A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Puntos de Vista: El Bosque - Limits or Expansion? By Kay Weiner
Forest Restoration Project Looks at on-the-Ground Conditions By Kay Matthews
Truchas Montaña Youth Team By Nova Romero, Lito Martinez and Max Córdova Jr.
Editorial By Mark Schiller
"We are celebrating the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo here today, February 2, Ground Hog Day, by showing our shadow, too, which is very big and will last a long time." With these ringing words, Roberto Mondragon, leader of the Land Grant Forum, opened the celebration of the anniversary of the treaty in the rotunda of the State Capitol. State Senator Manny Aragon came to read a proclamation asking the people of the United States to respect international treaties; State Historian Roberto Torrez stated that there is "siempre esperanza" that the land grants will be returned; former Congressman Bill Redmond said we must "break, not just slap, the hand of government" so that it honors the treaty; and Paula Garcia and Manuel Trujillo, of the New Mexico Acequia Association, spoke eloquently of the inextricable ties between land and water. Trujillo had the crowd on their feet when he said "We should not be here to grovel for what is ours, for equal protection under the law. The land is our mother and the water is our life blood."
There is a lot of political energy focused around the treaty as well. New Mexico's two U.S Senators, Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, have directed the Controller General to review and analyze land grant claims by the year 2002. Representative Tom Udall, in the House of Representatives, has introduced legislation that began in Bill Richardson's tenure and was followed up by Bill Redmond, to investigate land grant claims under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In the New Mexico state legislature, numerous bills and memorials were introduced to address land grant issues, including a state registry of land grants and a state task force to oversee the study of land grants undertaken by the General Accounting Office in Washington (and that members of the Land Grant Forum be on this task force). Unfortunately, none of the state bills passed the very contentious and unproductive 30-day session. But the Land Grant Forum continues its work to educate and lobby for "a new beginning and an end to injustices of the past."
The Camino Real Ranger District is soliciting comments on three proposed thinning and restoration projects on the district. If you have concerns or questions you may contact Carol Holland at the Camino Real Ranger Station at 587-2255 or submit written comments to P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 98553. The projects include:
1. A thinning project near the community of Truchas is designed to reduce the chance of catastrophic fire and improve forage conditions. The project in the Entrañas area is 390 acres; trees removed from the understory would be less than or equal to 12 inches in diameter. Personal product use will include firewood, vigas, and latillas. Once the wood is removed, the second phase of the project will be a prescribed burn.
2. The Ojo project is proposed in the ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest north of Truchas off Forest Roads 155 and 155a. The purpose of the action is to thin crowded conditions and diseased trees in both the understory and overstory, reduce hazardous fire conditions, and provide wood products for local communities. The proposed action would selectively harvest within two separate stands, sawtimber and viga-size trees (9-16 inches in diameter). Some of the vigas would be harvested through personal use permits and the sawtimber and some vigas would be offered through advertised contracts. Following this harvest, trees in the understory that are 6 to 9 inches in diameter would be thinned by offering personal use fuelwood permits, and nonmerchantable trees less than 6 inches would be thinned through a precommercial thinning contract.
3. The Ojito Ponderosa Pine Ecosystem/Wildland Interface project on FR 160 proposes to reduce the chance of catastrophic fire by thinning 270 acres. Understory trees of less than or equal to 12 inches in diameter will be thinned and offered to the public as personal use products. Following the thinning the area would be prescribed burned. No new roads will be built.
By Kay Weiner for El Bosque Preservation Action Community
In the early 1990s, even before the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) started scoping meetings to collect input for the Rio Grande Management Plan, which came out in January 2000, the residents of El Bosque (Embudo, Rinconada) stated: "Commercial recreation, managed by government agencies, is a new phenomenon, and its introduction into a long-standing, riverside community with a rich cultural heritage deserves careful study. We favor a management plan which places primary emphasis on the protection and preservation of the environment and the rich cultural and historical legacy of our rural, farming communities. Only secondarily should the plan seek to accommodate the commercialization of leisure-time activities."
Throughout the planning process we stressed this and the need for cultural, environmental, and economic studies that would show the justification and need for large commercial boating "expansion" in El Bosque, historically an area of very little commercial or private boating. Although the BLM claims to have followed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, which specify studying cumulative impacts on communities, no new studies were done.
Even more disturbing in the Final Plan is the fact that the public was not given the opportunity to comment on changes made from what was in the Draft of the Final Plan - which we think constitutes a violation of NEPA guidelines. These changes involve allowing a year-round boating season, with daily floats from March first through October 14, and weekly floats the rest of the year. The draft had called for a five-month boating season starting on May 15th. This huge increase was slipped in without providing for public comment.
Barry Lopez, the well know author and essayist has written: "Yet Americans are daily presented with and have become accustomed to talking about a homogenized natural geography, one that seems to operate independently of the land (water), a collection of objects rather than a continuous bolt of fabric."
Our position was and is clear. Unfortunately, the BLM's position changes depending on directives from Washington and pressures from the commercial interest wanting to use public land and water. Boating will come and go - mother nature, economics, business trends, and fad will take care of that. The BLM has a responsibility to maintain quality of life in El Bosque and not to unravel this "bolt of fabric" with the introduction of thousands of tourists.
Total possible commercial boating use if every allowed trip were sold out (Private boater usage is not regulated).
WINTER SPRING SUMMER FALL
1,0003 3,8003 4,5503 3,0503
Note: According to the BLM, an average of 1200 commercial and private boaters have historically used El Bosque in the five month season starting in mid-May.
1From 2,000-4000 CFS: 680 per day to Lover's Lane (23,120/season based on 34 day average annual flow at this CFS). Only the 11 permitted El Bosque outfitters can float past Lover's Lane.
2Above 4,000 CFS: 680 per day to Lover's Lane (6,8001/season based on 10 day average annual flow at this CFS). Only the 11 permitted El Bosque outfitters can float past Lover's Lane.
3 The 11 permitted commercial outfitters have an allocation of 50 passengers per week, 15 Oct-Feb, 50 per day March-14 Oct.
By Kay Matthews
Partners and stakeholders in the proposed La Montaña de Truchas Forest Restoration Partnership met recently at Los Siete in Truchas to review existing forest conditions in the two proposed restoration areas: Desmontes on the Carson National Forest and Borrego Mesa on the Santa Fe. La Montaña de Truchas was awarded a $40,000 planning grant by the Ford Foundation to develop a five-year management plan to address degraded conditions in both these forest areas (see January issue of La Jicarita ).
Representatives of groups and agencies and various other community people who are involved in the planning process attended the meeting: Carol Holland, Steve Miranda, and Henry Lopez of the Camino Real Ranger District of Carson National Forest; John Miera and Donald Serano of the Española Ranger District of Santa Fe National Forest; Ryan Temple, Shirl Harrington and Martha Shumann of Forest Trust; Sam DesGeorges of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Tim Sanchez, Max Córdova, Sammy Córdova, and Joyce Mondragon of La Montaña; Perry Trujillo of the Truchas Land Grant; Jake Kosek of Truchas; and Kay Matthews and Mark Schiller of La Jicarita News. Jerry Rodriguez of the Trampas Grazing Association and Dave Richards of Picuris Pueblo were unable to attend.
Tim Sanchez and Martha Shumann had prepared overlay maps of the Desmontes area which showed existing conditions with regard to vegetation density and types, grasslands, erosion potential, former timber sales and thinning projects, prescribed projects, potential old growth, and road densities. The three major tree types in the forested areas of Desmontes are ponderosa pine, piñon, and juniper. The trees are densely stocked and lack of sun and needle cover prevent the growth of grasses and forbs. In some of the piñon/juniper areas on steeper slopes there are potential erosion problems and also a lack of ground cover.
For the last 20 years the area has been primarily thinned for personal use fuelwood, viga, and latilla sales, with some follow up burning, and more recently for contract stewardship blocks under the auspices of the Collaborative Stewardship program. Areas that were commercially thinned before 1970 have been identified as potential old growth. Because of the area's primarily flat terrain and accessibility, there is a high density of roads. Max Córdova pointed out that the community will have to be involved in any planned road closures so that traditional uses are accommodated and enforcement can be assured.
The Trampas Grazing Allotment in the Desmontes area utilizes both natural and "pushed" areas that were bulldozed and chained in the 1960s to provide more grassland. There are currently problems with chamisa invasion and water storage facilities. The BLM, with lands bordering the allotment, the Forest Service, and the permittees expressed the need to work together on the allotment to establish goals and objectives in terms of grassland improvements. This is the next step for all the shareholders in the planning project: to identify desired conditions and feasible projects to attain those desired conditions within the scope of the 5-year management plan.
Shirl Harrington of Forest Trust presented the overlay maps of the Borrego Mesa area. The vegetive types there include ponderosa pine, piñon/juniper, and spruce/fir. The Borrego area differs substantially from the Desmontes area due to its history of intensive commercial logging over the past 20 years, which included both clearcuts and overstory removal. Poor soil conditions that existed before the sales and degraded because of the sales have caused extensive blow down in some areas of the mesa. There are also historical personal use firewood areas in Borrego, and there is a history of disagreement between the community and the Forest Service over management prescriptions and techniques in both the commercial and personal use areas. One of the map overlays showed previous regeneration projects which were largely unsuccessful. The road map also revealed a high density of roads, many of which, however, have been effectively closed after timber sales were completed. Borrego is part of an existing grazing allotment that extends beyond the borders of the area. Both community members and Forest Service personnel acknowledged that there has been a lack of oversight on grazing practices and a lack of Forest Service presence in the area to discourage illegal wood cutting. John Miera suggested that any proposed plan needs to include a comprehensive grazing plan and a long range fuelwood plan that could hopefully ensure sustainable firewood for community needs.
La Montaña de Truchas and the Forest Service have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish cooperative agreements on the restorative work that La Montaña will direct in the two forest areas. The Forest Service will of course have to follow National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures on any proposed action. Forest Trust, as fiscal agent for the project, is working with La Montaña to identify experts who can consult on the restoration, business development, and monitoring components of the plan, and La Jicarita News continues to monitor the planning process. The paper is also working with the Truchas Montaña Youth Team to monitor and report on forest projects, and their first article appears on page 5.
By Nova Romero, Lito Martinez and Max Córdova Jr.
The Truchas Montaña Youth Team is a project that was put together to keep an eye on the work being done on the Truchas Montaña forest in the Collaborative Stewardship program. The Truchas Montaña Youth Team is made up of three young Trucheños. Their names are Max Córdova Jr., Nova Romero, and Lito Martinez. They have lived in Truchas all of their lives and want to preserve the forest as much as possible. That way future generations will be able to see the forest as the youth team did when they were young.
On January 30, 2000, the Truchas Montaña Youth Team set out to visit the pilot project of the Carson National Forest and La Montaña de Truchas. The project was designed for the National Forest and La Montaña de Truchas to try and manage the forest to benefit the communities and the heath of the forest. The youth research team put stakes on units 1 and 2 to use as photo points. The photo points were to see the work being done on the piñon/juniper forest, on a month to month basis.
The next place that the Truchas Montaña youth research team went was to Forest Road 156 to see the work that had been done by the local community. Here the people of the community have worked on one acre lots. "When we went to see FR 156 we were very surprised to see that many of the seed-bearing piñon and juniper trees that the people had left behind had been poached," said Nova Romero, one of the team workers. When the people from the communities went and thinned the areas, they left the piñon trees so they could produce piñon seeds, which the community and wildlife rely on for food. "We have to think about about the future of both the people of the community and the wildlife," Max Córdova Jr. said.
The Youth Team met with Camino Real timber staff to see if anything can be done about the poaching. According to Henry Lopez, the Forest Service doesn't have the money to be out in the field all the time to watch for poachers. Even though these lots are managed "to promote ponderosa pine growth", he said that perhaps in the future the Forest Service could make sure they mark more of the smaller piñon trees as leave trees so that there will be plenty of piñon in the future. The Youth agreed that the community wants to see piñon trees here as well as ponderosa pine.
By Mark Schiller
Last December New Mexico Congressman Tom Udall sent a letter to Southwest Regional Forester Eleanor Towns "urging" her to "revisit" a 1968 Forest Service document entitled "The People Of Northern New Mexico And The National Forests." This report was prepared by M. J. Hassell of the regional office in response to then Regional Forester William D. Hurst's request to " find ways of making resources of the National Forests, and the work they generate, contribute most effectively to the People of Northern New Mexico." In a 1972 memo to forest supervisors and district rangers Hurst emphasized the importance he placed on this policy by saying "the uniqueness and value of Spanish-American and Indian cultures in the southwest must be recognized and efforts of the Forest Service must be directed toward their preservation. These cultures should be considered 'resources' in much the same sense as Wilderness is considered a resource with Forest Service programs and plans made compatible with their future well-being and continuance." Unfortunately, the recommendations of this report were never effectually implemented. In his letter to Regional Forester Towns, Congressman Udall sites the the long history of "injustices" suffered by northern New Mexico land grant communities at the hands of the federal government and suggests "many of the [recommendations in the Hassell report] are as relevant and potentially useful today as they were when Hassell submitted them."
While we support Congressman Udall's letter and the Camino Real Ranger District's recent efforts to implement a "collaborative stewardship" program, we also feel that these gestures are long past due. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which recognized the legitimacy of the Spanish and Mexican land grants, was executed in 1848. Isn't it about time the Forest Service acknowledge that they have a legal and moral obligation to manage water, timber and range resources to sustainably maximize their benefits for land grant communities? This means recognizing that access to these resources is a right that land grant community members retain, not a privilege which the Forest Service has the discretion to bestow. Moreover, it means that until Congress addresses the numerous violations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with regard to land grant tenure, the Forest Service should be co-managing the disputed areas with residents, not for them.
An article in the Fall 1999 Natural Resources Journal by Santa Fe lawyer Brett Olsen supports these arguments. In that article Olsen states "[L]and grant communities downstream from the Pecos Wilderness . . . are 'twice removed from a land-use practice that profoundly affects their current lives.' They have no input into either timber management decisions, which affect their traditional irrigation practices, or the development of wilderness management policies, which emphasize non-economic or recreational values." He goes on to say " . . . the Aamodt court's conclusion that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo conveyed a pre-territorial water right to the [Native American] Pueblos suggests, at a minimum, that the federal government has an equitable obligation to respect the [Hispanic] land grants' pre-territorial water rights in some manner. These rights buttress land grant communities' historical claim to permanent use of upland resources . . . . A Forest Service commitment to manage upland watersheds for downstream land grant's irrigation needs would provide a contemporary incarnation of this historical right of use . . . ."
One land grant issue that demands immediate attention is the personal use firewood program. Land grant communities are still largely dependent on wood for heating and cooking. In light of the Mexican Spotted Owl injunction of 1995, which enjoined all wood cutting on National Forests for a period of 18 months, threatening the health and security of community residents, the Forest Service must assure access to a reliable supply of firewood at no cost. Not only do these communities retain wood gathering rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, they are also rendering a service by thinning areas which are presently overgrown due to past mismanagement. One enlightened Forest Service employee commented to me that not only should the personal use program be free, but the Forest Service should be paying community members for their work.
As former state legislator and land grant activist Manuel Trujillo stated at the anniversary celebration of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, land grant communities are tired of grovelling for what's rightfully theirs (see page 1). It's time that the Forest Service stop merely paying lip service to the importance of sustaining these communities and start implementing policies that will insure their survival and their sovereignty.
The controversial Water Banking Bill, introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives by Pauline Gubbels and in the Senate by Sue Wilson (both of Albuquerque), died in committee, put to rest largely by acequia parciantes who demanded more participation in the planning process. The bill differed from last year's version by proposing both a state water bank for deposit and lease of conserved water administered by the state engineer, and regional water banks for acequias and irrigation and conservancy districts administered locally. While acequia parciantes acknowledged that this was a step in the right direction (for acequias to be able to control their conserved water locally for the benefit of their own acequia communities), they felt there were loopholes and inadequacies in the bill, particularly the lack of protection against forfeiture. Gubbels says she is planning on introducing a revised banking bill next year, but she did submit a memorial requesting that a task force, comprised of all water stakeholders, be included in the planning process.
The legislature approved the memorial submitted by the New Mexico Acequia Association that the Interstate Stream Commission ensure that loans continue to be accessible to acequias and that the capacity of acequia commissions to incur debt on behalf of the acequia is preserved. The bill to fund negotiation efforts between acequia associations and the Office of the State Engineer to address omissions and errors in the adjudication process passed, but it remains to be seen whether it will be included in the final budget, which will be amended in a special March session. The memorial supporting the negotiation process was on the floor the last day of the session but never made it to a vote.
The Camino Real Ranger District convened a meeting of participants in the Santa Barbara Rehabilitation Project on February 18 to update everyone and clarify the scope of the work and the schedule for its completion. New district ranger Cecilia Seesholtz chaired the meeting, which included other district personnel, Greg Miller of the Supervisor's Office, permittees from the grazing allotment, and representatives from the Quivira Coalition, Conservation Fund Grass Bank, the New Mexico Environment Department, and the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition.
With the help of range management supervisor Steve Miranda and fire management officer Manuel Romero, Seesholtz updated participants on the project. Work that has been completed includes 300 acres of thinning on Bear Mountain. Work in progress includes 150 acres of contract thinning on Bear Mountain (contractors are all local and include the Picuris Forestry Crew). And work which they hope to complete by the end of the year includes: burning Bear Mountain thinned areas (Romero identified 88 acres that are ready to go as soon as a window of favorable conditions opens); burning 970 acres within the Rio Chiquito Allotment; completion of an Environmental Assessment to allow thinning and burning of 420 additional acres; trail rehabilitation; construction of a foot bridge across the West Fork of the Santa Barbara; a fence to keep cattle out of sensitive riparian areas; establishing monitoring plots and procedures; rehabilitation of existing trick tanks; and construction of four or five earthen catchment basins to serve as upland water sources.
Participants also discussed strategies for obtaining funding to expand the scope of the work, which could include more thinning and burning, and hiring a herder to mitigate potential impacts by moving the cows throughout the allotment. Finally, shareholders, citing previous communication problems, requested that some mechanism be put in place for keeping everyone updated on the progress of the projects. Seesholtz responded that she would mail an update to all shareholders at six-week intervals.
District Judge Steve Pfeffer recently dismissed a Citizen's Suit brought by the Pueblo of Picuris against the state of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The Pueblo is opposed to Oglebay Norton's (the company that recently purchased the mine from Franklin Minerals) proposed expansion of its mica mine on patented land on Picuris Peak, which Picuris Governor Red Eagle Rael says are aboriginal tribal lands that "the Pueblo has deep spiritual and cultural ties to."
Pfeffer ruled that the Pueblo had failed to follow proper procedure by filing a lawsuit before filing an appeal to the State Mining Commission of the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department's approval of the proposed expansion. Doug Wolf, tribal attorney, and Governor Rael both told La Jicarita that they would appeal Pfeffer's ruling, claiming that he misinterpreted the provisions for a Citizen's Suit in the state mining regulations.
La Jicarita will write a more extensive article about this issue next month.
"I know the Appalachian Trail is supposed to be a wilderness experience, and I accept that there are countless places where it would be a tragedy for it to be otherwise, but sometimes, as here [Delaware Valley], the ATC [Appalachian Trail Club] seems to be positively phobic about human contact. Personally, I would have been pleased to be walking now through hamlets and past farms rather than through some silent 'protected corridor.'
Doubtless it is all to do with our historic impulse to tame and exploit the wilderness, but America's attitude to nature is, from all sides, very strange if you ask me. I couldn't help comparing my experience now with an experience I'd had three or four years earlier in Luxembourg when I went hiking with my son for a magazine assignment. Luxembourg is a much more delightful place to hike than you might think. It has lots of woods but also castles and farms and steepled villages and winding river valleys--the whole, as it were, European package. The footpaths we followed spent a lot of time in the woods but also emerged at obliging intervals to take us along sunny back roads and over stiles and through farm fields and hamlets. . . . We experienced the whole of Luxembourg, not just its trees. It was wonderful, and it was wonderful because the whole charmingly diminutive package was seamlessly and effortlessly integrated.
In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature an either/or proposition--either you ruthlessly subjugate it . . . or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian Trail. Seldom would it occur to anyone on either side that people and nature could coexist to their mutual benefit - that say, a more graceful bridge across the Delaware River might actually set off the grandeur around it, or that the AT might be more interesting and rewarding if it wasn't all wilderness, if from time to time it purposely took you past grazing cows and tilled fields."
- Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.