Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XII

August 2007

Number VII


Current Issue




About Us




Pajarito Homesteaders Settlement Agreement Is "Unsettling" By Mark Schiller

Open House at the Sustainable Agricultural Science Center in Alcalde By Kay Matthews


Updates on Water Transfer Protests and Adjudications By Kay Matthews

Lobato Land Grant Heirs Seek Justice By Mark Schiller

Pajarito Homesteaders Settlement Agreement Is "Unsettling"

By Mark Schiller

In our May 2007 issue we ran an article by historian Malcolm Ebright regarding the dispossession of farmers from their homesteads on the Pajarito Plateau by the federal government for the Manhattan Project. That project produced the world's first atomic bomb and led directly to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) becoming the government's preeminent nuclear arms facility. In his article Ebright noted that the settlers, who were primarily Hispano, were given between $7 and $15 per acre for their land, while a neighboring private boys school and ranch owned by Anglos was compensated at a rate of $225 per acre. Moreover, many of the farmers were forced off their land by armed soldiers, who then bulldozed their homesteads and slaughtered their livestock. Ebright concluded that "The treatment of these Hispanic property owners is a shameful chapter in U.S. history. The facts of their eviction and the government's active misrepresentation of the valuation process and willful failure to notify the homesteaders of the condemnation proceedings reveal a flagrant disregard for the homesteaders' rights. The homesteaders and their heirs can never be fully compensated for their loss."

This article picks up where Ebright's left off: discussing the efforts, beginning in the mid 1990s, made by a handful of surviving homesteaders and the heirs of many others to force the government to acknowledge the injustices that occurred and devise a plan for compensation. Although Congress ultimately allocated funds for a financial compensation package, the government never actually conceded breaking the law, and a horrific list of human rights violations associated with the settlers' dispossession was never addressed.

According to Judy Espinosa, the current president of the board of the Pajarito Plateau Homesteaders Association, which filed the lawsuits that resulted in the settlement, the association grew out of the concerns of a number of people affiliated with a citizens advisory group associated with LANL. This group met regularly to discuss strategies to redress the injustices that had occurred between 1942 and 1945. In 1997, when New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici sponsored federal legislation ordering the Department of Energy (DOE) to divest itself of "excess property" at LANL in order to increase Los Alamos County's tax base, the then loosely associated homesteader's advocacy group requested 2,500 acres of that land as compensation for land the original homesteaders had lost. Domenici, however, insisted that land was already earmarked for Los Alamos County and San Ildefonso Pueblo, which had loaned the federal government land during the war effort with the understanding that it would be returned when the war ended, and refused to include the homesteaders in the legislation.

The 1997 legislation did specify, however, that the Secretary of Energy (who at the time was Bill Richardson) had to address the homesteader group's claims before the land transfer could proceed. Ironically, Richardson, after assuring Joe Gutierrez, the first president of the Pajarito Plateau Homesteader's Association, that he would resolve the issue, offered the group nine acres for a monument recognizing Hispano contributions to the war effort and funds to preserve the original settlers' cabins and other buildings that had survived Army Corp of Engineers demolition. In response, Gutierrez, a LANL engineer and outspoken critic of the Lab, said, "We want land, not a monument. We want to prove that the government does not have clear title to these lands."

Gutierrez, who has done extensive research into the homesteader's dispossession and the dispossession of local people at other nuclear facilities such as White Sands, Oak Ridge, and Hanford, noted that in each case wealthy Anglo land owners who could afford representation were compensated for their land at fair market value, while poor and minority land owners were compensated at a tiny fraction of market value if they were compensated at all. He also notes that he had to repeatedly resort to the Freedom of Information Act in order to obtain records that should have been readily available.

Formalizing itself into a non-profit, the Pajarito Plateau Homesteader's Association filed two lawsuits: one addressing the injustices associated with the loss of the land, and the other alleging human rights violations. Because Ebright's article comprehensively detailed the injustices associated with the condemnation of the property (these included lack of notice, lack of representation, loss of due process, and inequitable compensation), I won't dwell on them here, but I will touch briefly upon the human rights violations issues.

The human rights lawsuit alleged that some of the homesteaders were falsely imprisoned and forced to labor on construction of the Manhattan Project without proper compensation. It further alleged that some homesteaders were "subjected to medical experimentation by being exposed to high levels of radiation." Bear in mind that most of the homesteaders lives were completely disrupted by the dispossession: they had nowhere to go and no means of earning a living. As a result, many were forced to accept menial jobs working for the DOE. Several members of the Homesteader's Association told La Jicarita News that they had conducted lengthy interviews with elderly original homesteaders who told them that they had been forced to live in DOE facilities and do construction for one dollar per day. They further asserted that they were not permitted to leave the restricted area and were only able to shop at the DOE commissary, which was exorbitantly expensive. They also claimed to have been used to transport plutonium without adequate protection and forced to drink what they were told was medicine because they were "sick", despite their protestations to the contrary. One of the former homesteaders claimed he had become sterile as a result. This shocking story was never made public, however, because the government dismissed the case on the basis that the statute of limitations for bringing it had expired. (La Jicarita News hopes to explore this issue more fully in an upcoming issue)

In fact, both cases were dismissed because of statute of limitations violations. In a statement that eerily echoed what the Court of Private Land Claims told many land grant heirs whose legitimate titles they refused to confirm, the Homesteader's Association was told "their remedy lies with the legislative branch." Unlike land grant heirs, however, the homesteaders were able to pursue their claim before Congress because they had continued legal representation.

According to Gutierrez, the politics surrounding the eventual settlement were disturbing, to say the least. Gutierrez asserts that Senator Domenici, who has predicated much of his political career on delivering pork barrel money for defense facilities at Los Alamos, Sandia Labs, and White Sands, insisted on "managing" the issue himself and used his political clout to keep Senator Bingaman and Congressman Udall at arms length. Domenici, Gutierrez says, not only wanted to settle the claim for pennies on the dollar, but to be seen as a "white knight" correcting an historical injustice. Gutierrez further asserts that the association's lawyers did not aggressively pursue the case and exploited the association's fear that if they didn't play ball with Domenici they might not get anything at all.

Although there was debate within the association whether members should support Domenici's proposal, the majority ultimately decided that it was their only hope of getting any compensation. As a result, on October 28, 2004, Congress passed an act entitled "Compensation Of Pajarito Plateau, New Mexico, Homesteaders For Acquisition Of Lands For Manhattan Project In World War II." While the act did not concede any wrong doing on the government's part, it did provide $10 million dollars to compensate "eligible claimants" (". . . any class member determined by the Court, by a preponderance of evidence to be a person or entity who held a fee simple ownership of an eligible tract [the settlement agreement designated thirty-two "eligible tracts" comprising 2,487.54 acres] at the time of its acquisition by the United States during World War II for use in the Manhattan Project, or the heir, successor in interest, assignee, or beneficiary of such a person or entity.") and their lawyers.

According to Judge Joseph Caldwell, who was appointed Special Master in charge of distribution of funds, the lawyers were given twenty per cent-$2 million dollars-off the top, leaving $8 million dollar for the claimants. The claims were then pro-rated based upon the size of the original eligible tract with which the claim was associated, the proximity in generational lineage of the claimant to the original owner, and the number of claims associated with the tract. Judge Caldwell told La Jicarita News that there were approximately 1,200 claims involving 974 claimants (some claimants made claims to multiple tracts) and that 762 of those claims had been authorized for payment. Thus far payments amount to $7,800,000. Although a few elderly claimants with small families received about $100,000, Judge Caldwell went on to say that because some claims involved five generations of a family, payments amounted to as little as $150.

While Joe Gutierrez understands why the claimants decided to accept the settlement, which absolves the government of any future liability with regard to both lawsuits, he suggests that an equitable settlement would have amounted to $60 million dollars. He continues to collect information regarding the issue and told La Jicarita he plans to write a book detailing the entire history of the dispossession and the claimants' efforts to be compensated.

Meanwhile, Judy Espinosa has recently located the heirs to the only tract that received no claims, and Judge Caldwell said he hopes to have the entire fund and its interest dispersed by the end of 2007. He noted, however, that the DOE is not an easy agency with which to do business and acknowledged that the project may drag into the new year.

Open House at the Sustainable Agricultural Science Center in Alcalde

By Kay Matthews

It was hot and humid at New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center field day on August 9, but that didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the good work they are doing there. Most of the Center's research focuses on identifying crops that grow well in the New Mexican environment, along with acequia and pest control projects that help farmers and ranchers keep land in agricultural production.

La Jicarita News went on all three morning tours that showcased the Center's projects. Charles Martin took us to the medicinal herb and dye plant garden where the Center has conducted trials on three important herbs: Yerba del Manso, used to treat colds, sinus, and stomach ailments; Cota, used as a dye and medicinal tea; and Osha del Campo, also used for colds. The trials included irrigation needs, soil content, and temperature tolerance. Many of us who live in northern New Mexico gather these plants in the forest for our own personal use, but the experiments conducted at the Center are geared towards encouraging people to grow these medicinal and dye plants as a cash crop.

A beautiful row of Echinacea, one of our most beneficial herbs

With that in mind, the Center got a grant to look at 30 species of Chinese herbs. It found that Chinese Wolfberry, in the same family as chile, grows well in an environment of full sun and lean soil, common conditions in New Mexico. The herb sells for $24/pound. The New Mexico Herb Growers Association is a good source of information for those interested in trying to commercially grow Chinese Wolfberry or any other herbs.

The Center has also conducted a long-term trial program with lavender, an essential oil crop, because it is easy to grow and easy to market. Originally from Ethiopia it is drought tolerant, likes alkaline soil, and is easy to harvest. (The Center sponsored a Lavender Conference and Farm Tour in July of this year.) Another essential oil that can easily be grown here is lemon balm: both lavender and lemon balm can be made into a variety of products that provide a good rate of return.

One plant in the medicinal garden that caught my eye was burdock. Those of us who have fields of hay or other crops usually look upon this biennial as a pesky weed: the seed heads are full of burrs that get caught in anything that gets near them and then are spread quickly throughout the field. But in China and Japan both the root and seed of burdock are used in stews and as cleansing products. There is a market in the United States for burdock and other Chinese herbs, and while Martin acknowledged that some of them are hard to harvest, he encouraged folks to look into their production.

The next tour highlighted the work the Center is doing with fruit and berries. It was encouraging to see a fruit crop that survived this year's late frosts, which killed many of our apple and peach crops throughout northern New Mexico. As the Center does with the medicinal and dye plants, it focuses on finding fruit species that can survive late and early frosts as well as extreme temperature variations: Ron Walser, NMSU fruit expert, told us that he recorded May temperatures that went from 29 degrees at night to 84 degrees the next day.

There were many varieties of apples planted in the Center's orchard, but Walser highly recommended Gala, Fuji, Ginger Gold, and Golden Delicious as cold tolerant (for an extended list of variety recommendations you can contact Walser by e-mail at rwalser@nmsu.edu). For fertility the Center uses a cover crop of alfalfa for both the trees and berries, and waters the trees with a micro-sprinkler system, which during a cold spell will freeze water on the ground that in turn creates rising heat that protects the trees.

We all got to enjoy the ripening raspberries and blackberries that were planted at the Center in 2002. Walser recommended two varieties of raspberries that are especially good for the high elevations of northern New Mexico: Polano and Caroline. Heritage can be grown at lower elevations, as its fruit ripens later in the year. Walser also identified the varieties of blackberries that have been most successful: the semi-trailing Triple Crown and Chester. The Center harvests 13 to 15,000 pounds of raspberries per acre and 10 to 12,000 pounds of blackberries per acre.

High tunnel design hoophouse

Some of the raspberries are being grown in hoop- houses as another Center project. Del Jimenez, NMSU Agricultural Specialist, showed us the three types of designs the Center uses: the rounded hoop; the high tunnel; and the straight line. The latter two are high enough for someone to stand in upright. Hoophouses obviously function as greenhouses that extend the growing season in the spring and fall. The Center grows Osha del Campo in a hoophouse, and the raspberry plants grown in the hoophouse produced berries two and a half months prior to those grown outside. Jimenez made the offer that in partnership with county Agricultural Extension Offices, NMSU will help you build a hoop house on your land, provided the Center can use it as an educational project and you provide the materials. Contact your county extension agent if you're interested.

NMSU Agriculture Specialist Del Jimenez

The third tour focused on acequias, forages, and turf grass. La Jicarita News covered a presentation by Sam Fernald of the Center's acequia project several years ago at the New Mexico Organic Conference. This project has been documenting the relationship of acequia water to groundwater recharge and the rate of return of acequia water to its parent river. The research estimates that the rate of return is close to 50%, which is the credit the Office of the State Engineer allows, and that acequias raise the level of the groundwater table, create riparian environments, and remediate groundwater as well. A particularly interesting figure Fernald provided is that the amount of evaporation off Elephant Butte Reservoir exceeds the amount of consumptive use in all northern New Mexico acequias. It is vital that we maintain our acequia systems that keep farmland in agricultural production and improve both water quality and quantity.

For further information you can access the Center's website at: alcaldesc.nmsu.edu. If you want to be on the mailing list send your request to: Sustainable Ag. Science Center at Alcalde, P.O. Box 159, Alcalde, NM 87511.

Who's reading La Jicarita

Dave and Toni Correia


• Homewise of Santa Fe is offering a free workshop in Española to provide information on how to buy your own home. The workshop will help you find out what you need to know about qualifying for a mortgage, learning the major steps in the home buying process, and how to shop wisely for a home. It will be held on Saturday, August 25, 9 am-4 pm at Northern New Mexico Community College. For information or to register, please call: 1-800-429-5499 (www.homewise.org; info@homewise.org; 1301 Siler Rd., Bldg D, Santa Fe, NM 87507).

• A group of New Mexico organizations is challenging Los Alamos National Laboratory to change its mission from the nuclear weapons industry to clean-up, non-proliferation, emergency management and preparedness, and basic science. The groups include: Amigos Bravos, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Embudo Valley Monitoring Group, Loretto Community, Peace Action New Mexico, Physicians for Social Responsibility New Mexico, and Tewa Women United. Their statement can be viewed on the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety website: www.nuclearactive.org. If you are interested in joining these organizations to diversify the mission of LANL, please sign the enclosed form and send to: CCNS, 107 Cienega Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

• The annual High Road Art Tour will take place the weekends of September 22-23 and 29-30, 10 am-5 pm. The tour begins with studios in Chimayó and continues through the mountain villages of Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Chamisal, Rio Lucio, Picuris Pueblo, Peñasco, Rodarte, Llano San Juan, Llano de la Yegua, and Vadito. To obtain a brochure or more information visit the website at www.highroadnewmexico.com or call 866-343-5381.

Updates on Water Transfer Protests and Adjudications

By Kay Matthews

Santa Fe County Proposed Water Transfers

The city and county of Santa Fe have been busily applying to transfer water rights over the past year to the Buckman Well Field and the Buckman Direct Diversion (which doesn't yet exist, of course) to offset depletions at the wells and for future development. While the city will be accessing over 5,000 acre feet per year (afy) of San Juan/Chama Project water through the Buckman Diversion, the county has a contract for only 375 feet of Project water and therefore is buying and transferring water rights, primarily from the Middle Rio Grande Basin, to fill its diversion allotment of 1,700 afy.

Many of these proposed water transfers are being protested by individuals and organizations concerned that they will impair existing wells and are not in the best interest of the public. As we reported in La Jicarita News in the April 2007 issue, over 200 well owners in the county filed protests against the county's eight applications to transfer 110 afy water to 19 wells scattered throughout the county to supplement the Buckman wells. The move-to wells are spread out from South 14, through the community college area and Agua Fria Village, to NM 599 near the intersection of CR 62. The proposed transfer rights belong to developers who are required to provide water to the county utility before getting approval for their building projects.

The protests were filed because the public doesn't know which of the 19 wells will actually be pumped or how much water will be pumped at each well. The Santa Fe Well Owners Association and the Santa Fe Basin Water Association (SFBWA) worked together to encourage county well owners to protest the proposed transfers. John McGill, president of the SFBWA, recently met with Mary Young of the Water Rights Division of the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) to get an update on the status of the protests. Young informed McGill that one of the eight applications has been withdrawn (from a farm in the Agua Fria area of Santa Fe), reducing the number of acre feet to 92. She also reiterated that the county's applications have created a unique situation for the OSE because it must review all of the applications without knowing which move-to wells will actually be used by the county.

The protests have now been moved to the Litigation Division of the OSE, and letters to the protestants will soon be sent out, which are pro forma in these cases, asking if the protestants and applicants can work together to resolve the issue. According to McGill, the SFBWA will be working with the protestants to consolidate their protests and have one protest carried forward by the organization, basing their case on the potential impairment of county well owners by the move-to wells.

There is also some controversy as to whether the County Commissioners formally approved the County Water Utility's decision to file the applications before determining which of the 19 wells will eventually be used.

Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement

While federal legislation was introduced this year to implement the Navajo/San Juan River Water Rights Settlement, the cost of the project is a significant stumbling block. The $800 million price tag includes several major water projects: the Navajo Irrigation Project and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, both of which have generated opposition from non-Indian citizens' groups that claim previous funding slated for the projects has been wasted and that the projects cater to special interest groups that promote unrestrained growth.

In April, New Mexico senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman introduced the Northwestern New Mexico Rural Water Projects Act (S. 1171) that would contribute funding over two decades to construct the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Pipeline and take other steps to settle the Navajo water rights claim on the San Juan River. But representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Interior, representing the current administration, had this to say about the bill in testimony before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee: "If enacted, the cost of S. 1171, alone, is estimated to exceed 1 billion dollars. If the other two proposals from New Mexico, Aamodt (involving the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque) and Abeyta (involving the Pueblo of Taos), about which the Administration also has raised serious concerns, were to be enacted as currently envisioned by their proponents, total expenditures for Indian water rights settlements in New Mexico alone are likely to exceed $1.5 billion. . . . The Administration did not participate in the drafting of the water rights settlement embodied in S. 1171, and does not support a water settlement under these circumstances."

Not to be deterred, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici then came up with a scheme to fund all three New Mexico Indian Water Rights settlements: Navajo Nation, Aamodt, and Abeyta. In June he introduced the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund Act of 2007, which would authorize a 10-year funding source to generate an estimated 1.37 billion to pay for the three settlements after all the issues have been resolved and they are signed into law. The fund would be used for planning, designing, or construction activities of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Furthermore, at a Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing for former Iowa Representative Jim Nussle, who has been nominated to head the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Domenici made it clear that to get his support Nussle needed to assure the senator that the OMB will "be more receptive to resolving these water settlements." (He apparently got that assurance; the Bush administration will not oppose his legislation.)

While the Navajo Tribal Chairman is on record supporting S. 1171, there is plenty of opposition to the bill from both Indian and non-Indian constituents. The Navajo-Gallup pipeline would serve 43 of the 110 Navajo Nation chapters, and several of them, whose water is contaminated from past uranium mining, are on record opposing the project as an unfair allocation to communities. In a letter to the Albuquerque Journal, Elouise Brown, President of Dooda Desert Rock (the Navajo organization opposed to the proposed Desert Rock coal fired power plant on the reservation), wrote that "The proposed diversion across hundreds of miles of desert smacks more of the white man's predisposition toward resource exploitation than it does of traditional Native American values of cautious use of resources."

Steve Cone of Citizens Progressive Alliance in Farmington, has written numerous op-eds and letters stating his group's concern that there is insufficient water to support both the Navajo-Gallup pipeline and the Navajo Irrigation Project. He claims the Colorado River (headwaters of the San Juan River) is already over-allocated and that approval of the settlement will "further deplete and effectively desiccate the San Juan River, jeopardizing the hydrologic future of the entire Basin . . . ." He particularly lambasts the recently revised Hydrologic Determination by the Department of the Interior that "there is likely to be sufficient water to support the proposed contract [Navajo-Gallup pipeline]." The Bureau's determination is based on numerous controversial assumptions, particularly the claim that reduced evaporation rates due to the region's most recent drought will help provide the necessary water resources for the project. The Bureau argues that because less water is evaporating from drought-shrunken reservoirs, more water is actually available for diversion.

Ute Mountain Ute Settlements

Critics of the Navajo settlement cite the Colorado Ute Indian Final Water Rights Settlement's Animas-La Plata Project (ALP) as the boondoggle the Navajo settlement may be doomed to repeat. This Indian settlement was signed in 2000 but is currently being challenged in the Colorado Supreme Court by the Citizens Progressive Alliance.

The ALP, a significant component of the settlement, has a long and complicated history. The 1966 proposal called for an irrigation diversion from the Animas River to the La Plata through a series of canals and storage vessels: three dams, two reservoirs, and hundreds of miles of pipeline and canals. It would have cost the federal government $310 million, local non-Indians $200 million, and the tribes $13 million. The Bureau of Reclamation deemed that project infeasible, and after strong opposition from local residents, governmental agencies, and environmentalists, a second proposal, in 1979, moved the point of diversion downstream on the Animas River (near Durango) where the water would be pumped up 500 feet and two miles to a reservoir, then pumped up another 400 feet and moved west 25 miles to irrigate what is called the "Dry Side" of La Plata. Congress initially approved the settlement in 1988, but when the Environmental Improvement Agency failed to approve the project because of water quality concerns, the settlement was amended in 2000, eliminating the irrigation component. It was called "ALP Ultralite" and was slated only for municipal and industrial use.

This project is also being challenged as economically infeasible: specifically, that one of the signatories, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, will not be putting the water to beneficial use because it is not to be used for irrigation; and that the Ute tribes cannot claim they will use the water for municipal or industrial use because neither use exists on the reservations.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has also filed a Winters Doctrine claim on the San Juan River (20% of the reservation is in New Mexico) for 7,300-9,300 afy to be used to develop a coal fired electric generating plant or for other development purposes. (The Winters Doctrine declares that when Congress reserved land for Indian reservations it also reserved water needs, both present and future, to fulfill the purpose of the reservation.). If a settlement is not reached in the Navajo adjudication, the tribe could also assert a Winters Doctrine claim on the San Juan River. According to Steve Cone, however, that doctrine "holds that the only feasible or fair method of quantifying tribal water rights is through a determination of the 'practicably irrigable acreage' of the reservation land in question." The Alliance believes this would entail much less water than the tribe will receive in the proposed settlement.

So in both cases the future remains unpredictable. But what happens in both the Navajo and Ute settlements will ultimately affect how much water is available in New Mexico for both irrigators and city dwellers.

Lobato Land Grant Heirs Seek Justice

By Mark Schiller

Heirs to the Juan José Lobato land grant living in the El Rito area have submitted a petition to the Forest Service stating that they "vehemently oppose the currently implemented policy of charging for dead and down or dried fuel wood." The petition goes on say, "We demand our rights for these forest resources under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which guaranteed our use on a pro-bono basis of these forests community Land Grant Resources." In support of their petition, the approximately 180 signatories also submitted a 1946 Memorandum of Understanding between the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which had acquired the 65,336-acre northern portion of the grant in 1942, and the Forest Service, to whom the FSA transferred administration of the grant in 1946. The El Rito District Ranger and the Carson Forest Supervisor have forwarded the petition to the Regional Office in Albuquerque for its attorneys' opinion on the matter.

In order to understand this issue, it's critical to know a little about the grant's history subsequent to its confirmation by the Court of Private Land Claims. The Lobato grant was confirmed by the court in 1894 and its official survey indicated that it contained 205,615 acres. The grant's lawyer, a notorious member of the Santa Fe Ring named George Hill Howard, obtained the northern portion of the grant as his fee for representation and subsequently succeeded in quieting title to much of the remainder of the grant to himself as well. In other words, he essentially misappropriated approximately 138,300 acres of the grant. Howard's interests in the grant subsequently passed to William S. Jackson, a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, who retained it for thirty-three years before selling it to the federal government in 1942. The government purchased the Lobato grant, along with about ten others, with funds expressly appropriated to meet the subsistence needs of Hispano families who were hard hit by the depression. The grant was initially administered by the FSA under its Rural Rehabilitation Program and then transferred to the Forest Service. Thus, the Memorandum of Understanding between the FSA and the Forest Service is critical to understanding the demands of the El Rito petitioners.

That document specifically states the Forest Service will administer the northern portion of the Lobato grant ". . . with the objective of . . . the most equitable allotment or distribution among the local and dependent residents of the privileges of utilizing the forage, forest and soil resources under principles and in ways which will most fully contribute to the support of the local economy and well being and security of said dependent resident population; . . ." The language of this documentclearly indicate that the Forest Service was mandated to make a lot more than just dead and down firewood available to the local communities. Moreover, the Forest Service signed similar memorandums of understanding when it acquired at least eight other grants from the FSA and therefore should have similar obligations to those grant residents.

According to historian Suzanne Forrest, however, whose book The Preservation of the Village is the authoritative history of New Mexico's Hispano population during the New Deal, by 1954 the Forest Service had already abandoned the principals of rural rehabilitation outlined in the memorandums of understanding and made no mention of the "government responsibility for the welfare of dependant populations" in its land utilization criteria. She continues, "To the many New Mexicans, Hispanic and otherwise, who have come to see the United States forest rangers as uniformed occupational troopers guarding the spoils of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it will come as no surprise that the Forest Service subverted so soon the intentions of the Land Utilization program in whose trust its new lands had been acquired."

On August 9 New Mexico Senator Pete Domenci issued a press release stating that he had "asked the Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to immediately stop charging firewood fees to northern New Mexico land grant heirs until the U.S. Forest Service clarifies whether a fee is allowable under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo." Domenci went on to say, "For decades the citizens in the area have helped remove hazardous fuels and utilize them for personal use firewood. To start charging them for this service, given the Treaty rights involved and the clear insect and disease problem facing the Carson National Forest, makes absolutely no sense to me."


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