Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XI

September 2005

Number VIII


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Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit: To Be or Not To Be? By David Correia


Editorial: Getting Our Priorities Straight By Mark Schiller

Taos Regional Water Plan

Sangre de Cristo Land Grant: It's History and Future By Mark Schiller

Editorial: National Sierra Club Censors Northern New Mexico Group By Kay Matthews

Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit: To Be or Not To Be?

By David Correia

On the evening of Thursday, August 18th, the Forest Service's El Rito District staff hosted a public meeting at the fire house in Vallecitos to discuss the future of the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU). Created in 1948, the Unit was established under legislation intended to produce local economic benefit for resource-dependent communities by guaranteeing jobs in a sustainable timber industry. But the Unit has brought more conflict than jobs to the people living in the communities of Vallecitos, Cañon Plaza, Las Tablas, La Petaca, La Madera and Servilleta Plaza. In previous La Jicarita News articles, I've documented the history of the VFSYU, a history replete with examples of local labor exploited by outside commercial timber operators, local Forest Service officials managing the Unit for corporate profit rather than local economic sustainability, and, perhaps most devastating for the local economy, Santa Fe environmental organizations promising collaboration and support for ecologically sustainable economic activity on the one hand and suing the Forest Service to shut down all economic activity on the other.

Many of the more than 60 people who came out to the meeting in Vallecitos were livestock permittees in either the Alamosa or Jarita Mesa allotments, the two district allotments whose boundaries coincide with the boundaries of the VFSYU. When the Unit was established, the Forest Service cut livestock permits on all grazing allotments in the El Rito District. On the Alamosa allotment west of Vallecitos permits were cut at a rate of 2% per year between 1948 and 1967. In 1966, the local district ranger cut permits by 20%. In addition, 70 free-use milk-cow permits, all 197 free-use horse permits, and all free-use bull permits were cut. The following year, in 1967, the grazing season was reduced by over a month and a half.

On the Jarita Mesa allotment, east of Vallecitos, permittees experienced equally severe restrictions. When the Unit began in 1947, locals maintained 839 permits for livestock. By 1967 the Forest Service had cut that number to 420 permits. All free-use permits for milk-cows, bulls and horses were withdrawn, and 1,007 sheep permits eliminated. While Forest Service records contend that many of the sheep permits were voluntarily withdrawn, the experience of Diego Jaramillo, a local permittee unable to read or write, indicates otherwise. At the District Ranger's request, Jaramillo signed away his sheep permits, not knowing what he was signing. The ranger informed Jaramillo the following day what he had lost.

Sawtimber from the Unit was supposed to make up for the grazing reductions, but of the 211 million board feet (mmbf) the Forest Service proposed be harvested in small annual yields, only about 98 mmbf of sawtimber has been cut.

With these deep cuts in livestock permits, raising cattle has become a supplement instead of a livelihood for permittees whose families once lived off the land. Cattle are now little more than a small savings-account-on-the-hoof. Timber jobs are a distant memory, one played out in the minds of locals as they make their daily commutes to jobs in Española or Los Alamos, leaving before the sun rises, returning after dark, filling up at pumps charging more than $3.00/gallon. The few still trying to make a living from the land fear for their future. With each timber sale challenged by urban environmentalists, and every Environmental Impact Statement for local livestock allotments appealed, the zero-cut, zero-cattle rhetoric of the white, urban, middle-class environmental organizations in Santa Fe hangs like an ominous cloud over northern New Mexico's resource-dependent communities.

It was within this historical context that the Forest Service convened the August 18th meeting to decide the future of the Unit. Prior to the meeting, rumors circulated on the El Rito District that higher-ups in the Forest Service had suddenly decided to decommission the Unit. Las Comunidades, the local non-profit that owns the sawmill, pleaded for people to attend the meeting with a gloomy announcement in the community newsletter El Aviso that "powerful forces within the Forest Service" seek its demise. Despite the past failures of the Unit to produce reliable, good paying jobs, many people hold out hope that the Unit, if managed for the needs of local communities and ecologies, could still offer economic development.

District Ranger Diana Trujillo began the meeting with an announcement that indicated rumors of the Unit's demise may indeed be true. "Many of the decisions that are made regarding the VFSYU are not done locally," Trujillo said. "It's a hard sell for the Forest Service. . . . People who've been involved in the Unit from the Forest Service are very skeptical we can overcome all these hurdles." When a local resident wondered what exactly those hurdles were and why the Forest Service would want to get rid of the Unit, Trujillo replied that the Unit had become "a focus point for environmental groups" and years of costly litigation had convinced many in the Forest Service that the Unit could never serve its intended purpose.

District staff circulated the current policy statement for the Unit and announced that the purpose of the meeting was to give local residents an opportunity to offer suggestions to improve language in the statement. The request came 13 years after locals first asked for a policy revision. In 1992, a group of local residents, members of the VFSYU Association, offered the Forest Service a line-by-line revision of a policy statement that guaranteed an annual yield of 7.6 mmbf and required 95% of all employees to come from local communities. The VFSYU association suggested expanding the purpose beyond a narrow focus on sawtimber to include "wood fiber products, mineral products, wildlife, fisheries, grazing uses and recreation uses." They asked the Forest Service to "pledge to maintain an open, respectful and cooperative working relationship" with the VFSYU Association, recognizing it as the "legitimate representative of the residents." They included language that required the Forest Service, despite being exempt from state and local property taxes, to give "to the communities in the Unit 25% of its revenues derived from the Unit to provide general support for schools and roads." They asked for the establishment of a special entitlement fund to establish "curricula in the fields of forestry and forestry-related skills, business administration, and agricultural sciences for schools serving the Unit."

VFSYU Association changes included language that would have had the Forest Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish admit that its policies have "resulted in the establishment of a non-native elk population that competes for forage with livestock that has traditionally been important to the local economy of the Unit." The Association suggested two alternatives in dealing with the elk problem: Either the Forest Service should collect "a grazing fee for each head of elk" equal to what is charged to livestock permittees or retain 25% of hunting and fishing revenue for use in the Unit, dedicated to protecting existing permits.

The Association sought support for water and sewer systems, playgrounds and parks in the Unit. They asked for a reduction in the annual sustained yield of sawtimber, with more devoted to the needs of locally-owned operators. They deleted the exceptions for supervisory positions so that management positions would be reserved for locals. They included language for a training requirement to insure that a home-grown cadre of local leaders would emerge. They sought a solution to the problem of low wages for workers in the Unit by tying the wage scale in the Unit to the prevailing wage offered in New Mexico. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, they changed language in the statement so that the VFSYU Association itself would wield the power necessary to enforce the labor requirements and guarantee that benefits from the Unit accrue to locals rather than to commercial timber firms.

These Association suggestions seemed like a good place to start, but at the meeting district staff presented a proposed policy statement drafted by a Forest Service consultant. It's not surprising the 1992 suggestions were once again deemphasized, as the Forest Service has always viewed the Association (particularly when Ike DeVargas was President) as a thorn in its side. While the Forest Service claimed authority over former land grant commons around Vallecitos, the Association called it nothing more than "an army of occupation, occupying northern New Mexico with economic and political force rather than with guns." To Forest Service claims of superior environmental management, the Association reminded them that "there are a great many educated fools employed by the U.S. Forest Service and a whole bunch of uneducated geniuses living in our communities who know that many practices out of text books do not apply to our particular situation." The Association was equally critical of environmental organizations in northern New Mexico. Environmental discourses are rightly critical of the resource exhaustion and species extinction that follow the form of economic development pursued by capital and supported by the Forest Service. But these discourses, particularly related to the VFSYU, have also challenged subsistence and small scale Hispano resource-use patterns. When collaboration between loggers and environmentalists broke down, local loggers characterized the biocentric rhetoric of mainstream environmentalists in harsh terms. "I know we need environmentalism," one logger said to me, "because these big corporations don't give a shit except for the bottom line, I understand that. But there's a line these environmentalists have crossed that has completely undermined their moral standing on the environment." In addition to constant rhetorical challenges, many of the members of the VFSYU Association working on the policy revisions were also plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit claiming Forest Service policies and practices on the VFSYU were motivated by racial animus. The Forest Service never fought those charges and instead settled the lawsuit. After the settlement, local loggers invested in equipment, anticipating timber contracts and stable jobs. The Forest Service, however, refused to meet the court order. Following the 1993 listing of the Mexican spotted owl as an endangered species, an Arizona lawsuit filed by environmental organizations, including Forest Guardians, resulted in an injunction against timber harvesting in the Southwest. Facing two contradictory court orders, the Forest Service decided to protect an owl they admitted didn't even exist on the El Rito District rather than meet its legal obligations to locals on the VFSYU. Even after a New Mexico court found the Arizona injunction unrelated to VFSYU timber sales, the Forest Service remained intransigent.

Environmental lawsuits have been costly for the Forest Service and extremely successful at forcing changes in Forest Service policies. They will likely continue unabated with or without the VFSYU. More likely, "powerful forces within the Forest Service" wish to end the Unit from fear that the historical injustices in the Unit would produce yet another generation of activists agitating for environmental and social justice in northern New Mexico. The Forest Service plans additional meetings on the future of the Unit. Meanwhile some community members are meeting over the Labor Day holiday to try to hash out the internal differences that have long divided the local communities. Despite promises by environmental organizations that they are interested in collaboration, and interested in putting an end to years of conflict, no members of any Santa Fe-based environmental organizations attended the meeting.


Provocative Land Grant Discussion

In several recent Taos News op-ed pieces, Embudo resident Estevan Arellano addressed the issue of just exactly who should have access to the resources of the ejidos, or common lands of New Mexico community land grants, many of which were unjustly adjudicated by the United States government or stolen by unscrupulous lawyers and land speculators. Arellano believes that it is the communities as constituted today, "not those who live hundreds or thousands of miles away and only want to have a cabin in their ancestral lands", who have a commitment to work the land, maintain the acequias, and keep their communities vital and productive. If you missed his columns you can access them on the Taos News website: www.taosnews.com.

• The Village of Taos Ski Valley is proposing to amend the existing special use permit for its wastewater treatment plant on four acres of Carson National Forest. The Village wants to add a new metal, modular, 3,900-square-foot Public Safety building to provide office space for law enforcement officers, fire and emergency medical staff, a meeting room, and a garage. The proposed location is 100 feet from the Rio Hondo. This proposal follows the March decision by the New Mexico Environment Department to allow the upgrade and expansion of the Village wastewater treatment plant, which many local residents object to, believing the upgrade will facilitate significant growth in the Taos Ski Valley. Ironically, the Army Corps of Engineers recently found the Village of Taos Ski Valley violated the Clean Water Act by dumping gravel from its snow removal operations into the Rio Hondo. The Corps ordered the Village to stop this practice and to remove all gravel from previous operations by the end of September. If you have any concerns about the new proposal you may contact Ron Thibedeau, Questa District Ranger, or Mary Ann Elder, at 505-586-0520 or P.O. Box 110, Questa, NM 87556.

• Taos Soil and Water Conservation District will be presenting a series of seminars, Groundwater of Taos County, on Tuesday nights from 6-9 pm, August 30 through December 13 at the Taos County Agricultural Center. This is a comprehensive overview of all the information available, ranging from hydrogeology to water quality. The seminars are free and open to the public, but if you plan to attend please let the conservation district know so they can prepare sufficient handouts: call 751-0584 or e-mail adams@newmex. com.

La Jicarita was hoping to get a copy of the FEIS for the Invasive Plant Control Project before we went to press. But we did learn that the Forest Service has chosen the Preferred Alternative B, which includes the use of herbicides.

Editorial: Getting Our Priorities Straight

By Mark Schiller

Like many other rural communities in northern New Mexico, Truchas and Córdova are plagued by problems. The unemployment rate is extremely high and the majority of people who do have steady jobs work outside the community. The high school dropout rate is far above the state average, which itself is one of the worst in the country. As a result, drug, alcohol and gambling problems proliferate, as do teen pregnancy and domestic violence.

In contrast to other rural northern New Mexico communities, however, Truchas and Córdova have maintained a significant portion of their common lands and are one of the few active community land grants remaining. Unfortunately, several years ago, when the land grant finally had an opportunity to address some of its concerns before the state legislature, it opted to seek funding to "improve" the road between Chimayó and Truchas. Claiming that the existing road, a portion of the well known "High Road to Taos" that runs through the land grant, was a safety hazard, the grant sought funding to straighten and widen it. The state legislature allocated nearly six million dollars for the project. In view of the numerous existing economic and social problems, this appears to be a tragic waste of funding that will perpetuate rather than resolve these problems.

The 5.6 million dollars allocated for the road project could have been used to strengthen these communities' capacity to create and maintain businesses based on community forestry, farming, ranching and indigenous crafts, which in turn would have created jobs and maintained ties to the land. It could also have been used to provide services that address the social problems epidemic in these communities. Instead, there's a swath of devastation running right through the middle of the land grant, disrupting the flow of traffic and endangering the few existing businesses that are already struggling to survive. Ironically, the contract for this project went to an out of state company, so the majority of the money appropriated for it will not even remain in the state.

Most people we've spoken to feel the road was adequate as it was. Many of them suggest that the so- called improvements will only increase speeding and expand safety concerns. Some feel it will make the area more accessible and therefore more vulnerable to inappropriate development.

State and county politicians love to build and improve roads in and around rural communities: it makes an ostentatious but hollow show of concern and creates a few temporary jobs for locals while it diverts attention from the complex and difficult issues that underlie poverty. If there is any hope of maintaining and revitalizing our land based communities we must get our priorities straight and demand politicians address the real issues facing our rural communities.

Taos Regional Water Plan

Taos County is fortunate to have Trudy and Ed Healy of Arroyo Hondo as active members of the community. At the August meeting of the Taos Regional Water Plan Steering Committee in Ojo Caliente, facilitator Rosemary Romero announced that the Healy Foundation has given Taos County a $75,000 grant to complete its aquifer mapping project. Trudy Healy is a member of the Steering Committee as well as the Water Trust Board, which provides funding for water projects throughout the state. Once the Taos Regional Water Plan is completed, county officials can go to the Water Trust Board to apply for funding of identified water projects incorporated in the plan.

A large part of the discussion at the Ojo Caliente meeting centered on how best to protect the water resources in the Taos area. Everyone immediately agreed that the number one goal is to preserve regional water sources for Taos citizens, both physically and legally. The counterpoint to that, determining what is the carrying capacity current water resources can sustain and limiting additional uses, is a much more complicated issue. While almost everyone agreed that there must be limits to growth and development, water importation may be necessary to offset consumptive use: for example, the El Prado mutual domestic has over appropriated its water supply and must find water rights to pay its debt. Everyone agreed that those water rights should not come from acequias, and although some acequia water rights holders may eventually want to sell their rights, the new legislative provisions that allow water banking and acequia commission approval of the transfer of rights will help to keep those rights in their acequias.





Sangre de Cristo Land Grant: It's History and Future

By Mark Schiller

The Sangre de Cristo grant (998,780.46 acres) was one of several gigantic grants made by Mexican Governor Manuel Armijo after the establishment of the Republic of Texas (1836) and just before the Mexican-American War (1846). Although some historians have questioned the legitimacy of these grants and the motives of both Armijo and the land speculators to whom the grants were made, they were ostensibly created to protect the northern and northeastern frontiers of the Mexican Republic from further American or European incursion. Ironically, the largest of these grants, which included the Beaubien and Miranda, 1,714,765 acres (later known as the Maxwell grant), the Vigil and St. Vrain (also known as the Las Animas), 4,096,000 acres (only 97,515 acres were patented by the U.S. government), and the Sangre de Cristo were made to Anglo land speculators who partnered with Mexican nationals. More importantly, the awarding of these enormous tracts to land speculators was completely contrary to the history and tradition of awarding land to meet subsistence needs.

Charles Beaubien was one of a group of merchants that included Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, who made enormous profits supplying traders and trappers during the first half of the 19th century in and around Taos. Having established successful businesses, these men looked to extend their financial empires by acquiring land grants. Armijo, who the Mexican Federal Government left woefully undermanned, apparently hoped these merchants would promote settlement on the grants and thereby secure Mexico's northern borders. His efforts, whatever the underlying motives may have been, were much too late in the battle for colonialist supremacy in the southwest, and Kearny easily captured the area for the United States in 1846.

Although the Sangre de Cristo grant was originally made to Beaubien's 13 year old son, Narciso, and his brother in law, Stephen Luis Lee (because Beaubien, as the owner of the Beaubien and Miranda grant, was not legally eligible to own another grant), after Narciso and Lee were murdered during the Taos Revolt of 1847 Beaubien became the sole owner and the person to whom the grant was confirmed by the United States government. It should be mentioned here that the early confirmations (1860) of the enormous Sangre de Cristo and Maxwell grants had dire consequences for grants adjudicated after them. Once these two land claims were pushed through the Congressional confirmation process by financially and politically powerful land speculators, Congress showed very little interest in acting on the dozens of land claims recommended by the Surveyor General that already had settlements on them. Moreover, using the scandal created by the confirmation of these two questionable grants to land speculators who reaped enormous profits, the federal government was able to institute prejudicial policies that allowed them defeat or reduce many legitimate claims and thereby make additional land available for Anglo capitalist exploitation.

Beginning in 1849 Beaubien did recruit Hispano farmers and ranchers to settle in the Costilla and Culebra Valleys on the grant. It's important to note that these settlements began after the United States had taken possession of the area and therefore were not protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. However, Beaubien did issue deeds to some of the settlers, which included use rights guarantees for commons lands similar to those contained in Spanish and Mexican community land grants. These use rights guarantees, which stated in part that "all inhabitants will have enjoyment of benefits of pastures, water, firewood and timber, always taking care that one does not injure another," are the subject of litigation regarding access to these common lands by the current owners of title to the tracts with which the use agreements were connected.

Beaubien died in 1864 and his heirs sold the grant to former Colorado Territorial Governor William Gilpin. Gilpin divided the grant into two sections, north and south of the Rio Culebra, and with financial backing from Englishman William Blackmore and other investors developed elaborate plans to exploit the grant's resources and colonize it with Dutch settlers. In order to facilitate these plans and maximize profits Gilpin claimed that, despite years of continuous residency, the established Hispano settlers were squatters and attempted to evict them. The sales agreement between the Beaubien heirs and Gilpin, however, clearly stated that Gilpin took possession on the condition that "settlement rights before then conceded . . . to the residents of the settlements . . . shall be confirmed by said William Gilpin as made by him." Although Gilpin's investment company was able to force most of the Hispano settlers to purchase the land they resided on, the company ultimately had to recognize and honor the use agreements.

Fast forward to 1960 when Jack Taylor, a North Carolina lumberman, purchased 77,000 acres of the grant from a successor in interest to William Gilpin. While Taylor's deed specifically stated that he took ownership of the land subject to "the claims of the local people by prescription or otherwise to right to pasture, wood, and lumber and so-called settlement rights in, to and upon said land," Taylor denied access to the locals by fencing the property and initiating a suit to eliminate the use rights guarantees from the title.

It took local residents nearly 45 years to reestab-lish the legitimacy of their rights and regain access to the land. During this period Taylor clearcut much of the commons area and then sold the ranch. While regaining access to these lands represents an enormous victory for the local landowners, land grant activists must bear in mind that it has nothing to do with the adjudication of the grant by the federal government and its legal precedent will unfortunately have very limited application to Mexican and Spanish land grants in New Mexico.

. . . . .

At the July status conference to determine eligibility of access, 400 more people were given keys to the ranch, bringing the total number of people allowed access to La Sierra to 519. Arnie Valdez, project director with the Land Rights Council that has long been involved in advocacy to restore use rights, was assigned the job of developing a land use plan for La Sierra, which he hopes to deliver by the end of the year.

Recently, three New Mexico experts were hired by the Council to help Valdez with development of the plan: Maria Varela will help with a grazing assessment and plan; Henry Carey and Orlando Romero of Forest Reserve will help determine the condition of the forest and the potential for firewood harvesting and forest restoration.

Valdez and Varela are looking at models of grazing practices on private ranches with the idea of eventually forming a livestock association so all the community members with cattle can work together as a unit and hire a range rider to manage the cattle. They have also been talking with a southern Colorado rancher, who employs holistic range management practices on his ranch, to conduct an on-the-ground assessment of La Sierra to determine the carrying capacity of the land. There are approximately 150 head of cattle currently grazing on the ranch.

Carey has already toured the ranch's Alamocito watershed with Valdez and ranch owner Bobby Hill and is working on a set of guidelines for wood gathering. According to Valdez, the Alamocito area was heavily logged by previous ranch owners, but valley residents have been gathering slash and windfall for firewood. Last year Hill opened the ranch for three wood festivals for local people&emdash;not just plaintiffs in the case&emdash;to collect loads of firewood for $5 and $10. Carey will also take a look at possible thinning and restoration projects.

Valdez acknowledges that there is tension in the community as the court proceeds with the hearings to determine who has access rights to La Sierra. Because those rights are tied to ownership of the varas, or narrow strips of valley land, some people feel excluded from the process even through they and their ancestors have lived in the valley for many years. To address this issue the court has sanctioned eventual hearings so other residents can present evidence of land tenure.

"Our long term goal is for the community to acquire ownership of La Sierra for everyone and for all uses, such as fishing, camping, and other kinds of recreation, which weren't recognized in the lawsuit," Valdez said. "We are striving for community self-governance, where people participate and take responsibility to care for the land. For now I hope people trust in our leadership."

Editorial: National Sierra Club Censors Northern New Mexico Group

By Kay Matthews

Several years ago the Quivira Coalition and the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club funded publication of Of Land and Culture: Environmental Justice and Public Lands Ranching in Northern New Mexico, by Ernie Atencio, an in-depth look at public lands grazing from an economic justice and cultural perspective (see review in the January 2001 La Jicarita News).

Atencio then began working on a companion report, La Vida Floresta: Ecology, Justice, and Community-Based Forestry in Northern New Mexico. Although he completed the first draft of the report in 2001, the Northern Group had to go through a review process to gain approval of the publication from the national Sierra Club (several Northern Group members wanted the publication to remain in-house, without national approval). It became obvious that because of the Club's national policy supporting the initiative to End Commercial Logging on public lands, commonly referred to as "Zero Cut", this report was not going to see the light of day anytime soon. Atencio finally sent out review copies of La Vida Floresta in April of 2004, with the proviso that it was still "going through an internal review and vetting process with every Sierra Club chapter and group in the country" before it could be officially released. He had hoped the review would by completed by mid May. Spring turned to summer and summer to winter, with no publication in sight.

Then members of the national Sierra Club's Forest Protection Campaign (which supports national legislation to end commercial logging on federal land) came to New Mexico to talk with the local group and tour some community-based logging operations. Several months later I called Barbara Johnson, a member of the Northern Group and one of the key people in the report's development, to ask if the group's visit had helped move things along. She told me that the national group was still gathering input from local chapters and groups about whether the report should be released to the wider public. Local groups and chapters continued to lock horns with the national organization over autonomy. Ultimately, in April of 2005, the Northern Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the national that it was "inappropriate" to publish La Vida Floresta.

When I asked Bruce Hamilton of the national Sierra Club whether local chapters and groups have any autonomy, he said that "the Sierra Club is one national organization and one legal entity and we speak with one voice. We do allow local groups some degree of autonomy to take positions on local issues but there can be no official endorsement of policies that run counter to the national position." He went on to say that the Club is having a dialogue about what kind of forest practices should be allowed on federal lands, such as gathering firewood and non-commercial restoration, but when I suggested that La Vida Floresta provides important information about what kinds of commercial logging are appropriate for healthy forests and communities, he stated that the Sierra Club is not interested in distinguishing between different types of commercial logging. While this intransigence may be in response to the Bush administration's Healthy Forest Initiative, which most environmentalists view as an open door to exploitation by corporate loggers, I suspect it's more a result of the Sierra Club's inability to incorporate innovative approaches to dealing with issues of environmental justice in its bureaucratic, mainstream environmental agenda.

The long, drawn-out battle over La Vida Floresta essentially rendered it obsolete even before the final decision was made to block publication. Community-based forestry in New Mexico has suffered from lawsuits brought by other environmental groups that support the Zero Cut agenda, by Forest Service mismanagement and financial cutbacks, and by community conflict and dysfunction. La Jicarita News has extensively covered many of these problems, particularly in the Santa Fe and Carson national forests and in the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU). By preventing publication of La Vida Floresta, the Sierra Club is complicit in perpetuating these problems: Atencio's report could have been an important tool in educating environmentalists and the public by providing a forum for the "voices of traditional northern New Mexico communities that have been largely left out of the discussion. . . . [I]t is a fair representation of public lands woodcutting issues . . . from an angle that has been ignored by the mainstream environmental community and might be new to many readers (La Vida Floresta)."

In the report Atencio highlights the work of several northern New Mexico foresters, including Max Córdova, George Ramírez, and Gene Kuykendall, to point out the absurdity of an absolutist Zero Cut agenda in a time when our national forests are in desperate need of thinning. Restoration efforts, funded by acts such as the Collaborative Forest Restoration Project (CFRP), can't keep up with the millions of acres in need of treatment. Without a commercial component there is not enough incentive&emdash;or federal and state funding (this may be the last year of CFRP monies) to restore the millions of acres of national forests that are overstocked, unhealthy, and susceptible to catastrophic fire.

In his report Atencio acknowledges that opposition to the damage wreaked by big timber companies&emdash;under inadequate Forest Service oversight&emdash;is appropriate, but a "one-size-fits-all approach, lumping the small-scale-sustainable and the mammoth-industrial together as 'commercial,' ignores critical localized issues of ecology, socioeconomics, culture, and history."

He provides in-depth analysis of environmental justice issues by looking at the history of poverty and injustice in northern New Mexico forests, particularly with regard to the VFSYU. He then analyzes logging and local wood use by looking at the current scale of wood harvest and the traditional science employed by community-based loggers. He also devotes a chapter to the concept of querencia, or belonging, that elicits a unique sense of responsibility and love for the land of northern New Mexico and the economic and social consequences of destroying that connection. The last two chapters detail the local consequences of ending commercial logging and provide possible solutions for healthy forests and healthy communities.

Atencio is understandably bitter about the whole experience. He feels it was a huge mistake for the Northern Group to capitulate to the national adminstration. "This really reflects poorly on the Sierra Club. They've make it clear there is no room for a diversity of opinion or alternative viewpoint." He is particularly upset that in a recent communication with the Northern Group he was told that unless he became a member of the Sierra Club he could not be involved in any discussion regarding the End Commercial Logging initiative.

Both the Quivira Coalition and the Mexicano Land Education and Conservation Trust have expressed interest in helping get the report published and distributed. It's Atencio's understanding that because he has joint copyright of the material it can be published under a different title and imprint. "It's already been been excerpted in other publications, and a broad range of folks received the draft back in 2004."

If anyone would like to read this suppressed report they can borrow my copy.




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