Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

(Left to right) Volunteers Duke Neri, Marrisa Calvillo and Nicki Gottleib are presented with the first “Placitas Recycles” license plates by Placitas Recycling Association board member Jake Barkdoll.
Photo credit: —W. Paul Barbeau

Placitas recycling organization presents volunteers with    “Placitas Recycles” license plates

—W. Paul Barbeau

In recognition of all the work done by volunteers for the Placitas Recycling Association (PRA), the PRA is presenting them with “ Placitas Recycles” license plates for the front of their vehicles. The plates convey their personal support for the PRA recycling activity and will help raise community awareness of the local recycling opportunity.

The plates are made of recyclable aluminum and will also include the PRA website, which provides information on what materials we currently recycle, the operational hours, as well as contact information.

Current volunteers can pick up their appreciation plate up at the PRA yard on Saturday mornings from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The PRA was founded in 1991 and has helped conserve natural resources and reduce the volume of waste material being dumped into local landfills. The PRA is an all-volunteer organization, and about two hundred volunteers work to run the recycling yard on Saturday mornings, maintain all of the vehicles, trailers, and equipment, and transport the materials to vendors in Albuquerque during the week. As a result of all of the volunteers’ efforts and those of the residents who took the time to collect and drop off, we kept 227,330 pounds of recyclables out of the landfill last year. 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer to help one Saturday morning a year or to become a Board member, sign up at the yard on Saturday morning or contact Max Pruneda at 877-7745 or

Lungless Jemez salamander
Photo credit: —Mark Watson

Endangered salamander refound in Jemez

Wildlife biologists made a startling discovery on July 17 in the Jemez Mountains when they found what is believed to be the longest living endangered Jemez Mountains Salamander.

Mark Watson, a Department of Game and Fish biologist and a member of the New Mexico Endemic Salamander Team, said that the salamander found just east of the Valles Caldera National Preserve is estimated to be 17- to 18-years old. It was identified as a salamander captured and tagged in 1998 by Department Herpetologist Charlie Painter.

“This was a very exciting and surprising find,” Watson said. “Experts had believed this species to be long-lived, but we never knew just how long-lived these salamanders could be.”

The Jemez Mountains Salamander (Plethodan neomexicanus), of the family Plethodontidae, is lungless and breathes through its skin. It spends nine months of the year underground, coming out only during the summer monsoon rains. It is found only in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. It is listed as endangered under the state Wildlife Conservation Act and has been proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The salamander found under a small branch was about five inches long. It was discovered during a salamander-training workshop for about 25 biologists and naturalists representing Jemez Pueblo, the Nature Conservancy, Bandelier National Monument, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and private consultants. The workshop was conducted by the New Mexico Endemic Salamander Team, which consists of members from the Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Wasting cattle roam illegally along the banks of the Rio Chama
—Photo credit: Mike Neas

Rio Chama threatened

—Ty Belknap

At the end of June, my family and I were lucky enough to be invited on a three-day river trip through the designated Wild and Scenic Chama River canyon—the only part of the Santa Fe National Forest that wasn’t closed. The corridor is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Bosque, the Sandias, and most public lands throughout the state were also closed. We have written several articles over the years about some of our many Chama trips, because we love the place. It is an absolute gem, and is a top destination and source of local revenue.

It wasn’t quite as wild and scenic as usual this time, unfortunately, with more cattle, some of the best campsites full of manure, ATVs where they shouldn’t be, and a cabin being built, complete with warning signs. A popular stop-off at a early 1900s homestead had been torched. It rained though—first we’d seen in some time. Lightning the first night started a wildfire that we paddled past on the second—helicopters dropping water, lots of smoke. Another rainstorm reportedly doused the fire the following night.

Upon my return, I told Mike Neas, owner of an inholding in the Chama Corridor, about what I had seen. Neas wasted no time investigating, counting 76 cattle and photographing several dead cattle in the river. He complained to the BLM, because this is a clear violation of the Chama River Management Plan.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that Steve Harris, executive director of Rio Grande Restoration, experienced warning gunshots near the cabin we saw, and rotting cattle while rafting the Rio Chama the weekend of July 13-14. Complaints from Neas and Harris resulted in a July 25 meeting the BLM, Harris, and representatives of several environment and river groups.

Harris reported a productive three-hour session, attended by BLM Range and River Staff at Field Office and State Levels, Corps of Engineers, Trout Unlimited, river outfitters and Rio Arriba County Planning/Zoning. BLM Taos field office manager Sam DesGeorges told the group that he had contacted the land owner at Aragon, who promised to pull the cows off immediately, and pull the carcasses out of the river, if possible. The County took this matter very seriously, and promised to cooperate with BLM on riparian corridors.

Hopefully, our next Chama trip will be wild and scenic again.

Gardening in drought workshop

Home gardening in the high desert is a challenge, but during a drought it requires skills and techniques to adapt to an even more difficult environment. A free public workshop offered by NMSU Extension will be held on August 23 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension office, 711 Camino Del Pueblo in Bernalillo. Registration is required by calling 867-2582, toll free 800-678-1802 or by emailing: Presentations will be given by local veteran master gardeners and a representative specialist from NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, followed by questions and answers.

SC Master Gardeners hotline

Worried about the drought? Don’t know how to protect your plants? Contact the Sandoval County Master Gardeners on their hotline

The Sandoval County Master Gardeners Program is a Certified Volunteer Program under the direction of the New Mexico State University, Cooperative Extension. We have knowledge of what grows in New Mexico, when to grow it, what insects and diseases may be a problem, and much more. For all your gardening questions, contact the Hotline, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or leave a message, at 867-2582 or toll free (800) 678-1802 or email:

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