BLM seeks public comment on Tent
Rocks management plan
The federal Bureau of Land Management is inviting public comment
on its management plan for Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
Written comments on the plan’s environmental-impact statement
are due by February 3 and can be filed electronically, by mail,
or in person at informal public open houses.
The public-information meetings are scheduled from 6:00 to 8:00
p.m. on Tuesday, December 13, at the BLM Rio Puerco Field Office,
435 Montaño Road, Albuquerque; Wednesday, December 14, at
the Peña Blanca Community Center; and Thursday, December
15, in Santa Fe, at the Marriott Courtyard, 3347 Cerrillos Road.
BLM staff will be available to discuss the monument and the environmental
The 4,148-acre area of tent-like spires is located west of Cochiti
Pueblo. It became a national monument by presidential proclamation
The draft document, details of how to comment, and other public-land
information can be found at the BLM New Mexico Web site, www.nm.blm.gov.
Management documents also are available for review in Albuquerque
at the BLM Rio Puerco Field Office. Correspondence should be addressed
to BLM Rio Puerco Field Office, 435 Montaño Road NE, Albuquerque,
Legislative change looming despite broad-based
support for NEPA
After field hearings in several states, the National Environmental
Policy Act Task Force has come back to Washington, D.C., for one
final round of testimony. As the task force traveled from town to
town, they met strong support for the landmark environmental law
and were told by witnesses, as well as by ten former chairs of the
Council on Environmental Quality, that NEPA did not need legislative
change. Unfortunately the task force has largely ignored this viewpoint,
as well as largely ignoring the people most acquainted with NEPA’s
implementation: the men and women who work in federal agencies responsible
for complying with the act.
Despite the support NEPA enjoys and even though the task force
has not officially wrapped up, or their findings been formally presented,
legislation to change NEPA is expected soon. Nowhere is the expectation
greater than within the oil-and-gas industry, which prior to the
final hearing is hosting an event with task-force chairwoman Cathy
McMorris (R-WA) titled Updating NEPA: the Legislative Work Begins.
The truth remains that NEPA is a process that works to make sure
ordinary citizens, not just corporate special interests, have a
chance to participate in decisions and to ensure that mistakes are
caught before they are made. Despite the critics’ charges
regarding litigation, the fact is that only a tiny fraction of federal
actions reviewed under the law—0.2 percent—result in
For more information, please contact Nicole Anzia,
The Wilderness Society, (202) 429-2692; or Annie Strickler, Sierra
Club, (202) 675-2384.
Shortage of volunteers at Placitas Recycling Center
As the community of Placitas has grown in recent years, so has
the Placitas Recycling Center. Thanks to PNM and a grant from Intel,
the center has gotten almost 25 percent larger, and there are plans
to add another 750 square feet in the northwest corner to further
expand the its capacity to accommodate the growth. This year, the
operating days and times have been extended from two Saturdays a
month to every Saturday. And the materials accepted have expanded
to include No. 1 and No. 2 plastic, office and mixed paper, printer
cartridges, and rechargeable batteries, in addition to newspapers,
cardboard, aluminum, and polystyrene peanuts. Community participation,
which has always been robust, has continued to increase.
But the key to the Placitas Recycling Center's success has always
hinged on the generosity of the volunteers who work there on Saturdays,
and as the operating times, materials accepted, and volume have
increased, more volunteers are also needed. The Placitas Recycling
Association is currently facing a shortage of volunteers, and its
future ability to continue serving the community depends on having
a reliable volunteer force.
Recycling makes a significant contribution to protecting the New
Mexico environment by reducing the volume of refuse that ends up
in landfills, thereby conserving land and reducing risks to the
water table. In the first nine months of 2005, the Placitas Recycling
Center collected approximately seventy-six tons of material. That
is seventy-six tons that is being put to productive use instead
of filling up the landfill. The sixteen tons of mixed paper recycled
in the first nine months of this year is already twice what is was
in all of 2004, and collection of plastic has doubled since 2003.
Through the generosity of PNM and Intel and the assistance of
Sandoval County, the center has been able to keep up physically
with the increased demands of Placitas' growing population, but
the human-resource pool is under strain.
“Our ability to find markets for the recycled materials
depends on keeping them separated and free of contamination, and
that means we need more volunteers every week,” commented
Placitas Recycling Association president Len Stephens. “We
need to be able to count on volunteers to show up when they're scheduled,
or we won't be able to keep operating. Frankly, that's become a
problem in recent months. So we're sending out a plea to the community
to help us keep this important community service going.”
“I know about a hundred of my Placitas neighbors who are
on our volunteer list,” added Carmen Ketchum, the association's
volunteer coordinator. “I would love to get to know more.
Just giving us a couple Saturday mornings a year will help tremendously.
We also need help from people who are able to give a few hours during
the week to assist with bailing plastic or transporting the materials
to the centers where we deliver the plastic, aluminum, and paper.
There are a lot of ways people can help us keep the center going.”
Recyclers can also help reduce the workload by separating the
materials before bringing them to the center. Fliers that explain
in detail what materials are accepted and how they need to be separated
can be picked up at the center during operating hours every Saturday
from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Some key points include making sure that
Kraft paper inserts are taken out of newspapers (advertisement slicks
do not need to be removed), bringing in only No. 1 and 2 plastic
containers (they should be clearly marked), and separating white
and office paper from other paper. It is also important to make
sure there is no residual food on the cardboard, plastic, and aluminum,
to avoid problems with vermin. Additional information is available
at the Placitas Recycling Association Web site, www.placitasrecycling.com.
To volunteer with the Placitas Recycling Center,
call Carmen Ketchum, at 771-1311. We look forward to hearing from
all you lovely neighbors out there!
Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly examines over-allocation
Since its inception in 1997, the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly
has constituted a public forum for valuable discussions about water.
Through 2004, attention was on creating a regional water plan with
extensive grassroots input. Once that monumental task was completed,
the Assembly vowed to continue educating the MRG public about relevant
water issues, and to support local governments as they begin to
translate plan recommendations into action.
During the planning process, mid-basin residents learned that
the basic problem facing the three-county region is over-appropriation
of water resources. The 2002 Annual Report of the State Legislature’s
Water and Natural Resources Committee makes the problem very clear:
“New Mexico is over-appropriated. There is less water available
than there are legal claims to the water, and the state appears
to be in the midst of a drought cycle, according to tree ring studies
of past climate conditions. If this drought worsens, legal, economic
and political water problems will become more severe.”
Given the seriousness of such assessments, the Assembly selected
‘over-allocation’ as the topic of its annual gathering
in June of 2005.
OVER COMMITTED: HOW BAD AND SINCE WHEN?
According to former State Engineer Tom Turney, the Rio Grande has
been ‘fully allocated’ since the 1930s, when a compact
was signed to apportion the river’s flow between Colorado,
New Mexico and Texas. Concerned with meeting the predominantly agricultural
needs of the day, the compact’s authors did not take into
account the unspecified amount of water promised to tribes by federal
mandate, other than to stipulate that the agreement would in no
way interfere with that pledge. Neither did they set aside water
for ecological purposes, since they had no idea ‘the environment’
would become a critical factor in the river’s future. Finally,
the compact failed to anticipate the enormous municipal growth that
would blossom in the Rio Grande corridor during the next sixty years.
Those omissions alone assured indebtedness on the Rio Grande,
and the situation was soon compounded by ill-advised policy. Turney
noted that stream adjudications are generally based on “historically
irrigated acreage,” which in low water years can result in
an inability to service all lands that have rights. Also he acknowledged
that early on, the crucial link between groundwater and surface
flow was not well understood. “For every gallon of water pumped
from a well,” he explained, “there will be one less
gallon flowing in the river somewhere.” This process often
involves a time lag, so that the effects of groundwater pumping
on a stream may not be apparent for years. Other factors leading
to the over-appropriation of water in the Middle Rio Grande include
unknown numbers of per-basin wells; the continued issuance of permits
for new domestic and supplemental wells; the total amount of water
earmarked for urban and suburban development via dedications, which
postpone the acquisition of wet water for offset purposes; and the
leniency with which the state has administered municipal groundwater
As first revealed by the Middle Rio Grande Water Budget, the cumulative
results of all these oversights is a regional deficit of some 70,000
acre-feet per year.
Reprinted from Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly,