Desert bighorn ewes are released into
Desert bighorn sheep get new home in Little
New Mexico now has more than three hundred desert bighorn sheep
living in the wild in five mountain ranges, following the completion
of a two-day trapping and relocation operation at the Red Rock Wildlife
Area and the Little Hatchet Mountains.
Fourteen rams and fourteen ewes were captured with helicopter
net guns in November at the Red Rock captive breeding facility north
of Lordsburg. After they were examined, given injections, and fitted
with radio collars, the sheep were taken to the Little Hatchets,
where they joined a bighorn herd of about twenty-five.
Eric Rominger, bighorn sheep biologist with the New Mexico Department
of Game and Fish, said the latest operation will bolster efforts
to downgrade the state listing of the desert bighorn from endangered
“We've come a long way, when you consider that in 1980 we
only had sixty-nine sheep in the wild, and in the fall of 2001 we
only had 166,” Rominger said. “With the lambs that will
be born next spring, we could have more than four hundred sheep
in the wild by next year.”
Super-fast broadband coming to Bernalillo in January
High-speed Internet connections often are called big pipes, and
Sandoval County residents may be getting the biggest.
Jonathan Mann, of the Sandoval County Broadband Project, recently
told county commissioners a pilot wireless signal should be online
in Bernalillo by January 31, with Cuba soon to follow. The public-private
partnership started with $2 million in seed money from the county
hopes to reach an initial transfer speed of a hundred megabits a
second, he said.
“We would have the largest bandwidth anywhere in the county,”
Bandwidth and megabits indicate the speed at which digital data
moves between computers. The wireless connection in Bernalillo would
be about 180 times faster than a telephone dial-up connection.
But fasten your seat belt. Mann's group is talking about boosting
speed a hundredfold over the next five years as the project expands
and technology evolves.
The goal is not just bringing high-definition video into homes
but an interactive two-way connection to education, medicine, government,
and emergency responders. Boosters also cite the potential for economic
development, as wireless technology frees business from urban centers.
Mann, whose AQV Inc. won the contract to organize the system, said
the first application in Bernalillo would be for government services,
while the Cuba pilot will focus on distance learning, linking classrooms
with the University of New Mexico and TVI. A telemedicine van is
also planned to connect rural patients with doctors and hospitals,
“It doesn't matter how fat the bandwidth if you don't have
the applications,” project spokeswoman Betty Anne McDermott
The project, funded with county income from handling the $6 billion
Intel bond issue last year, is running about a month behind schedule.
Part of the delay involved creating the public-private partnership
to make it clear the county is not setting up a utility.
County manager Debbie Hays said the contract also was amended
to give the county ownership of the network while it is being established
and the option to sell it. That is needed to attract the partners
and private investment required to spread the wireless connection
throughout the county, she said.
Motorists peppered by debris from unsecured loads now have a toll-free
number to report dangerous trucks: 1-866-630-5623.
That number rings at the state Department of Public Safety, whose
motor transportation division focuses on commercial trucks. A large
number of motorists have complained about rocks and other debris
falling from trucks and damaging vehicle bodies and glass on I-25
between Algodones and Albuquerque, according to DPS.
The MTD recently conducted Operation Rock and Roll No. 4 on I-25,
targeting unsecured loads, as both an enforcement action and to
educate trucks on changes in state law. By law, truckers must secure
loads and remove any debris outside the truck or trailer which might
fall off and damage other vehicles.
Walking into the Ojito Wilderness
Ojito becomes wilderness
On October 27, President Bush observed a momentary cease-fire in
his war on the environment and signed the Ojito Wilderness Act into
law. The tree huggers are ecstatic. The media has been full of well-deserved
praise for the win-win, bipartisan effort and the flowery descriptions
of Ojito’s natural beauty. Ojito is wild and beautiful, but
it’s not like Yosemite suddenly appeared on our western horizon.
It’s badlands, but it’s our badlands, and now the government
has promised not to give it away.
“Wilderness Areas are special places where the earth and
its community of life are essentially undisturbed; they retain a
primeval character, without permanent improvements and generally
appear to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature.
In 1964, Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation
System and designated the first Wilderness Areas in passing the
Wilderness Act. Wilderness preservation has become an increasingly
significant tool to ensure long-term protection of natural landscapes.”(from
the Bureau of Land Management Web site)
In the newsletter of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance at www.nmwild.org
you can read in great detail about the long and arduous process
that took place over the last fifteen years and finally resulted
in the eleven-thousand-acre Ojito’s protected status.
The Bureau of Land Management will continue to manage the area.
BLM spokesperson Danita Burns told the Signpost the only immediate
change resulting from the change in designation from wilderness
study area to wilderness is that mountain bikes will no longer be
allowed. There will be no new road construction and no motorized
vehicles, except for those deemed necessary to facilitate cattle
grazing, which will continue intrude upon the “outstanding
opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined types of
To access the Ojito from Bernalillo, drive west on US 550 for about
twenty miles, then turn left before San Ysidro onto Cabezon Road
and take the left fork, as indicated by the new signs. The right
fork leads to the Centex Gypsum mines, which offer a grand and bizarre
moonscape, enhanced by a Martian space-transport vehicle left behind
from a movie set. This is private property.
No permit is required to explore the Ojito. All you really need
do is park beside the road and start walking. There are no facilities
or signs directing visitors to trailheads leading to archeological
ruins or dinosaur fossils, or any opportunities for wilderness experiences
that lie off the gravel road that follows the pipeline toward Cabezon
Peak. First-time visitors who need more structure might find it
helpful to join an organized tour.
BLM land starts at a cattle guard about four miles up Cabezon
Road. Nearby is a fenced-off jeep road marked by bullet-ridden signs
advising against motorized entry . There is a long knife-edge ridge
(a breached incline), popular with geologists and mountain bikers
which descends all the way back to US 550. This is outside of the
wilderness area, so biking is still allowed. Poorly defined trails
loop back around and meander through miles of arroyos.
Take the left fork at Gasco Road and park in a designated area
beneath a mesa on the south side of the road close to a brown plastic
post with a decal that reads “wilderness.” These posts
will be placed every half mile around the Ojito boundary. Follow
the trail to the north for about a mile and you might come upon
the place where Jay Cummings found the bones of Seismosaurus, the
world’s longest dinosaur. (See November
2005 Signpost.) It’s a sandy pit beside a cliff overlooking
a spectacular broad wash. Just past the pit are a number of well-preserved
petroglyphs, and on the cliff face below is a small cave blackened
by Paleo-Indian campfires.
Park beside Cabezon Road next to another trailhead a little further
on and follow the trail around the east side off a hilly ridgeline;
climb over a barbed wire fence next to colorfully striated boulders.
Here you enter into an magical environment full of hoodoos (formed
by the erosion of soft sandstone beneath a harder cap rock). Here
also are ponderosa pine trees growing at the lowest elevation in
New Mexico. Outcroppings of shattered rock are covered by weird-looking
pebbles and ancient gnarled juniper.
Under the new legislation, another area of about eleven thousand
acres contiguous to the wilderness to the west and south will be
purchased by Zia Pueblo. Public access will be permitted, but the
property will join two separate parts of pueblo land and will be
protected for its cultural values.
Ojito is a badlands, and that’s good. There are four more
Wilderness Study Areas in the Rio Puerco, including Cabezon. Be
sure to equip yourself adequately. Chances are you’ll have
the place to yourself.
For more information, visit www.nm.blm.gov
or call the BLM at 505-761-8700.
Survey party stakes out curb-and-gutter locations as Amtrak's Southwest
Chief passes through Bernalillo. The first of two Bernalillo stations
for the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter trains is expected
to begin operating in January. The 300-foot station platform will
be built next to the tracks once the state negotiates access to
the railroad right-of-way.
Bernalillo mayor Charles Aguilar listens while Shiro Hosaka translates
his welcoming remarks for officials of JR Central, a Japanese railroad
company. The Japanese delegation visited Bernalillo and Los Alamos
National Labs as part of its work on magnetic-levitation trains.
Also pictured are Osamu Nakayama, JR Central general manager (far
left), and Don Oppenheimer, a Rio Rancho engineer and maglev proponent
Rail Runner Express update
US 550 commuters crawling toward I-25 in Bernalillo can now look
down and picture the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, or at least
the parking lot for the northernmost of its nine rail-transit stations.
The governor and area dignitaries, amid the usual groundbreaking
ceremonies, kicked off construction a month ago on the site southwest
of the US 550 bridge over the BNSF Railway. Dirt began flying immediately
on the access road and parking but not on the three-hundred-foot-long
station platform next to the tracks.
For now, work stops at the fence while the lead Rail Runner agency—the
Mid Region Council of Governments—continues to negotiate with
BNSF for access to the railroad property. Construction of the second
station off Calle del Presidente in downtown Bernalillo has yet
“We actually have agreed on the major points,” MRCOG
executive director Lawrence Rael said. “BNSF is in final review
of the documents.”
Trains now are expected to start running to Albuquerque from Bernalillo
in late January, and from Belen soon thereafter as stations are
Rael said he could not comment on talks with the BNSF, although
state transportation secretary Rhonda Faught confirmed the state
wants to buy the track not just from Belen to Bernalillo but on
through Las Vegas and Raton to Trinidad, Colorado, for future passenger
trains. An announcement from Governor Bill Richardson on the BNSF
deal is expected early this month, she said.
BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent also declined to discuss the negotiations
other than to say the railroad is working diligently toward an agreement.
Rael said he had met in Denver with members of the Front Range
Rail Coalition, which is pressing to reestablish passenger trains
from Albuquerque to Denver and Cheyenne. The proposal is interesting
and may be possible in the future, he said.
Expansion plans under study include service to Santa Fe starting
in 2008. Startup costs estimated at $320 million include a new fifteen-mile
shortcut roughly parallel to I-25, from existing track near La Bajada
to the Santa Fe Southern Railway near the capital.
In other transit-related developments:
• Herzog Transit Services won and signed the annual $5.5 million
contract to operate and maintain Rail Runner trains. Herzog will
build a maintenance facility near downtown Albuquerque and employ
forty-five to fifty-five people.
• MRCOG hired Robert Gonzales, a New Mexico native and former
regional Amtrak official, as its Rail Runner operations manager.
• The town of Bernalillo hosted a dinner for visiting officials
of JR Central, the Japanese railroad company whose heavy-rail magnetic-levitation
train set a world speed record of 360 miles per hour. The group
spent the day at Los Alamos National Laboratory discussing superconducting
magnets and learning of Bernalillo and Rio Rancho's interest in
using light-rail maglev to get commuters across the Rio Grande to
the Rail Runner.
• At the Bernalillo station groundbreaking, Sandoval County
Commission chairman Bill Sapien urged the governor to include a
second highway bridge across the Rio Grande in or near Bernalillo
in the state's $1.6 billion transportation program. The county,
which chipped in $10 million for the Rail Runner project, plans
a shuttle service linking Rio Rancho and the Bernalillo stations.
• Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez pledged a priority of his
new four-year term would be mass transit, including expanded express-bus
routes and planning a light-rail system. Bernalillo Mayor Charles
Aguilar called coordinated mass transit the “missing link”
needed to make the heavy-rail Rail Runner Express successful.