The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

ECO-BEAT


Recycling news: it's in the bag

—ROBIN BRANDIN, BOARD MEMBER, PLACITAS RECYCLING CENTER
As anyone who has visited the Placitas Recycling Center recently knows, business is booming, especially with so many new residents moving into the community. This makes it all the more important that materials brought to the center be appropriately separated and free of contaminants. In that regard, the Placitas Recycling Association is very pleased with the care Placitas recyclers are taking to ensure materials go into the proper containers.

One of the biggest challenges recyclers face is determining what plastic items can be recycled. It is not always obvious, because many types of plastic look alike. The Placitas Recycling Center only accepts No. 1 and No. 2 plastics. The number will be located inside the recycling symbol on the item—usually on the bottom, in the case of bottles. Bottle caps are generally not No. 1 or No. 2, so it is important that the caps be removed and the bottles rinsed out before they are brought to the center.

Until recently, the center was not accepting plastic grocery bags, but some of those bags are actually No. 2 plastic and can be recycled. Those that are acceptable have the recycling symbol with the number 2 printed on the bag. Other ideas for reusing plastic bags can be found at the http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/tips/a/blplasticbag.htm.

As the volume of recyclers increases, the Placitas Recycle Association needs more volunteers to handle the workload. Recyclers may be approached when they visit the center and asked whether they would be interested in volunteering. The response so far has been very positive.

“It's the volunteers who make the service we provide possible,” notes the association’s volunteer coordinator, Carmen Ketchum. “We owe them a huge thank-you for their work and support of the center. Time is precious, especially to volunteers, because they often work for more than one cause. Our volunteers have been very good about letting us know when they can't make it on their assigned day so we can find substitutes. And those who are willing to take last-minute calls are angels in disguise.”

Most volunteers work at the center two or three times a year. Anyone interesting in volunteering can call Carmen, at 771-1311.

The Placitas Recycling Center is on Highway 165, approximately a quarter mile east of I-25, and is open every Saturday from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. The center accepts newspapers, cardboard (flattened), office paper, mixed paper, aluminum, No. 1 and 2 plastic, laser and ink-jet printer cartridges, and polystyrene peanuts (double-bagged). Detailed information on the materials that are accepted can be obtained at the center on Saturday mornings or on-line at www.placitasrecycling.com.


See PV array from the Rail Runner

—NEW MEXICO SOLAR ENERGY ASSOCIATION
PV is popping up everywhere! Travelers on I-40 can see PNM's Algodones twenty-five-kilowatt PV (photovoltaic, solar electric) plant. Soon Rail Runner Express riders will see a smaller scale PV array near the downtown Bernalillo station. The PV site is the future office of Empowering Our Communities in New Mexico, a nonprofit corporation that serves to improve the conditions of communities and low-income households so they have access to safe, decent, affordable housing and the resources and skills to live, learn, and work together.

The two-kilowatt pole-mounted photovoltaic array was installed to offset some of the electricity the office will be using. Until and after the office is remodeled and occupied, the array will sell electricity to PNM at the rate of thirteen cents per kilowatt hour under PNM's Renewable Energy Credit program. The office will also net-meter: that is, their electric meter will spin backwards during daylight hours until their daytime use catches up with the electricity that is generated. The office will be remodeled using passive-solar design and energy-efficient appliances to lighten the electric load and increase the percentage of their use that is provided from the sun. Once the office is occupied, it will no doubt use more electricity than the system will generate, but EOC will continue to benefit from the REC program and the energy they produce.

The installation of the photovoltaic array was donated by the students in a five-day hands-on Photovoltaic Design and Installation class presented by New Mexico Solar Energy Association, a nonprofit educational organization. Though the groundwork and pole installation were prepared ahead of time, the students, from Las Cruces to Las Vegas, including one from Texas via France, installed the PV panels, inverter, AC and DC disconnects and REC meter box.

The hands-on installation was the culmination of the class, which introduced basics of solar electricity, photovoltaic components, fundamentals of PV siting, sizing, and safety in a classroom setting the weekend before. Taught by Marlene Brown, of NMSEA, and Randy Sadewic, of Positive Energy, the class included a tour of homes and facilities in Albuquerque that have installed photovoltaics to offset some or most of their electricity use.

NMSEA and EOC thank Mayor Patricia A. Chávez for donating the use of the Rio Grande Room in the town hall for the classroom instruction. Additional support for EOC's solar system came from Richard Reynolds, of Bernalillo Sand and Gravel, Luz Energy Corp., and Direct Power and Water. Each entity demonstrated generous support of nonprofit education, low-income assistance, and the renewable energy industry through their contributions.

For information on NMSEA's classes, chapter activities around the state, the Taos Solar Music Festival in June, the Solar Fiesta in September, and financial incentives for solar, check NMSEA's Web site, www.nmsea.org, or call the main office, at 505-264-0400 or 888-88NMSOL. For more information about Empowering Our Communities of New Mexico, contact Sally Moore, at 505-867-3374, extension 12, or smoore@eocnm.org.


Energy department awards $1.8 million to weatherize homes in New Mexico

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced $1,857,690 in weatherization program grants for the state of New Mexico to make energy-efficiency improvements in homes of low-income families. On average, weatherization can reduce a home’s energy costs by $358 a year.

“Weatherizing your home is a valuable way to save energy and money,” Bodman said. “The Department of Energy’s weatherization program will help many New Mexico families make their homes more energy-efficient.”

For every dollar spent, weatherization returns $1.53 in energy savings over the life of the measures. DOE’s weatherization program performs energy audits to identify the most cost-effective measures for each home, which typically includes adding insulation, reducing air infiltration, servicing the heating and cooling systems, and providing health and safety diagnostic services. Other benefits of weatherization include increased housing affordability, increased property values, job creation, lower owner and renter turnover, and reduced fire risks. In 2005, DOE helped weatherize more than ninety-two thousand homes.

On average, Americans spend 3.5 percent of their income on energy bills, but for lower-income households the costs average 14 percent.

DOE’s weatherization program grants are distributed by state energy offices through more than nine hundred local agencies. Every state, the District of Columbia, the Navajo Nation, and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona will receive weatherization grants this year.

For more information, visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/wip.


Fencing off Mexico is an ecological blunder

—GARY WOCKNER
Medical doctors have their Hippocratic Oath, in which they pledge to heal the sick to the best of their ability and do no harm. We ecologists have our own guiding principle: Call it the Leopold Oath.

The late Aldo Leopold, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service and is considered to be one of the fathers of ecology, wrote several fine books about what he called the land ethic. But one quote stands out as symbolizing the ecological mindset: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

It is with such guidance that we ecologists interpret the world, interpret history, and interpret current events. The great immigration debate is the current event of the year, and the border fence its latest incarnation. And thus, by any measure of a Leopold oath, I have to call the border fence an ecological nightmare.

It is fitting that this fence is all about immigration. Immigration, of course, is not just a human activity, but something that every critter on this planet does to one extent or another. The fence will stop human immigration, but it will stop most wildlife migration, too.

The border fence that already exists in parts of Southern California has wreaked ecological havoc; the new fifteen-foot-tall, triple-decker fence will make matters worse. The U.S. government may have to suspend or completely ignore most of its environmental laws—the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act—to build and accommodate the border fence that will separate San Diego and Tijuana. This is the place where, over the last few decades, the city of San Diego, the state and federal governments, and the Mexican government have spent nearly $600 million to protect the sensitive ecology of the Tijuana River Estuary. When the last portions of the fence are built in this area, the estuary will be ecologically blocked.

The conflict in Tijuana is only one example of what could happen along a fenced U.S.-Mexican border that contains a biologically rich swath of parks, forests, wilderness area, and binational wildlife habitat. Thousands of species, and millions of individual animals, travel back and forth across the border along daily or seasonal migration paths. Endangered species such as the Sonoran Desert pronghorn, the Mexican wolf, and the American jaguar all move back and forth across the border in parts of Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The American jaguar offers a specific example. Hunters, ranchers, and trappers killed every jaguar in America by the mid-1900s; rural Mexicans to the south did not. Over the last few decades, a few jaguars have migrated back from Mexico into America, most around Tucson, where there's also a heavy human immigration path. The border fence will stop this jaguar passage, and thereby stop the animal from ever naturally reinhabiting its native American range.

The U.S. Senate endorsed its version of a border fence a few weeks ago, calling for 370 miles of triple-wide fencing that will cost at least $1 billion. A more elaborate $2.2 billion version is being discussed in the House of Representatives; it would cover nearly seven hundred miles through each of the four states bordering Mexico. The fence even has its own citizens' support group and Web site, WeNeedAFence.com, that, under the guise of national security, calls for a fence stretching the entire length of the border.

It is usually during times of political crisis that the greatest ecological harm is done. The legacy of Cold War nuclear facilities and bomb testing, plus the Superfund sites that followed, stands out as one prominent example. And now we have the border fence.

An ecological way of seeing the world takes a long view, one untainted by the political vagaries of the day. No matter the issue—global warming, nuclear fallout, ozone depletion, air and water quality—nature offers the ultimate verdict. As for this longer and more formidable border fence, it does not preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It tends otherwise, and it is wrong.

Gary Wockner is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is a writer and ecologist in Fort Collins, Colorado.


A lesson in survival

—JENNIFER HOBSON HOFFMAN
I thought about the woman’s bones for a long time—what position they might have been in when they were abandoned and covered up, what had happened to her heart and her lungs as they slowly deteriorated. The cavity of her ribs and her chest, the now hollow cavity of her thigh bones, that narrow indentation of skin between the sinews on the back of her neck where her black hair swirled against her olive skin—they were all empty and would stay empty, and she would be staring up at the hot blue sky for a long time. Ten years of sky.

What if I, like her, was buried in the place I happened to be going to the next morning? Was it a good day to die? A friend had just told me the story of his cousin going out to fly-fish and never coming home again. The family recovered her remains ten years later near a remote northern New Mexico stream. Before I heard this tragic and gruesome story, I was driving north from my home in Santa Fe with my fly-fishing gear, a steaming cup of coffee in hand, and a good lunch stuffed into my pack, headed for the river called Santa Barbara in the Carson National Forest.

Just short of a two-hour drive from Santa Fe, the Rio Santa Barbara is a cool stream that runs under the feet of the thirteen-thousand-foot Truchas Mountains. It’s brushy, small, and requires a short leader and a whole lot of patience, but it is one of the area’s most rewarding fisheries. The brown trout, and upstream, the cutthroats, are small but opportunistic and haven’t been over-fished. It took me three and a half unforgettable hours to cover about two miles of water.

The evening I returned from the Santa Barbara, my husband and I talked about Bone Woman, as I’d begun to call her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Should I be afraid? Just like her, probably, I want a day alone to drive to a place and walk in a river where there is no one at all, my mind is quiet, and I am thinking only of fish. I want to feel the way I did when I was a kid, when I was completely absorbed in a place in that intimate way that children are.

So I ask myself the questions that Bone Woman—in fact, any woman—might ask, after getting out of a car and surveying a lonely place: Was a man looking at her oddly as she put her rod together? Does something feel wrong? Is this experience worth the risk that I might not go home and have dinner with my husband tonight?

The answer for me is still “yes.” You cover yourself, you leave detailed directions, you make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t have to stop at a garage to get directions; and you are discreet. For me, the answer is always yes: I choose to go places where only my topo map can get me, and yes, I fish there, and yes, I do it alone. And don’t look at me like I’m crazy just because I am a woman.

Growing up near Sun Valley, Idaho, I unwittingly fly-fished some of the world’s premier waters: Silver Creek, Big Lost River, Salmon River. Two Basque brothers from my high school and I would wet-wade the Silver Creek up to our waists, pulling flies from our belt loops and enduring dirty glances from the gear-heads that fished the technical waters in all their Orvis finery. I didn’t get a car for my sixteenth birthday; I got a beautiful nine-foot 5/6 L.L. Bean rod and reel and my own vest. Walking out my back door to fish and explore was more than something I got used to; it was a passion.

The real question is: What am I willing to risk to keep the things that make me happiest?

The answer is that my love of flyfishing and exploring solo hasn’t changed, but the way I protect myself has. I just took shooting lessons and recently purchased a .38 caliber Ruger revolver that I plan to carry with me. I will always say that if you are willing to risk your own life; if you are willing to face Bone Woman’s fate, then you have only one option: Go.

But you also have to remember to be very smart. And carry a big gun.

Jennifer Hobson Hoffman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News, in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). She writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Proposals being accepted for $5 million in conservation funds

—NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND FISH
The New Mexico Game Commission is inviting interested New Mexicans to help identify important ways to use $5 million appropriated by the 2005 Legislature for a variety of wildlife and land conservation projects statewide.

The funding is part of Governor Bill Richardson’s initiative to improve access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities statewide, and to help private landowners and communities in their voluntary efforts to conserve land and habitat. It includes $4 million to be spent on projects such as land purchases, easements, and land improvements to improve wildlife protection and habitat, to protect open space, and to reduce wildfire risk. The remaining $1 million will be used to acquire land and conservation easements to benefit species listed or proposed to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Although some projects had been previously selected for the program, the commission is seeking more to replace those that may no longer be available for implementation. To meet funding criteria, projects must:

• Benefit wildlife species in New Mexico.
• Enhance use for hunting, angling, and other wildlife-associated recreation.
• Benefit wildlife species classified as threatened or endangered.
• Preferably include acquisition of property, although easements may be considered.
• Be fully executed by December 2009.
• Involve willing sellers.

The deadline for proposals is 5:00 p.m., September 15, 2006. You may send proposals to: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, attention Lisa Kirkpatrick, P.O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM 87504; or lisa.kirkpatrick@state.nm.us. Application forms and instructions can be obtained at www.wildlife.state.nm.us.

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