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letters, opinions, editorials

re: PZP, grazing, and horses

The New Mexico Live Stock Board hampers control of the Wild Horse Herds, including those in Placitas.

The New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) has stated that it has “approved” porcine zona pelucida (PZP) immune contraceptive for horses and burros in accordance with “the approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” However, that approval carries additional wording (not in the EPA wording) that precludes the use of PZP in NM on New Mexico’s horses.

“Per the approval by the EPA, New Mexico will approve the use of PZP for use on wild horses and burros. Wild Horses and Burros are those animals covered by the Wild Horse and Burro Act. Distribution is limited to those authorized representatives of the agencies authorized to deal with wild horse and burros. No other groups, individuals, or entities are authorized to receive this product in New Mexico.”

This approval is interesting because the New Mexico Livestock Board fails to mention that they have no jurisdiction over these federal lands or federally wild horses they are “approving” for PZP use. Then NMLB approval working excludes free roaming horses and feral horses because “no one is authorized to deal with these horses.” Most horse sanctuaries, reserves, and even the livestock of ranchers are excluded, because they don’t fit the definition of being “covered” by the I971 Wild Horse and Burro Act. Perhaps the NMLB thinks we won’t notice the ambiguity in this so-called approval. But we did!

It clear that the NMLB is attempting to appease Placitans by giving “approval” for use of PZP so citizens get off their backs and stop calling the Governor’s office urging the approval of PZP to control numbers of horses and burros that roam NM. The New Mexico Livestock Board is disingenuous about playing a part in solving herd size issues.

Why? My guess is that they are hoping the issue gets so large that the only alternative is to reopen horse slaughter facilities in NM to serve the ranchers expressed interests. They also might want to further the Livestock Board’s goal of turning every square foot of grazable land over to cattle production for profit off of the use of cheap public land.

There can be no other motive not to embrace PZP. Attentive animal advocacy groups just want to assure horse and burros do not overrun the land. Predator controls enacted to protect cattle producers have created an unbalanced ecosystem. We also do not want to allow the horses and burros to die unnecessarily in slaughter houses, or from starvation.

What can we do? Very clearly and respectfully contact the Governor’s office on a weekly basis until this is resolved at:

Tell the Governor to stop the NMLB’s deceitful “approval” of PZP and authorize WHOA (Wild Horse Observers Association) to manage the Placitas herds with PZP to keep both the horses and citizens safe.

There is still the issue of how the horses graze. Unlike cattle and other ungulates the horses do not pull the grass up by the roots. When we get rain ,the grass roots are intact and will regrow.

I’ve watched patches on the BLM hiking trails, and it takes about two weeks for the green blades that initially form around the edges to fill in the complete six-inch circle of grass. There have been a couple of recent studies that point out that dried grass eaten to the soil line actually prohibits the quick spread of fires because there is less combustibles to feed fire. 

Again, what can we do? When I’ve contacted the Forest Service experts and Open Space representatives, they suggest that we cordon off a few areas in the Open Space and BLM to keep horses, hikers, ATVs and everyone else off the area. We study the results, then determine how much of the loss of plant life is due to the severe drought we are experiencing (and dare I say Global Warming) vs. land use and then make some unemotional decisions about how to proceed in protecting the open spaces lands that surround us.   

—Sandy Johnson, Placitas

 Fence line

Fence line at the Placitas Open Space shows contrast of where
the free-roaming horses graze and where they don’t.

re: Placitas—overgrazed by wild horses

When the horses first came to our neighborhood in Ranchos 14 months ago, it was like the rains finally coming on the Fourth of July. We walked among them, putting our hands out to touch them. We sat on the porch and watched. We took lots of pictures. The horses touch us in what seems to be a primal way. Our first group came through the fence 14 months ago—a group of 11, mostly white. It seemed then that they were all mares, but there are definitely some active stallions out there. Our group of 11 is now 15 with at least one pregnant now. I’m learning to tell the signs. About a month ago, a second group arrived. The dark group and they cover the same terrain as the white group. There are nine horses in the dark group. Just as beautiful, just as noble, but there was no parade for the second group.

It wasn’t long after the first group arrived that the bare spots appeared—as time passed, more and more were noticed. It was apparent that the landscape was changing and not in a good way. The grass was being eaten to a nub and the distance between plants became greater. The bottoms of arroyos and the flats are now becoming almost bare. The hillsides, while not quite as devastated, are not that far behind. The lack of moisture may have something to do with this, but the horses most definitely have something to do with it. I have pictures, especially along fence lines, which show one side in residential areas with little or no grazing and good grass and the other side devastated to a point that could take years for the grasses to come back. Hopefully tumbleweeds won’t grow there first.

Placitas is being overgrazed by wild horses. The fact is that even though most of our horses are born in the wild, they are not recognized as Wild Horses by the federal government. That’s another story that can be checked out by doing a “search.” What matters is that free roaming horses are a several hundred million dollar problem in our country. We can see the problem right here in Placitas. It crept up on us, and we seem to choose not to see it. Like gaining a few pounds and refusing to notice that you can’t see your feet in the shower anymore. We know that we have to address this issue. We can’t ignore it any more. Horses increase in population 25 percent per year. In four years from now we could have over two hundred horses right here in Placitas and four hindred horses in the area that includes San Felipe, the Ball Ranch and the Diamond Tail Ranch. If we don’t deal with it, our landscape will be destroyed.

I still have as many questions as I have answers. I’m not offering a solution here. I’ve seen the answers that some local organizations have put forward but there is nothing that solves our immediate problem. It’s going to take a lot more people talking to arrive at an acceptable solution. Lawsuits have allowed the horse populations to increase. The lack of administered contraceptives has allowed it. Our own blind eyes have allowed it. It’s our fault that it has gone this far. We moved here for the land, and this land can’t sustain this many horses even if we include residential neighborhoods in the equation. My neighborhood can now boast 24 horses, and I’m quite sure that there aren’t that many coyotes. How can we hope for wildlife corridors and wildlife habitats, when the horse population is decimating the land? Take a look around at the BLM lands, the San Felipe lands, and our Placitas Open Space. Think about it, talk about it, and be part of a workable and reasonable solution. We can’t just sit on the porch for four more years.

—Mike Neas, Ranchos de Placitas

re: give WHOA the PZP

Patience O’Dowd, president of WHOA, has been certified to dart the horses in Placitas with the contraceptive PZP for two years. The Livestock Board and other state agencies have done nothing but give her the runaround during that time in her continuing attempts to get the permit. For two years! If they really wanted the number of horses controlled, one would think they would have gone out of their way to get a certified person permitted to help keep the population in check. Here are some examples of my own contact with the livestock board just over the last couple weeks:

“Mr. Culbertson,

As a contributor to WHOA, I am disgusted by the two-year run-around Patience O’Dowd has received since her certification to dart horses with PZP from the Livestock Board, the Sherriff’s Office, Animal Control and any other obstructionist state agency. As a person of substantial wealth, I will see to it that she has the resources to sue anyone and everyone involved and appeal, appeal, appeal. So if you want to spend a lot of the state’s money and time in court, just keep it up.”

His response:

“Dear Mr. Quail,

Thank you for your email message. We try our best answer all correspondence we receive and hope to provide sufficient response to yours. Hopefully this reply will help satisfy whatever it is you seek. To begin, your subject line indicates a request by WHOA for registration of the product known as PZP. Not being the manufacturer, WHOA has no standing as an applicant for permitting PZP. The Livestock Board, however, has been working with the actual manufacturer to issue the permit.

The Livestock Board has no knowledge of the “two-year-run-around” to which you refer.

The Livestock Board does not issue or monitor certification to dart horses.

The Livestock Board has no interest regarding your substantial wealth or any intentions for its use.

I hope this helps. If we can be of further assistance, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.”

Does this sound like an agency that wants to do anything to control this population?

—Kevin Quail

re: dear parents and guardians

We solemnly recognize the fear and concern that results from a tragedy like the one experienced in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.

Safety and security are of key concern to the District. I would like to take this opportunity to ensure each of you that the staff and administration at Bernalillo Public Schools is diligent in providing safe and secure school facilities for your children.

Our practice has been to conduct regular fire drills, review lock-down procedures, and prepare for worst-case scenarios. We cannot do this alone, and I ask the school community to be cooperative when visiting school facilities.

When visiting one of our facilities, please be sure to check in at the building’s administrative office. You will get a visitor name tag, so as to be easily recognized, or be escorted to your destination. I have directed principals to stop and question any person who is unescorted on campus or without a name tag.

You are entrusting the District with your child and rest assured our priority is ensuring a safe and secure learning facility for your child.

—Allan Tapia, Superintendent, Bernalillo Public Schools

re: remembering Dave Richards

The Placitas community lost one of our finest when Dave Richards (65) died on November 12. He was one of the first people I met when I moved in with Chris in Placitas in the late winter of 1993. Dave was an artist with his interior and exterior stucco work. Chris hired him to color-coat her garden walls. He worked alone that warm March day. Playing at a moderate volume, his ghetto blaster kept him company. At Chris’s dining room table, I read the newspaper, watched him work, and listened to the music. I always think of Dave Richards when I slide into J.J. Cale’s “Guitar Man.”

This afternoon (12/8) at 2:30, I walked through the door of a steel building in the industrial district of Bernalillo, New Mexico, for Dave’s funeral. The large party room inside the steel building was cozier than you might imagine. There were two musicians on a riser in the southeast corner, quiet blues with folk harmonies. There were twelve round tables, six chairs at each. Few were sitting. Most of us stood at the back of the room by the food and beer. The people who built the handmade adobe houses and geodesic domes and yurts in Placitas in the 60s and 70s are still here, and all are still friends.

I have often witnessed, and taken part in, the bonding of the large group. There will be 36 people at dinner this Christmas. Multiply that by two or three and you’ll have an idea of the breadth of this Placitas tribe. When I arrived early this afternoon, there were already sixty people in the spacious room. Over twenty years, I have partied and dined with forty of those people. Now in their sixties and seventies, the hippies still look and live like hippies, close to the soil, so to speak. The men are still hearty. The women still have the light in their eyes. There were a few bikers, a number of Vietnam vets, plus various offspring who are now in their twenties and thirties, and one pit bull pup on a leash... and a display of photos of Dave with fellow soldiers, family and friends.

At today’s memorial gathering, there was no sense of death hanging in the air. This group honored Dave with the intimate way we have of interacting with each other, both subtly and overtly. Apply the law of one degree of separation, shared by all this afternoon. We all connected, thanks to our high regard for Dave Richards.

—Greg Leichner, Placitas

re: the little drummer bird

Dear Friends Back East,

This is my annual thank you note for your very thoughtful Christmas gifts. First of all, the gift of your combined voices singing carols to me over a cell phone on Christmas Eve was wonderful. Although the sound quality was a bit compromised (I could not be certain whether that last piece was “Frosty the Snowman” or “What Child Is This?”), it was nevertheless quite the harmonious experience. And I was not aware that Big Apple residents consider “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Coney Island Baby” to be Christmas carols. But it was a good effort, and thank you again for a grating, but harshly mechanical vocal performance.

And thanks also for two new books; The Sexual Politics of Marmalade promises to be a great read as does Old Caribbean Proverbs (my favorite so far is “Rum Done, Fun Done”).

And I thoroughly appreciate your kind gift of a room-sized dehumidifier! It’s a handsome, unobtrusive appliance, and I’m sure Patrick Cat and I can achieve new records in high desert dehumidification.

As you now know, I also chose books for your major gifts, and hope you will share them amongst yourselves. Interesting Facts Concerning Your Deathbed is meant to help prepare you for your coming retirement and provide helpful pointers. Same with Aging—Its Cause and Prevention. On the other hand, Learning to Love Your Urethra is more in the self-help category. Enjoy!

I must admit, however, that our Christmas holiday would have been more relaxed had not a fiendish, Mephistophelean woodpecker—a flicker—undertaken a plan to destroy our house with his ball-peen hammer beak and ungodly persistent Hitchcockian malevolence.

Normally, these birds are not practicing this aggressive drumming and drilling so late in the year, but their inability to read calendars is legendary. And some haven’t yet attracted a mate nor met their required quota for reducing house values, so a few are still at it. In our case, before we became fully aware of his demolition skills, the bird had dug multiple cavities into the stucco and the underlying concrete layer as well.

And, if we listened carefully, we could hear the faint, but eager, squeaky support vocalized by hundreds of local mice deployed around the yard and who need access to a warm environment.

Patrick Cat and I were on high alert throughout Christmas day, each of us rushing out the patio door to thwart brother flicker’s excavation plans by our aggressive posturing, yelling and hissing until he would abandon his perch. Then we would wait a short time for his predictable return. This went on for hours, with Patrick deeply frustrated over his inability to fly or at least levitate.

Finally, after a three-hour break in the action, Patrick and I came to realize that the fiendish flicker was gone for good. We performed a mental high five. Victory was ours. Our lunacy had won over his fanaticism.

In retrospect, I believe the sight of a room size dehumidifier approaching his feathery frame at the same speed as a hungry eagle, with the spiral and force of a Peyton Manning pass, followed by a blast like that of a fragmentation grenade, provided ample discouragement.

Happy New Year, good buddies,

—Your Friend, Herb

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