Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the

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

Volume I

February 1996

Number II


Current Issue




About Us




Water Adjudication by Mark Schiller

Land Use Issues in Southeastern Taos County: Peñasco Area Communities Association By Kay Matthews

Picuris Pueblo Water Quality Standards

Amigos Bravos, Activists for a River By Brian Shields


What's Happening in the Rest of New Mexico: Law Suit Filed Against Molycorp Kay Matthews

Interview with Joanie Berde of Carson Forest Watch

Water Adjudication

by Mark Schiller

Water rights adjudication is the process by which the New Mexico State Engineer Office (NMSEO) determines the extent and ownership of water rights in a specific geographic area of the state. It is similar to a quiet title suit which establishes ownership of property. This process was first initiated in 1907 and eventually all water rights, throughout the entire state, will be determined. The adjudication process in Taos County began in 1969 with the northern part of the county. While no official date has been set to begin the process in the southern part of the county, the NMSEO has indicated that it is next in line. Typically, it is an agonizingly slow process which can take more than 20 years to complete. Four of the five oldest cases in federal court are New Mexico water adjudication cases.

The adjudication process involves two phases. First the NMSEO conducts a hydrographic survey which determines ownership of the water right, purpose of water use, priority (the date at which the water was first put to beneficial use on that property), point of diversion, place of use, amount of acreage irrigated, and the amount of water required. Second, a lawsuit is filed by the state or federal government through which court orders are issued, stating how much water each user is entitled to and the use to which it can be put. State law requires that adjudication be conducted as a lawsuit and all water rights users are joined in this suit. When this has been completed, the NMSEO sends an offer of judgement to each water right owner. The owner may accept or reject this offer. Objections are resolved through further investigation by the NMSEO or a court hearing. When an offer is signed by both the state and water rights holder, the court enters an order confirming the agreement. When all rights have been settled in a given stream system, an individual or group of individuals can challenge the water rights judgement of others in that stream system if they feel that those rights have been unfairly adjudicated. The NMSEO then conducts hearings on these challenges. When they are resolved, the court enters a final decree which specifies the rights of every water right owner within that system.

La Jicarita spoke to David Benavidez and Fred Waltz, lawyers who specialize in New Mexico water law, and Geoff Bryce, program director of the Taos Valley Acequia Association, to find out what parciantes (water rights holders) can do to protect their rights during the adjudication process. First, and most important, parciantes must put their water rights to use. Water rights which are not used can be forfeited. If, during the adjudication process, the NMSEO determines a right has not been put to "beneficial use," for four consecutive years, it will send that rights holder a registered letter giving notice of that determination and giving the rights holder one year to put that right to use. If, at the end of that year, the water right has still not been put to use, it can be forfeited Second, it is very important that parciantes use their water to irrigate every part of their land which is irrigable. The NMSEO calculates each parciante's "duty of water" (the amount of water contained in an adjudicated water right) based upon the total amount of land under irrigation. If a portion of a field which has irrigation rights somehow becomes unirrigable because it has become overgrown with willows, for instance, or become too rocky to support pasture, or because the acequia is in disrepair, that portion of the land will not be used in calculating the "duty of water" and the amount of water adjudicated to that piece of land will be lessened. Areas where houses, out-buildings, roads, and fences have been built on irrigated land will also be subtracted.

Parciantes can protect themselves against these losses in several ways. They can transfer the unused portion of their rights to a piece of land with no water rights, which is accessible to the acequia, or they can take advantage of a new law and create a water conservation program for their acequia by giving the unused portion of their water right to their acequia association. This spring the Taos Valley Acequia Association will become the first acequia association in the state to implement a conservation program. Under an amendment to the state forfeiture statutes, acequia association are now allowed to create conservation programs whereby water rights which are not being used because of any of the reasons we have noted can be temporarily or permanently given to the ditch association for distribution among the parciantes as the association sees fit. The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition will be sponsoring a meeting in the spring at which members of the Taos Valley Acequia Association will give details of how this program has been implemented in their community.

Other measures these experts suggest communities can use to protect their rights include: acequia associa-tions making maps of all the lands under irrigation within their community with accurate estimates of the amount of land each parciante is irrigating; neighbors bearing witness to each other's continued use of the water; and ditch associations within an adjudicated area uniting to speak with one voice. This last measure is very important, as adjudication can pit ditch associations which have histories of hundreds of years of cooperation, against one another. David Benevidez also pointed out that ditch associations which have been passive in the negotiations with the NMSEO have fared far worse in these negotiations than associations which have prepared themselves and have been adamant in defense of their water rights. La Jicarita will continue to cover this issue in upcoming months, with updates on the implementation of water conservation programs and any additional information we receive. We will also be sponsoring meetings with experts to discuss these issues. Questions and comments from our readers are welcome.

Land Use Issues in Southeastern Taos County: Peñasco Area Communities Association

By Kay Matthews

On January 30 the Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA) met at the old theater in Peñasco to discuss and approve its Vision Statement, a required first step in a county-wide process to implement a comprehensive land use plan. PACA is an incorporated, non-profit legal entity, with membership open to all area citizens for an annual fee of $1.00 or $20.00 for a business. The Board of Directors include Lloyd Bolander, President; Ricky Dominguez, Vice President; Mary Mascareñas, Secretary; Rosabel Corrales, Treasurer; Tim Davis; Fabiola Dominguez; Thomas J. Ortega; John Rodarte; and Alan Siegel.

In a hand-out to those present at the meeting, PACA explained that in 1995 Taos County began holding hearings on its land use plan in various communities around the county. De-spite opposition to any kind of county planning expressed by a Peñasco Adhoc Committee (represented by Lloyd Bolander and Thomas Ortega), a Temporary Zoning Ordinance was implemented on April 6, 1995. In order for the Peñasco area communities to have input into the final land use plan, they were required by the county to form a neighborhood association and participate in the planning process.

At the meeting, PACA submitted its draft Vision Statement to the community, and after much discussion and revision, the statement was approved and submitted to the county. In broad terms, the statement addresses five general areas of concern: 1) the protection of personal, property, and religious rights as well as responsibilities for self government; 2) wise use of natural resources, including people, culture, land, water, air, animals, and plants; 3) enhanced educational opportunities; 4) improvement of infrastructure, including acequias, water and sewer systems, roads, etc. while managing growth to benefit the community; and 5) opportunities for quality economic growth. (If you would like a copy of the Vision Statement you can contact any of the board members.)

The next step in the planning process is to identify what goals and objectives will work towards the realization of this vision. PACA must submit these objectives to the county by June of 1996. After the neighborhood associations submit their goals and objectives to the county, the planners will then write chapters for each community which will include these objectives&emdash;whether they want subdivision regulations, zoning regulations, restrictions on certain kinds of developments, etc. These chapters will be incorporated into the final comprehensive land use plan and submitted to the Taos County Commission by August of 1996, for approval by October of 1996, replacing the Temporary Zoning Ordinance. It is anticipated that once the plan is approved it will take the county several years to develop the regulations that will enforce the tenets of the plan.

Several members of the audience expressed their skepticism concerning the county's responsiveness to the wishes of the community and its ability to enforce a land use plan once it is implemented. Taos County Planner Rhea Serna responded that once the County Commissioners sign the plan it becomes law and the community will be responsible for monitoring its application. Several other people again expressed their mistrust of any kind of regulation. Mary Mascareñas pointed out that the county first came to the Peñasco community and tried to impose upon it a county-wide zoning ordinance, but when the community resisted, the planners listened and came back with the idea of neighborhood associations that would write their own specific land use plan, sensitive to their own needs. In defense of PACA's activities, Lloyd Bolander remarked, "Without our participation in this process we will have no say on what the government may do to us or for us."

Community member Jean Nichols then gave a brief presentation concerning the recent problems with the Chamisal transfer station and the county's lack of action to rectify the situation. The dump has been closed for two days a week, the dumpsters are too high for people to throw their garbage in, the dumpsters are not emptied in a timely fashion, and there is no recycling program in effect despite the fact that two recycling bins are now available to the community. She, along with other audience members, expressed their anger that the county plans to start assessing a monthly fee to use the transfer station when the service is already unreliable and inadequate.

Gabe Romero, Taos County Commissioner for the Peñasco area, responded by apologizing that it has taken so long for SANCO (the new contractor) to work out the kinks in its operation, but promised that within four months the transfer station will be open on a daily basis and waste collectors will be installed in the ground so that people may pull directly up to them and unload their trash. Taos County Planner Carlos Miera responded to the complaints about the impending service fee by saying that because the Environmen-tal Protection Agency has set more stringent regulations for landfills, the county has only enough money to operate one landfill and must assess a fee to operate the transfer stations. The meeting concluded with a presentation by Miera on the Jicarita Enterprise Community (see the January issue of La Jicarita for an overview of that organization.)

Picuris Pueblo Water Quality Standards

On May 1, 1995, the Pueblo of Picuris adopted a Water Quality Code consistent with the Federal Clean Water Act. The code sets standards for water quality that will provide for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, wildlife, and recreation in and on the waters within the exterior boundaries of the Picuris

Pueblo Indian Reservation and Grant Lands. All water uses, including agricultural, municipal and industrial, recharge of domestic water supply via surface waters,

and irrigation, shall not lower the quality of the water below these standards.Standards are set for the following list of categories: steam bottom deposits; floating solids, oil, and grease; color; odor and taste; nuisance conditions; pathogens; turbidity; mixing zones; radioactivity; temperature; salinity/mineral quality; pH; dissolved gases; and toxic substances.

Those facilities upstream from Pueblo lands that are required to have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit will also have to adhere to these water standards. They will be granted up to three years, on a case by case basis, to make treatment modifications so that the resulting effluent meets final permit requirements.

According to the All Indian Pueblo Council's Environmental Protection Division, non-point source pollution, such as that of septic tanks, will also have to be identified and mitigated to conform to the standards. Picuris Pueblo will be committed to monitoring the Rio Pueblo to determine what entities may be contaminating the river, and work with the communities involved to establish compliance.

Amigos Bravos, Activists for a River

By Brian Shields

(Editor's note: Amigos Bravos was formed in 1988 to promote river protection and social justice. The group has been involved in many Rio Grande watershed issues over the years; the following is excerpted from its mission statement.)

The way to protect and reclaim water and the riverine ecosystem in the Rio Grande watershed and in New Mexico as a whole is through the empowerment of the grassroots communities which are dependent on that water. Affected communities need the information, coalition-building, legal support and political voice to hold polluters accountable and to reverse river degradation though reclamation initiatives. For this reason, Amigos Bravo operates as a watch-dog and pro-active force with programs which involve both protection and reclamation initiatives. In addition, Amigos Bravos provides technical assistance to communities, organizations and individuals.

In semi-desert country, rivers define communities. Rivers provide the lifeblood that allows communities to maintain a sustainable and productive existence. The people of northern New Mexico who are now in late middle-age recall drinking directly from the rivers as children&emdash;without fear&emdash;in an act that was both necessary, and in the case of Native American communities, of spiritual and ceremonial import. Water from springs, rivers and lakes is revered. The Hispanic acequia is an irrigation system, which taps from rivers, around which the Hispanic culture of northern New Mexico is built. Even now there are older people in these communities who will not use a flush toilet because it is inconceivable to them to degrade water in that way.

In less than fifty years, the 1,885-mile Rio Grande has become a health hazard of major proportions. American Rivers named the Rio Grande "The Most Endangered River in North American in 1993." Half of the Rio Grande's original fish fauna have disappeared. Water quality degradation is occurring from industrial and government waste, municipal sewage discharges and most importantly, non-point source pollution resulting from ill-conceived land and water management practices.

Without citizen action and advocacy, water quality will continue to degrade. The purpose of Amigos Bravos is to return the Rio Grande watershed and New Mexico's rivers to drinkable quality whenever possible, and to contact quality everywhere else; to see that the natural flows are maintained, and where those flows have been disrupted by human intervention, to see that they are regulated to protect and reclaim the river ecosystem by approximating natural flows, while maintaining environmentally sound, sustainable practices of indigenous cultures. Amigos Bravos holds that protection of the environment and social justice go hand in hand.

Amigos Bravos is funded solely through private and member donations. For more information and to become a member of Amigos Bravos call/write: Amigos Bravos, Box 238, Taos, NM 87571, 758-3874.


Dear La Jicarita:

I welcome your newspaper as a much needed "forum for . . . (the) efforts to protect our watershed and cultural heritage." Taking you at your word, I hope you print my letter.

I feel I must take issue with the tone and content of your first issue editorial because as a fellow life-long environmentalist I believe it is essential that we be as objective and even handed in our representation of any sensitive issue.

First, . . . you state "a new waste water treatment plant has been constructed to try (italics mine) to bring the area up to current standards." To say "to try" gives the impression that Sipapu tried but has not succeeded in meeting current standards. If you have evidence of this I suggest you act on it, if not, I think Sipapu should be commended on bringing the area up to current standards. Isn't this what we want them to do . . . How many individuals, local institutions, and local businesses can claim the same.

Second, to claim it is not legitimate to use "economics to justify expansion when ski areas primarily provide menial (italics mine), minimum wage and seasonal employment" is not only insulting but also not true. Webster's defines menial as lacking interest and dignity, lowly and servile. As a four year instructor at Sipapu . . . I can tell you teaching young people of all cultural backgrounds from Española to Wagon Mound the self-esteem and discipline necessary to become a competent skier is a high point of my year. I think the Bolanders' school ski program is a very positive addition to our community and I feel privileged to be part of it. I know many of my fellow workers at Sipapu feel the same way.

As for "minimum wage and seasonal employment"how do you classify your view of the "traditional way of life". . . . Seems to me late November through mid-March are pretty lean times for . . . "traditional industries". The skiing industry seems like a perfect fit (economically) to provide a little needed cash at the right time of year and thus, it could be . . . argued, it supports the traditional way of life. Do we as environmentalists have any better, cleaner industry ideas to pump in needed cash during the winter months for the unskilled and skilled, seasonal under-employed among us? . . . If not maybe we should work with and not against those in the community who have provided such jobs for many years and help them comply with what we see as important environmental concerns.

In addition, it seems to me that tourism is part of economic diversity and to work to eliminate tourism from our community is to deny many people the opportunity to sell their "traditional arts and crafts" as well as gain employment more emotionally volatile term, around the world for a long time for many complex reasons. To equate "cultural erosion" with a Sipapu expansion strikes me as the type of fuzzy logic which could very well lead to the sort of public backlash against all environmental concerns that all of us can ill afford. . . .

The issues are important ones and if we all work together in a positive environment I'm sure we can find more places we agree than disagree and achieve a satisfactory balance.

Carl Struck, Peñasco

Dear La Jicarita:

I have worked at Sipapu Ski Area for six years and have experienced a very different picture of Sipapu than presented by La Jicarita in its recent editorial. I am a ski instructor and the people I see Sipapu benefiting are the children of this community and northern New Mexico. Sipapu provides a very low cost ski program for hundreds of local school children, adolescent treatment centers and community groups. In an area where there is presently no community center, children and teenagers use Sipapu as a healthy social gathering place. Many local teenagers experience their first jobs at Sipapu. In addition Sipapu participates in a work-study program with the Peñasco School system.

The entire Bolander family, who started the area in 1952, are active and present in its day to day operation. The atmosphere at Sipapu is warm, friendly, unpretentious and family oriented. Other than school children Sipapu's customers are mostly middle class families that often come for family reunions where they can afford the low cost accomodations. These are not jet setters that are going to erode our local culture. In addition many boy scout and civic groups rent the low cost dorms and bring groups at discounted rates. Each year, Lloyd Bolander volunteers his time helping young boy scouts get their skiing badges.

Sipapu does not cater to a rich crowd that is threatening to change the nature of our community. Most of the people I teach are members of the local community or neighboring towns&emdash;Española, Mora, Taos, etc. Sipapu can never com-pete with the larger ski areas. There will be no "Aspenization" of Peñasco as is threatening Santa Fe and Taos. The mountain does not exist for Sipapu to ever compete with larger, more posh ski areas. Hopefully, with expansion it can stay economically viable and remain a small, family, community oriented ski area&emdash;something in itself that deserves preservation. Throughout the US very few small, family owned ski areas remain open which I feel is a great loss to local communities.

I have hiked Jicarita, the name of your paper, with the Bolanders and I know how much they love these mountains. There was a lot of forethought when Sipapu was originally planned on how to preserve as many trees as possible and the character of the mountain. Sipapu has far narrower trails than most ski areas which I attribute to careful, environmentally conscientious planning.

One final note. Your statement that "ski areas provide menial, minimum wage and seasonal employment" affronts me. Menial is defined as "of or fit for servants or servile, low, mean." Your opinion of my job and other instructors and staff who are very dedicated to our jobs at Sipapu is offensive. I hope there is more respect elsewhere for our efforts in teaching the children of the area. Many of us put our other professions aside for a few short months in the winter because we love teaching and work hard at it, not because we are "menial laborers."

Sipapu is part of our community and culture and should be supported. We are not talking about a mega corporation or big development. We are talking about a family and staff that have benefited many community people since 1952. We are talking about people, we are talking about ourselves.

Kathy Riggs, Ojo Sarco

La Jicarita replies:

Both letters interpret our editorial as an indictment of Sipapu Ski Area as it now exists. That is not the case. It is not our intent to shut down Sipapu. We ski there, along with many of our friends and neighbors, and our children participate in the school program. We do, however, oppose the expansion plan as it now stands. Our coalition filed an administrative appeal of the plan because the Forest Service did an inadequate job in assessing the potential cumulative impacts and failed to investigate the water rights situation.

With regard to the waste water treatment plant, while the new treatment system is a vast improvement over the previous system, it may not ultimately comply with state and federal standards. We pointed out in our appeal of the Forest Service Environmental Impact Statement that the ski area is discharging nitrate laden waste water to a leach field within a few feet of the Rio Pueblo. The ground water just beneath the leach field is connected naturally to the Rio Pueblo. Leach fields do not effectively bind or otherwise remediate nitrates. Additionally, it's unclear if the Bolander family has adequate water rights to operate the treatment system.

Both letters take exception to the use of the word "menial." The primary dictionary definition of menial is "pertaining or proper to domestic servants." Ski areas, in general, create mostly domestic and service-related jobs that pay minimum wage. La Jicarita meant no disrespect to anyone who works at Sipapu.

While we agree that tourism can be part of economic diversity, we feel Struck's letter does not address the possible ramifications of the expansion. We have all seen how burgeoning ski areas have affected small, rural communities in Colorado and New Mexico.The proposed expansion will adversely affect our communities by increasing traffic, water use and pollution, and development such as second homes, condominiums, motels, etc. The exspansion also calls for clearcutting 200 acres of forest that is culturally significant to Picuris Pueblo.

The argument that without an expansion the ski area may not remain viable is only speculation at best. In fact, the funds necessary to finance an expansion may burden the area with debt that will threaten its future&emdash;the area cannot, as Riggs points out, compete with the big ski areas, with or without an expansion. In all likelihood, the area will have to increase lift ticket prices for community members and school participants.

We would also like to note that our coalition requested a meeting last September with the Bolanders (through their lawyer) to discuss both the expansion and water rights protest. They have thus far been unreceptive. (People who are interested in learning more about the expansion plan can obtain copies of the Environmental Impact Statement and the coalition's appeal from the Forest Service.)

What's Happening in the Rest of New Mexico: Law Suit Filed Against Molycorp

by Kay Matthews

On December 8, 1995, Amigos Bravos of Taos and the New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water filed

a civil lawsuit against Molycorp Inc., claiming it has violated the Clean Water Act. According to these groups, Molycorp, which owns the molybdenum mine in Questa, is responsible for polluting the Red River, and that after fruitless negotiations with mine officials for voluntary compliance, they were forced to take legal action.

The suit claims that the mine's "328 million tons of waste rock in a five square mile area is transforming rain and snow into acid mine drainage and heavy metal contamination which seeps into the Red River. Polluted seep water comes into contact with clear flowing river water and a chemical reaction precipitates an aluminum alloy which coats the river bottom and turns the river a milky blue color. Over the course of thirty years this seepage has transformed the Red River from a blue ribbon trout fishery into a biologically dead river."

While Molycorp holds a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for discharges from their tailings ponds located in Questa, the suit alleges that pollution is occurring along an approximately two mile long seep-front that towers above the river and State Highway 38.

Molycorp has denied the charges, claiming that there are other sources of pollution of the river and that the mine "currently catches all the surface drainage from the waste rock with inceptor barriers and diverts the water back into mine operations." The environmental groups claim that two studies, a private one paid for by Molycorp in 1993 and one conducted by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commis-sion in 1994, verify that the mine is responsible for acidic drainage into the Red River.

Sawnie Morris, Executive Director of Amigos Bravos, says her group hopes that the lawsuit will result in the creation of jobs for local people to clean up the environmental mess caused by the mine. She states that UNOCAL, Molycorp's parent company, has been actively trying to sell the mine since 1988 and that there is concern among the local population that the company may walk away, leaving a legacy of environmental problems.

Interview with Joanie Berde of Carson Forest Watch

(Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series of interviews with some of the people involved in the controversy generated by the Mexican spotted owl law suit. In the last issue, La Jicarita interviewed Antonio DeVargas of La Herencia del Norte. Joanie Berde, of Carson Forest Watch, was a party to the lawsuit and a participant in the subsequent settlement.)

La Jicarita: Considering the controversy and public outcry generated by the Mexican spotted owl lawsuit and subsequent settlement, in retrospect would you have changed your strategy?

Berde: I think bringing the lawsuit was really important because the Forest Service, for several years now, has violated the law when it comes to protecting the forest and protecting endangered species. Strategy wise, in retrospect, I think that the mistake that was made by the environmentalists participating in the law suit was not going to the local communities affected and at least taking the time to explain the nature of the law suit and what the impacts of it would be. We learned a big lesson that while we don't want to back down from protecting the forest, we have to at least take the time to try and have some dialogue with the communities affected. I think we would have gotten a lot more support for the lawsuit since the basis of it is protecting old trees and old forests and I think communities support that here. I strongly believe that this lawsuit, in the long run, while it may cause some short term inconveniences, will be something that will protect the forests for our grandchildren and that it was the right thing to do.

La Jicarita: There's a lot of confusion as to what the settlement means in terms of management of timber and firewood in Carson National Forest. What is your interpretation of the agreement?

Berde: One thing to remember is that this injunction [halting all logging until the spotted owl lawsuit is resolved] is in effect for only a short period of time. It's not going to change policy forever. The Forest Service has to go back and complete its consultation on the forest plans. As far as the lawsuit, first of all, it was filed because the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act by submitting its projects to U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service project by project rather than looking at the forest as a whole or the forest plans as a whole, which is how you need to manage an ecosystem. As far as the settlement agreement [negotiated between the Forest Service and the parties to the lawsuit], the Forest Service, when they submitted lists of projects that they wanted the judge to release, didn't submit, in the beginning, a lot of small timber sales that we had no problem with, and that we supported and didn't feel would affect old growth forests or the owl. These included viga sales, latilla sales, and some thinning projects. The Forest Service didn't make those a priority. It was pretty clear that the priority was the large timber sales that Duke City or Pacific Studs in Cimarron had. The Filipito and the Ojos Ryan were the ones that the Forest Service was really pressing for. This shows that the Forest Service emphasis has always been on the larger timber sales and they've ignored the needs of the small communities.

La Jicarita: What about the firewood program?

Berde: The Forest Service were the ones who brought up the fact that there were problems with their fuelwood program. Citing concerns over declining populations in songbirds and other wildlife that depend upon dead and down trees for habitat, they felt there needed to be some restrictions put on the firewood program. They used the spotted owl negotiations as a vehicle to change their firewood program which they'd been wanting to do all along. They knew that local communities would react strongly and didn't want to take the heat for it so they tacked it on to the spotted owl settlement agreement. Environmentalists agree that because of increased demand for firewood due to a doubling of the population in northern New Mexico that some reasonable restrictions should be put on the firewood policy. But the Forest Service should have done it the right way, with public input, doing a forest plan amendment. I think the priority should be for the Forest Service to put up adequate firewood sales in low impact areas, meaning not along stream zones or in old growth forests, and not in critical habitat for wildlife species. I think it can be done if they deemphasize commercial timber sales and change their focus to just putting up small sales for local communities. But I also think it's important that we look at conservation and alternative energy sources such as solar to reduce our use of the forest.

La Jicarita: In last month's La Jicarita Antonio De- Vargas stated that the Forest Service has not lived up to its agreement to manage northern New Mexico forests for the benefit of local communities, as they were mandated, specifically in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. It sounds like you agree with that.

Berde: For a long time we've been working with the folks in the community, both small wood products people and loggers, and one thing we all agree on is no one supports Duke City owning the mill or the logs going to Duke City. The other thing we agree on is that we want the forest protected for the long term, and that the local communities care about protecting their forests and watersheds. We probably disagree on how much old growth forest is left and how many big trees can be cut before it starts to have an impact on the ecosystem. They're only cutting the big trees. What you have are the last intact areas of old growth mixed-conifer&emdash;ponderosa and Douglas fir&emdash;in all of northern New Mexico, and they're all scheduled for timber sales. The Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit has probably been managed by the Forest Service for a sustained yield, but a sustained yield is different than a sustainable ecosystem. You can cut trees indefinitely if you're just having a tree farm, but there are so many other values that folks in the local communities and the environmental community feel are important, like healthy wildlife, clean water, soil protection, and things like that.

La Jicarita: Do you think that if Duke City were cut out of the equation, small-time loggers like La Compania could earn a living?

Berde: I think there's a real opportunity for value added products, thinning, commercial firewood, cabinet making, carved architectural details, on a small scale. But it's going to take some funding help from the outside and some progressive ideas. Loving and knowing the land needs the benefit of new and sophisticated information to better manage lands.

La Jicarita: Can you respond to DeVargas's accusation that environmentalists negotiated in bad faith over the La Manga [in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit) timber sale?

Berde: We're not negotiating in bad faith, but the problem has been that La Compania has insisted all along that we guarantee them a volume of old growth trees. We're not willing to do that, it's what we're fighting over. This is the last, best two percent old growth ponderosa and five percent mixed-conifer left unprotected on the Carson. We're talking about an invaluable resource here. If they were talking about some thinning and smaller trees for firewood, that would be different, but that's not what they want so the settlement talks have broken down. The whole point of the law suit is that the Forest Service has never even done an analysis of how much old growth is left on the Carson, how much has been cut, how much is being planned to cut. They haven't done a cumulative impacts study. And now they're planning to fragment the last part that's left. It's just not going to benefit anybody. La Manga shouldn't be the timber sale that we're arguing about. There are other areas of the national forest up there that could provide employment.

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Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.