The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Siberian Elm

Leaves from the invasive Siberian Elm tree

Invasion of the world’s worst tree

If you’ve noticed some sprightly, leafy saplings thrusting skyward at an astonishing rate around your property since last summer’s copious rains and abundant winter snow: Beware. If you’re even thinking about watering them in anticipation of nice shade trees like you had back home: Beware. Beware if you have a septic tank or a wall or a roof or a vehicle; beware if your allergies are worsening each year; beware if you enjoy long views; beware if you’re concerned about wildfire.

The army of trees clogging the arroyos around the Village of Placitas and marching unimpeded along the highway is an official nuisance tree called the Siberian Elm. For those who remember the bosque fire of 2003 which burned nearly four hundred acres straddling the Rio Grande, the Siberian Elm is part of the deadly triumvirate of alien trees that fueled those flames. According to the USDA, “The spread of salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) has contributed to the continued degradation of riparian ecosystems. These exotic species are highly invasive and will continue to spread, not only along riparian habitats, but also into abandoned croplands and other sites. All of these species strongly modify their environment by displacing native plant species, using great amounts of ground water, increasing the risk of fire, blocking stream channels, etc. They also reduce the abundance and diversity of wildlife species.”

From the Rio Grande to the Upper Sonoran/Piñon-Juniper Zone of the Sandias, the Siberian Elm is pursuing its invasion on a frightening scale, sucking up water, inviting wildfires, crowding out native plants and wildlife forage, and destroying property. It hosts the stinky Elm Leaf Beetle, which likes to overwinter in houses. It makes stinky firewood. Even its shade is unpleasant, dropping gloppy stuff on the heads or hoods of those beneath. (I can’t tell you what the gloppy stuff is, but any lifelong Albuquerque resident will attest to its existence.) My own car has been glopped, my septic tank invaded, my wall broken; the beetles have shared my bed. I have nightmares about a juniper down the road, encircled by elms, getting its life sucked out like a fly’s by a spider. So pay attention.

The Siberian Elm, not to be confused with its smaller, benign cousin, the Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) survives both extreme drought and extreme cold. It’s so tough that if you cut it down it sprouts from the roots like heads on the monstrous Hydra of Greek myth, and even small seedlings cut your hands when you try to pull them. It is a greedy, thirsty tree, its roots working their way into septic tanks and wells, and it easily overwhelms native and garden plants. Its branches are brittle and easily broken by wind and winter storms, endangering buildings, cars and humans. The deadfall is highly flammable.

What’s more, the Siberian Elm reproduces prodigiously. Its seed pods, white and coin-like, are borne by wind and tires and feet and are capable of sprouting between patio bricks and chinks in foundations; they are a nuisance in themselves, clogging drains and forming dunes against doors and windows. This year they’ve sprouted in dense colonies, especially on disturbed ground near roadways and construction sites, but individuals sprout wherever the wind blows. The seedlings are sneaks, tending to hide within other plants and grow undetected for a month or two until they’re five feet tall and practically indestructible.

Elms are both male and female; unlike the one-seeded juniper, they all produce pollen. While many locals blame junipers for their allergies, the Siberian Elm is the greater culprit; nearly everyone is allergic to the pollen.

There’s no easy way to get rid of these trees; rumor has it that they can survive a nuclear blast. You can carefully burn the seeds. You have to poison rampant seedlings. If you cut down a large tree (that is, before it falls—the species is notoriously short-lived) you must drill holes in the stump, fill them with appropriate chemicals and monitor them vigilantly. The most effective ways to, uh, neutralize a Siberian Elm are girdling—removing a section of bark in a complete circle around the trunk; and frilling—axing downward, making shallow cuts to just below the bark, and applying a chemical labeled “frill application.” Frilling takes advantage of the tree’s circulatory system (phloem) to send the chemical to the roots. You’ll still have to cut the tree down before it falls on someone, but at least you won’t have to worry about regrowth.

Resistant to Dutch Elm Disease which de-treed Main Streets all over America, the Siberian Elm was imported from, yep, Siberia, as a replacement. It was brought to Albuquerque in the 1860s by Mayor Clyde Tingley to create an “oasis in the high desert.” A hundred years later, the tree had earned the nickname “Tingley’s Folly,” the seed pods “Tingley’s Snow.” Now the tree is a serious federal, state, county and community problem, and control measures are urgently needed. It’s been illegal to plant Siberian Elms in Albuquerque since the city’s pollen ordinance of 1996. Tijeras has organized battalions of volunteers to fight the invasion. New Mexico is addressing the infestations on federal, tribal and state holdings. You can contact local agricultural extension services, the state and the USDA for information. A petition to the County Commission to designate our area “a noxious weed control district” is the logical first step in getting assistance.

The Siberian Elm is dangerous around structures, especially schools and roads; it is hazardous to respiratory health and water systems; it tempts wildfires, hosts nuisance insects, and alters entire life zones. It’s designated a noxious weed and exotic invader in at least twenty-five states and continues to spread aggressively. It’s described by horticultural writer Dr. Michael Dirr as “one of, if not the, world’s worst trees.” So, once again—beware. If you allow it to grow on your property, you’d better buy more homeowners’ insurance.

Pueblo celebration offers historic, fun-filled events

Sandoval County Commission Vice Chairman Joshua Madalena said the Fourth Annual Pueblo Independence Day Celebration at the Jemez State Monument offers opportunities for people throughout the region to enjoy modern and ancient cultures during one of New Mexico’s most historic days.

The celebration will be held on Sunday, August 12, at the monument on NM 4 in Jemez Springs. The event is cosponsored by the monument and the Pueblo of Jemez. Admission is free for New Mexico residents and children under age seventeen.

“This is a chance for people of all cultures to enjoy relaxing and historic events commemorating the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” said Madalena, manager of Jemez State Monument and County Commissioner for District 5, which includes the Jemez Mountains and much of rural Sandoval County.

“The entire day has fun-filled events highlighting one of our State’s most historic days in one of our region’s most scenic areas,” Madalena said.

“Included will be guided tours of the Jemez State Monument, including the ancient and authentically-restored Giusewatowa kiva. We also will have the grand opening of the recently stabilized nave and sacristy of the historic San Jose de los Jemez church,” Madalena said.

Traditional dancers from the Pueblo of Jemez will perform throughout the day. The group Moiety and pow-wow drum group Star Feather of Jemez Pueblo will provide both contemporary and traditional Native American music. Other attractions include an early morning foot race from Jemez Pueblo north along NM 4 to the Jemez State Monument.

Food booths will be open throughout the day and vendors will display arts and crafts of area artisans.

“It’s a short and very scenic drive from the Albuquerque area to the Jemez Springs area,” Madalena said.

Jemez Pueblo played a major role in the Pueblo Revolt against Spanish colonists in the New Spain province of what is now New Mexico. The revolt began on August 10, 1680, and caused Spain to retreat from the area until 1692. For more information, contact the Jemez State Monument at (505) 829-3530.

Coronado State Monument reviews history in the Salinas Valley

The Friends of Coronado State Monument are sponsoring a presentation by Marc LeFrancois, Architectural Conservator, National Park Service on Sunday, August 29, at 2:00 p.m., on the topic of “Current Research and Preservation at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.” Mr. LeFrancois will review the history of human occupation in the Salinas Valley, the arrival of the Spanish, and the recent research and preservation activities at the Monument.

The program will be held at the Sandoval County Historical Society’s DeLavy House located on Edmond Road, in Bernalillo. To reach DeLavy House, follow Highway 550 west of Coronado State Monument, turn right on the west edge of the Phillips 66 Gas Station and Smoke Shop onto a dirt road (Edmond Road), and follow the road to its end. There are signs to guide you.

Reservations for this presentation are suggested. Call Gordon Forbes at 771-3464 or email your reservation to Admission is $5 per person and is free to members of Friends of Coronado State Monument.

Goromonzi Day celebrates and supports orphaned children of Zimbabwe

On Sunday, August 12, 2007, the Goromonzi Project will host Goromonzi Day at La Entrada Park on Corrales Road, next to the Corrales Library, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Enjoy African music, drumming, dancing, and African food. Bring your friends and family, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the shady beauty of La Entrada Park in Corrales. Learn more about the beautiful children of Zimbabwe at this fun and educational event. African goods will be offered for sale by Nomads, with proceeds to benefit the children of Goromonzi. For more information, visit our new website at This event is open to all and admission is free.

The purpose of the Goromonzi Project is to educate, feed, and provide basic medical care for orphans and vulnerable children in the Goromonzi Rural District of Zimbabwe, Africa. This nonprofit organization was formed in January 2006. To date, one hundred AIDS orphans and vulnerable children have been sponsored. There are nearly one thousand such children in the Goromonzi District of Zimbabwe, an area of approximately thirty square miles near the capital city of Harare. The children are beginning to blossom and by staying in school have an increased chance not only of surviving, but also of living healthy, happy and fulfilled lives. The purpose of the Goromonzi Project is to give these children the opportunity to become a vibrant part of the next generation in Zimbabwe.

Individuals can sponsor a child for $350 per year. Contributions to the General Fund provide for well construction, teacher education, and caregiver stipends. Donations of any size are welcome. All donations are tax-deductible. The Goromonzi Project, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation, and is tax-exempt under the IRS section 501c(3).

Learn to make fire

The Sandia Ranger District of Cibola National Forest presents a “Fire-making Workshop” on Saturday, August 4, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Come learn about traditional techniques for making fire at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras. Al Cornell will be discussing and demonstrating both prehistoric and survival fire-making methods. Participants will learn various methods for making fire through hands-on instruction. Sign up in advance as space is limited. There is a $30 fee for this workshop, and it will be limited to individuals of at least sixteen years of age. For more information, contact the Sandia Ranger District at 281-3304.

Open space funded in Rio Rancho

The local nonprofit Friends of Rio Rancho Open Space (FORROS) has received notification that they will receive a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This funding will be used to remove invasive trees along the river portions of the Rio Rancho bosque.

Founded in 2001 by a group of local citizens concerned about the restoration of the bosque, FORROS has received funding from numerous entities and has completed a multitude of projects. Efforts have included the removal of invasive salt cedar and Russian olives, as well as various improvement projects between North Beach and the Willow Creek portion of the bosque.

For more information about FORROS, visit their website at

El Rinconcito español

No te digo que te vayas, pero ahí tienes la puerta.
I’m not telling you to leave, but here’s the door.

El huésped dos alegrías da, una cuando llega y otra cuando se va.
The guest gives joy twice, once when he arrives, and again when he leaves.

No te alabes antes de que acabes.
Don’t congratulate yourself before you’re finished.

Submitted by, Placitas—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.

Signpost Cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpert

House passes funds for Town of Bernalillo water project

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed 272-155 the fiscal year 2008 Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR 2643) with funding authorized for the Town of Bernalillo water project at $500,000.

The funding is for part of an extensive arsenic and wastewater improvement project. The town has a forty- five-year old water distribution system in need of new water lines, fire hydrants, water valves, water meters, connections, and fittings. The estimated cost of that improvement is $3.225 million.

Also, the Town of Bernalillo is currently above the new EPA arsenic levels, and is working to address this issue with the City of Rio Rancho, Sandia Pueblo, and Sandoval County. The total cost of arsenic removal efforts is estimated at $4.4 million, making the entire water improvement effort a $7.625 million project. The town is seeking local, state, and federal funding.

The arsenic rule, adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency on January 23, 2001, reduced the allowable contaminants in drinking water from fifty parts per billion to ten parts per billion. The New Mexico Environment Department has found that a number of New Mexico communities are affected by the new standard, including the Town of Bernalillo, at twenty-five parts per billion.

The town has proposed a new arsenic treatment facility to treat three million gallons per day, reducing the arsenic below the standard, known as the Maximum Concentration Limit.

Packing Material Anyone?

The Placitas Recycling Association wants to pulse the market for used packing material. The Placitas Recycling Center has been collecting moving boxes and polystyrene peanuts for reuse for some time. The peanuts in particular have been in high demand among individuals and small businesses as packing material for their shipments.

“Sometimes we run short of these types of materials, and sometimes we collect too much and have it sitting around until we add it to the recycled materials,” notes John Richardson, the Association’s President. “We would like to know whether there is a need in the community for other types of packing material, such as shredded paper, bubble wrap, and polystyrene blocks.”

At present, the Recycling Center only collects shredded paper, which is also recyclable, but not the other materials because there is no market for recycling them. “But we are willing to begin accepting other packing materials like bubble wrap and solid polystyrene if people and businesses in the community find it useful,” explained Richardson. “In addition, we get a lot of clean, almost pristine paper bags that could very easily be used as packing material. It’s really a shame to recycle them when they have potentially so much usefulness left.”

Anyone who would be interested in reusing packing materials or any other items is invited to call John Richardson at 771-3383. Alternatively, people can let the Placitas Recycling Association board member on duty know of their interest on any Saturday during the Recycling Center’s hours.

The all-volunteer Placitas Recycling Center is located on Highway 165 just east of I-25 and is open every Saturday between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m. New volunteers are always needed and are encouraged to sign up at the center during its operating hours. More information about the center can be found at

Salvador Dali’s entire Divine Comedy suite of illustrations, shown for the first time anywhere, in Las Cruces

Art and literature enthusiasts in the Southwest have the rare opportunity to see a literary masterpiece illustrated by one of the most famous and recognized surrealist painters of his time, as Salvador Dali’s Divine Comedy will be on display at the Las Cruces Museum of Art, located at 490 North Water Street in the Downtown Mall, from Friday, September 7 through Saturday, November 24.

“Salvador Dali is probably one of the most well-known of the surrealist artists,” said Lisa Pugh, manager of the Las Cruces Museum of Art. “He really concentrated on depicting the unconscious and subconscious mind.”

Dali labored for nine years to produce a series of one hundred watercolors as illustrations to the classic epic The Divine Comedy, written by poet Dante Alighieri. The literary masterpiece details Dante’s epic journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

Dali’s paintings were to be reproduced as wood engravings and released as a limited-edition print suite in honor of the seven-hundredth anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s birth.

“This the first time the entire suite has been shown, to our knowledge. It is on loan to us from a private collector here in Las Cruces,” said Pugh.

For more information, contact the Las Cruces Museum of Art at (505) 541-2137 or visit

Stephen Benton “Smooth Steve” Elkins

Stephen Benton “Smooth Steve” Elkins, acknowledged founder of the Santa Fe Ring, later elected to the U.S. Senate from West Virginia.


Thomas Benton Catron

(left) Thomas Benton Catron, reputed longtime leader of the Santa Fe Ring. Catron was one of two U.S. Senators elected to represent New Mexico when it attained statehood in 1912.


What was the “Santa Fe Ring?”

Rarely does one hear of the “Santa Fe Ring” these days, but in Territorial times—the period between the American Occupation and attainment of statehood in 1912, newspapers of a certain political stripe were full of allegations concerning misdeeds of the infamous Ring. Despite a complete lack of membership rolls, meeting minutes, corporate photos, or any other evidence of formal organization, virtually every historian of Territorial New Mexico agrees that such a combination existed and held sway in economic and political affairs for a period of several decades. The kind of machine politics practiced by the Ring was not peculiar to New Mexico, but was typical of that period popularly known as the “Gilded Age.”

Historian Howard Roberts Lamar characterized the Ring as “a set of lawyers, politicians, and businessmen who united to run the territory and make money out of this particular region.” The Albuquerque Review of January 1878 called it “a systematized organization of rascality.”

The Ring’s membership is a matter of conjecture. It is generally acknowledged that the Ring had its origin in the years just after the Civil War, when immigration to western territories increased. Stephen Benton Elkins and Thomas Benton Catron, natives of Missouri, are commonly cited as founders and leaders of the Ring, but both survived occasional public criticism to become members of the United States Senate—Elkins from West Virginia, where he settled after a ten-year sojourn in New Mexico, and Catron as one of New Mexico’s first two senators elected when the former territory attained statehood. Catron was the presumed leader through much of the Ring’s history; otherwise, its composition tended to shift over time. Though most closely associated with the Republican Party, the Ring also included prominent Democrats. It was dominated by non-Hispanic immigrants, but Hispanic allies were critical to its success.

Edmund G. Ross, Governor from 1885 to 1889, was appointed by President Grover Cleveland, and was expected to curb excesses of the Ring. Ross attained limited success, but he necessarily became one of the most astute observers of the Ring. He found it an organism of considerable complexity. Its core activity involved speculation in Spanish and Mexican land grants, but the group also spun off “cattle rings, public land stealing rings, mining rings, treasury rings, and rings of almost every description.” In Ross’s view, Ring members worked in concert with corrupt Territorial officials—governors, judges, attorneys general, judges, and especially surveyors general, whose influence in the grant confirmation process was great.

The Ring was occasionally accused of inciting violence in pursuit of its interests. In reality, violent acts ill suited the group’s purposes, which were better served by less sensational forms of corruption.

The Santa Fe Ring enjoyed its heyday between 1873 and 1878, when troubles in Colfax and Lincoln Counties were raging, and again around 1884, when a legislature dominated by presumed Ring members defeated a determined opposition and put through appropriations for a territorial prison and a new capitol. Skeptics wondered how much public money would find its way into the hands of political officials who had advocated these projects.

A popular construct rather than a formal organization, the Ring had no distinct beginning and no definite end, but by 1890 its influence was fading and a progressive reform movement was gaining momentum. Few of the charges hurled at presumed Ring members ever resulted in an indictment, much less a conviction, but with the aid of a romantic moniker, the Santa Fe Ring lives on in pulp western novels, and in the annals of New Mexico’s Territorial history.

David L. Caffey is Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness at Clovis Community College and the author of Frank Springer and New Mexico: From the Colfax County War to the Emergence of Modern Santa Fe. This column is provided by the Historical Society of New Mexico,







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