A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Community Forestry Alliance Meets with Forest Service to Review Wildlands/Urban Interface Projects By Kay Matthews
By Kay Matthews
The New Mexico Community-Based Forestry Alliance is a state-wide coalition of foresters working to provide economic, environmental, and social benefits to their communities through forest restoration projects. One of the purposes of the Alliance is to act as an advocate for community foresters who have applied for federal monies that are earmarked for wildlands/urban interface. So far, three specially designated grants have been dispersed: the Four Corners Sustainable Forest Partnership (a partnership of state forestry divisions and the USDA Forest Service); Title IV Community Assistance, Economic Action Programs (USDA Forest Service, Region 3); and the Community Forest Restoration Act (USDA Forest Service, Region 3).
While some Alliance member groups applied for and received these monies for individual projects and needs such as equipment and staff, there is a general feeling among the members that because the grants are competitively awarded, many of the forestry groups ended up competing with each other by making proposals that duplicate services and infrastructure. Instead, community foresters should be working together to increase capacity among all the groups.
In an effort to address this concern and to establish a collaborative partnership with the Forest Service on wildlands/urban interface projects, the Alliance recently met with representatives of the Carson, Santa Fe, and Cibola national forests in Española. The Alliance invited the Forest Service to present a list of what restoration projects are currently available on northern New Mexico ranger districts and to engage in a dialogue about how to achieve the most equitable and efficient partnership between the communities and the federal agencies that manage these projects.
According to a representative of the regional office who attended the meeting, there will be approximately $1.5 million in economic assistance money granted next year and proposals will first be submitted to individual forests before a final review by the regional office. Alliance members suggested several ways in which the process could be improved in order to provide for better dispersal of these grants. Ideally, the Alliance would like to develop a comprehensive proposal that incorporates the needs of its individual members to insure that the monies are fairly dispersed, that there is no unnecessary replication of services or equipment (large equipment could be shared by all community forestry groups), and that the money hits the ground in the most efficient way. The Alliance could also provide technical assistance to the member groups by employing grant writers, a marketer, business administrators to help with bookkeeping and management needs, and to provide a discounted group insurance plan. The Alliance is currently trying to raise funds from private foundations to help cover the costs necessary to provide these services.
The Alliance told the Forest Service that it can play an immediate role by helping strengthen the proposals that were not funded in last year's grant cycle. The Alliance can also work with the Forest Service to determine the priority of restoration projects according to environmental need and availability of forestry crews. The district rangers at the meeting provided information on which restoration projects they have completed the necessary National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) work so they can be contracted now, as well as what projects will be ready over the next few years. Leonard Atencio, Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest, said that a priority list of wildlands/urban interface projects has already been devised, but agreed that district rangers need to collaborate with forestry groups on future projects. However, as Alliance members pointed out, in order to have an effective voice, community people should have been at the table before the NEPA analyzes - environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs) - were undertaken, helping devise that priority list. During his overview of the NEPA process presented at the meeting, Carson National Forest Planner Carveth Kramer admitted, "The Forest Service hasn't done a good job of getting people to the table to help decide where we're going to commit the money for a NEPA analysis."
Also during the discussion on the NEPA process Kramer explained that a third category of analysis, the categorical exclusion (CE), which had previously been used on small timber sale projects and which is not appealable, as are EAs and EISs, can no longer be used for any kind of commercial project because of agency abuse. Apparently in some areas of the country the agency put forth large projects that required the more extensive EIS process of analysis but then broke the area into smaller sections that could qualify as CEs so they weren't subject to appeal (the agency has, of course, been overwhelmed with appeals by environmental groups over the last 10 years). Kurt Winchester, El Rito District Ranger, said that there currently is an effort being made to get CE authority back, particularly in light of the fact that the Community Forest Restoration Act specifically mandates the Forest Service to get more involved with communities. Henry Lopez, Forestry Technician on the Camino Real Ranger District, pointed out that CEs still have a legitimate purpose and allowed community people to obtain wood products from the contract stewardship blocks they restored.
Everyone at the meeting agreed that because the NEPA process is cumbersome and time consuming, the Forest Service needs to commit more resources to getting the analyzes done on the thousands of acres that need to be restored. There appears to be some conflict within the agency regarding the policy of providing grant monies to community groups to take on the responsibility of conducting NEPA analyzes through contract work. While the Title IV grant provided one of the community groups the money to conduct its own NEPA study, the regional forester has told other community representatives that the Forest Service must be prepared to invest the time and money necessary to conduct NEPA analysis in a timely fashion.
The Forest Service also needs to develop a more streamlined process for awarding restoration contracts. According to Dennis Trujillo, Coyote District Ranger, he has trouble finding community foresters willing to apply for contracts because "they are too bulky and complicated." The Alliance would like to provide technical assistance in not only helping community foresters understand the contract process but devising contracts that are easier to complete.
The Alliance is currently engaged in a comprehensive outreach to meet with all foresters who might be interested in joining the organization. A meeting will be scheduled for members to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that delineates the rights and responsibilities of the Alliance and its member groups.
The Quivira Coalition is sponsoring its first annual conference, The New Ranch at Work, on January 18-19, 2002, at La Posada Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conference will focus on:
Grazing as a Natural Process: Just the Facts, Please, moderated by Dan Dagget and featuring Kris Haavstad, USDA, Joel Brown, NRCS, Kirk Gadzia, Resource Management Services, Bob Budd, Red Canyon Ranch, and Jim Brown, UNM.
The Principles of the New Ranch: Case Studies in Success, moderated by Kirk Gadzia and featuring Julia Davis, CS Ranch, Roger Bowe, Rafter F Ranch, Gail Garber, HawksAloft, and David James, James Ranch.
Grazing and Biodiversity: We Can Get Along, moderated by Merle Lefkoff and featuring Rick Knight, CSU, Tony Malmberg, Twin Creek Ranch, Ben Brown, Gray Ranch, and Scott Stoleson, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Building the Radical Center: Good News, moderated by Nathan Sayre and featuring Dan Dagget, Ecoresults, Tommie Martin, Higher Ground, Bill McDonald, The Malpai Borderlands Group, and Merle Lefkoff, Lefkoff and Associates.
For a registration form or more information call the Quivira Coalition at 505 820-2544 or e-mail them at email@example.com. The conference cost is $40 for Quivira members and $55 for non-members.
I spend as much time as I can in your beautiful state, but my perspective from a tourist point of view does not allow much real exposure to New Mexican life and issues. I've read the work of Denise Chavez, John Nichols, Stanley Crawford and Harvey Frauenglass, but, unfortunately, the closest I've come to talking with the "real" people of the state is when I speak to residents at the farmers' markets and at their roadside stands. My hobby is growing chiles, and I'm forever seeking out new strains to grow out at home in Texas.
Last night I was at a library book sale, talking with the ladies who organized the event. The sale had to be moved at the last minute because it had previously been held at a National Guard Armory - which had been locked down tighter than a drum after September 11. Of course the discussion roamed from the sale to the armory to current events and finally to how one didn't talk about a lot of subjects anymore, lest they wanted to risk being called "unpatriotic," or worse.
Thank you for presenting the voices you featured in your October issue. They ask hard questions and raise issues that far too many avoid - especially "our" elected officials. I hope their comments are heard beyond the confines of Northern New Mexico.
Best of luck with your publication.
Chellis Glendinning - Chimayó Writer
Max Córdova - President, La Montaña de Truchas
Editor's note: Organizations in northern New Mexico that are working to find innovative solutions to the social and economic problems that threaten the integrity of our communities are often plagued by internal strife revolving around the issue of race. Recently, in an article in the New Mexico Acequia Association newsletter, Agua, Vida, Y Cultura, Estevan Arellano made the accusation that "newcomers are taking over the role of commissioners and mayordomos with no knowledge of what is an acequia. Some of the people that are moving into the villages are doing so because they want to write about acequias. Others want to save us; they want to teach us about the acequias, what they don't know or understand. . . . For all that has been written . . . [is] either romanticized, stereotyped, or a desperate invention of the imagination when all else fails." He also chides "people born into the acequia culture," for not "getting off their butts and getting involved in the acequias." While we agree with Arellano that nuevomexicanos, his term for indigenous Indo-Hispanos, need to play a more pivotal role in maintaining acequias and protecting water rights, we feel it is counter productive to dismiss those "newcomers" - Arellano's euphemism for Anglos - who work alongside their nuevomexicano neighbors as parciantes and mayordomos and commissioners when asked to serve in that capacity. Many of these people have lived in el norte for years, in some cases for several generations, and have made themselves knowledgeable about the history and management of acequias because they value acequia culture. We asked Chellis Glendinning and Max Córdova, who have both worked with community activists and organizations for many years on issues of sovereignty and environmental justice, to talk about how nuevomexicanos and those of us from the dominant society can better work together to achieve our common goals.
La Jicarita: Can you give us a brief history of your political activism?
Glendinning: I grew up in a family that was actively involved in the civil rights movement, so I basically grew up inside the civil rights movement in Cleveland, Ohio, and participated in many grassroots activities, including marches in Washington DC in the 50s and early 60s. Then in the mid and late 60s during the Vietnam War I became involved in the anti-war movement in Berkeley and lived and breathed it and was arrested for protesting. This was a major political education about imperialism. Many movements sprang out of that activism: the women's movement, natural foods' movement, holistic health movement, and the environmental movement. I was involved in all of those in the 70s. Then in the 1980s I became involved in the anti-nuclear/peace movement, and as a psychologist got together with a group of mental health professionals who lent their expertise to this effort. When I moved to New Mexico in 1986, my interest carried over into the struggle against the Waste Isolation Pilot Project and indigenous concerns around nuclear development. I was involved with the World Uranium Hearing in Austria and also with Laguna Pueblo concerns about the Jackpile Mine and the Navajos around the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. So I was educated about indigenous rights struggles. Then I moved to Chimayó and found that the land-based struggles here are very similar and I became involved in the land grant effort and the struggle for sovereignty. Now I'm active in the heroin issue in the Española Valley. My partner and I are involved in consciousness raising around the history and politics of the heroin trade and have put together a presentation that we're giving nationally and locally.
La Jicarita: We're living in a place where the indigenous people have been twice colonized. As a member of the dominant society how do you see your role as an activist in northern New Mexico?
Glendinning: I think that activists who hail from the dominant society and come here, no matter what good intentions they may have, need to understand that they are entering a place of past and ongoing colonization. Whatever harm their own people may have experienced by being assimilated into imperialist society has to be set aside in the development of relationship. The primary theme of that relationship is an understanding of the need for sovereignty of the people. Just as a person who lives in a village doesn't impose his or her ideas or way of life or values on the village, as an activist you spend a lot of time listening and learning. I think that the role of the activist who hails from the dominant society is to be of service. Respectful service. It isn't until you've developed lifetime relationships with people here and you've gone through the initiation into the community, that you can launch your own activities. One thing I learned about the Chicano community in northern New Mexico that is different from the Native American communities where I previously worked is that the Chicano community is and always has been made up of a lot of different kinds of people, for example, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards. There have always been other people who came and were assimilated into the community. There's an important difference between newcomers who become part of the life and take on the values of this life and newcomers who move here and blindly impose the values of the dominant society. Right now a lot of people who hail from urban areas are moving here because of how overbearing it's become out there. And because of a romantic fantasy they have about this place. But they're bringing their values with them and imposing them on the communities here.
La Jicarita: People are attracted to el norte because of its rural nature, the fact that native people have maintained and kept vital a land-based culture. But the processes of colonization and decolonization have created social, economic, and psychological problems Can you talk about this?
Glendinning: A primary effect of colonization is that it fragments communities. Some colonized people manage to obtain privilege from the dominant society while others remain exploited and poor. We saw this fragmentation after the decolonization movements between the 1940s and 1970s when people rose up all over the world in Africa and Asia and South America to throw off 500 years of European and American colonization. But then who rose up to take the place of the former colonizers? The people who had been damaged by the structures of colonization, fundamentalists and dictators. So, at this point in history, we've seen 50 years of the damage that takes place within decolonized cultures: colonized people are not a united front. They may have been united when they were throwing off the colonizers but in trying to establish sovereignty it's proven difficult to pick up the pieces. As activists from the dominant society we encounter that fragmentation. We have to understand that frustration, anger and fear are normal and healthy in a colonized situation, a transitional situation, or when the dominant society is trying to assimilate the culture. However, these feelings often get channeled at the wrong targets. As activists we need to be aware of this tendency and to have compassion. But that doesn't mean that we roll over and take the negativity that's projected at us. A projection occurs when a person has an appropriate feeling but instead of directing it towards the appropriate source, directs it at whomever is available. It's like the guy who takes a lousy job where he's abused and exploited and he comes home and beats his wife. The enemy here is not each other, it's the system. And it's a system whose agenda is in fact our internal fragmentation. While we're arguing with each other, Intel is swallowing up the water rights.
La Jicarita: We know you've been reading Frantz Fanon, who writes about his involvement in the revolutionary struggle in Algeria in the 1950s and early 60s. Does Fanon's experience there relate to our struggles here in northern New Mexico?
Glendinning: I like to refer to Frantz Fanon in dealing with these issues. He was a black man born in Martinique, which is a Caribbean island colonized by France. Because he participated in World War II in the French army he was able to go to school to become a psychiatrist. He also wrote a number of books about the decolonization experience in Algeria. His most famous book is called The Wretched of the Earth. In another book, A Dying Colonialism, Fanon describes the process of decolonization from a psychological perspective. It's brilliant. He talks about mass events but always brings them back to individual psychology. In one chapter he describes the role of the Europeans who lived in Algeria and were helpful to the liberation struggle. He talks at length about the many different ways that Europeans were essential to the movement: "In the society that is being built there are only Algerians. From the outset therefore every individual living in Algeria is an Algerian." This strikes me as incredibly generous. This is the idea I was talking about before: Chicano culture is made up of many different blood lines from places around the world including Mexican native, north African, Greek, Irish, Spanish, and natives from the southwest. Again, worth comes down to how you live, if you come here to learn and live the values of a land-based life then you are part of the community, you are as Frantz Fanon says, an "Algerian."
La Jicarita: Let's talk about what makes a liberation movement and what people from the dominant society can bring to the movement.
Glendinning: Liberation from colonization can't be done without knowledge of how the colonizer works. Who better to offer skills and channels to resources than willing people from that colonizer world? A successful effort is always made up of indigenous knowledge and knowledge of the ways of the dominator. An exchange is necessary: resistance, healing, and rebuilding by the colonized, on the one hand, and service by folks from the dominant society. A person in northern New Mexico who comes to mind as a server par excellence is the lawyer Richard Rosenstock. In the 70s, during the La Raza Unida movement, he offered his services pro bono to keep norteños from going to jail and gave them legal advice with regard to their political activities. He has continued to do this for the last 30 years.
La Jicarita: What about Estevan Arellano's feeling that those activists who use their skills to write about issues in northern New Mexico are exploiting and romanticizing the people?
Glendinning: I'm a writer. My activism here began when I wrote the "Letter to the Environmentalists" that appeared in two local newspapers and the national environmental press. In the letter I explained why a "Zero Cut" stance is not inclusive of all the issues. The principle I used in that case and everything I've written since is that I speak to my own people about what I've learned living here. I'm not trying to tell Chicanos where it's at. When I wrote Off the Map, rather than writing a book about northern New Mexico from an omniscient point of view, which to my mind is an imperialist point of view, I very deliberately told it from my own perspective. I show how stupid I am, what I don't know, what I observe, how I change. That was a political choice I made. This reminds me: many years ago I was at Stan Crawford's house in Dixon, participating in one of those roving classrooms, where he said to the class, "There are stories from the village that I cannot tell. They belong in the village." I knew that what he was saying had vast political implications, but he just said it so straight forward and simply. It appears to me that Stan came to Dixon to learn about being a farmer, to learn land-based skills. His book Mayordomo is the story of his learning how to maintain the acequias and be an engaged member of the community. Again, here's that exchange. We bring skills from the dominant society that may have to do with getting grant money, knowing how to articulate certain things in English, dealing with bureaucracy, knowing how the legal system works, how the welfare and penal systems work, how to move through these systems, how to get support from other places within the United States, how to link up with other land-based people around the world. In exchange we get to learn a little bit about what it means to be a real human being, which I feel has been sorely lost by those of us brought up in a placeless, faceless, alienated world of urban imperialism. What I mean by learning how to be a real human being is that historically humans have been place identified and have learned about water and the land and the seasons and the animals. The experience of buying food from the store and getting all your information from TV and newspapers is new in human history. The bottom line is that human psychological and biological health is predicated on place-based community in the natural world.
La Jicarita: Can this exchange help us create a movement that is going to be resilient enough to withstand the current colonial onslaught, that of corporate globalization?
Glendinning: This question makes me think about the failings of the bioregional movement. This movement as a concept is fabulous, it's about breaking down empire, downsizing its grasp on everywhere, and reinhabiting place in a sustainable manner. But I've not seen the bioregional movement grapple with the layers of colonization that exist in every place in every bioregion around the world. I feel that if those of us from the dominant society can learn the skills of humility and respect that define traditional relationship, we can begin to work with land-based people to heal the injustices of the past, fight the current onslaught, and become "Algerians" together at last.
La Jicarita: Can you give us a brief history of your community activism?
Córdova: I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, which was involved in our day to day activities - the Catholic Church as well - helping to solve community problems. The Church always said it wanted to "empower" people. To me that meant starting to make our own decisions, being a part of the process, and speaking out when we needed to. When the church mission schools left in the 1970s, the idea was that they had helped empower people to deal with community issues. One of the most precious things we still have in our communities are the land grants. Recently, people have begun to understand how great the loss of many of these grants is. Land grants were developed to keep people from being dependent upon the government and empowered people to make it on their own. When we lost the land it created a dependence on governmental agencies and the sustainability wasn't there. Here in Truchas we are fortunate to still have a portion of our original grant and my family has been a member for generations. One of the most difficult things I faced during my tenure as president of the grant is that not all community members are also members of the grant. I had to walk a fine line between meeting the needs of grant members and insuring that non-grant community members were not left out of the loop. Our main concern was the lack of employment in the community for all of its members. We made a list of our priorities and out of that came the idea for La Montaña de Truchas, a community-based forest products organization. While it hasn't been easy, we've made an impact on both community employment and the health of the surrounding forest. As a result of our work the stewardship block project was implemented and we've developed a better relationship with the Forest Service.
La Jicarita: You've also had to deal with the fallout of environmental lawsuits over the management of public lands upon which the community depends.
Max: Rural communities are being hit from all sides. Living in the forest we're affected by any decisions the Forest Service makes and we're affected by the environmental movement as well. I have a big problem understanding why certain environmentalists seem to think that animals and habitat are more important than people. These environmentalists have a very narrow vision of how the forests should be managed and that directly affects us. But for our part, we in the communities have a hard time accepting the fact that unless we participate in the public lands management process decisions will be made for us. Communities can't be dependent upon one or two people who are willing to get involved. We all have to participate. The other thing we're being affected by is that the complexion of our communities has changed. In Truchas you can see that the first thing many newcomers do is build fences, because they're used to that in the big city. As rural people we have to tear down those fences and build better relationships, see who your neighbor is and incorporate him into the process of finding ways to fix things in the community. We need new blood, new vision, and the new energy that some folks bring to the community. Segregation and racism have never been part of our community. We've had a long history of graciously accepting all newcomers. Recently, though, there are a few people in the communities who are saying that some of these newcomers are exploiting us and practicing racism against us, but they fail to see that they are practicing racism as well. I think these people are a problem because they don't allow us to grow as communities. I think we need to go forward in the relationships we are forming across cultures. We need to stop building these fences and work towards creating better relationships. I remember attending an acequia meeting where a long time member of the community complained that newcomers were "trying to make decisions for us" when in fact she had been one of the first to sell land to newcomers.
La Jicarita: There is a concern, however, that some of the newcomers are insensitive to the values and traditions of the communities.
Max: There are all kinds of people and attitudes coming to the communities. Some come with the idea of helping, for example, in Ojo Sarco where they helped organize and build a new fire station and community center. At first people would say, Anglos are coming and overpowering the community, but then when someone has a fire and the community would come together to fight the fire, attitudes changed. This is what I was referring to before, that sometimes it takes new blood to reenergize the community. But we also have people who have made their fortunes in California and come here to be left alone. What we have to do as a community is engage these people in the every day process of what we do. It's very easy to pay someone to clean the acequia for you. It's much harder to get a shovel and help clean it yourself. Sometimes acequia people say we don't want newcomers to know what we're doing so we'd rather take their money than have them bring their shovel, but I think that attitude has led to the deterioration of our acequias. I think that the only way our traditional values are going to last is if we start sharing them with others. Otherwise, we're going to be sprinkling water on manufactured homes rather than calabacitas, beans, and corn. As long as we maintain our land and water rights we have the ability to survive.
La Jicarita: Can you also talk about the different attitudes within the environmental community.
Max: In 1995, after the Mexican spotted owl lawsuit closed down the forests of New Mexico, I was criticized by some for not reaching out enough to engage environmentalists in a dialogue about community issues. However, there is a faction within the environmental community that doesn't care what we have to say, they insist it's their way or the highway. Those people haven't changed their position, but politically they've decided it's in their best interest to take their environmentalism out of the state and make it national, which confuses the issue and ignores what's happening on the ground. My main concern about these groups is that they've convinced charitable foundations that if it wasn't for them the people of the traditional communities would be destroying and exploiting the environment. In reality it's the communities here who are maintaining the health of the forests. There's another faction in the environmental community whose agenda is to say that they're working with the community and then take it to the bank to see how much money they can leverage from foundations. But there's a third group that is really engaged with communities and is trying to find innovative solutions to environmental problems. We have to stop lumping all of these groups together and recognize who we can really work with. I think the environmental community also needs to recognize that people in rural communities are environmentalists. We have to be sure we share the funding and decision making equitably. There are already community-based organizations that have been successful and need to get more recognition and be replicated.
La Jicarita: What other ways can newcomers work with communities?
Max: I see a lack of communication skills in the communities. Very few of the local papers speak about what is really happening in northern New Mexico. Some of the newcomers bring writing and technical skills they can share so that we can provide the information necessary to take action on community issues. A good example of sharing technical skills is the Montaña de Truchas kids learning how to operate the GPS [global positioning system] from Henry Lopez of the Forest Service for forest restoration projects. It's been a give and take process. Henry has learned to look at things differently and it's made him more sensitive to community concerns. We can't isolate ourselves. You're looking at a person whose grandfather was Greek. I remember when the first African-American family moved to Truchas, I was just a kid, and my parents never told me that they were different. They were simply accepted into the community, I played with the kids, we ate with them and we shared our toys. My father used to say, a new car is only new the first day. So an outsider should be new for only one day if he's ready to become part of the community.
La Jicarita: La Montaña de Truchas focuses a lot of energy on youth groups. How can we work together to ensure that our kids become contributing members of the community?
Max: One of the things that really surprises me is that the kids in elementary school seem to be really good, but then between 7th and 9th grade we start to lose them. I think we need to put more effort toward that group of kids because it seems to be a critical time. But I don't think they'll stay here unless we provide good jobs for them. I think the educational opportunities have improved, but the question remains, how do we motivate kids to take advantage. As a parent I want my kids to be better than I am. So we have to not only educate the kids but educate the parents so they want better opportunities for their children. I think the church needs to again play a role in this, to work with community activists to empower people. We need to fill the managerial positions that are opening up in agencies and community businesses that we've developed. La Jicarita Enterprise is a good example of community activists getting together to form an economic action group whose mission is to build community capacity. Now we need to make sure we prepare our people to take the jobs throughout the Enterprise community, like bookkeeping, marketing forest products, and grant writing. We know we have the capacity, we just have to obtain the skills.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.