Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
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Eight free-roaming horses corralled along Las Huertas Creek and impounded by the NMLB

NMLB impounds estray horses


The New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) removed eight free-roaming horses from private land in Placitas on January 22. Gary Mora of the NMLB told the Signpost on January 23 that they were notified that the horses were corralled off Camino de la Rosa Castilla. NMLB determined that the horses were estray and removed them, as directed by Chapter 77 of the Livestock Code. By all accounts the NMLB wranglers were careful and humane in their handling. The trapping itself was humane and the horses were well cared for in a portable corral.

The Sandoval County Commission has paid over $23,000 to New Mexico First to facilitate a task force to deal with the free-roaming horse problem in Placitas. The county claims it lacks the resources to deal with the problem directly, as required by the livestock code. Meanwhile, Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue (PAR) has helped to deal with the problem by impounding and taking ownership, through the NMLB, of at least thirty horses since June. Some were removed—at no expense to the county— from NM165, where a number of horses had been killed in motor vehicle accidents. PAR seeks public donations for feed while offering these horses for adoption.

Miles recently impounded another seven horses in Algodones

Free-roaming horses are a divisive issue both locally and nationally. (See letters in the Gauntlet, this Signpost). There seems to be little common ground for compromise. Many people enjoy the horses and feel compelled to support them with water and feed. They view free-roaming horses as a desirable part of the natural landscape, deny harmful effects, and dispute use of the term “livestock.” They strongly object to culling the herds.

Others oppose the practice of allowing a fast-growing population of horses free range on public and private lands. They contend that the horses degrade the environment, create a nuisance, and present a public safety hazard—especially when they wander onto the roads.

The horses depend on people for food and water because the habitat is overgrazed and parched by the ongoing drought. Many horses nearly starved last summer. Those who provide this sustenance, however well-motivated, could be held liable for damages.

Susan Blumenthal said that she allowed her land, which includes an Archeological Conservancy conservation easement, to be used for trapping the eight horses in order to protect the historic sites of Cottonwood Pueblo and the Village of San Jose de las Huertas. The conservation easement insures that the land will never be developed in perpetuity. Blumenthal says that she was saddened by the roundup, but “my interest is in protecting the land and riparian area.”

Mora said that the NMLB offered the eight horses to local horse rescues, as directed by Chapter 77, but they were refused. He could not say why the rescues refused to take the horses, though it is well-known that horse rescues are currently overcrowded. Three of the mares were reported to be pregnant. Mora said he could not disclose where the horses were taken, but that they were being tended to in a safe location.

Mora said that the horses would be advertised for five days, beginning on January 23, after which, the NMLB would start accepting sealed bids for purchase. Buyers are required to go through the NMLB process and be issued proof of ownership. NMLB will carefully evaluate buyers to ensure that they have an adequate location to care for the horse properly. Documentation will include a detailed description of each horse and microchiping, so that the horses cannot be turned loose without legal consequences once they are adopted. Adopting a horse represents a significant long-term commitment. Mora said that after the horses are sold, the NMLB will monitor them for some time to ensure they are adequately fed and cared for.

The horses are advertised on the NMLB website, Photos include one grey stallion, three mares, and four young fillies. All are unbranded. Horse advocates are trying to find suitable homes and buyers.

Coincidentally, the site also advertises “seven head of equine taken up by Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue on the same date. Horses were picked up on Highway 313 in Algodones.” Photos include one bay stallion, one paint mare, one grey mare, two bay fillies, one bay colt, and one paint colt. Miles initially retained possession of these horses.

Appeals court dismisses WHOA vs. BLM lawsuit


On December 20, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, of a lawsuit brought by Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) against the Bureau of Land Management and Al Baca. The dismissal of the claim against the BLM was upheld on the basis that WHOA and the other plaintiffs did not file their lawsuit until after the six-year statute of limitations period had expired. The appeals court upheld the dismissal of the claim against Al Baca for the reason that private individuals and organizations have no right to sue someone for alleged violations of the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

WHOA had alleged that the BLM failed to protect and inventory wild horses in the Placitas area as required by the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act. It alleged that Al Baca, who owns property adjacent to the BLM, planned to round up these horses in violation of the Act. The appeals court ruled that because WHOA's claim was that the BLM had improperly failed to include Placitas wild horses in its 1971 inventory, the six-year statute of limitations began to run in 2002 when a BLM official stated at a New Mexico Livestock Board meeting, attended by WHOA representatives, that the horses belonged to San Felipe Pueblo and did not fall under BLM jurisdiction. The court therefore ruled that since WHOA did not file its suit until 2011, its suit was barred by the statute of limitations.

The court’s decision can be viewed with this article here.

Mountain Musing

What to watch for at the Legislature


The greatest irony of New Mexico public policy is that on the one hand the state has one of the most liberal social agendas in the nation, while its political institutions are among the nation’s most hidebound, and its economic policies among the most conservative.

Gay marriage, medical marijuana, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, and now doctor- assisted suicide are path-breaking reforms in this state.

On the other hand, the state has refused to create an ethics commission or a nonpartisan redistricting commission, rejects public financing of most political campaigns, refuses to spend the billions of the state’s so-called “rainy day savings” during this unprecedentedly rainy day, and has done almost nothing to regulate campaign spending or political fund raising.

With its workers mired in one of the longest and deepest recessions of any state, New Mexico has not raised the minimum wage and actually reduced the length of unemployment insurance payments.

With a poor educational system, blamed, in part, on a declining work force and more people leaving the state than moving in, New Mexico has reacted by closing schools, cutting back the number of teachers, eliminating programs, and increasing class sizes.

Beginning this week, the New Mexico legislature will get another chance to reform the political process, improve education, find better ways of protecting children, mitigating the recession, and remedy other long-standing woes, but few observers hold out any hope it will do any of these things.

Part, but only part, of the problem is divided government, with a Republican governor and Democratic legislature.

Another part is due to the unusual cross-party alliances that have de facto control of the Senate and make the House an unpredictable seesaw, vitiating any concerted effort by either party to create a coherent legislative agenda. Finally, a few powerful committee chairmen, committed to the status quo, are positioned to frustrate the will of the majority by bottling up legislation. Such was the case last year when Sen. John Arthur Smith refused to let his Senate Finance Committee vote on a constitutional amendment to spend a small percentage of the income of the permanent fund on early childhood education—despite the strong support for the measure in both the House and the Senate.

What can we look for this session? What should voters be paying attention to? I asked those questions of Albuquerque Democrat Dede Feldman, who left the Senate a year ago after 16 years and just wrote a colorful and authoritative book on the Legislature that I reviewed in this space two weeks ago.

“Watch the constitutional amendments,” she said. “That’s where the most interesting action is going to be.”

She mentioned several reasons. This is a thirty-day session, concentrating on the budget, about which there is little disagreement and in which there is no dramatic innovation. Except for taxation and spending, a thirty-day session can consider no bills unless put on the “call” by the governor.

Constitutional amendments, however, can be considered at any time, and, equally important, don’t need the signature of the governor. They do, however, need approval of the members of both houses—not just a majority of those voting—as well as the majority of the voters, which is the only opportunity that ordinary new Mexicans have to vote on state policies and programs.

Amendments generally encounter less scrutiny, fewer committee referrals, and less roadblocks from the leaders than do ordinary bills. And they are handy tools for legislatures to score points with constituents.

High-profile, controversial amendments can serve as wedge issues, ensuring a relatively high turnout of one-issue voters at the next election.

Thus, many of the issues that will most directly impact New Mexicans will be the subject of proposed constitutional amendments. Gay marriage, recreational marijuana, early childhood education, and an ethics commission are only four of the many issues that have already been filed as constitutional amendments. Many more are sure to come.

The popularity of such amendments is one reason why the State constitution, with hundreds of pages and still growing year by year, is one of the longest in the country.

Another reason is that New Mexico, unlike almost all other Western states, does not allow for citizens initiatives to put proposals on the ballot. Only the Legislature can put them on the ballot. Real reform means asking legislators to change the system that is responsible for them being in the Legislature in the first place, thus jeopardizing their own re-election. Here are some of the especially interesting constitutional amendments to watch out for in the thirty-day session that will open at noon tomorrow:

  • The biggest fight is going to be over a constitutional amendment allocating a small part of the income of the state permanent fund to early childhood education.
  • Unhappy with the way Governor Suzana Martinez has used her new authority to run the state Education department, some legislators want to repeal the constitutional amendment that recently took that power away from the Public Education Committee and gave it to the Education Department.
  • Conservatives opposed to the state Supreme Court ruling validating gay marriage want a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
  • Building on the success of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino would allow New Mexicans to, also, get legally stoned.
  • New Mexico is one of the few states without an ethics commission to enforce rules on such things as conflict of interest and campaign finance. A recurring constitutional amendment proposal would create such a commission.
  • Last year, the governor vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage. This year, a constitutional amendment would try to accomplish a similar objective by raising the salary base to ten dollars, from the present $7.50.
  • Other constructional amendments may try to reform the way the Legislature does business by paying its members, changing the lengths of sessions, and imposing term limits.

By comparison, with such emotionally charged constitutional changes, ordinary legislative bills seem pretty humdrum.

There will be a fight over whether, as the Legislative Committee proposed, to give all state workers a 1.5 percent raise, or, as the governor prefers, to give some state workers a slightly larger raise and others nothing at all.

There will also be a renewal of the annual effort by the governor to stop the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented residents. Eight states have copied the permissive New Mexico law since the last time the governor tried for repeal a year ago.

The governor also wants to shift a small percentage of state education funds from automatic formulas to specific programs that she favors, such as recycling third graders who can’t read.

But the biggest news of this session may not be what the Legislature passes, but what it investigates. The governor’s three largest departments—Education, Health and Human Services and Children, Youth and Families—are all in serious trouble with legislators.

Contentious hearings are scheduled for all three departments. The way those hearings go could help determine the future of not only of those departments but of the governor’s re-election effort in November.

Reprinted from The Independent serving the East Mountains of Albuquerque and Estancia Valley in New Mexico.

(l-r) Matthew Barbour, Manager of Jemez Historic Site; Scott Smith, Manager of Coronado Historic Site; Richard Sims, Director of Historic Sites for New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, and Carrie Moritomo, Communications Director for New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

Visitor campaign kicks off for New Mexico’s historic sites


On January 16, the Department of Cultural Affairs announced a new campaign to attract more visitors to historic sites and to enhance the visitor experience.

“By visiting a New Mexico Historic Site, our guests can experience New Mexico’s history where it actually happened,” said Veronica N. Gonzales, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Department
 of Cultural Affairs. “Our goal is to draw more visitors to these wonderful sites and continue to strengthen relationships with the communities in which they reside. At Coronado Historic Site, the visitor can descend into the Painted Kiva, learn about the early native residents of Kuaua Pueblo and their first contact with Spanish settlers.

To make it easier for visitors to find and experience these sites, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is launching its re-branding campaign and will begin installing new signage, directing visitors to New Mexico’s Historic Sites.

The Department is also enhancing educational programming at each State Historic Site, adding to and refreshing exhibits.

New Mexico Historic Sites are culturally significant sites located throughout the state. Founded in 1931 as a part of the Museum of New Mexico and originally called State Monuments, New Mexico Historic Sites preserve and interpret the state’s diverse history and pre-history.

There are currently eight state Historic Sites: Coronado in Bernalillo, Jemez near Jemez Springs, EI Camino International Heritage Center south of Socorro, Lincoln and Fort Stanton in Lincoln County, the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner, Fort Selden in Radium Springs, and the Taylor Barela Reynolds Mesilla House in Old Mesilla Plaza.

The Department of Cultural Affairs is New Mexico’s cultural steward and is charged with preserving and showcasing the state’s cultural riches. With its eight museums, eight historic sites, arts, archaeology, historic preservation, and library programs, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is one of the largest state cultural agencies in the nation. Together, the facilities, programs, and services of the Department support a $3.3 billion dollar cultural industry in New Mexico.

Popcorn and movies in Placitas


Since 1897 when Thomas Edison made “Indian School Days,” the first movie ever filmed in New Mexico, our state has had a most interesting relationship with film production. Our magnificent landscapes draw Western epics, our cultural diversity brings dramas and eager actors. “The Lone Ranger” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” were filmed in Abiquiu. “Wild Hogs,” and “Longmire” were filmed in Madrid, and “We’re the Millers” was filmed in Watrous. From January 2003 to January 2013, over 185 major film and television productions were made in New Mexico.

Even Placitas has had its place in the sun. In 1971, “The Medicine Ball Caravan” made its first stop in its cross-country journey, and B.B King faced the motion picture camera along Las Huertas Creek. Also in 1971, “seeking a change in their daily life of drinking and chasing women,” three young men mounted “Cycles South” to “regain their sense of freedom and adventure.” The 1978 Kris Kristofferson-Ali MacGraw film “Convoy” sped through Placitas, sending cars and semi trucks flying off the Highway 165 S-curves. In 2004, the then Mini Mart played host to “Dreamland,” starring John Corbett and Gina Gerson. In the last couple of years, the Hacienda de Placitas doubled for the mansion/stronghold of a Mexican drug lord and witnessed a bloody shootout. Television’s “The Lying Game” and “Scoundrels” came to town to create deceit and backstabbing entertainment for national audiences.

On February 15, film historian Jeff Berg will share clips from these productions and others and offer his humorous take on them, as he escorts us on a journey through “Movies Made in New Mexico/Placitas from the 1900s to the present.” The popcorn will be popping at 2:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library.

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