The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Public Safety

Dangers of carbon monoxide

—PAUL BEARCE, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, RIO RANCHO EMS

Rio Rancho Fire/Rescue Department personnel recently responded to and treated six patients in two separate incidents who were exposed to carbon monoxide (CO). All patients were stable; however, three were transported to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

In the first incident, a malfunction in the furnace at a residence caused dangerous levels of CO to be present. The family was awakened in the early morning when one of the children in the home complained of not feeling well. On the second call, the smell of gas alerted a family who began to feel sick.

CO is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is a by-product of incomplete combustion. CO poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms and can progress to a victim having shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting episodes, seizures, and even death. It is often called “The Silent Killer” because the initial symptoms vary, are vague, and are sometimes misdiagnosed. People who have an increased risk of CO poisoning are the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory disease.

Small quantities of CO are present in the atmosphere and are higher in an urban setting. Chronic exposure to high levels of CO increases risk factors and can cause long term effects. During the winter months, CO exposure increases as residents utilize their furnaces, fireplaces, and wood stoves to heat their homes. Having heating equipment inspected and cleaned by a professional significantly reduces the possibility of CO exposure in the home.

If these appliances are not operating efficiently, they can release CO into the air. To protect yourself and your family, it is recommended that all homes utilize a CO detector. These units are similar to smoke detectors and are available in most hardware and home improvement stores.

Residents who have concerns related to CO and possible CO poisoning should call 911. The City’s Fire/Rescue Department will check homes for CO levels.


Federal Highway Administration applauds Tijeras Canyon Wildlife Corridor

The Federal Highway Administration has awarded the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Department of Transportation with the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award for a state-of-the-art wildlife corridor project in Tijeras Canyon.

Governor Bill Richardson signed House Joint Memorial 3 in March 2003, creating the project to protect wildlife crossing I-40 and NM 333. Representative Mimi Stewart sponsored the joint memorial and $750,000 was allocated to protect wildlife moving through the corridor.

Electric fencing and several types of wildlife crossings were built along the corridor to curb wildlife collisions with vehicles on I-40 in the East Mountains. Bears, deer, and cougars were being killed, depleting our state’s resources, causing serious damage to vehicles and risking public safety.

A coalition of agencies and conservation groups made the project possible. Student members of Wild Friends, a group sponsored by the Center for Wildlife Law at the University of New Mexico Law School, wrote the memorial.

“I introduce a bill for Wild Friends every year,” said Representative Stewart. “We worked tirelessly to get this life-saving legislation passed.”

“Wildlife-vehicle collisions probably have not been as high a priority as they should have been,” said Gregory Heitmann, an environmental and realty specialist for the Federal Highway Administration. “Our goal is to preserve wildlife and natural corridors that often are overlooked and bisected during road construction. This project proves there are ways for agencies to work together to save lives.”

Nationwide, there are 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions a year, causing $1.1 billion in damage and twenty-nine thousand human injuries. Before the creation of the corridor, wildlife collisions were becoming a major problem through Tijeras Canyon. The wildlife corridor was built with satellite-monitored electric fencing, Animal Detection System warning lights, and wildlife escape ramps. Additional wildlife corridors may be built in other areas of the state.

“We are monitoring the effectiveness of the system right now,” said Mark Watson, a wildlife habitat specialist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “We know that deer are using all three underpasses since the system went live in September and bears have used two of the culverts.”

“I would say that this is the beginning,” said Heitmann, from the Department of Transportation. “I hope this recognition brings awareness to the safety need of the traveling public and wildlife.”

“It’s been extremely fulfilling to see this go from safety identification to completion and now into the monitoring aspect of the project,” said Jeff Fredine, an environmental analyst for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. “This has given us the initiative to do additional projects across the state.”

Game and Fish still needs more feedback, specifically from motorists. The wildlife corridor in Tijeras Canyon will help the state, and hopefully other states, look at other critical wildlife crossings where animals and people are at risk.

Along with Wild Friends, the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, and the Carnuel Land Grant were influential in the completion of the Tijeras Canyon wildlife corridor project.


Energy Corridor

West-wide Energy Corridor Plan proposed route

Placitas Alert!

—LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION

Without public consultation, a major federal plan has been proposed that will cripple the future of open space in Placitas and adversely impact our community.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 calls for dedication of energy corridors around the western United States. An Environmental Impact Statement and Plan has recently been published for a West-wide Energy Corridor spanning eleven western states. The Plan preauthorizes approximately six thousand miles of federal lands for “future oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities.” The average corridor width is thirty-five hundred feet (2/3 mile). Whether or not you think the concept of dedicated energy corridors is a good idea, the way this has been put into action is deeply flawed. Consider the following:

The plan only dedicates corridors on federal land. There is no consideration whether the private land between those segments of federal land will be a wise or even feasible location for expanded energy infrastructure.

Pipelines and transmission lines require corridors, not segments of corridors, so the plan fails in its basic mission of expediting the location of energy infrastructure.

Although the federal government has issued a Plan that only shows corridors on federal land, the fact is that the corridor will cross private property as well: in our meetings with federal officials, they have indicated that contracted consultants have identified corridors on private lands. The usual way of acquiring such land is by eminent domain. But there is no disclosure in the Plan that massive eminent domain is in the wings. This is fundamentally misleading.

While government has the right to take private land with just compensation, the government should openly disclose it, not bury it in government offices to spring on landowners later after the Plan is adopted.

The corridors are thirty-five hundred feet wide and may contain all kinds of energy transmission and distribution infrastructure. There is NO consideration whether dedication of land to such industrial uses is appropriate adjacent to residential properties. A plan influences land-uses far into the future, yet this Plan states that it has no environmental impact.

The Plan fails to consider or disclose the most basic impact of a plan—its effect on existing and future land uses—and the significance of these effects on private property and the greater community.

[In January, 2008, Las Placitas Association bulk-mailed this information along with a petition to all households in Placitas. For more information, to sign the petition, or to receive a petition by mail, visit www.lasplacitas.org or call 867-5477.]


Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Lewis Ranch purchase protects 5,280 Roosevelt County acres

The Lewis Ranch, 5,280 acres of mixed-grass and shinnery oak prairie in Roosevelt County, has been purchased by the State Game Commission using Governor Bill Richardson’s Land Conservation Appropriation.

Closing for the ranch, which sits on the state line bordering Texas, occurred December 28, 2007. An agreement between the Commission and former owner Tommy Lewis will allow him to graze cattle on the ranch until May 29, 2008.

The ranch adjoins two Commission-owned properties dedicated to providing habitat for lesser prairie-chickens—the Antelope Flats and Bledsoe prairie-chicken areas. Cassin’s and grasshopper sparrows, loggerhead shrikes, and northern bobwhite quail are other species of grasslands birds that occur in the area. Antelope and mule deer also use the ranch.

“This is the largest purchase to date using Governor Richardson’s Land Conservation Appropriation money,” said Bruce Thompson, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “The Commission and Department are extremely happy to be adding this property to our wildlife habitat and conservation portfolio in eastern New Mexico.

“This property will be a valuable asset contributing to wildlife and wildlife-associated recreation in the very near future,” Thompson said.

Milnesand is the prairie-chicken capital of New Mexico. The seventh annual High Plains Prairie-Chicken Festival is scheduled for April 11-13 in and around Milnesand. This is a birding event that attracts birders from across the country to New Mexico’s east side.

For registration information, visit the Department of Game and Fish website at www.wildlife.state.nm.us.

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