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Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Mountain wildflowers of the Southern Rockies and Central New Mexico
Rocky Mountain Beeplant

ROCKY MOUNTAIN BEEPLANT
(CLEOME SERRULATA PURSH)
Caper Family (Capparaceae)

Tall bushy plants bearing round three-inch clusters of delicate lavender flowers grow along roadsides and in other disturbed places. Long green-tipped stamens that protrude from each tiny four-petaled flower give the clusters a feather-ball appearance. Slender long-stalked seedpods dangle from the flowers. With three bluish-green leaflets, beeplant leaves emit an unpleasant odor when crushed. Blooming throughout the summer, Rocky Mountain beeplant is limited to the piñon-juniper and ponderosa pine vegetation zones.

PERFECTLY NAMED

Beeplants are chiefly pollinated by bees attracted by the copious nectar. In fact, beekeepers often cultivate beeplants to maintain their honeybee hives. Capparaceae comes from the Latin word for “billy goat,” alluding to the unpleasant goat-like odor of many family members. Serrulata refers to the finely serrate or saw-like leaf margins.

CAPER FAMILY

Principally composed of tropical trees, the caper family is represented in our area by only a few herbaceous species. It resembles the mustards, a closely-related family with four petals and six unequal stamens; however, caper family leaves are compound with three to seven leaflets, and the flowers bear four or many long stamens. Capers, enjoyed in a salad or as fish seasoning, are the pickled flower buds of a shrub in the Mediterranean region. The ornamental spider flower, a close relative of beeplant, has a leggy, spidery look to its long stamens and stalked petals.

A PLANT OF MANY USES

Beeplant seed and pollen found in coprolites (desiccated human feces) at archaeological sites indicate that beeplants provided a major source of food for prehistoric Native Americans. Calling it “Indian spinach,” Pueblo Indians in New Mexico still boil up the young, iron-laden plants, removing the bitter flavor and bad smell in the process.

The most distinctive use—both prehistoric and modern—of Rocky Mountain beeplant is the manufacture of black pigment for painting pottery. A concentrate of boiled leaves is dried and formed into little cakes that are reconstituted to yield a black pigment that the designer paints upon an unfired pot. Today if you buy “traditional” ware with black designs from a Puebloan potter, you are getting a pot that has been handcrafted and patterned with beeplant paint.

Excerpted from Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies, by Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire. Published by University of New Mexico Press.

Telephone book recycling bins ready

Dex, Waste Management, and Rio Rancho’s ‘Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful’ (KRRB) division will be collecting outdated telephone books beginning December 28, 2007 through February 18, 2008.

Residents are encouraged to bring old and unwanted telephone books to the red bins which will be located at Rio Rancho City Hall (3200 Civic Center Circle NE), Loma Colorado Main Library (755 Loma Colorado Drive), and the Meadowlark Senior Center (4300 Meadowlark Lane).

Also, Waste Management will place large green collection bins at the Albertson’s grocery store near the Enchanted Hills subdivision (NM 528 and Enchanted Hills Blvd.) and the Esther Bone Memorial Library (950 Pinetree Road).

KRRB is a division of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. For more information, call 896-8729 or visit the city’s website at www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us and look for KRRB’s ‘Kerby Coyote’ mascot link.

Christmas trees turned to mulch

After the holiday season, residents of Rio Rancho and surrounding communities will be able to have cut Christmas trees recycled, courtesy of PNM and Rio Rancho’s ‘Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful’ (KRRB) division, starting December 26, 2007 through January 14, 2008.

Cut trees that have had all decorations, tree spikes, and stands removed can be brought to the Rio Rancho Sports Complex located at 3501 High Resort Boulevard. PNM will mulch trees and will provide free mulch to residents on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.

PNM urges residents to return Christmas trees back to the environment by recycling. Mulch generated from Christmas trees can be used to provide a better growing environment for plants, city parks, and home landscapes. Mulch helps retain moisture in soil, acts as an insulating blanket to protect soil against temperature extremes, and reduces weed growth. Recycling Christmas trees allows the tree to complete its natural life-cycle by nurturing soil so other living things can grow.

For the past fifteen years, PNM vegetation crews have donated their time for this annual event. This is one of the many ways the company demonstrates its support for the environment and works to improve the quality of life in New Mexico’s communities.

KRRB is a division of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. For more information, call (505) 896-8729 or visit the city’s website at www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us and look for KRRB’s ‘Kerby Coyote’ mascot icon and link.

Falling timber

First, the housing collapse hit the suburbs of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver. Now, it’s spreading to the forests of the West. In recent weeks, hundreds of workers have been laid off at timber mills in the Pacific Northwest, and some mills are closing down altogether thanks to the nationwide residential construction slump, which has resulted in timber prices crashing as much as 30 percent since 2005.

Since 2002, the number of timber mills and mill employees has dropped steadily in the West. And it appears that even tougher times are ahead. A combination of increased mechanization and optimism over the booming housing market of a few years ago put the industry on the fast track to increased mill capacity even as demand and timber prices have continued to fall. This mismatch means that the 44 Western mills that shut their doors in the past five years are likely just the beginning.

This article originally appeared on December 10, 2007, in High Country News (www.hcn.org), which covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues.

Data: Carbon costs

• $89,000—Amount of taxpayer dollars spent to “offset” the 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually by the U.S. Capitol’s coal-burning power plant.

• 116 million—Tons of carbon dioxide emitted by Western wildfires each year.

• 2.8 billion—Tons of carbon emitted by U.S. power plants each year.

• 100 million—Tons of carbon dioxide released by trees killed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

• $504 million—Amount budgeted by the feds to replant trees lost in hurricanes Katrina and Rita; $70 million has been promised or dispensed so far.

• 551 million—Tons of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and stored in plants or soil in North America.

• 172 million—Tons of carbon dioxide emitted each year by Southern Company’s power plants, making it the worst polluter in the U.S.

• $217,057—Amount employees of Southern Company have contributed to George W. Bush’s campaigns.

Sources: National Center for Atmospheric Research, Science, Center for Global Development, Center for Responsive Politics, U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Washington Post.

This article originally appeared on December 10, 2007, in High Country News (www.hcn.org), which covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues

Two weeks in the West

—JONATHAN THOMPSON, High Country News

A few days before Thanksgiving, about five dozen employees of Vail Resorts were hard at work. The Colorado ski resort had staffed up for a mid-November opening, but these workers weren’t running ski lifts or grooming the slopes. Instead, they were picking up trash; the snow had not arrived, the opening was delayed and they needed to keep busy during the sunny, fifty-degree days.

As winter solstice approaches, scenes like this are playing out all over the West. The predominant color is not white but brown, accented here and there by deep orange flames leaping across the landscape. People were as likely to golf at mountain resorts over Thanksgiving as they were to ski or snowboard, and ranchers, water managers, and ski area operators are watching anxiously as their livelihoods evaporate into the severe drought that covers most of the region.

New Mexico dodged wildfires all summer—less than eighty thousand acres burned in the state this year, compared to, say, Idaho, where two million acres went up in flames. But in late November, the party ended: the Ojo Peak fire scorched seventy-five-hundred acres in what should, at this time of the year, be the snow-covered Manzano Mountains. On the West Coast, news media reprised the stories of a few weeks before as fires fueled by Santa Ana winds charred yet more homes—fifty-plus Malibu mansions this time. The fact that fire season and the holiday season are now synonymous no longer seems surprising, so news outlets played up the fact that Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, lost his home.

Scientists announced that fires in California released 7.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during one week in October, and that fires in California release 7,579 pounds of mercury each year, about three times what one cement plant in Tehachapi, California emits.

Los Angeles is experiencing its driest year on record. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at three percent of average, and the snow cover in the Colorado River Basin above Lake Powell is seventy percent below average. Powell’s surface level is 101 feet below full and Lake Mead is half empty. To cope with the drought, LA’s water utility has hired six guys to drive around in hybrid vehicles, asking people to turn off their sprinklers during the middle of the day.

Bears, forced by drought and a late freeze to look for food in towns, have sacrificed, too. Colorado wildlife officers killed fifty-nine bruins—a record—over run-ins of one sort or another with people. In mid-November, wildlife agency officials speculated that even more bears might die: thanks to the balmy days, the animals are still rummaging through trashcans rather than hibernating. Arizona ranchers, squeezed between sparse water supplies and rising corn prices (thanks to the ethanol boom) are thinning their herds so they don’t have as many cattle to feed and water next summer.

Aspen Skiing Co. opened a soup kitchen to feed its idle, paycheck-less employees, but emphasized it wasn’t meant to provide meals to real estate agents moonlighting as ski instructors. Plans to build a rock ’n’ roll-themed amusement park in Eloy, Arizona, near Phoenix, dried up because of worries that it’s too hot there for such a park.

Archaeologists in Montana found historic artifacts, including eighteen unfired cartridges and an ax, in an area denuded by a wildfire this summer. “In 1870, you don’t lose eighteen unfired cartridges,” an archaeologist told the Associated Press. “We speculate that maybe a grizzly bear ran the guy off, killed him, and ate him.”

A storm finally hit much of the West in the days before Thanksgiving. Snowflakes doused the fire in New Mexico, and some ski areas were able to meet their delayed opening dates. But don’t get used to it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Outlook predicts that the Northern Rockies may get some relief this winter, but drought will persist in the rest of the West.

This article originally appeared on December 10, 2007, in High Country News (www.hcn.org), which covers the West’s communities and natural-resource issues.

Book Review—Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico

—REVIEWED BY MARK SCHILLER AND KAY MATTHEWS

The University of Oklahoma Press recently published a new edition of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico. This book, first published in 1980 and long out of print, is a seminal work that provides a penetrating analysis of how a succession of conflicting land tenure patterns and practices dispossessed and disenfranchised the indigenous people of New Mexico. It is both a socioeconomic and legal study that attempts to strip away the often romantic and condescending historical portrayals of the Mexican villagers and Pueblo Indians by demonstrating that “the history of land tenure in northern New Mexico provides a case study of the processes of colonialism and the development of capitalism.”

Dunbar-Ortiz begins with a discussion of pre-colonial pueblo land tenure, which she suggests was predicated on intensive irrigation farming. This practice provided a non-codified, customary system of governance that engendered a democratic distribution of a scarce resource. The pueblos were devastated by Spanish colonization that imposed a feudal system, or encomienda (a royal grant to a Spanish elite of Indian labor collectible in material tribute or personal service), a form of serfdom upon the Pueblo people. “By 1643, only forty-three pueblos remained inhabited, less than half as many as at the time of colonization,” Dunbar-Ortiz notes.

After the Pueblo revolt in 1680, which was largely caused by resentment against the enslavement of the encomiendas, the Spanish governors realized they had to find a more workable system in which the pueblos, genizaros (Christianized and Hispanicized Pueblo and Plains Indians) and mestizos (people of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry) were granted a measure of autonomy in the form of community land grants. The grants provided settlers with citizenship status and arable land in settlements along the frontiers of the interior villas of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Santa Cruz de la Cañada, in exchange for providing protection from the incursions of nomadic tribes such as the Comanches and the Utes.

This largely democratic land tenure practice was undermined by what Dunbar-Ortiz terms “the conquest of merchants” flowing into New Mexico along the Santa Fe Trail from 1821 to 1848: “More than merely a port of entry, Santa Fe was an important trade center; the effect of the trade on the New Mexico economy was radical. Not only did the province turn away economically from Chihuahua and central Mexico, but new values, most importantly exchange values, were replacing use values. …The Santa Fe trade made the province of New Mexico richer but it was the elite who benefitted, while the villagers and Pueblos, who lived by subsistence agriculture and barter, were increasingly impoverished by the introduction of exchange values and money.” The introduction of money paved the way for a mercantile system of credit and debt that in essence consigned the villagers to a life of servitude.

Following closely on this economic transition, the U. S. government, under the pretext of the expansionist policy of Manifest Destiny, instigated a colonialist invasion of the northern half of Mexico. As a territory of the United States, New Mexico experienced what Dunbar-Ortiz describes as “a conquest of agriculture and subsistence producers, with accompanying appropriation of their lands, resources, and labor.” Resources such as water, grazing lands, timber, and minerals that had been shared in common were commodified and monopolized by the Anglo capitalists who flooded into the territory. Rather than protecting the property rights of the Mexican communities as outlined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, federal bureaucrats, assigned the task of determining the legitimacy of Spanish and Mexican land grants, actually colluded with the land speculators to misappropriate them. Then, according to Dunbar-Ortiz, “When land monopolists overreached themselves, the government stepped in not to protect the property interests of the Spanish and Mexican land grantees under the Treaty, but rather to protect its own interest in maintaining control over the public domain. An integral part of the development of capitalism is the role of the state in limiting the accessions of individual monopolists that could hinder the flow and circulation of capital necessary for its continued growth.”

In chapter six, “Land Tenure under Capitalism,” Dunbar-Ortiz continues the story of capitalist expropriation of land in the twentieth century. By the 1930s, none of the settlements of northern New Mexico was self-subsistent. “By World War II, the average acre of irrigable lands for the Anglo-American in the Middle Rio Grande Valley was fifty to two-hundred acres compared with an average of five to fifteen acres for the … Mexican farmer.” New Mexico was further pushed into the capitalist economy by the establishment of the nuclear industry, both through weapons production and uranium mining.

Dunbar-Ortiz added an additional chapter to the new edition, “Land, Indigenousness, Identity, and Self-Determination,” that attempts to explain the lingering animosity between the Pueblos and the Indo-Hispano community. While she notes that there are substantive reasons for this enmity, she believes that theirs is a united cause and that the focus must be on the “relationship of the former agricultural producers to capital, not just on the cultural relationship of Mexicans or Pueblo Indians to Anglo Americans.”

Roots of Resistance is available through the University of Oklahoma Press (www.oupress.com) and local bookstores.

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