Sandoval Signpost


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  The Gauntlet

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: It’s not fish vs. farmers; it’s us vs. ourselves.

I commend and encourage the WildEarth Guardians in their suit against the federal entities on behalf of water for the Silvery Minnows, but I suggest that the State of New Mexico is equally complicit in allowing the Rio Grande to go completely dry in some areas. We are in a drought of enormous consequence, and yet we allow mining operations north of Albuquerque to suck hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the ground, which has a direct effect on the water in the river.

This is exactly the point that the State of Texas is again making in a current suit against New Mexico over Rio Grande river water. The wells cause water to flow from the river into the adjoining underground aquifer, reducing the amount of water available for the irrigation network. See also the 1976 Texas, New Mexico suit over Pecos River water, which argued exactly the same point and which New Mexico lost.

New Mexico’s State Engineer is appointed by the Governor, therefore our decision on who will be Governor should include a knowledge and commitment to water—clean water. New Mexico water policy is archaic at best and must be evaluated and changed to compensate for the current severe drought and possible climate changes. Mining along the Rio Grande River does only harm in depriving the population centers and the farms that feed them of water. Sand and gravel operations in the Placitas area could easily be moved to areas of less serious consequence since sand and gravel are not scarce in New Mexico.

We may never recover from the way our state mismanages water. Our sprawl is counterproductive and our flood irrigation is wasteful. Add to this the amount of water that is lost to evaporation in lakes like El Vado, Abiquiu and Elephant Butte. Large residential areas along the river are, well, septic times tens of thousands. These are unmetered and unmonitored. Each of these wells is given one acre-foot of water and thousands are grandfathered in at three acre-feet per well. The average household only uses approximately one third of an acre-foot per year. There is no incentive to conserve. Well-managed water systems should be a requirement.

Every drop counts. In this time of little water it is essential that we realize the need to manage, and do it now. If we don’t, we may face the time when our management plan includes a decision of us or the protected species that we want and need to continue to protect.

—Mike Neas, Placitas Resident

re: Placitas plan for the BLM Buffalo Tract

Placitas needs to develop a consensus plan for the BLM Buffalo Tract in order to avoid gravel mining and preserve the fragile ecosystem there. At the same time we should consider the possibility for a horse sanctuary on a portion of the land.

An important element of the 2012 draft BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP) plan was the BLM’s indication that it still considered the 3,400 acre Buffalo Tract to be eligible for natural resource development, per the BLM’s Federal Charter to manage its lands according to it’s Federal “multi-use” mandate. The northern most 800 acres were scoped for potential gravel mining.

In 2012, Senator John Sapien submitted legislation which was approved by the New Mexico State Legislature to purchase the Bureau of Land Management’s 3,400 acre “Buffalo Track” under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act (the R&PP Act). The legislation provided $45,000 for the purchase. Under the R&PP Act, states or their affiliates (municipalities, counties, or other state affiliates) can lease or purchase BLM land to establish parks or other recreational or public purposes. The purchase price under the R&PP Act is $10 per acre.

This is exactly the procedure that the BLM used to evaluate the City of Albuquerque’s eventual acquisition of the Albuquerque/Placitas Open Space of 560 acres in the 1960’s. That acquisition resulted in Placitas having an extremely useful and valuable recreation area, which, for the most part, has also resulted in 50 years of community care and protection of this fragile and important environmental resource.

Governor Susana Martinez vetoed the legislation, citing lack of community consensus on the establishment of a state park (and potential horse sanctuary) using the Buffalo Tract, as well as financial issues.

It is still possible to acquire the Buffalo Track under the Federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act. This could be done by the State, or State Affiliates such as Sandoval County, City of Albuquerque, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, San Antonio de Las Placitas Land Grant, or Placitas area Municipal Water Districts

One additional option for the disposition of the BLM Buffalo Track is the possibility that the land could be converted to a National Conservation Area (an NCA). Created by an Act of Congress, the National Conservation Area management would remain under the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management

A National Conservation Area (NCA) already exists in New Mexico. It is near Ruidoso and Fort Stanton and is called the Snowy River Cave NCA. It is a 24,000-acre naturalist area, permitting limited automobile travel on primitive roads, camping, a small RV park, and equestrian, hiking and bicycle activities.

One of the ideas listed by New Mexico First for the Free-roaming Horse Task Force is the acquisition of the BLM Buffalo Tract or another unidentified property for purposes of providing a horse sanctuary.

The obvious next step is for Placitas community members to gather together to begin to discuss a plan for the acquisition and management of the BLM Buffalo Tract.

—Marty Clifton, Placitas

re: far away hills 

Dear Friends Back East,

Thanks for your kind letter with photos of the Big Apple’s buckling asphalt and steamy, humid haze. They are visual reminders that your summers and winters seem always to be in competition for the Most Vile, Disagreeable Weather Award—hence my 2004 retirement to New Mexico.

And speaking of retirement, I have enjoyed it so much that I’ve decided to repeat the experience. After a decade in the Land of Enchantment—a truly gratifying and healthy period of my life on planet earth—we are now in final preparations for a move to Oregon. As you would expect, I will travel there with spouse Mary and our ancient, venerable Maine Coon Cat, Patrick—retired street thug, murderer, and a dear forever friend of yours and mine. We will depart in a few weeks.

You gents easily understand decisions to move on, given our shared itinerate past and our wanderlust. But I have difficulty in explaining why we’re moving to Oregon when asked by friends. Sometimes I manifest my still virulent adolescence with wiseguy answers such as, “We plan on going into the duck business. Of some sort. Or maybe the beaver business? Of some sort. We’re not entirely sure. Of course, there is always the lumber business. Or perhaps we will do something involving ferns. It’s unclear. I suppose we’ll unpack first.”

Or I tell them, “Well, to be honest, it seems my family has developed peculiar cravings for mildew and moss, the dankish and drenchish, the wettish and muggish, the soppy and sodden.”

I am not proud of such moments.

It’s even more difficult to explain why we would want to leave New Mexico after a decade and after the many kindnesses shown us by the Land of Enchantment. We’ve developed wonderful, ever-lasting friendships and have experienced profoundly beautiful cultural and artistic diversity. We’ve undergone constant exposure to awesome natural beauty since the day of our arrival.

And the friends we leave behind are a rainbow coalition of color and culture, beauty and wisdom, faces and voices, humor and kindness.

However, as we move into our 70s, we still have the energy and curiosity for yet another transition. Thus, we have embraced the seemingly interminable chaos of selling and buying, sighing and signing, tossing out and packing up, moving out and moving in. 

It seems to be working. After I nearly gave up on him, Patrick now seems more engaged in this his 88th year of human year equivalents, and he knows there is something big afoot.

Along the way, I shall point out the sights and play his favorite CDs (especially Nat King Cole), hoping the small furry fellow still has some residual hearing. He will likely sit high up on a case of Friskies assorted flavors stored in the back and hope to spot horses and cows in the fields along our route. So, if we’re lucky, Patrick still has miles and miles to go before he sleeps.

I will send our address—please plan to visit. Adios for now.

—Your Friend, Herb, Placitas

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