Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  Eco-Beat

Antelope roam the Santa Ana Pueblo

The first half of an international wildlife exchange between Mexico and the state of New Mexico moved 125 pronghorn antelope to Coahuila during the first week of March.

As part of the exchange, the state of New Mexico expects to receive ten desert bighorn rams this fall to expand the existing gene pool in the captive sheep herd at the Red Rock Wildlife Management Area north of Lordsburg. The Red Rock herd originally was started with rams from the San Andres Mountains on White Sands Missile Range and ewes from Mexico.

Employees of the Department of Game and Fish used a helicopter to herd the antelope into a trap constructed with fencing. A total of 152 antelope were taken from cooperating private ranches in northeastern New Mexico’s Harding County, reducing the antelope population in the area by about ten percent.

In addition to the antelope sent to Mexico, a total of twenty-seven animals were sent to Santa Ana Pueblo lands near Bernalillo.

All animals were examined by veterinarians and marked with ear tags before being shipped. Four antelope are known to have died during the operation.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which has been trapping antelope since the late 1930s, was the first state wildlife agency to develop an antelope trapping technique. In the early years, horses and automobiles were used to herd the antelope into the large funnel trap. Ultimately, a wall of trappers on foot walk the animals into a holding paddock. The trap personnel then pick them up individually for examination and transfer them to trailers for shipment.


Friends of Coronado State Monument present “Photographing the Earth” workshop

Alex Candelaria Sedillos, a ranger with the Coronado State Monument, will be the lecturer and presenter at a photography workshop entitled “Photographing the Earth,” to be held on April 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Sandoval County Historical Society’s DeLavy House. This workshop is a part of the Earth Day celebration being held at Coronado State Monument. The workshop participation is limited to twenty, by reservation only. All skill levels are welcome. Admission to the photography workshop is $20 per person. To reserve a space, call the Coronado State Monument at 867-5351.

The workshop is only part of the Earth Day celebration being held at the Monument. Activities begin at sunrise, with an hour of serious birding along the Rio Grande bosque. At 6:30 a.m., an expert in native plants will lead a walk along the Tiwa Trail at Coronado, which is an easy one mile walk. Bring binoculars, sturdy shoes, and a warm jacket.

Activities will be held at the Sandoval County Historical Society’s DeLavy House, located on Edmond Road in Bernalillo. To reach DeLavy House, take Highway 550 slightly west of Coronado State Monument and turn north on the west edge of the Phillips 66 station onto a dirt road (Edmond Road). Signs will be posted.

For more information, call Gary Williams at 792-851 or email gwilliams105@comcast.net.


Hybrid car

EarthTalkTM

—From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: If you have an electric or plug-in hybrid car, you’re paying for electricity rather than gasoline all or most of the time. How does that cost compare to a gas-powered car’s cost-per-mile? And since the electricity may be generated from some other polluting source, does it really work out to be better for the environment?

—Kevin DeMarco, Milford,  Connecticut

When you compare battery to gasoline power, electricity wins hands down. A 2007 study by the non-profit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) calculated that powering a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) would cost the equivalent of roughly seventy-five cents per gallon of gasoline—a price not seen at the pump for thirty years.

The calculation was made using an average cost of electricity of 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour and the estimated distance the car would travel on one charge, versus a car that gets twenty-five miles per gallon and is powered by $3 per gallon gasoline. Change any of those variables and the relative costs change. For example, substituting a car that gets fifty miles per gallon doubles the comparative electrical cost (though it still works out much cheaper than gasoline). On the other hand, in some areas where wind or hydropower is wasted at night—just when the PHEV would be charging—the utility might drop the kilowatt hour cost to two to three cents, making the charge much less costly.

And don’t worry that we’ll run out of electrical power: A 2005 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimated that three-quarters of the country’s current small vehicle fleet could be charged by our existing electrical grid without building new power plants. (And if all those cars were replaced by PHEVs, it would eliminate the need for 6.5 billion barrels of oil per day, or fifty-two percent of current U.S. oil imports.)

Regarding environmental impact, charging up your car with electricity from the grid also wins handily over filling up at the gas station. In the most comprehensive PHEV study to date, released in 2007 by EPRI and the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), results predict that all greenhouse gases will be reduced as PHEVs begin to penetrate the car market. Estimated cumulative greenhouse gas reductions from 2010 to 2050, depending upon how fast PHEVs take hold, range from 3.4 to 10.3 billion tons.

More than one half of our national energy grid is powered by coal, and in areas where PHEVs are charged through coal-provided electricity, says NRDC, there is the possibility of increased levels of soot and mercury emissions. However, charging up can be much less of a guilt-ridden affair where cleaner electrical sources like wind and solar are available. The website HybridCars.com points out that as more power plants are required to develop green power and emit fewer greenhouse gases, the environmental and health benefits will further increase.

For more information, contact: Electric Power Research Institute, epri.com; hybridcars.com; Natural Resources Defense Council, nrdc.org.

Send your environmental questions to: EarthTalk, PO Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.


Pickers of tomatoes

Flash in the pan: A high price to pay for tomatoes in winter

—Ari LeVaux, Flash in the Pan, A Nationally Syndicated Food Column   (He lives in Placitas)

If you eat tomatoes in America between the months of December and May, chances are some were picked by slaves.

Immokalee, Florida is where ninety percent of the nation’s winter tomatoes are grown. The farm workers are mostly migrant Latinos, like Lucas Domingo, a Guatemalan in the country illegally, who slept in the back of a locked truck for two and a half years, often shackled and sometimes beaten, while his captors kept his salary.

Florida law enforcement has hardly been lax about the problem, having freed more than one thousand slave-laborers since 1997. But members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) say it‘s time for state leaders to create a political fix.

On Monday, March 9, CIW members led 120 protestors onto the steps of the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, demanding that Governor Charlie Crist take a stand against agricultural slavery. Crist has yet to comment on the issue, though some of his designates have met with CIW. “What we are looking for,” said CIW’s Gerardo Reyes-Chavez, “is [for the] Governor to be a part of the solution.”

While slavery is one of the most egregious human rights violations in Immokalee, it’s hardly the only one. Thousands of workers are regularly cheated and sometimes beaten by their crew bosses in the area’s sprawling tomato fields.

A typical day begins at 4:00 a.m., when workers assemble in a parking lot full of old school buses. Each bus is run by a different crew boss, who chooses the workers he deems likely to pick the most tomatoes. Many old or weak-looking hopefuls don’t get picked.

A good worker earns about $50 for picking literally a ton of tomatoes. Much of his or her paycheck is then siphoned off by high rents for sub-par housing and extras—like $5 for a shower from a cold hose.

CIW was founded in 1993, to the chagrin of the tomato barons. “The tractor doesn’t tell the farmer how to run the farm,” said one. Despite the inhospitable climate, CIW has been successful, via a series of restaurant boycotts, in its campaign to persuade some of the larger purchasers of Immokalee tomatoes to pay a one-cent-per-pound raise to the pickers. A penny may not sound like much, but it’s the difference between $50 and $70 for that ton of tomatoes.

To date, Yum! Brands restaurants, which include Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Wendy’s, and KFC, have agreed to the raise, as has McDonald’s. Burger King has so far refused. Steven Grover, Burger King’s vice president of global food safety, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance, cites the legal complexities of implementing the raise to explain why Burger King hasn’t signed on. “We just can’t find a legal way to do it,” he told QSR, a fast food industry trade journal.

Despite Grover’s claim, QSR says he recently instructed his buyers to find alternate tomato suppliers rather than deal with CIW. And last year, Grover was caught red-handed using his daughter’s online identity (“surfxaholix36”) to defame the CIW with comments like, “The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders’ pockets. …They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story. …The people protesting don’t have a clue regarding the facts. A bunch of fools!”

So, dear readers, I guess it’s time to boycott Burger King and eat at McDonald’s instead. Right?

I asked that question of Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, who joined a recent delegation to Immokalee at CIW’s invitation. Viertel understood the paradox and laughed at the question.

At first glance, Slow Food and CIW seem like strange bedfellows. Slow Food arose, in part, as a reaction to the industrial-style agriculture system in place in Immokalee. The mission of Slow Food is to encourage food that is “good, clean, and fair.” Even if Immokalee’s tomato pickers were treated like kings, most Slow Foodists would consider the demise of industrial tomato farming a good thing.

The chemical-intensive monocropping techniques used to grow those tomatoes are bad for the planet, as is the petroleum burned in their shipment.

While it’s great to see workers organizing, it’s like sticking a Band-Aid over a nasty infection. Ideally, conditions in the workers’ home countries wouldn’t be so bad that they feel compelled to leave home and take these jobs that are so horrible that nobody here wants them. These people should be growing their own tomatoes for their own communities back home, and we should be getting our tomatoes from local sources, in-season.

And while most places in America can’t grow tomatoes in winter, is this really a problem? Those Immokalee tomatoes, which are picked green and ripened in gas chambers, don’t taste like tomatoes anyway.

The home-grown tomatoes I have frozen and canned from last summer still taste like real tomatoes, while the winter salads I’ve been making with cabbage and frozen kale lack nothing without fresh ones. And while my burger might not be quite the same without a slice of fresh tomato, the homemade catsup I pour on top more than compensates.

So who needs Immokalee tomatoes? But what about those jobs? Is it possible to support the workers but not the paradigm under which they work? Can “good and clean” be reconciled with “fair,” when “good and clean” means a loss of tomato picking jobs?

“I don’t think they’re competing agendas,” Viertel says. “We’re a long way from making McDonald’s go away, and while they’re here, they should do the right thing. The sustainable food movement can’t be successful without addressing the people who grow our food.

Faced with a fast food system that’s bad for people and bad for the planet, we still need to be in solidarity with those who grow our food. If there’s an initiative to support a living wage, we’re behind it. We have to engage in the human element of our food system.”

In an effort to engage directly with the workers, Viertel showed up at the parking lot at 4:00 a.m. and spent time with the others clamoring for work. A farmer before he was president of Slow Food USA, Viertel understands that some of the most enlightening conversations are to be had in the fields, and he wanted to pick tomatoes with the regulars, and talk to them.

“I didn’t get chosen,” he said. “I’m tall, white, and I guess I didn’t look like I could pick a lot of tomatoes.”

But he admits he didn’t try as hard as he could have. “I didn’t want to take work away from someone who really needed it.”

Dear Flash,

Q: Yesterday I planted a bunch of sprouting garlic cloves about two inches deep in the warm dirt next to the house and covered them with leaves and plastic. Will those actually grow into garlic bulbs if they don’t freeze? And along those lines, if I plant soft and sprouting onions in the ground, will they grow more onions, just go to seed, or what?

Big Bulbs

A: The answer is no on both counts, BB. Both sprouted garlic and soft, sprouting onions will grow into good-looking plants above ground, but neither will be much to write home about “downstairs,” i.e., no bulbs.

So you’ll be able to eat garlic shoots when they come up, or you could leave it in the ground and it will grow into a bulb the following year. As for the soft onion, I’d eat it if it’s still edible. Otherwise, put it into the ground and watch it make a beautiful onion flower, which will then make seeds, which might scatter and take hold next year.

If you’re serious about planting garlic, you have to plant the cloves in autumn, before the ground freezes. And if you want a killer onion crop you should get some onion seeds as soon as possible, sow them in trays, and transplant them into the ground in late April.

One tip I just learned from a farmer friend is to plant five onion seeds in each cell of a plug-style tray, and then transplant the entire plug, dirt and all, far enough apart from each other so you can hoe in between. The clumps of onions don’t seem to interfere with one another, and it makes transplanting much easier.


Would you want to live near a wind farm?

—Marty Durlin, Writers on the Range

If there’s an iconic image of the new push for domestic green energy, it’s the wind turbine photographed against a luminous horizon. Its sleek aerodynamic blades turn silently and steadily, providing happy Americans with clean, dependable energy.

But there’s another image that’s becoming increasingly associated with wind power, and that is its angry next-door neighbors. In fact, wind energy is fast becoming “the mother of all NIMBY wars,” says Bob Kahn, head of Strategic Communications, a Seattle-based firm that helps wind farms gain permits.

These days, public meetings about wind farms draw crowds of concerned homeowners. A growing Internet movement against wind farms unites grassroots groups that want to block or at the least mitigate the impacts of local installations. Anti-wind-power websites share articles challenging the cost-benefit ratio and reliability of wind farms, along with complaints about deteriorating views and falling property values. Opponents seem eager to proclaim that wind-power arrays are anything but quiet, while some people say that their health has suffered since a wind farm moved in nearby.

Two years ago, a National Academy of Sciences report found that wind energy had become “surprisingly controversial.” Its benefits tend to be regional and even global, but its impacts are felt at a local level. Among the objections: shadow flicker, vibration, noise, blighted view, lighted towers at night, and the remote chance that a turbine will break or fling off a chunk of ice. There may be health impacts, too, according to Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician who is publishing an anecdotal study of ten families, most of them in the Eastern U.S., who say they have suffered dizziness, nausea, insomnia, and other ailments because they live near industrial wind turbines.

Part of the problem is that wind energy is the new kid on the land, and last year saw record growth in it because of federal subsidies totaling about $800 million, plus a host of tax incentives granted by states. But while the United States added about 8,300 megawatts of new wind energy in 2008—leading all other nations—wind still generates only one percent of the country’s energy. That amounts to 25,000 megawatts, or enough to power seven million homes.

The amount of electricity produced by wind power is going to grow. Eight Western states now have standards requiring that utilities generate between fifteen and thirty-three percent of their power from renewable sources within the next fifteen years. Four Western states—California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado—are already among the top producers of wind energy in the nation. What’s more, Congress renewed wind tax credits this fall, and the economic stimulus package includes billions of dollars in green-energy tax breaks and loan guarantees.

Deciding on the site for a wind farm is becoming increasingly controversial. Unless a wind farm is proposed on federal land, rural counties are mainly responsible for permitting and regulation. But last November in Washington, the state Supreme Court overruled Kittitas County, saying Horizon Wind Energy could build a wind farm there, even though commissioners had rejected the proposal. The sticking point was setbacks: The county wanted the turbines twenty-five-hundred feet from residences; Horizon said that made the project economically impossible.

“What it comes down to is the buffer,” says Kahn of Strategic Services. “There are disputes throughout the country about what is an appropriate buffer, especially around an inhabited residence that’s a non-participant in the wind farm.”

Nina Pierpont recommends a one-to-two-mile setback. Many wind developers have settled on a figure 1.5 times blade height, usually around six hundred feet. Most jurisdictions in the United States require 1,000-to-1,500-foot setbacks, although Riverside County, California mandates a setback of two miles. In northern New Mexico, residents whose homes are in the path of a proposed wind farm have petitioned the state to mandate eight-mile setbacks.

Wind developers don’t always have a lot of choice about where to locate their turbines. They need strong, steady winds and easy access to the power grid. Often these are the locations that also feature scenic views, migrating birds, and other wildlife. And even more frequently, they feature homeowners who don’t want 124-foot blades perched atop 164-foot towers anywhere near them.

“The placement of wind farms is going to be a critical issue,” says Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “If we had started to get a solid clean energy economy under our feet thirty or forty years ago, we wouldn’t have the serious problems we have today. Now we’re not in a win-win position… People have to choose what’s less bad.”

New Mexico State Parks opens application process for recreational trails program funds

 New Mexico State Parks has announced that federal funds are available for eligible organizations to develop, maintain, and improve recreational trails statewide. Funding is available for both motorized and non-motorized trail projects. The Recreational Trails Program application deadline is 4:30 p.m. on May 1, 2009.

“This funding can support some terrific trail projects, so we look forward to receiving applications,” said State Park Director Dave Simon.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The program provides up to eighty percent of project costs and requires a minimum twenty percent sponsor share.

Eligible applicants include local, state, and federal agencies, Native American tribes and pueblos, and non-profit organizations in partnership with land management agencies.

Recreational Trails Program funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use (i.e., fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks).

Under federal law, thirty percent of New Mexico’s annual apportionment of RTP funds must be awarded to motorized trail projects. In recent years, New Mexico has seen a decline in the number of motorized project applications. Because the motorized trail funds cannot be used for any other project category, almost $1.4 million in funding is currently available for motorized trail projects.

 For more information about the application process, call David Certain, recreational trails coordinator, at (505) 827-1476 or email david.certain@state.nm.us.

 

     

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