The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Forest Guardians appeal for public comment to save piñon and juniper forests

Tell the State Forestry Division that piñon and juniper forests should be protected from the energy industry, not burnt for electricity.

New Mexico is famous for its vast expanses of piñon and juniper forests, a beautiful symbol of the Southwest. Now these forests and the wildlife that depend on them need your voice. The energy industry is turning to biomass—burning forests like our piñon and juniper to generate electricity—in its rush to promote “alternative” energy. Unlike solar and wind, biomass is not renewable and is relatively unclean.

Piñon and juniper forests are already threatened by the climate crisis, insect epidemics, and clearing by the livestock industry. Juniper has always been considered a weed by the livestock industry and thus is subject to indiscriminate clearing. However, these trees are part of the interconnected web of life that supports numerous species such as the juniper titmouse, the piñon jay, and the gray vireo. In fact, at least seventy-three species of birds breed in piñon-juniper forests.

With the impending threat of forest biomass energy facilities, the New Mexico State Forestry Division is, to its credit, attempting to redefine piñon-juniper forests to regulate cutting as they do any other forest type that is subject to logging or clearing. However, State Forestry is getting vehement opposition for the livestock industry, which would like to continue to treat these vital trees as weeds.

State Forestry needs to hear from New Mexicans, loud and clear, that piñon-juniper forests should be protected like any other! To learn more about Forest Guardians’ protection of Southwest forests and to send a letter to State Forestry asking that piñon-juniper harvesting require a permit with provisions for protection of wildlife, water, and soil, go to the Forest Guardians website at Send your letter by the August 15th deadline for public comment.

Las Placitas Association volunteers

Las Placitas Association volunteers construct a trail in the Placitas Open Space.

Las Placitas Association volunteers

A volunteer works on a stream bed stabilization structure.

LPA Project August workshops

Please join the crew of the Las Huertas Watershed Project for two workshops on watershed restoration during August. On Saturday, August 11, we’ll be hosting a morning workshop on riparian restoration on a beautiful stretch of Las Huertas Creek. Major floods have altered the channel, and our new restoration measures are underway. We’ll be working on fine tuning some new channel control structures implemented as part of our overall Las Huertas watershed restoration strategy. Meet at the Placitas Post Office at 8:30 a.m. and we’ll carpool to the site, where we’ll work until about noon. Las Placitas Association will provide tools, drinks, and snacks for this event.

On Saturday, August 18, we’ll be hosting another workshop on trail construction and maintenance out on the Placitas Open Space. We’ll be joined by a crew of trail specialists from the City of Albuquerque, and will continue work on a new trail connecting the east entrance to the Creek area. Las Placitas and the City of Albuquerque will provide tools, drinks, snacks and lunch for this event. Please wear sturdy work clothes, and bring work gloves, a sun hat, extra water, and some rain gear. We’ll meet at the Placitas Post Office, carpool to the site, and work until about 2:00 p.m.

These are free events sponsored by the LPA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving open space, restoring ailing watersheds, and enhancing quality of life in the Placitas area. Log on to our website at for more information about Las Placitas Association.

To help us plan, please log onto and use the “Contact Us” link to send an email on how many will be in your group. If you don’t have access to email, but would like to participate, please leave a message with Lolly Jones at 771-8020.

Best Green Practices Summit comes to ABQ

Mayor Chavez is sponsoring the “Best Green Practices Summit” at the Albuquerque Convention Center in August. The summit has been developed to bring together key leadership from across New Mexico to network and share best green practices. Breakout sessions will present best practices in green building and development, energy conservation, resource conservation and waste reduction, along with other practices that are proven to reduce our impact on the environment.

The summit will kick off with a reception the evening of August 1, 6:30 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency Downtown. Full-day sessions will take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center on August 2 and 3. For those interested, a tour of green buildings is scheduled for Saturday, August 4.

From innovative session topics to the tour of green buildings, this diverse summit will provide the essential knowledge take-away to more than justify your valuable time away from the office. Registration fee for the four-day event is $150 dollars per person. To RSVP, call 311 in Albuquerque or call 768-3052.

Fred Wilson, potter

Fred Wilson, recipient of the 2007 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts

Blues festival benefits wildlife at Anasazi Fields

An impressive lineup of local musicians will take the stage at Anasazi Fields Winery for Gathering of Spirits, August 11 and 12. “Add a cast of local artisans, demonstrations of pot throwing and wood turning, live bird shows, and a couple of wonderful new wines from our cellar, and we expect a major good time,” says vintner and woodcarver Jim Fish.

The festival runs from noon to 6:00 p.m. each day. Suggested admission is $5. All proceeds benefit Wildlife West Nature Park, an educational facility in Edgewood featuring native plants and animals of New Mexico. The park is home to a pair of Mexican gray wolves, elk, deer, pronghorn, javalinas, raptors, cougars, raccoons, a coyote, a fox, and a bobcat.

Blues musicians John Webb, Chris Dracup, Tommy Elskes and Stagefright Slim will play on Saturday. The lineup on Sunday is Trisha Ray, Stan Hirsch, and Stagefright Slim. “All of these musicians have played the winery before,” says Fish, “and they are great. Gather up your friends and come out to see what we are creating. You will not be disappointed.”

As a special treat this year, Fred Wilson, recipient of the 2007 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, will demonstrate the art of pot throwing both days. In addition, Gail Tate will have her lathe set up. Other artists showing works at the event include Kristin Wilson, Barbara Barkley, Michael Colombo, Meg Leonard, Jean Mahar, and Jim Fish.

Wildlife West Nature Park will be presenting a live bird show each day of the festival from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Carpooling to the event is recommended. Lawn chairs and blankets are suggested to complement the available seating. Food may be available on site, but picnic baskets and non-alcoholic drinks are welcomed. For more information, contact Jim Fish at 867-3062.

Justice for the Carlsbad Pipeline Accident—worth the wait

On August 19, 2000, a pipeline accident occurred along the Pecos River in southern New Mexico near Carlsbad. Twelve people were killed when a fifty-year-old El Paso Natural Gas Company (El Paso) pipeline exploded 675 feet from where they were camping and fishing. The names of the victims, their young ages, and the causes of death show the real human consequences of this tragedy. On July 26, 2007, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a settlement with El Paso for its violations of the pipeline safety laws that led to this terrible accident.

After the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated and concluded that, among other things, (1) the pipeline had internal corrosion that El Paso had failed to detect, (2) El Paso had an ineffective corrosion control program, (3) federal regulations were inadequate, and (4) the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) conducted inadequate preaccident inspections of El Paso’s corrosion control program.

On June 21, 2001, OPS announced that it proposed a $2.5 million dollar fine against El Paso for violating five regulations. This was the largest civil penalty ever proposed against a gas transmission pipeline operator in the history of the federal pipeline safety program. El Paso denied that it had violated any regulations.

The usual process entailed an administrative hearing to decide whether El Paso had violated regulations, but after two and a half years of procedural wrangling with El Paso, on December 18, 2003, OPS requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) institute a civil action to assess the penalty.

On July 26, 2007, DOJ announced that it had reached a Consent Decree with El Paso for its violations of the pipeline safety laws. El Paso continues to deny that it violated any laws. Although it has been seven years since the accident, and three and a half years since DOJ received the case, this is one of those situations where the wait was worth it.

DOJ’s Consent Decree imposes a $15.5 million dollar penalty against El Paso—more than six times what OPS had proposed. The Consent Decree will require El Paso to make ninety-three percent of its pipeline system capable of being internally inspected. This technology has been available for more than thirty years and could have prevented the Carlsbad accident. However, it could not be used in most of El Paso’s pipeline system because the system had not been designed to accommodate internal inspection devices.

The DOJ Consent Decree has been lodged with the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque as 07-cv-715 and is subject to public comment for thirty days. Those who wish to comment will be able to review the Consent Decree at When the Consent Decree is posted, there will also be information from the Federal Register about where comments can be submitted.

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