Draft evironmental assessment for Mid-America Pipeline coming out in June
The federal review of a proposed pipeline project through Placitas is progressing on schedule toward a release of the draft findings by June 1, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
BLM staff have completed their review of the environmental assessment prepared by an outside contractor, and those comments have been sent to Mid-America Pipeline Co., BLM project manager Jerry Crockford told the Signpost. The draft assessment is scheduled for release as early as mid-May and will be followed by a public-comment period, typically thirty days, he added.
Copies of the draft will be sent to local libraries and to participants who requested one during public hearings last year, Crockford said.
MAPL already transports natural-gas liquids, a by-product of natural-gas production, through Placitas in two pipelines. To increase capacity of it's 840-mile system, MAPL proposes to build parallel segments totaling 202 miles at twelve locations. The Placitas segment begins at a pumping station near San Ysidro and runs 22.5 miles to connect with existing pipe on the east side of the Placitas Open Space.
The fifty-foot pipeline corridor then continues east, following Las Huertas Creek and Diamond Tail Road before turning south to Hobbs.
“Gus” is coaxed back into his carrier by a Fur and Feathers rescuer.
Sandoval County now has licensed wildlife rescuers
A few months ago, my husband and I were visiting Carlsbad Caverns with our dogs, and while staying in the campground outside of the park, we encountered a ringtail cat in obvious neurological distress. We spent that morning calling every person or agency we could think of in an attempt to get help for the animal. Unfortunately, neither the sheriff's department, the park rangers, nor anyone else that we called were able to help, and we watched helplessly as the little cat staggered, disoriented, into the desert to die.
Thanks to the dedication of Bob and Cathy Anderson, a Los Alamos couple who run Fur and Feathers Rescue and Rehabilitation, scenarios like this may never have to happen in New Mexico again.
Fur and Feathers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals, is licensed by both the Department of Game and Fish and the USDA. Bob Anderson, a former reserve officer with Game and Fish, started the organization in 1987 to help animals in the Los Alamos area; the organization currently rescues two to three hundred animals per year and operates a permanent facility in Los Alamos to care for non-releasable animals.
While the Andersons’ rehabilitation services are not unique in New Mexico (there are about a dozen licensed rehabilitators in the state), what they decided to do in 2000 certainly is.
The Andersons, who are not paid, now offer training in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation to volunteers who will rescue injured or distressed animals throughout the state and transport them to other rehabilitators or release them back into the wild. Because most rehabilitators do not themselves rescue animals, and many animal-control agencies will not handle wild animals, the students who have completed the Fur and Feather "academies" provide a valuable resource to the communities in which they serve.
One such academy was held at the Cottonwood Montessori School in Corrales on the weekend of March 11-13. Susan Weiss, a 2002 recipient of Animal Protection of New Mexico's Milagro Awards for her work to protect coyotes, helped organize the session, which was attended by a dozen animal lovers from Corrales, Placitas, and Rio Rancho. The workshop was taught by Bob and Cathy, their daughter, two former students, as well as a group of nonhuman volunteers, including Blackie the raccoon, Gus and Smokey the skunks, and three snakes.
Academy students, after passing the twenty-plus-hour course, operate under Fur and Feathers' license and are trained in mammal and reptile first aid and transport (Bob calls his volunteers animal EMTs), and later in rehabilitation. Volunteers subsequently become part of a statewide network of rescue specialists that so far spans the Santa Fe area, Taos, Española, now Sandoval County, and before long, Roswell. The goal is to eventually have Fur and Feathers centers throughout the state which will accept emergency calls from the public as well as animal-control and law-enforcement agencies, and route them to volunteers who will be dispatched to rescue animals and transport them to a rehabilitator as necessary. Calls can be accepted, and rescuers dispatched, twenty-four hours per day.
The Sandoval County center will initially operate out of new volunteer Donna Kelly's home. Donna has training as a veterinary technician and runs a pet-sitting business in Corrales. Because she frequently takes calls from clients who need help with wild animals (particularly babies in the spring), she realized that she needed more formal training. Calls will initially come through Donna, and she will dispatch one of the dozen rescuers from this month's academy to do the rescues; she will then make sure the animals are stabilized in her home until they can be transported to another rehabilitator. (Donna, like many of the other students, will later receive further training in rehabilitation at the Fur and Feathers facility in Los Alamos.)
Academies are free to students (who are usually limited to ten to keep costs down), and are only possible through grants like the one Susan Weiss secured through Sandoval County. The $6,000 grant covered the equipment necessary for the rescuers to do their jobs: catch poles, nets, snake tongs, snake hooks, gators, bite-proof gloves, and carriers (at a cost of $600 per student).
The Fur and Feathers curriculum, which was created by animal-rescue specialists, veterinarians, and animal-control professionals, emphasizes safety—for the animal, the rescuer, and for any bystanders. "Safety first" and "people come first" were repeatedly stressed at the Corrales academy. Rescuers do not, for instance, arrive and immediately try to trap or catch an animal. Instead, the training emphasizes a careful evaluation of the situation, keeping in mind the animal, the environment, and bystanders, before formulating the rescue plan.
When I arrived on the workshop's third day, for example, Blackie, a thirty-pound year-old raccoon who was rescued as a sickly three-day-old baby, was released into the room. Bob gave the students a number of different scenarios that rescuers would have to evaluate when called to rescue a distressed animal. Ultimately, volunteers, after a careful assessment of the situation, have to use their judgment and experience when deciding how (or even whether) to intervene.
Thanks to the folks at Fur and Feathers, the Sandoval County Commission, and local volunteers, all animals—two legged, four legged, and scaly alike—should be considerably safer from now on.
To find out more or to help support Fur and Feathers, the Andersons can be reached at 2176 37th Street, Los Alamos, NM 87544, (505)-662-6806, or at www.krittergitters.com. For animal emergencies, the number to call is (505) 660-7035, or locally, (505) 898-0081.
Las Placitas Association to host acequia workshop
Las Placitas Association
From the streams flowing off the mountain to the springs that bubble up through the land, the waters of Placitas have fed centuries of people, invigorating a deep culture and a long history. But how much do you know about the acequias that still lace our community?
Las Placitas Association, as part of its ongoing Las Huertas Watershed Project, will host a morning workshop on local acequias on Saturday, April 9. The program will begin at the Placitas Community Center at 9:00 a.m. and end about noon. The first part of the morning will consist of brief presentations by local acequia officials, including time for informal discussion with the audience. The workshop will include a tour of selected acequia features, with bus transportation provided by Las Placitas Association.
This workshop is an excellent opportunity to learn about this important aspect of Placitas (and New Mexico) culture and heritage. Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating and informative morning experiencing the living agricultural tradition of Placitas acequias.
Please call Jennifer Nelson, 459-3186, or Reid Bandeen, 867-5477, to register for the workshop. Admission is free. Refreshments will be provided by Las Placitas Association.
Strategic water-reserve legislation heads for governor’s desk
The New Mexico State Senate passed House Bill 195, which calls for a strategic water reserve to provide additional water to meet future compact requirements and to assist in water-management efforts for the benefit of threatened or endangered species. The State Senate approved the measure, which was sponsored by Representative Joe Stell (D-Carlsbad), by a vote of 40 to 0.
“This bill would make water available to meet interstate compact obligations as well as to protect New Mexico water users from the taking of water by the federal government to meet Endangered Species Act litigation by allowing the Interstate Stream Commission to purchase or lease water from willing sellers,” said New Mexico State Engineer John D’Antonio.
Other significant water legislation was Senate Bill 172, which would create an Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund. The legislation calls for a special fund to pay the state’s share of costs for projects for the non-Indian portion of water-rights settlements with Indian tribes and pueblos. However, no money was appropriated for the fund next year. Funds were also allocated to pay for water-rights adjudication proceedings.
“The time to begin planning ahead for these settlements is now,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López. “This legislation is important because it allows us to get feedback from the legislature about funding decisions for important settlements and to set aside the money for future appropriations when it will be necessary to implement these critical initiatives.” Both bills are headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
None of the legislation designed to set conditions for domestic wells made it out of committee. State law requires that permits be issued to all applicants for a $5 fee. Domestic well production is limited to three acre-feet, but flow meters are not required. Domestic wells account for only about 1 percent of water usage in New Mexico, but the state engineer pushed legislation that would allow his office to deny permits or limit production in areas where concentrated pumping from the aquifer impairs senior water rights.
This legislation was opposed by some constituencies because it is seen as a threat to private property rights. D'Antonio told the Signpost that these perceptions are fueled by "an enormous amount of misinformation" put out mostly by real estate interests in northern New Mexico. He has tried unsuccessfully to convince legislators during the last two sessions that a negative impact on senior water rights constitutes a bigger threat.
"What happens now depends on how aggressively the Governor wants to address the problem, D'Antonio explained. "In areas where there is already an impairment issue we can deal with it administratively." He said that over the summer his office will develop models using sound science to show how groundwater interacts with surface water. He hopes to be able to support his position that problem areas exist, in order to convince lawmakers in the next legislative session that public process is needed to protect water resources that are threatened by domestic wells.
First field guide to the Sandia Mountains presented
On Saturday, April 10, at 2:00 p.m. there will be a lecture and book signing of the Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains at the Placitas Community Center, 41 Camino de las Huertas, in Placitas.
In the first-ever publication of its kind, the Friends of the Sandia Mountains, a group of volunteer conservationists, have assembled the Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains ($19.95, spiral-bound paperback, University of New Mexico Press). Thanks to financial sponsorship from New Mexico corporations and a streamlined production, the Field Guide allows readers to experience the flora, fauna, geology, and history—in full color and vast detail—in one affordable, transportable package.
“This is the first time that a book has been available that covers the ground that these contributors do,” confirms project manager Gerry Sussman, a volunteer at the Sandia Ranger's Station who regularly talks with visitors to the mountains.
Sussman explains, “Up at the Crest House a few years ago, a young couple came in and wanted to know about birds, mammals, wildflowers, and geology of the Sandias. They ended up buying four books, none of which was really specific to our mountains. And they spent about $70!”
With ecotourism on the rise and initiatives for open space in the public forum, the Field Guide draws upon the wealth of natural resources and recreational activities that are accessible just outside the city limits.
First conceived by U.S. Forest Service volunteer Dan Carnicom, this trove of priceless information was gathered by twenty-three contributing experts from the University of New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque Academy, and the Sandia Ranger District. Peer review came from scientists at the Rio Grande Nature Center and the New Mexico State Forestry Division. New Mexico nature photographers and scientific illustrators provided the visual aids.
The Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains is a miniature ecosystem that has grown to thrive and provide life and beauty for those that view it!
To learn more about the wildlife, weather, ecology, human presence, and recreational opportunities offered by that great granite monument to our east, pick up your copy of The Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains at local bookstores, nature shops, or at the University of New Mexico Press. To order, please call 800-249-7737, or visit our unmpress.com, where you can buy books and view upcoming author events and news.
Editor Robert Julyan is the author of The Place Names of New Mexico. A journalist and historian, Julyan lives in Albuquerque. Mary Stuever, coeditor, is a forester and ecologist with a passion for sharing the outdoors with others. Stuever coauthored the Philmont Fieldguide, which provided inspiration and guidance for this tremendous project.
The presentation is free and open to the public. Call 505-867-1396 for more information.