A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Solid Waste/Recycling By Jean Nichols
Peñasco Youth and Family Center By Kay Matthews
The Camino Real Ranger District is proposing seven cutting areas for local communities to acquire their fuelwood for the coming season. According to the proposal, all of these areas are outside the Mexican spotted owl critical habitat and "would benefit the ecosystem by removing trees that are suppressed, dying, or have insect/disease problems. Removal of these trees would contribute to the health and vigor of the remaining trees as well as provide a useful product to the local communities."
As shown on the map, areas A and B will supply wood for the Southwest side of the district (Truchas, Cordova, Trampas, Ojo Sarco, etc.); areas C and D will supply wood for the Mora and Peñasco areas; E is for the Peñasco and Taos areas; F is for the Mora area; and G is for Taos and Angel Fire. The district is asking for public input on these projects. You may contact Henry Lopez at the Camino Real Ranger District, P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 87553 or call 587-2255. The proposal will then be submitted to the Forest Service Regional Office for final approval.
Officials at the ranger station also said that fuelwood will be available in the Alamo/Dinner timber sale above Llano and the Ojos Ryan sale off NM 518 near Taos. As of this date, permits will cost $15 for two cords of wood.
El Distrito del Camino Real está proponiendo siete áreas en las que las comunidades locales podrán cortar y/o obtener la leña para la próxima estación. De acuerdo con el proyecto, todas estas áreas están fuera del habitat crítico para el buho manchado Mexicano y "podrían beneficiar el ecosistema al remover los árboles que están destruídos, muertos, o tienen insectos/problemas con enfermedades. Al remover estos árboles se podría contribuir a la salud y vigorización de los restos de arboles como también proveer productos útiles a las comunidades locales."
Como se muestra el el mapa, las áreas A y B proveerán madera para el lado suroeste del distrito (Truchas, Córdova, Trampas, Ojo Sarco, etc.); las áreas C y D proveerán madera para las zonas de Mora y Peñasco; F es para el área de Mora; y G as para Taos y Angel Fire. El distrito está pidiendo la opinión sobre éstos proyecots. Usted puede contactar a Henry Lopez en el Distrito del Camino Real en la dirección P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM, 87553 o llamando al teléfono 587-2255. El proyecto será presentado a la Oficina Regional del Servicio de la Floresta para su aprobación final. Los oficiales de la estación del guardabosque también dijeron que la lena estará disponible para la venta en el Alamo/ Dinner timber abajo de Llano y Los Ojos Ryan en NM 518 cerca de Taos. En esta fecha, los permisos costarán $15 por dos cuerdas de leña.
La Plaza Telecommunity in Taos recently received a grant from W. K. Kellogg to help rural communities access the Internet. Peñasco and Questa were selected as pilot sites for expansion of the La Plaza system. Peñasco Independent Schools will be the site for the phone lines and equipment; computer labs at the school are currently being prepared for Internet service with help from technicians from Los Alamos National Laboratories. As soon as U. S. West has lines available&emdash;hopefully by the end of March&emdash;the system will be up and running.
Arnold Lopez, Peñasco High School math and science teacher, has been coordinating all these activities and wants to let the community know that once the service is set up it will be available to all the people of the community, not just students. Lopez has organized a committee of Peñasco area citizens to help facilitate the connection, spread the word to the community, and oversee the site. They are currently being trained by La Plaza to teach local citizens how to access the Internet and how to use its resources. Computers will be made available during evening hours for community members, and those people with computers at home will be supplied with software to access the school site.
While Lopez says there is widespread community support for this project, there has also been some concern expressed about monitoring what their children can access on the Internet. Both Lopez and Maxxwell Cassidy, a member of the organizing committee, want to point out that undesirable materials are available from many sources right now&emdash;on television, at magazine stores in Taos and Santa Fe&emdash;that parents already monitor and restrict. While objectionable sites may be found on the Internet (one has to know where and how to search for them), the positive resources available&emdash;"virtual libraries" that provide information on government, employment, health and medical services, environmental issues, agriculture&emdash;will allow their children the opportunity to conduct sophisticated research from home or school.
They also want to point out that the skills kids will acquire from learning the system will be invaluable to their futures. In our remote area, where local jobs are few and far between, those people who acquire computer skills may be able to work out of their homes as programmers, desktop publishers, technicians, researchers, etc. as the computer industry continues to grow.
(Editor's note: La Jicarita interviewed both senior planner Dave DiCicco and planner Rhea Serna for this article. We refer to them as one voice, Planners.)
La Jicarita: How did Taos County come up with the Neighborhood Association system to implement land use planning in the rural areas of the county?
Planners: There was a zoning ordinance that was developed in the planning department, without any public input or participation, and then presented to the community. There was so much resistance that they [the planning department] decided to backtrack and instead of developing policies or ordinances here, they would first go to the residents, the citizens of Taos County, and have them develop the actual policies. The mechanism for doing that would be to have each community define what its boundaries are and develop neighborhood associations, and in that way each entity can work in a partnership with the county.
La Jicarita: Why do the associations have to incorporate and go through the lengthy process of developing vision statements, etc.?
Planners: Incorporation formalizes the organization and it releases individuals from liability. That formal organization then is better able to have a formal relationship with the county commission because there are people identified as officers who have a link there with elected officials and it's just a much stronger form of organization. It also insures through the bylaws that the organization is broadly based. As far as the process is concerned, the visioning process and so forth, it's been our experience that planning is most successful when people have something that they're trying to achieve rather than something that's problem based or already exists. We're trying really hard to get people to be proactive in their planning effort. What we're trying to do is get the communities out in front of their problems and say, OK, where do we want to be in five or 10 or 15 or 20 years, what do we want our community to be like. Then we set up goals, objectives, and action steps to try to achieve those visions. We always tell people in the community, if you don't have a vision for your community that's commonly held, someone will come here, with money, power, and abilities, and they will have a vision for your community that may not include you. And there are examples of this all over the western United States.
La Jicarita: If the primary concern of the Peñasco area is to maintain its rural/agricultural nature, how will the land management plan do this?
Planners: It has the potential to define what type of development can occur in that area. Without defining what people want, anything can happen&emdash;there's no control, there are no checks and balances, and there's no input from the community. A lot of people think zoning restricts them, in terms of what they want to do with their land. But we think if people have the ability to write down what they do do with their land right now, then we have the ability to codify them into regulations: these are all the permissible uses in this area&emdash;animals, junked cars, cottage industries, whatever type of agricultural uses there are. You have, in the Peñasco area, a dichotomy, because you have the rural/agricultural desire , but then you have the ski area which could become a large commercial activity with a lot of development associated with it, so there has to be a good community-wide discussion of what that entails and how do you address that dichotomy. The neighborhood association provides a forum for these discussions and an organization which can negotiate these issues with the county, the Forest Service, or whatever agency is involved.
La Jicarita: Peñasco has completed its vision statement. The next step is coming up with goals and objectives. What do we need to write into our goals and objectives to commit ourselves and the county commission to protecting these lands as agricultural?
Planners: An objective would be to develop zoning that would make the whole Peñasco area a rural/agricultural zone. And these are the permissible uses&emdash;this is the permissible lot coverage percentage, this is the permissible commercial use. And you can develop standards that could be based on performance criteria. Performance criteria could be water usage, land percentage coverage, access, lighting, size of the building, etc. Under performance criteria uses can be mixed, unlike zoning that puts all single family dwellings together, or commercial uses together, etc. They can be mixed together only because the impacts on each other's property is minimized.
La Jicarita: Zoning based on limiting density has historically discriminated against the rural poor, and often results in development and increased land prices. What kind of land management plan will allow families to continue to divide their lands as they have traditionally done?
Planners: Family lot splits would exempt family transfers from any minimum lot size. For example, a family of twelve could divide its family plot into twelve divisions for each of the children. But these splits will still have to meet environmental regulations regarding sewage and water. Another way to deal with this, like they're doing in Mora County, is called a bonus density provision. Let's say you have a one or two-acre lot, you can divide that once. If you have a 10-acre lot, you can divide that three times. If you have a 50-acre lot, you can divide it 10 times. So the more land you have, the bigger the lot divisions have to be. It makes it more fair; if you have a small piece of land, you can still divide it, but if you have a larger piece of land, then you're more limited in the number of divisions.
La Jicarita: What other kinds of progressive planning can neighborhood associations implement to help protect themselves?
Planners: I think we're going to have to turn towards the state for enabling legislation to change discriminatory tax practices, for example, inheritance taxes. We're also looking at transferrable development rights, where you can maintain open space by allowing people to sell their development rights to an adjacent or nearby piece of property, so that nearby piece of property could be developed more densely and the one that sold the rights would then remain as open space. It could be used for agriculture but couldn't be used for development. But the most important element is community participation. Along with property ownership comes responsibility to your neighbors and community.
La Jicarita: What assurances do these neighborhood associations have that their plans will be implemented and enforced?
Planners: The citizens have to take responsibility and ownership of the comprehensive plans. These plans will be implemented through their organized action. One of the things we're asking for in this next budget is an investigative enforcement officer to enforce the plans. Also, regulations will be written that require requests for variances go before a planning commission of appointed officials rather than the county commission. This makes the process less political.
In 1994 La Compania de Ocho filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service, claiming the agency's failure in meeting its fiduciary agreement in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, and for its long term lack of commitment to sustainable communities. In February of this year that lawsuit was settled when the Forest Service agreed to compensate La Compania in several ways and to adjust its management policies in the Sustained Yield Unit. These include: 1) guarantee that a minimum of 28% of the timber budget is spent on the El Rito Ranger District [where the Unit is located]; 2) design sales on the Unit to minimize the impact caused by elk calving restrictions; 3) hold public meetings twice a year to provide the schedule of timber sales on the Unit for the next six months, with their estimated value, location, species of trees, etc.; 4) guarantee La Compania 75% of the sawtimber from the La Manga timber sale and 80% of the sawtimber from the Agua Caballo timber sale without competitive bidding; 5) write an amendment to the Forest Plan which stipulates that timber sales on the Unit will be open to competitive bidding rather than a designated operator [previously Duke City Lumber]; 6) provide $40,000 in compensation to La Compania; and 7) issue a 10-year special use construction permit if La Compania wishes to build a primary processing facility in the Unit .
The La Manga sale remains on hold because of a lawsuit filed by several environmental groups claiming the Forest Service is breaking the law by offering a sale in spotted owl habitat. After settling its lawsuit with the Forest Service, La Compania intervened in the La Manga lawsuit, claiming economic interests.
Antonio DeVargas of La Compania stated that his company is still negotiating with Duke City over the purchase of the Vallecitos Mill, which they would have to retool and supply with kiln driers and other equipment to process value added products. He pointed out that the settlement will force the Forest Service to take into account the economic impacts of any decision it makes in the Sustained Yield Unit before any action can take place.
La Jicarita intended to publish an interview with the Forest Service as the last installment in our series on the controversy generated by the Mexican spotted owl lawsuit. However, during the course of the interview the Forest Service added no new information regarding the lawsuit, stating it felt it had complied with all regulations regarding its survey of owl habitat. We did find out about what the Forest Service intends to do this year to meet local people's firewood needs&emdash;see page 1.
The people who live and work in our national forests and the people who have the political clout and funding necessary to protect and sustain those forests must get together and take the lead in formulating progressive forest management practices. Forest sustainability issues will not be resolved with urban environmentalists pitted against rural farmers, loggers, and ranchers, creating situations where there is sometimes a lack of sensitivity and strategic know-how on the part of the environmentalists and a blown fuse on the part of community activists. For too many years, corporations like Duke City and Georgia Pacific, aided and abetted by government policy, have cut the large diameter trees necessary to maximize their profit and gain. For too many years, non-residential, corporate ranchers have bought up public land grazing permits and destroyed riparian habitat and grasslands by overstocking cattle. For too many years, mining companies have been allowed to pollute rivers with tailings, poisoning water systems. And for too many years, the Forest Service, under Congressional directive, has suppressed the fires that threaten corporate gain but invigorate the forest.
Who is now suffering the consequences of this cumulative damage? It's people like those of Vallecitos, who must compete against Duke City for logging contracts. And it's the small-time ranchers and farmers who become the target of public scrutiny and outrage brought on by the abuse of these corporate interests. As the public brings pressure to bear on the agencies administering these lands&emdash;the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in particular&emdash;demanding reform, it is these same people who suffer from across the board policy changes that should be directed at corporate interests.
What these changes mean, essentially, is a loss of cultural identity. These small-time loggers, farmers, and ranchers, who are defined by what they do, are eventually forced out of the marketplace by not only corporate competition but by an increasingly urbanized western landscape and the loss of agricultural land. Is there a solution, a way to stop this seemingly inexorable change that is threatening to erode the last vestiges of rural life and the sustainability of our forests and public lands? There are those who are tying to make a difference: Forest Trust, based in Santa Fe, provides marketing services and assistance to small businesses by helping them get their building materials&emdash;such as hand-peeled vigas, latillas, and rough-cut lumber&emdash;into Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Another group, based in Española, Madera Forest Products Associ-ation, is involved in developing economic opportunities for local people, formerly employed by Duke City, to become independent loggers and contractors. Ganados del Valle, in Los Ojos, has developed a thriving sheep and wool cooperative.
But none of these efforts will prove viable until the agencies responsible for land use policy form productive working relationships with the affected people. Instead of soliciting public comment on management proposals after environmental impact statements have been drafted (and then ignoring the input), these agencies should write impact statements as comanagement strategies with impacted communities. This is already happening in other parts of the country. The Yuba Watershed Institute in northern California is currently jointly managing 2000 acres of forest land with the Bureau of Land Management. It's goal is to "foster ancient forest ecosystems and riparian habitats while developing a timber management program plan for the selective and sustainable harvest of high quality forest products." Various environmentalists and Truchas Land Grant members have been meeting on a regular basis to formulate a management plan that they can present to the Forest Service. We must support these efforts, and we must demand that government agencies not only be held accountable but join in the efforts of environmentalists and communities in formulating progressive management.
By Jean Nichols
At recent Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA) meetings, trash collection has been on everyone's mind, especially the proposed fee and the temporary shut-down of Roadrunner Recycling. I will try to give an overview here with more specifics in the future.
What Exactly is Happening?
We are hoping that the county comes through with its part in keeping recycling alive in Taos. Sanco and Roadrunner are doing their part&emdash;working together to come up with an interim solution until the Intergov-ernmental Council (IGC) can identify a regional landfill for the tri-county area it represents. The town of Taos is currently accepting bids for city-wide recycling, and will hopefully work with the IGC to implement recycling county-wide. The question remains, when and by whom?
Meanwhile, at Taos County's transfer stations, it is business as usual. Sanco is doing a better job than WasteTech, but there are still days when the "dump" is closed when it should be open. If you encounter this problem or any other problems, such as over-filled bins, give them a call at 751-0708. A new county plan may not be implemented until December, but will provide a trench for the receptacles so that we can once again drive in, back up, and dump down. The plan also calls for recycling stations for batteries, antifreeze, motor oil, large appliances, tires, and other marketable recyclables. A recycling rollaway has been purchased by the county and sits at Sanco's yard waiting for a resolution to the recycling issue.
The question that most concerns residents involves the proposed fee for services that has traditionally come from our property taxes. The big question is, what is the fee for? If it's for the service (or lack thereof) as it now exists, then I think the fee is unacceptable.This is a commonly held sentiment among county residents. When changes are completed at the Chamisal Transfer Station, and it is operating efficiently, it might be reasonable to consider paying an extra fee for the service, but the fee must be designed in a way that is equitable for everyone. Residents at a recent PACA meeting brought their concerns to the county: senior citizens on fixed incomes cannot afford any fee, and some families have a much greater volume of trash than others. Many of these people favored a volume-based fee, which encourages source reduction. A solid waste/recycling committee was formed to investigate the possibilities.
What About Recycling?
We have been waiting years to get a recycling system started in Peñasco. In 1990, La Comunidad ran a pilot project, but was forced to shut down due to lack of funding for the transportation. Until recently, Road-runner Recycling was operating in Taos for those who were dedicated enough to haul their recyclables. Now with Roadrunner shut down, and the county so far unwilling to match the town of Taos's commitment for funding, we wonder when we will see this service in place again. PACA is encouraging the county to provide interim funding for recycling, and we urge community members to call the county at 758-8834 to support this effort.
For many of us, recycling is a commitment to do what we feel is right for the planet, given the overwhelming garbage problem worldwide. For others who might not feel this way, it still makes financial sense. In the long run, we will save taxpayer money by cutting down the amount that goes into our landfills. The Solid Waste Act of 1990 mandated a 25% reduction by 1995, and 50% by the year 2000. While this has not been enforced, or even encouraged by our local governments, it will be at some time in the future. The schools should begin a program that teaches the three R's to our children&emdash;Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. When buying consumer items, get those with a minimum of packaging materials. Use cloth bags when shopping. If you have the space, save items such as cardboard, clean plastic, bottles, bags, and tin cans. They can be used in construction and art projects. We are currently applying for a Forest Service grant to build a ReUse Education Center out of tires, bottles, and cans at the Chamisal Transfer Station. If we receive the funding, we will research possible local businesses concerning crushed glass, etc.and will hold hands-on workshops. For more information, please call Jean Nichols at 587-2200 or write La Comunidad, P.O. Box 237, Peñasco, 87553.
The Taos Land Trust is a nonprofit, nongovernmental, public service conservation organization whose mission is to help protect the rural, agricultural character and natural beauty of the Taos area. It has been in existence since 1988 and currently manages ten conservation easements, with a total of 1,050 acres. It has also influenced the management of 18,000 additional acres in our area.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, flexible, negotiated agreement between a land owner and the Land Trust, which protects forever the natural character of the land by restricting its future development. The land owner retains ownership rights, including the right to use, sell, or will the land. When a land owner grants a conservation easement to the Land Trust, he or she permanently gives up some rights as owner in order to protect the land's natural resources. For example, the land owner might give up the right to build additional residences or designate and restrict the area where residences can be built, while retaining the right to farm or raise cattle on it. Future owners are then bound by the easement's terms. Other resources that can be managed include water rights, timber, the right to sell, etc. These easements can be used to protect resources such as farms and ranches, scenic open spaces, riparian areas, forests, natural habitat for wildlife, and historic sites.
Conservation easements can also help alleviate the tax burden placed on the heirs of land owners. Heirs often find that the land that they're inheriting has appreciated dramatically and that their tax burden is based upon its tremendously inflated real estate value. If the land owner places a conservation easement on the land, before he or she dies, restricting development, its market value is substantially reduced, and the estate's taxes are also therefore reduced.
For more information concerning conservation easements, residents of Taos County and surrounding areas can contact the Taos Land Trust office at 751-3138, or write to P. O. Box 376, Taos, NM, 87571. The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition has also invited the director, Clare Swanger, to address Peñasco area residents about these and related issues at a seminar in the spring. A specific date will be announced in an upcoming issue of La Jicarita.
By Kay Matthews
On February 28 community members met at Peñasco High School with Taos County representatives and Craig Gosling of Architects West to discuss the progress of the Peñasco Youth and Family Center. Monies totalling $340, 251 have been allocated for the purchase and renovation of the El Norteño building and surrounding 1.5 acres in Peñasco. A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $275,000 was initially raised to purchase the building and/or land; $130,000 of that was spent to purchase El Norteño. Taos County 10% matching funds contributed $27,500, Taos County In-Kind support contributed $21,500, the DWI Planning Council gave $41,251, and a Special Purpose Grant (for Community Centers) donated $25,000. The State Legislature appropriated $50,000 for exterior work including paving, a multipurpose court, playground equipment, fencing, and lighting, but that appropriation was vetoed by Governor Johnson.
At the beginning of the meeting there was some discussion as to whether the existing building, which previously housed a bar, should be renovated or torn down and a new structure built in its place. Craig Gosling, the architect, explained that because most of the allocated money would have to be spent to bring the building up to code and made suitable for habitation (insulation, plumbing, lighting, etc.), it would be a "no frills" center, but that as more money became available additional land could be acquired and additional facilities&emdash;such as a swimming pool&emdash;could be built. Rudy Aragon, Peñasco High School principal and coordinator for this project, said that the community had initially looked into buying a piece of vacant land upon which to build, but that land prices were "outrageous" and the El Norteño building and site was the best deal available. The county officials noted that most of the grant monies allocated after the initial CBDG grant were based upon renovation of an existing structure, and after confirmation of this the next day, it was decided that the community should proceed with the renovation.
A committee was recruited to work with both the county and the architect to help plan what facilities need to be included in the center. Several of the grants specify that the center offer certain social programs, including alcohol and mental health services. Several community surveys were conducted over the past year, with both adults and youth, to identify needs and desires (sports, a game room, and skate boarding were high on the list), and the committee agreed to again survey the community now that more information was available. Everyone agreed that time is of the essence&emdash;the county needs to spend 65% of the grant money this year in order to apply for grants for next year. A detailed report on the renovation project is due in county offices by March 25. If anyone would like more information or to volunteer to help work on this project they can contact Nancy Montaño at 587-2127 or Beverly Armijo and Agnes Cardeñas at the Taos County Planning Office, 751-1543.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.