Irrigation District then discussed the history of acequia governance and the importance of acequias from a community perspective.

She told how she had learned about the Chimayó acequias from her abuelita, who just celebrated her 100th birthday, and how the adjudication process was disrupting traditional forms of governance. She urged parciantes to resist the divisiveness the adjudication process brings to communities and support their mayordomos and comisionados. She also touched upon the vital role women have traditionally played in acequia culture.

Phillip Bové of Santa Fe followed with a discussion of the long and troubled history of the Acequia Madre in Santa Fe. He explained how a series of dams, beginning in 1881, impounded acequia water without due process for downstream users, and that by 1946 Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) claimed it owned all the water rights connected with the acequia. Parciantes, however, persisted in their claims, and in 1975 took PNM to court. This finally, in 1991, resulted in a decision for an operating agreement for the delivery of irrigation water between the acequia and PNM.

Stan Crawford, Dixon farmer and author of Mayordomo and A Garlic Testament, gave the next presentation, a poetic account of how his acequia has been "his wisest and most clever teacher." He told the audience that "acequia work is where culture and nature negotiate with each other. So the acequia, by luring me into my fields . . . lured me back into nature - not as a spectator, not as a recreationalist, but as a fellow worker, as a steward."

Clyde Eastman, professor of development sociology at New Mexico State University, continued with a discussion of the economics of small-scale irrigated agriculture. He contrasted small scale farmers with agribusiness and demonstrated how small farmers reap many benefits without enormous economic profits. He also suggested that some of the problems associated with water transfers could be offset by the party to whom the water is being transferred assuming the work and financial obligations for the acequia being impacted. Paula Garcia, director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, however, strongly disagreed. She claimed that paying ditch fees and contributing labor cannot provide a long-term solution to the problems posed by water transfers. She noted that it is vital, in order to maintain the basis for future value-added agriculture development, that water stay within its area of origin. She went on to say that if water is simply looked at as a commodity, and parciantes begin to transfer their water rights one at a time, these transfers will ultimately result in the dismantling of our acequias. Furthermore, the loss of diversionary rights will impact the acequia's ability to provide enough hydrological thrust to deliver water in the most efficient manner to all parciantes on the ditch.

David Benavides, a lawyer with Northern New Mexico Legal Services who specializes in water law, also addressed the commodification of water. David pointed out that water in New Mexico has traditionally been looked at as a community resource, not a piece of private property that can be bought and sold. Speaking directly to regional water planners and the State Engineer, he asked them to understand that the customs and traditions of acequias inherited from Spanish and Mexican water law make water transfers out of agricultural use and away from areas of origin unthinkable to most parciantes. He asked them to be sensitive to the kind of divisiveness the adjudication process creates within and between rural communities, and recognize that many parciantes' (some of the poorest residents of New Mexico) most valuable resource is acequia water. If our traditional, rural/agricultural communities are going to maintain their economic and cultural viability in the 21st century, they must build their future upon this resource.

After the symposium, La Jicarita asked several parciantes for their comments. They all voiced the same sentiment: While they felt this meeting was a good beginning, future meetings should focus on discussion of water banking, instream flow, water transfers, and value-added agriculture from a grassroots perspective.

Puntos de Vista: Why Do We Say "Illegals"

By Pat D'Andrea

At a dinner the other night I listened with dismay while a friend explained that he thought the only way to stop environmental degradation in northern New Mexico (he was talking about the gravel mining controversies) was to "go after all those illegals. Take away their drivers, licenses. Deport them."

Did I hear you right, I asked. To clean up the environment we've got to get rid of immigrants? "Yeah, illegals," came the reply, "Mexicans." I was shocked at this prejudice, how could he think that Mexicans were to blame?

One of the things we have in common is a love for the Rio Grande. He lives near it and we were sitting under a portal facing the river. I thought about the homeless, landless people who come north on the river, looking for work, crossing a river border that's supposed to be closed, impenetrable, but isn't. In interviews some of these people have said they'd rather be home but home can't support them. "No land," said one. "Guerra de hambre," said another.

I thought about the U.S./Mexico border, where the river was headed. One hundred and fifty years ago a war created an international boundary where there used to be a desert river that brought people together. The boundary was supposed to keep people apart, in spite of history, tradition, culture and common sense; it hasn't worked. The river border is stubbornly permeable. That's because in many ways La Frontera is still a single community. The more barriers the two governments put up to keep people away from each other - police, paramilitary, military, technocops - the more predators come along promising people a way to beat the system. It doesn't work. A closed international border between our two countries makes NO SENSE to me. Period.

But in the context of the "new world order" announced some years ago by President Bush, a closed border is a necessity, at least for some.

Enter NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Signed in January, 1993 by three presidents who left office soon after - Brian Mulroney of Canada, George Bush of the United States, and Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico- - NAFTA came into effect in January, 1994. It purports to open borders. The treaty is more than a thousand pages long and most of it consists of lists of goods (fourteen kinds of steel; wheat; sugar; pink and blue fuzzy slippers; auto parts, things like that) and the formulas whereby tariffs will be reduced.

The treaty opens borders to goods and services, but not to people. There is no mention of free passage for people.

In Mexico, opposition to NAFTA came not just from people who felt they would lose out economically - a large sector of the small business world - but from those who said they would welcome a free trade treaty, one negotiated in the open by the government that would succeed Gortari's. They suspected that Salinas de Gortari thought up this idea to take the pressure of unemployment and dire poverty off the ruling class, a little release valve to prevent a revolution - just the thing to keep the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party in power . . . And it didn't work, as the Chiapas revolt has proven.

In the U.S., the "insiders" (the President, ex-Presidents, ex-Secretaries of State, transnational corporations and banks, Nobel-prize winners in economics, editorial boards, and Republicans in Congress) were for it. The "outsiders" (the best of the labor, environmental and citizens' movements allied with everyone from the Congressional Black Caucus to Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan to the radical, middle and right-hand left) were against it.

What did the insiders want? More markets and cheap labor, environment be damned (which means people be damned). In Mexico, the peso devaluation, business failures, the rising price of food, and the increasing migration of landless people out of the countryside and into factories in cities with no resources to build infrastructure- - sewage treatment, clean water pipes, roads, adequate health and social services- - have brought home what "free trade" means. In the United States, the loss of jobs has been higher than most analysts predicted, but it is not so visible under our veneer of material excess.

Insiders argued for NAFTA because "jobs are going away anyway; if they don't go to Mexico they'll go to Taiwan."As Molly Ivins pointed out in a column in the Texas Observer, these people forgot Germany and Japan, the two biggest rivals we have on the economic front.

In Germany, workers are paid more than U.S. workers and they are secure in a much higher standard of social services. In Japan, wages are almost the equivalent of U.S. wages and job security is a given.

Ivins went on to talk about the disparity between management and labor wages in the U.S.: "The CEO of Hospital Corporation of America makes $127 million per year in salary and stock options. In Japan there is an old rule that no top manager should make more than four times what the lowest-paid worker makes.

"Let's say the lowest paid worker at HCA makes $25,000 a year; their top gun makes 5,080 times as much. These are the same managers who consistently beat unions back to $8 an hour and claim the price of labor will drive them to Taiwan. That's greed, and that's stupid."

I began then to see NAFTA as a conduit to allow the goods produced by impoverished Mexican workers to flow freely north of the border, while keeping the workers themselves south of it.

During the House vote on NAFTA the Border Patrol was carrying out a much-publicized and completely ludicrous blockade between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez - standing shoulder to shoulder to keep the "illegals" out. Why? It isn't hard to see that NAFTA could create in Mexico a nationwide slave labor camp, where U.S. business could pay starvation wages, dump toxic waste in worker communities, poison people in factories and never have to answer for it. Goods, not people, may cross our border with Mexico, that's NAFTA's message. If people could cross freely, the slave labor might flee.

And so, Mexican immigrants without papers are "illegal" in this country.

The north migration up the river is matched by the south migration down it. LIVE IN MEXICO ON $14 A DAY trumpets a book advertisement in a recent travel publication. For the rootless rich, Mexico is a haven: "One million Americans live in Mexico, more than any other place in the world," says the ad. This is the one-way door to Mexico, transnationalism for the few.

The rootless rich live in northern New Mexico, too: look at the number of million-dollar houses, often unoccupied for months, that have been built in the last fifteen years. Here, as in Mexico, the rootless rich lock themselves behind gates, hire security patrols, build "safe rooms" in their houses where they can hide with all the comforts if someone threatens to kidnap them.

Ironically, the Mexican "illegals" have to hide, too. But not behind gates or in safe rooms or surrounded by security guards. They hide by trying to stay quiet and invisible in the places where they live and work. They know they're living targets.

As we sat under the portal next to the Rio Grande that evening, I was thinking about how this vicious divide between rich and poor, white and brown, leads us so easily to blame Mexicans for our problems. Hidden, unacknowledged, seemingly powerless, any politician can blame them or kick them around when he or she has no other solution to offer.

Not far away from us that evening the Santa Cruz River flowed into the big river. A man who lives on the Santa Cruz said he got involved in the neighborhood watch program when he discovered so many syringes in the river that he was afraid to let his daughter go into its waters. Thank goodness he didn't buy Senator Domenici's argument that it was "illegals" who were responsible for the drug problem, implying that all we have to do to solve it is deport them.

I'm not going back to the house on the Rio Grande, even though it is beautiful. It isn't a peaceful place, steeped as it is in the prejudice against "illegals," who (by the way) are invited to clean up its bosque from time to time.

Bureau of Land Management Officially Withdraws Copper Hill From Surface Mining

As many of you already know, on July 1 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officially withdrew the controversial Copper Hill area near Picuris Pueblo from surface mining. Copper Hill was the site of Summo Corporation's proposed strip copper mine, which Picuris Pueblo, the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, the Taos/Rio Arriba Mining Coalition, and many other area residents fought long and hard to prevent. Summo abandoned its mining plan in July of 1998, but the BLM withdrawal of these lands means that the threat of another plan to mine the area by another company or individual is over. The official order withdraws 3,632.31 acres of public land from surface entry and mining and 1,148.19 acres of federally reserved mineral interests underlying private land for a period of 20 years. According to the announcement of this withdrawal in the Federal Register, these lands are being withdrawn to "protect the outstanding cultural, wildlife, and visual resources of the Copper Hill area." Those involved in the opposition to the mine thank the BLM for its recognition of the importance of preserving these lands and plan to hold a victory celebration: a grassroots fight has been won!

Senator Bingaman Introduces Community Forest Restoration Act for Northern New Mexico

On June 28, 1999, Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced to the Senate the Community Forest Restoration Act, the culmination of a summer's worth of field tours and roundtables in northern New Mexico. The Act would provide monies (not more than $150,000 annually nor $450,000 total) to collaborative groups of stakeholders for community restoration projects that would enhance forest health and biodiversity by "reducing the unnaturally high number and density of small diameter trees on Federal, State, and tribal forest lands." The Act would also support sustainable community economies by promoting the use of small diameter trees, and support collaborative partnerships between state, federal, and tribal representatives as well as conservation groups, local communities, and commodity interests. A technical advisory panel will help the Secretary of Agriculture select proposals that will receive funding through the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program: the panel will include representatives of all the above listed stakeholders as well as one academic or scientist.


 A Who's Who at the Acequia Conference

Lisa Krooth and Bob Stark


Tom Turney and José Rivera

Rosemary Crawford, Mary Riseley, and Stan Crawford

John Brown and Paula Garcia

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