A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Redmond Introduces Land Grant Commission Bill By Mark Schiller
Puntos de Vista By Antonio "Ike" DeVargas, La Companía Ocho
State Engineer's Office Holds Hearings on Water Protest Regulations By Mark Schiller
Recently one of the nation's leading environmental groups, the Sierra Club, along with the Santa Fe based Forest Guardians, initiated a nation-wide campaign to ban commercial logging from public lands. At the same time, Forest Guardians and the Arizona based Southwest Center for Biological Diversity brought a lawsuit in federal court to enjoin logging and grazing throughout the Southwest. At the heart of these actions is the notion that neither logging nor grazing can be managed sustainably. Because these actions could imperil the land-based communities in our watershed and the overall health of our forests, we want to make our position clear on these controversial issues. While we feel that both federal and state management of grazing and logging are in need of reform, we strongly believe that these practices can be sustainable, economically viable, and useful to sound forest management when done by small, locally-based groups in accordance with scientific principles.
Forest Guardians, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, and the national Sierra Club need to look more deeply into the unique history of northern New Mexico's land-based communities. Historically, it has been the members of these communities who have fought the national and multi-national corporations which sought to exploit our public land resources. While Forest Guardians is quick to point out that the Vallecitos area contains some of the best ponderosa pine forests in the Southwest, they fail to acknowledge that it was the people of Vallecitos who fought Duke City Lumber to preserve these forests. Now, rather than working with that community to implement a plan that could benefit both the community and the forest, they have sought court-ordered, unilateral decisions that could prevent community members from utilizing these resources which Congress specifically set aside for their benefit.
Even more disturbing is the cavalier attitude with which Forest Guardian executives dismiss the economic impacts these court-ordered injunctions are having on communities like Vallecitos. Saying that the loss of a couple of dozen jobs hardly affects the overall economy of northern New Mexico is a myopic and frighteningly insensitive way of dealing with these communities. "A couple of dozen jobs" can mean the difference between families being able to maintain their ranches and farms or having to sell out to vacation home owners and join the flow of displaced people into our urban areas.
Ironically, the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club has refused to endorse the zero-cut policy of their parent organization. They have chosen instead to work for reform of logging and grazing practices that will make them sustainable for generations to come. The Quivira Coalition, founded by several members of the group, has demonstrated that by using innovative techniques, grazing can be made sustainable even in the fragile eco-systems of southern New Mexico. Other locally based groups such as the Conservation Fund and Forest Trust are also working to implement innovative programs that can keep logging and grazing sustainable throughout the Southwest.
It is high time we acknowledge that we are all working towards the same goals: healthy forests, watersheds, and forest adjacent communities. This lawsuit and zero cut initiative only serve to create adversaries out of groups which should be working in concert to achieve these goals. We would like to add our voices to the growing number of environmental and community- based groups that are working to preserve both the environment and the communities of northern New Mexico.
Antonio Medina; George Grossman; Roberto Mondragon; Georgia Roybal; Chellis Glendinning; Max Córdova; Lauren Reichelt; Jerry Fuentes; Courtney White; Barbara Johnson; Salomon Martinez; Estevan Arellano; Mark Schiller; Kay Matthews; Antonio DeVargas
By Mark Schiller
On Wednesday, September 24, Congressman Bill Redmond introduced House of Representatives Bill 2538 into Congress. This bill would " . . . establish a Presidential Commission to determine the validity of . . . land claims arising out of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 involving the descendants of persons who were Mexican citizens at the time of the Treaty." The heirs to Spanish and Mexican land grants in New Mexico have worked for decades to establish a commission to redress the misappropriation of their grants' commons lands by federal and state agencies including the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the State Land Office. The bill would not have jurisdiction over former grant lands that have subsequently passed into private hands.
This bill provides for a land grant's " . . . restoration to full status as a municipality with rights properly belonging to a municipality under State law, including nontaxability of municipal property (common lands) and the right of local self government," to all eligible descendants of these grants. It calls for the establishment of a review commission consisting of five members appointed by the President, at least two of whom would be grant heirs. This commission would review land claims made by " . . . any three (or more) eligible descendants," who may file a petition " . . . on behalf of themselves and all other descendants of that community land grant seeking a determination of the validity of the land claim that is the basis of the petition."
The bill also makes provision for a Community Land Grant Study Center at the Oñate Center in Alcalde. This facility would be a resource center for land grant heirs to obtain archival materials and do the research necessary to substantiate their claims before the commission. The bill asks for $1,500,000 per year, beginning in 1998 and running through 2007 for the activities of the commission and " . . . to establish and operate the Community Land Grant Study Center."
La Jicarita spoke to members of the New Mexico Hispanic community who worked with Redmond and asked for their comments. Max Córdova of the Truchas Land Grant told us that a Land Grant Forum, which represents land grants from the entire state, has been meeting for several years to address this issue. He felt that Redmond had done a good job of soliciting their input and implementing it into the bill. "This action is long overdue," he said. Roberto Mondragon, former New Mexico lieutenant governor who worked on behalf of Eric Serna, one of Congressman Redmond's opponents in the last election, told us that "this has been an issue in our communities since Joe Montoya was Senator. But Redmond has been the first one to really take action. He deserves a lot of credit."
Estevan Arellano, Director of the Oñate Center, stated that he was glad to see that Redmond had kept his word and made the bill his first piece of legislation. Juan Sanchez of Chilili and Antonio DeVargas of Servilleta Plaza both concurred. DeVargas told La Jicarita that while he has never supported Republican politics he felt Redmond had done a good job on this issue. "The Democrats have had plenty of opportunity to take action on the land grant issue but what the hell have they done."
For more information or a copy of this bill readers can contact Congressman Redmond's office in Santa Fe at 988-7230.
By Antonio "Ike" DeVargas, La Companía Ocho
Editor's Note: On Tuesday, September 30, Ike DeVargas began cutting the first unit of the La Manga timber sale after the legal battles between La Companía, the Forest Service, and environmental groups, which shut down the sale for three years, came to an end. La Jicarita asked DeVargas to share his feelings after his company's victory, and his thoughts on what we can do to prevent another "La Manga."
I don't see that the fight is over yet. But we need to leave some of the animosity behind and learn from this experience. The main thing we need to do is educate the people, especially the new people who are coming into our area, as to how we can sustainably live the way we traditionally have. I don't know how easy it's going to be to heal the wounds that were created by this fight. There's a lot of anger out there. One of the ways we can go about this is by meeting with open-minded environmentalists and open-minded users of the land&emdash;ranchers, loggers, and wood haulers&emdash;and try to get a sane, unified voice out there. Things are so polarized now that we can't do anything. We must try not to be so confrontational, if we can.
What I suggest we do is get core groups of open-minded people to go out to the sales like Agua Caballos before they come up, maybe next spring, and see what the on-the-ground conditions are and talk about what we're going to do, using La Manga as a comparison. I think the prescriptions that I've seen in La Manga are pretty good. The forest needs to stay healthy and have big trees. There are some beautiful stands of ponderosa in the Agua Caballos but some of them are overgrown, too. We need to see what kind of prescriptions might be helpful in there without destroying the old growth or the potential old growth. I still believe that there are some old growth stands that need to be thinned out because of their high mortality rate. But in most cases there are also, right there, what we call potential old growth stands that shouldn't be touched. In that way you always have old growth. If the Forest Service had been managing this way we wouldn't be having all these hassles. We always told the foresters that in the Sustained Yield Unit we don't want a tree farm. We want an uneven-aged forest. Also, these forests should support the animals that are there, not the animals that aren't there. If historically there has not been an endangered species there, then why try to manage for something that's not there.
I also think people should start looking at how the forests can be managed, through logging and thinning practices, for the production of water&emdash;more water and higher quality water. Because that can be done. We need to start sharing this information with all the communities in northern New Mexico. Many people instinctively know what is good or bad for the forests, but they don't have all the scientific data they need to better manage the forests. We had a meeting with the regional and district Forest Service managers and we told them that they need to make this data more available, if not directly to the communities at least to their elected officials&emdash;county commissioners, city coucilors, mayors, etc. This is an educational process. People who haven't spent a lot of time in the forest or made a living off the forest often have a knee-jerk reaction to the word logging or cattle grazing. There will, unfortunately, continue to be confrontation because some of these environmentalists refuse to admit that they were wrong. I know that Forest Guardians don't think there was any social or political problem with what happened in the last nine years. So there may be people like that who we can never reach. But we have to reach the other people, newcomers especially.
Another issue I'd like to address concerns the land grant commission bill. It is my understanding of the history of the land grants that lands were given to families to settle the land, which was supposed to sustain those communities. Part of the lands were given directly to the grantees while the rest of the land, the commons, was given to the communties. The complexion of the communities has changed dramatically in the last 150 years. But the underlying purpose of the common lands is still there&emdash;to sustain that community, regardless of who lives in the community. So my opinion is that these lands should belong to the community. Possibly the land grant heirs might serve as the trustees and make most of the decisions regarding management. But that management shouldn't be discriminatory to sections of the population, because that would be racism, and I don't believe in racism in either direction. I do feel that while the main purpose of the common lands is to sustain the community, heirs who have become impoverished because of the theft of their lands should probably get large parcels of the lands that were theirs.
I know that this view is controversial within my own community, but perhaps it will open up a dialogue. A friend of mine used to say, you know, Ike, if the government really wanted to wipe us out all they have to do is give us back the grant and we'll have a civil war among ourselves. I hope that's not going to happen, but that's why there needs to be a lot of careful thought given to this issue.
The Bureau of Land Management has announced it is extending the comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Study of the Rio Grande Corridor for two additional months. The new deadline for written comments is December 20; Steve Henke, Taos District Area Manager, asks that comments address any factual errors in the plan, any relevant information that was omitted, recommended alternatives, or specific ways to amend the proposal. Comments may be sent to BLM Taos Resource Area, 226 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, NM, 87571. For further information contact Steve Henke or Terry Humphrey at 758-8851.
The Taos/Rio Arriba Mining Reform Alliance (TRAMRA) will hold a meeting to discuss the latest developments in the proposed Summo copper mine on Monday, October 20, at 6:30 pm at the Dixon Library. For further information contact Robert Templeton at 579-4095.
On September 27, in the auspicious setting of the Rio Arriba County Courthouse, County Commissioners Alfredo Montoya, Ray Tafoya, and Moises Morales, along with Risk Manager Antonio DeVargas, presented awards of appreciation to northern New Mexico environmentalists Chellis Glendinning and Kay Matthews. The two were singled out for their support of the county and its residents regarding land use issues.
Glendinning, a writer and nationally known environmentalist from Chimayó, was specifically recognized for her efforts to achieve environmental justice for the Native American and Indo Hispano people of northern New Mexico. She was presented with a plaque that read in part: "Your stand for Zero Injustice stands in stark contrast to the Zero Cut&emdash;Zero Grazing stand of those who do not understand the value that land-based peoples have for protection against the onslaught of the global economy and global corporate interests."
Matthews, co-editor along with Mark Schiller of this newspaper, was recognized for the paper's coverage of land and forest issues that affect Native Americans, Indo Hispanos, and rural residents. She was congratulated for her courage in taking a strong editorial stand against certain members of her own environmental community whose actions were insensitive to the people who live in forest adjacent communities. Matthews, who thought she was asked to attend the county commission meeting, along with other environmentalists, to participate in a dialogue to improve relationships within the environmental community, was completely taken by surprise by the award. Both Glendinning and Matthews expressed their thanks to the Commissioners and vowed to continue their efforts in working with communities to protect their integrity as well as that of the public land resources upon which they depend.
Also present at the County Commission meeting were members of Los Guardiantes de las Aguas de la Tierra Amarilla, a group concerned about a proposed logging operation on private land in Los Brazos. The operator, Trees Are Us, plans to harvest from 1.5 to 1.7 million board feet, which may involve clearcutting. Los Guardiantes members are concerned about the potential impacts to the watershed as well as the potential for development of the clearcut after the timber has been harvested. The County Commissioners took the Los Guardiantes petition, signed by 428 citizens, and assigned Patricio Garcia of the Planning Department to monitor the situation. The county subsequently sent a letter to the company ordering it to stop logging until it seeks approval from Planning and Zoning.
By Kay Matthews
Both Picuris Pueblo and the Truchas Land Grant were recently awarded grants by the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) to promote resource protection and economic opportunity. As part of the Rural Livelihood Initiative (which also funded a number of other New Mexico groups), the NMCF hopes to "promote economic activities that build on a commitment to place and cultural community." Forest Trust, a northern New Mexico non-profit environmental group that has worked with communities for many years, is acting as the fiscal agent for the administration of the Picuris and Truchas grants.
The ground work for implementation of these grants was developed over the last few years, also in conjunction with Forest Trust. Jan-Willem Jansens, a former Forest Trust employee, was involved in the formation and training of a Picuris forestry crew and with the inventory of forest resources on Pueblo land. Carson National Forest contributed a Rural Assistance Grant of $15,000 to help with these projects. Forest Trust also worked with Max Córdova, President of the Truchas Land Grant, to establish needs and priorities, and helped inventory timber, minerals, grazing, and water resources on grant lands. The grant was also concerned as to how much of its common lands have been illegally appropriated, and a photographic survey of the entire grant was conducted by air. The Truchas Land Grant also received a National Forest Rural Assistance Grant of $15,000. Picuris Pueblo's main goal is to match the NMCF grant of $40,000 so that it can hire and train a YCC (Youth Conservation Corps) for next season work on Pueblo projects such as thinning, fencing, soil and water conservation, and fire management. According to Ryan Temple of Forest Trust, who will be working with the Pueblo, the already established forestry crew has good forest management skills, and the Pueblo wants to expand those skills into business and administrative areas. A crew member will be working with a Forest Trust landscaping crew this winter in Santa Fe to enhance his or her business management expertise.
The Truchas Land Grant will spend its $25,000 grant on developing a wood yard. A master woodworker will be hired to oversee the construction of a wood yard. The first priority product will be firewood, but the Grant hopes to quickly develop latilla and viga products as well as other value-added wood products. Max Córdova and other Grant members have been working with the Camino Real Ranger District on a Collaborative Stewardship program, under whose auspices the Forest Service would provide timber resources (and provide employment for local loggers) from the East Entrañas area of the forest to help supply the wood yard. The Grant is working on a comanagement agreement with the Santa Fe National Forest on the Borrego Mesa area (while the Grant's land claim to that area is being researched) that will hopefully enable them to harvest wood on the mesa. Ryan Temple is also working with the Grant on this project grant, and anticipates they will spend the winter planning the project, finding a site and master woodworker, and perhaps constructing the wood yard.
While Max Córdova is excited about the grant opportunity, and anticipates further funding over the next few years (the NMCF hopes to raise $5 million over the next five years), he expressed some concern that these monies be best utilized in on-the-ground activities and not frittered away in administrative costs. He also did not want to see the Pueblo and the Grant compete with one another if both develop wood products programs. Both Jansens and Temple said that Forest Trust can help coordinate cooperative efforts rather than competitive ones, and that each group can specialize in what they do best. While there will be administrative costs associated with Forest Trust's administrative and technical assistance work, Temple stressed that the money will be strictly apportioned, in a very public way, so that everyone will be accountable.
Members of the citizen group that has been working with the State Environmental Department (ED) on a grant project to identify nonpoint source pollution in the Rio Pueblo watershed recently went on a tour of potential sites for remediation in the upper watershed area. Accompanying the group was Peter Wilkinson, the ED project director, and Ben Kuykendall, wildlife biologist on the Camino Real Ranger District.
Kuykendall has been working on a list of priority projects that the Forest Service would like to see remediated in the upper watershed. The Forest Service is willing to financially match the ED grant money that is designated for contractual, on-the-ground work to improve water quality. The first site the group toured was the West Fork Santa Barbara Trail just above Santa Barbara Campground. Here, a spring above the trail has created a mud bog on the trail, causing erosion of sentiment into the Rio Santa Barbara and an unauthorized rerouting the the trail. Kuykendall said that this is one of many sites on the three-trail system&emdash;West, East, and Middle Fork trails&emdash;that need remediation. He estimated that a YCC crew (Youth Conservation Corps), which he would like to use for trail work, could accomplish all the needed trail work, including rerouting of steep trail sections that also cause erosion, in a season of work. He also estimated that it would cost $10,000 per mile of work for YCC salaries, supplies, transportation, etc.
Another trail system that Kuykendall said was high on the priority list is the Agua Piedra-Angostura route on NM 518, which is open to ATV (all terrain vehicle) use. The lower section of Agua Piedra Trail crosses Agua
Piedra Creek numerous times and needs to be reconstructed away from the riparian area. The upper portion of the trail close to the Knob and Angostura Trail also needs reconstruction. This would require a two-year project, as time would be needed for trail redesign and archeological clearance before trail work could begin.
The second site the group visited was a thinning area above the Rio de Las Trampas that is set aside for a prescribed burn. Both Wilkinson and Kuykendall expressed their opinions that prescribed burns above watersheds, particularly in the transition zone between ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper, are the most cost effective projects for watershed improvement. The thinning of smaller trees and shrubs, along with the regeneration of grasses, stabilizes the soils and prevents erosion into the watershed. Again, the Forest Service would match contractual ED funding on a prescribed burn project. At the next meeting, to be scheduled in early November, Kuykendall will present a list of the most sensitive watersheds that the group may consider for the project. Group members discussed the possibility of designating projects in the the upper, middle, and lower watershed: trail reconstruction in the upper watershed; a piñon/juniper prescribed burn in the middle watershed near Peñasco; and a project in the lower watershed near Dixon, perhaps in conjunction with Rio Arriba County, to remediate or reconstruct portions of roads that are causing enormous erosion problems along the Rio Embudo.
By Mark Schiller
On Tuesday, September 30, the State Engineer's Office (SEO) held a public hearing to discuss newly proposed regulations to govern water transfer protest hearings. These regulations, when they are put into effect, will govern the procedures by which groups or individuals can protest proposed water transfers. Water transfers could potentially have enormous impacts on northern New Mexico acequia and domestic water associations.
The State Engineer, Thomas Turney, along with a panel of representatives from the legal division and water rights division of his office, convened the hearing. Turney prefaced the hearing by explaining that his office has been inundated with protests of proposed water transfers. He told citizens attending the hearing that a backlog of as many as 3,000 protests sometimes exists, while his office is able to hear only 15 to 20 cases a year. He expressed hope that the new regulations will expedite the process.
The panel listened to comments from a wide range of groups and individuals representing acequias, domestic water associations, municipalities, utilities, developers, environmental groups, and other state agencies including the Attorney General's Office. The most controversial points seemed to be those governing deposits and fees and legal representation. Paragraph 17 of the new regulations proposes that a fee of $150 per day for each applicant and each protestant be charged. Representatives from the acequia groups, domestic water associations, the Attorney General's Office, and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center felt that this could present an insurmountable obstacle to some groups and individuals involved in these hearings and cause them to forfeit their right to due process. Paragraph 19 states that while individuals may represent themselves, corporations, unincorporated associations, or partnerships must be represented by an attorney. Once again many people felt this placed an unfair burden upon groups involved in water transfer hearings. They asked that these groups, if they so desired, be able to represent themselves. They also asked that in cases where groups or individuals felt the need for legal representation but were not in a financial position to provide such representation themselves, there be a provision made for court-appointed attorneys.
The hearing lasted all day and a final decision on the regulations should be made by the SEO sometime in October or the beginning of November. For more information and a copy of these regulations readers can contact Ms. Veronica Aragon at the Office of the General Counsel, State Engineer's Office, 230 West Manhattan, Santa Fe, NM, 87504. The phone number is 505 827-6150.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.