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letters, opinions, editorials

Re: my Placitas

Don’t you hate it when that dry, freezing wind blows through and when you look out the window all you can see is dust from Rio Rancho and juni-per pollen? No rain. No snow. Even my smart phone says, Sorry, weather for Placitas currently unavailable.

Normally when I walk to Tunnel Springs, it’s just me, my dogs, and the ghosts who live up there, but recently there has been an epidemic of pink-faced men in camo-kit, bearing semi-automatic weapons in the Tunnel Springs parking lot. When I say epidemic, I should say I have seen four different men on four separate occasions in the past three weeks. Does this constitute an epidemic after never having seen even one in the past twenty-four years?

The presences of these men are a distressing and scary development. They are probably the non-verbal type expressing their right to bear arms in the only way they know how, but they look as though they could pitch over and throw a heart attack at any moment. And then where would I be? Giving CPR in the Tunnel Springs parking lot. I must make a note to take a CPR refresher course.

And what if all these pink-faced men in camo-kit are like deer mice? You know, if you see one mouse then you know for sure there are hundreds hiding in the shed? You see one pink-faced man in camo-kit and you know there are hundreds hiding in the forest, watching you through binoculars and cursing you for singing “The Jolly Miller” at the top of your lungs, because it is the best song to sing when you think a mountain lion is stalking you.

But that’s not all that’s going on in Placitas. The wild horses are in Placitas Heights and from there it is a short trot and a flick of the tail to the National Forest. Once they have fouled the water at the springs and eaten all the foliage, where will there be left for them to go after that?

—Janet Shaw, Placitas


re: Dear Governor Susana Martinez

Regarding Capital Outlay funding for SFC/SB 60 AND HTRC/HB 337, p. 57 ( #1213): $45,000 to purchase land for a public recreational park and horse sanctuary and to design, construct, and repair recreational trails in the park and sanctuary between Placitas and Algodones.

This letter is to respectfully request that you not veto the above referenced funding. This project has four objectives:

  1. To provide for the State’s purchase of a 3,400-acre recreational park in the Placitas/Algodones area known as the BLM Buffalo Tract.
  2. To avoid gravel mining on the land.
  3. To provide a horse sanctuary for some of the free-ranging horses in the Placitas/Algodones area.
  4. To provide a model for future BLM land acquisitions for the New Mexico Park systems.

These objectives are discussed in more detail as follows:

  1. The recreation park: the Capital Outlay funding of $45,000 for the “Eastern Sandoval County Land Purchase for Parks” provides the State of New Mexico an extraordinary opportunity to acquire 3,400 acres of the BLM Buffalo Tract, east of I-25 between Placitas and Algodones for a New Mexico State Park Division recreational park and horse sanctuary. The “Special Pricing” transaction, at $10 per acre is allowed under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act. It is expected that the new State Park would be accessible for hiking, bicycle riders, campers, and for horseback riding and also provide land for a horse sanctuary in the Placitas area.
  2. Gravel mining: the BLM Buffalo Tract is considered in the new BLM Rio Puerco twenty year plan as a potential gravel mine site. The 6,500 residents of the Placitas/Algodones area strongly oppose additional gravel mining in the area and have expressed their opposition in hundreds of letters and comments to the BLM in response to the BLM’s published plan. The State of New Mexico’s purchase of the BLM Buffalo Tract would result in a recreational park under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act, but the property’s mineral rights would remain the property of the U.S. Government. As we understand it, this separation and resulting patent will permanently eliminate gravel mining on this property as a protection to the recreational property.
  3. Horse sanctuary: in cooperation with the New Mexico Livestock Board, local free-ranging horses could be adopted and legally located on the park horse sanctuary, where they can be humanely treated.
  4. State Park land acquisition model: if the State of New Mexico is successful in acquiring the 3,400 acres for a combination park and horse sanctuary, it will provide an important model for the State which can be used to develop a program to help manage the ongoing overpopulation of horses. With proper management, the program could also result in tourism opportunities for the state. Under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act, the state or its affiliates are eligible to purchase up to 6,400 acres per year.

The purchase of the Buffalo Tract via the Federal Reclamation and Public Purposes Act will take about two years to complete, due to a comprehensive BLM review process. The $34,000 purchase payment is not due until the transaction is approved by the BLM. In the meantime, the act requires New Mexico to put together a plan of development for the park (the estimated $11,000 cost of which is included in the requested total $45,000), and consider public and private issues associated with the purchase. Once the property is acquired by the state, there will be capital and operating costs associated with the property, including fence repair, horse sanctuary fencing, water wells and other facilities, recreational trails and camp sites. We’ve estimated a first year capital development might be $110,000. That amount would probably be required in 2015, following the land purchase, but portions of the capital development could also be spread out over time.

My involvement in designing this project is based on my background as a long-time Placitas horse owner and businessman, with experience in finance, energy development, mining, and governmental issues. My friends and neighbors and I have spent hundreds of hours working to evaluate and develop the idea and communicate it within our community.

We look forward to a brief meeting with you or your representatives and would very much appreciate if some of our friends, State, and elected officials who have supported and helped guide this idea could also visit with you at that time.

Respectfully,
—Marty Clifton

[Ed. Note: Legislative action that requires capital outlay funding for this project requires the signature of Governor Susana Martinez to sign or veto by April 15, 2013. Comments regarding this legislation can be addressed to: gloria.marquez@state.nm.us, Attn: Governor Susana Martinez.]


re: it’s about humans, not horses 

This is my personal perspective regarding our free-roaming, sometimes-wild horses. It seems there are as many opinions as there are members of the community, and it has become an emotional and divisive issue. Still, we have a chance to figure something out as a community, even though we have different views and stances. We don’t have a successful role model to follow. We don’t know how to manage the horses yet in a respectful and balanced way, but we can figure it out. Let this be a mini-experiment where we can practice how people of different orientations cooperate. We humans need to practice.

I think everyone agrees that there are too many horses. My position on the spectrum is that I am absolutely against horses going to slaughter, and I want to see them (in humanely reduced population) continue to live here, free-roaming. Couldn’t there be an easier, physically non-threatening large animal that shares the land with us humans that is not owned? To live their own lives beside us?

I share the concern that land may be damaged due to overgrazing, especially because we don’t know how long this drought will last. It is probably a good idea to keep them fenced out of the Open Space—at least until the numbers are significantly reduced. But in the scheme of things, how much nature and land have we humans disrupted in Placitas? One good thing is fire risk has been reduced. 

As to the unlikely possibility that the much-vied-for BLM land become a big corral for thirty of the horses,  I want to see the horses fenced out of specific land, not in. Though a selected number of our Placitas herd would be protected, managed, fed, watered, etc., the bands will no longer be free. Sending the remaining healthy horses to slaughter is not a tenable solution. Also, more horses will continue to find their way to Placitas land in the future, and the cycle will repeat.

I also share the concern that horses are on the highway. I associate this potentially dangerous development with the time the Diamond Tail lead horse, the beautiful, wise and frumpy white mare, died and left a young and poorly behaved band behind her. At the same time, the band that had been corralled for years was let free. New territory was needed immediately, and of course, the sides of the highway had the tallest grasses. I don’t know if it is feasible, but maybe the community can work on a more extensive program to strategically install fencing and some cattle guards to help alleviate this situation.

I don’t doubt that if we establish a deliberate birth control program for the Placitas herd, stop feeding them and only provide water during significant drought times, the several band populations would regulate themselves to be more in balance with human populations in a couple of years time. But it might not be pretty.

Historically, humans have drawn a dividing line between wilderness and human life-styles—for protection and for convenience. We love to see beauty from a safe distance. Now the balance is precarious and those of us who see ourselves as just one of the species living on a miraculous earth, understand our need to protect wilderness. This is one sense that enables us to be human. 

Many of us appreciate the romance of the wild horses until they become less beautiful and more of a nuisance. We don’t want to see them suffer. We don’t want to see newborns die. We don’t want too many horses. We don’t want them eating the grasses and trampling the earth. We name them. We shoot them. We write poems about them. We try to pass bills to enable horse slaughter big business. 

We Placitans have a good chance of finding a common-sense balance. It may take time. I know that I alone don’t have the answers. But perhaps these are possible solutions that we could enact to the best of our abilities:

  • Hold a professionally mediated session where the many and opposing groups and individuals can voice their views and concerns and solutions can be proposed.
  • Support WHOA and San Felipe and their efforts to enact the birth control they have been trained to use, but have been stopped by governmental agencies. Maybe a letter-writing campaign to the appropriate government agencies to get the birth control program off the ground would be helpful. The laws have been working against us.
  • Converse with our neighbors and identify who needs help keeping the horses off their land. Fencing works. 
  • Don’t feed the horses… ever.
  • If your immediate neighborhood doesn’t want the horses, don’t have a water tank near by. Let’s figure out places where there can be water available, if necessary, to augment and protect the natural springs.

So, my personal position is: let’s stop meddling as much as is humanly possible, even though we are involved. Birth control and fencing to protect the land are the best solutions. If the horses are wild, let them be wild. Can we figure out how to live with beings we don’t control? Can we control ourselves?

—Laura Robbins, Placitas


re: Ranchos de Placitas ­sign

I felt it necessary to clarify a few things about the recent editorials pertaining to the new Ranchos de Placitas sign. As treasurer of the Ranchos de Placitas Homeowner’s Association Units I, II, and III, I personally volunteered to be on a three-member committee to present suggestions for the new signage. After an accident on June 8, 2012, the old sign created by artist Gene McLain was severely damaged. I sent out emails to those in our section that had email addresses with three different designs for a new sign. I received exactly 37 responses back from almost one hundred emails sent out. Only 27 people favored keeping the old sign, which is no majority vote, to say the least. Later we found that two of the designs, including the restoration and remount of Gene’s sign, could not be guaranteed for maintenance. The north section of Ranchos—with over two hundred people—was never polled, since there was only one practical design left to consider. That design was then presented to their membership, which attended the north Ranchos General Meeting. Our committee, ultimately, decided on the maintenance free sign that now sits in front of Ranchos de Plactas. Geico Insurance paid for the sign with no monies from either homeowner’s association required. Most comments received to date indicate that people really like it. Change is difficult, people will move on, but that sign will endure for many years to come.

—Jean Jones/Treasurer, Ranchos de Placitas


re: helicopter noise

I’ve been working on the problem of Chinooks/Apaches/Ospreys/Blackhawks—various helicopters—that are flying frequent military training missions over Placitas on their way to and from fueling at privately owned Bode Aviation at Double Eagle Airport.

If the FAA can’t do anything, then we look to the press to at least write a story about this situation affecting many communities. We love our military as much as the next citizen, but are sick of this ongoing “sound of freedom” stuff.

We did get a ray of hope when the Santa Fe National Guard Office of Public Affairs suggested that once the U.S. draws down troops out of Afghanistan, the training missions here in New Mexico should end. Another less bright ray of hope is thinking that the current Sequester situation will cut off some funding for these missions as well. We can only hope.

 It would be futile for a small community like Placitas to take on the mighty Military by making a polite request that they please do their training elsewhere. Even though they fly at just the legal limit of five hundred feet above ground, these helicopters still make our home foundations rattle. At 5:00 a.m., this is someone else’s sound of freedom, not ours.

Placitas is part of Sandoval County, so, unfortunately, we do not have the noise restriction laws here that Albuquerque residents have. Getting interest in doing this is not a priority for our County Commission. However, the Santa Fe National Guard spokesperson said that there is something called a “good neighbor policy” which the National Guard at least tries to adhere to and takes seriously.

Residents would like the military to consider flying due northeast over undeveloped land until reaching La Bajada, and then turn east to resume their flight. This should not add to additional fuel consumption, and it would serve as good PR for the military and Bode Aviation to be good neighbors.

—Chris Huber, Placitas


re: rocky roads to romance

Dear Friends Back East,

I appreciated your recent joint letter, but was upset by the sad event that befell one of our good amigos—who was too depressed to share in this correspondence. As I understand your story, he was descending in your high-rise elevator when his body exhibited an overwhelming need to evict a sizable amount of disagreeable vapor from its intestinal housing. As he gave way to this bodily pressure, he felt extremely grateful to be the only one aboard the lift… until it stopped on the fourth floor. At this point, it was boarded by the same highly-appealing woman he had been desperately eager to meet since she moved into the building a few weeks ago.

And, regrettably, he had alone effected a climate change within the elevator’s environment even faster, and more dramatically, than is now occurring on the planet-at-large and highly irksome to any mortal in possession of even modest olfactory sensibility. The remainder of the ride, no doubt, seemed like hours and likely was done in total silence.

And now, if you’re right, our friend believes he has squandered his chance to meet this lady on favorable terms, and that he has marked himself as no more than a noxious polecat. He is Mr. Miasma of the Big Apple.

Indeed, things did get off to a bad start for our friend and his love interest. But I’ve also managed to befoul the atmosphere during the course of romantic pursuits, although I generally employed different mechanisms for doing so—usually with less biology and more buffoonery; with behavior that was more imbecilic and less intestinal, goofy rather than gassy.

For example, in my long-ago Washington, DC days, I once used a first date to squire a lovely young woman around a civil war battlefield in nearby Virginia on a cold, windy January day, diligently and endlessly pointing out key attractions such as the locations of Union General McDowell’s headquarters, the location of Confederate General Beauregard’s headquarters, the spot where Confederate General Thomas Jackson sat on his horse waiting for someone to call him “Stonewall,” the location of the Union Army’s hospital, and where the pile of amputated arms and legs would have been located. And I told my date in sincere and passionate terms that I hoped she would never, ever be struck by a Minié Ball. After an hour and a half of this frigid ramble, my date said she needed to go home and take care of her blisters, thank you very much.

After she recovered from a serious cold, I took her to a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western triple feature. After excessive hours of watching Clint’s carnage, we went to a place I knew that made top-flight bloody marys. My bad start endured for quite some time.

Now, where is that woman I so ardently and so gracelessly pursued? As of this writing, she sits about twenty feet away from me patiently stroking an old Maine coon cat named Patrick who is helping her read. If that old fellow could give us advice, he would probably refer us to William Shakespeare, who once wrote, “…there is nothing good or bad that thinking makes it so” (Hamlet, Act II, Sc.2 239-251).

We all suggest our old friend immediately seek another encounter with that woman he so admires, while also remaining mindful of his digestive processes and locations of the exits.

—Your Friend, Herb

 
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