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The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
I want to thank the owners of the Rockin’ R Gallery for making our drive home each evening warm, artistic, and friendly. We love seeing "the red heart of Placitas."
—Tom and Joanne Ashe
Wild horses roam in Placitas.
Wild horses gaining ground
Wild Horse Observers Association)
Placitans and Americans spoke out this month again to protect our national icon the American wild horse from slaughter for foreign plates. Our own representatives, Tom Udall and Heather Wilson, heard the American people and voted yes to the Rahall-Whitfield Amendment, which stated our tax dollars could not be used to send our nation's few remaining wild horses to slaughter.
Though many an article and news report has mentioned that these horses are competing with cattle for grazing, that they number thirty thousand, and that there are still nine thousand too many for the drought-stricken federal lands, they have all failed to mention the following seemingly pertinent facts.
1. There are four million cattle on these very same lands right now.
2. There were sixty-four thousand horses on these lands in 1974 when they were first protected, and we now have fewer than half the wild horses we asked to be protected.
3. Birth control works on wild horses, is cheaper, according to USGS studies, and is more humane than roundups and holding pens, or long trips to foreign-owned horse-slaughter plants in and outside the United States.
The conclusion: The wild-horse overpopulation propaganda we have heard repeatedly is pure myth.
Actually, there were over 2 million wild horses roaming the United States a hundred years ago, but they are almost gone. They are not on the rise, especially in New Mexico. Here the situation is such an embarrassment for the Land of Enchantment (with less than four hundred wild horses) that the New Mexico press will rarely report it. This though New Mexico hosts the rarest of the rare Spanish Conquistador wild horses which are even extinct in Spain. Also, an important little-known fact is that horses are native to America and are in harmony with the ecosystem.
WHOA would like to invite our media and our representatives to report on these issues, thereby saving our noble horses and at the same time actually helping the American ranchers. Be honest with Americans and American ranchers. Report the following facts: The only real competition American ranchers have is the importation of well over 63 percent of the beef Americans consume. This represents over nineteen million head of cattle from faraway places that have different government controls than does American beef. To name a few: South American rain forests, drought-stricken Africa, and mad-cow-contaminated Canada.
Let's be smart and utilize our remaining wild horses for local and international ecotourism with a proven multi-million-dollar market rather than host foreign-owned horse-slaughter plants that reportedly create a few jobs for a few illegal aliens and a few ex-cons, while profiting other countries afraid of their own sources of beef. Given the choice, it is WHOA's contention that any community would choose a clean and profitable tourism industry over a horse-slaughter plant.
Certainly we can euthanize any truly excess horses and then send them to the dog-food market. Horse slaughter is unnecessary. Dead is dead, and a market is a market. This way, their journey would end at home or a relatively short drive away to the vet’s. There can never be enough horse-slaughter plants for a short or humane journey to the horse-slaughter plant, as there are not enough horses in any one area to support one.
Let's be true to our American values; horses are our noble veterans, sport and companion animals, and not our food. In any event, due to all the “companion-animal medicines” most horses receive, such as wormers, they are not fit for human consumption, according to the medicine labels.
Finally, how can thirty thousand remaining wild horses be competition for four million cattle? Rather than trying to superficially “help” ranchers by wiping out our nation’s few wild horses, wouldn't it make more sense to stop the importation of the nineteen million imported head of cattle each year? Let's pick on these imports for a change. Americans love their wild horses and their uncontaminated beef. There is definitely room for both.
1. Call the BLM Albuquerque office, Senators Domenici and Bingaman, and Representative Wilson and ask that the Placitas BLM fence be repaired all the way around to keep cattle and/or horses in the BLM and off the Placitas roads, and that the Placitas BLM become the wild horse preserve it should have in 1971 when the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed.
Also, please thank the BLM for working with WHOA to put up the two-thousand-foot fence near La Mesa subdivision for starters! Remind them all that the San Felipe Tribe does not claim these horses and that the livestock board has no proof that any Native American tribe claims them.
2. Politely call and write Governor Richardson's office and ask him to call for WHOA's ecotourism and horse-protection bills this next legislative session. Let WHOA know you have made this call, if possible.
3. Thank Senator Komadina for his balanced and unwavering support of our American wild horses in the state legislature.
4. Politely call Senators Domenici and Bingaman and Representative Wilson to let them know you would like the Placitas public lands to be made a national wild horse territory, as it should have been legally designated so in 1971. Let them know you want the horses here.
5. Call often and ask for written responses. Share the responses you receive with WHOA.
6. Become a member of WHOA or our e-mail and phone action team.
1. Thank Representatives Tom Udall and Heather Wilson for their recent vote on the Rahall-Whitfield amendment to disallow your tax dollars being used to send wild horses to slaughter.
2. Politely urge Senators Domenici and Bingaman to cosponsor S576 to reinstate the protection against slaughter that federal wild horses lost after thirty-four years due to the Burns amendment.
3. Politely urge Senators Domenici and Bingaman to schedule S576 for hearing in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to which it was referred March 9. They are chair and cochair of this committee.
Questions may be e-mailed to Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA), email@example.com.
Lobbyists from AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association; one of the main opponents to banning horse slaughter) are visiting all Congressional offices in a special campaign against HR 503, the bill pending in the US House of Representatives that would ban the slaughter of horses in the US.
Please ask every veterinarian you know to sign a statement in support of HR 503, affirming that horse slaughter is inhumane and unnecessary. A special support letter for veterinarians is available for download on the NHPC website at: www.horse-protection.org/pdf/vetsupport.pdf
Send the signed statements to: Christopher J. Heyde, National Horse Protection Coalition, Fax: 703-997-1134 and Gail Vacca, Illinois Coordinator, National Horse Protection Coalition,
Phone: 815-761-4937, Fax: 815-787-4957, www.horse-protection.org
W.H.O.A. (Wild Horse Oberservers Association)
Albuquerque woman returns from delegation to Iraq, reports on findings
Albuquerque psychotherapist Dr. Kathleen O'Malley has returned from a three-week national Christian Peacemaker Team tour of Iraq with eyewitness reports on the condition of civilians in that war-torn country.
"Even though I've been to Iraq before during hard times, I was unprepared for the extremity of the situation in which the Iraqi people are now living. Their suffering under the U.S. occupation and this U.S.-backed government is almost beyond description. They live in a state of chaos and constant fear, with woefully inadequate food, water, shelter, jobs, healthcare, and schooling for their children. Their lives are desperate and their suffering unrelieved," said O'Malley. She reports that human-rights violations by government and U.S. forces are rife and efforts to help the population reconstitute a viable life minimal to nonexistent.
"A country that was on the verge of being declared "first world" in its development before the first Gulf War has now been reduced to ruins by over fourteen years of overwhelming military attacks, peacetime sanctions, and occupation by foreign forces," O'Malley observed.
"It's no wonder that many there feel they were better off under the monstrous dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. At least they had civil order, enough to eat, jobs, health care, and schools then." O'Malley expresses her concern that ordinary people in Iraq are more and more inclined to feel that they have no choice but to join the insurgency, which could lead to a prolonged and bloody civil war.
"It's important for Americans to learn about what is going on in Iraq from sources other than our government so that they can make informed choices about what policies best represent the values they hold dear. If citizens here knew what was going on in the lives of people over there, I'm sure they'd reevaluate what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and all the American lives that are being sacrificed for ends that remain questionable," O'Malley says.
"I feel it to be my obligation to let the folks in this community know what I saw and heard in Iraq. I hope to serve as the eyes and ears of those who aren't able to go see and hear for themselves," she concludes.
O'Malley is speaking at a number of venues around town which are listed below. She is available for talks to interested groups.
To schedule a talk, contact her or Ann Truax, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Christian Peacemaker organization, visit www.cpt.org or e-mail email@example.com.
Upcoming talks and interviews by Dr. Kathleen O'Malley:
Sunday, May 29, 11:00 a.m.—Unitarian Universalist West Side Congregation, 1615 Abrazo NE, Rio Rancho. Contact: Martin Gilbert, 896-8192.
Sunday, June 5, 9:15 a.m.—Church of the Good Shepherd, 7834 Tennyson NE. Contact: Sue Gallagher, 856-1004.
Congress touts ‘green energy,’ but bill is black and blue
High Country News
Four years ago, in his National Energy Policy, Vice President Dick Cheney recommended building 1,300 to 1,900 new power plants, 38,000 miles of new gas pipelines, and 255,000 miles of transmission lines. Then last month, in a speech before the National Small Business Association, President Bush added a few more energy priorities to that list. He’d like to build new nuclear power plants and change existing laws to "reduce uncertainty" in the nuclear licensing process. Bush also proposed constructing the nation’s first new oil refineries since 1976—suggesting they be built on military bases slated for closure—as well as simplifying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rules for permitting refineries. In his budget request to Congress, he asked for $6.7 billion in tax breaks for the energy industry.
All of this, however, is small potatoes compared with what Congress is proposing.
In mid-April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its energy bill, which included $8 billion in subsidies for the energy industry. Although the Senate isn’t expected to vote on its version until the end of May, it has passed its 2006 budget, which includes $11 billion in energy subsidies.
The House has passed some version of the energy bill five times in the last four years, but the Senate has repeatedly rejected it. With some of the tax breaks already out of the way, however, the bill may have a shot at passing this year. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chair of the energy and natural resources committee, has praised the spending bill, and vowed to use the money to craft an energy package that would maximize both energy conservation and energy production.
Meanwhile, the president is urging Congress to set the energy bill on his desk by August. And Westerners are bracing for the immediate and sweeping impacts the legislation would have on their region.
When the House passed the energy bill by a vote of 249 to 183, it approved everything from extending Daylight Savings Time by two months every year to creating a pilot program for making ethanol from sugarcane. And although environmentalists are indignant over provisions in both the House energy bill and the Senate budget that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As passed, the House bill would exempt refinery owners such as BP, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips from liability for contaminating groundwater with MTBE, a cancer-causing gasoline additive that has polluted more than 3,000 underground water sources in California alone.
The House bill would also block the EPA from regulating hydraulic fracturing or "frac’ing"—the process by which energy companies inject chemicals such as diesel fuel, benzene and formaldehyde into coal seams to boost oil and gas production. Frac’ing, which was pioneered by Halliburton in the 1940s, is a growing practice across the West, particularly in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and northwestern Colorado. Under pressure from Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force—and over the objections of its own scientists —the EPA has backed off its earlier efforts to regulate the practice, despite evidence that frac’ing has contaminated underground drinking water sources.
The House bill also outlines how the U.S. departments of the Interior and Agriculture should handle applications for oil and gas leases, permits and surface-use plans. Under current regulations, federal managers can approve or reject applications. Under the changes, however, federal managers would have 30 days to either approve or defer an application. If they defer, they would be required to tell the company how to change its application to ensure it is approved the next time; the company would then have two years to revamp its proposal.
The bill would also require the federal government to compensate oil and gas companies for the cost of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, and reduce or suspend the royalties corporations pay into the U.S. Treasury when they drill on public land or in offshore waters. Combined, these provisions represent millions more in federal subsidies.
The bill would also boost the nuclear industry by subsidizing nuclear power at 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour and authorizing $30 million for the research and development of new uranium mining technologies. It would renew the Price Anderson Act for 20 years. That 1957 law caps the nuclear industry’s liability for accidents at $9 billion (current estimates for accident damages are about $600 billion).
"Nuclear power is the cancer industry," says Dr. Helen Caldicott, a pediatrician and founder of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. The radioactivity from nuclear power, she says, "will over time produce an epidemic of cancer, particularly among children who are vulnerable to it," she says.
President Bush told the National Small Business Association that nuclear energy emits "no air pollution or greenhouse gases." Caldicott says that claim is ludicrous. Enriching uranium to create nuclear fuel, she explains, requires a great deal of electricity and is responsible for vast releases of greenhouse gases. Of the call for new plants, she says: "It’s an absolutely criminal act to build new nuclear power plants and dig up uranium."
President Bush and other prominent Republicans, such as House Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo, R-Calif., have emphasized the bill’s commitment to renewable energy and to consumers. But while its 1,000-plus pages contain provisions involving renewable energy and energy efficiency, they are often vague, and have longer time frames for completion than the nuclear and fossil fuel provisions. For example, the section mandating that the federal government assess renewable energy potential on public lands simply requires the Interior secretary to "seek to have approved non-hydropower renewable energy projects located on the public lands" within 10 years.
It’s hard to find any good news for the renewable energy industry within the bill, says Marchant Wentworth, Washington, D.C., representative for clean energy with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "There are very minor tax credits for special, qualified facilities for renewable energy, but it doesn’t really require anybody to do anything" in terms of renewable energy or energy efficiency, he says.
Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives say it is irresponsible to grant tax cuts to energy companies—now reaping record profits from high energy costs—at a time when the nation is facing a $450 billion deficit and fighting a $9 billion-a-month war in Iraq.
"(The energy bill) does nothing to meet our energy needs in a more reliable, less expensive, environmentally friendly way," says Jill Lancelot, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers for Common Sense. Rather, she says, it amounts to corporate welfare. "These are very, very wealthy oil and gas companies, who on the one hand, are touting to their stockholders in their promotional literature how well they are doing," she says. "On the other hand, they are coming with their hands out to Congress, saying, ‘We need federal support.’ "
The author is the assistant editor of High Country News (www.hcn.org), covering the West's communities and natural-resource issues from Paonia, Colorado.
Attorney General Madrid urges U.S. Supreme Court to uphold states’ rights
—Office of NM Attorney General
Attorney General Madrid has joined with fourteen other states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court. Madrid is urging the court to preserve the states’ authority to subject an Indian tribe and individual tribal members to state gasoline-tax laws when the tribe or tribal member goes beyond the reservation boundaries.
“While New Mexico law currently provides certain gasoline tax exemptions to Indian tribes, I want the Court to preserve the right of states to make such decisions,” Madrid said. “It is important that the court preserve the state of New Mexico’s legal authority to subject tribes to such off-reservation taxes in the future. The right to make taxation decisions that impact those within our state must remain with the state.”
The Supreme Court is reviewing a decision from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denver, Colorado, which prohibited the state of Kansas from imposing gasoline taxes on non-Indians with off-reservation businesses who in turn distribute the gasoline to Indian tribes. The case before the Supreme Court is Richards v. Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation, No. 04-631. Attorney General Madrid joined in the amicus brief filed on behalf of Richards and urges the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the Tenth Circuit in this case.
“New Mexico’s Legislature decided it is in the best interests of the state to exempt Indian tribes from taxes on certain gasoline transactions. The state’s ability to impose nondiscriminatory taxes on off-reservation transactions, should it be required to protect the state’s road fund, should be preserved,” Madrid said.
Heard around the West
Headline writers had a field day in western Colorado with the upbeat story of a "plucky chicken" saved from drowning in a tub, thanks to a man employing "mouth to beak" resuscitation, reports The Associated Press. Chicken-owner Uegene Safken says he first yelled at the lifeless-looking bird: "You’re too young to die!" and then breathed air into the chicken after swinging it around by its legs. The feat made national news, and Jon Stewart’s comedy program planned to visit Safken’s home just outside rural Collbran to film a news spot for the TV show. This may involve a dramatic re-enactment of the rescue, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, with a rubber chicken playing the part of the still-unnamed buff Orpington. But stories of miraculous poultry are not new to the region. The town of Fruita, for instance, annually celebrates the bizarre survival of a headless chicken named Mike, who lived for 18 months after a beheading that didn’t take. "His owner put feed and water directly into Mike’s gullet with an eyedropper," says AP. "He was a popular attraction until he choked to death on a corn kernel."
Ann Coulter, the brainy blonde bombshell of the political right, accused an Arizona county attorney of anti-conservative bias after he dismissed charges against two men who allegedly threw pies at her during a speech in October 2004. But according to the Arizona Daily Star, the charges were dropped because both Coulter and the arresting officer failed to appear in court for the scheduled trial. A new court date may still be set.
"God helps those who help themselves," says an entrepreneurial monk named Brother William, who hopes he and his fellow religious can brew beer on the grounds of the Pecos Benedictine Monastery near Santa Fe. Donations can’t always be counted on, he says, so financial independence makes sense. A brewery also continues a centuries-old tradition. Brother William told the Albuquerque Tribune that "At one point in medieval Europe, there were no other breweries but monastic breweries." The joint venture of the Pecos and Abiquiu monasteries cleared a legal hurdle when the county commission "gave its blessing" by a vote of 5-0; state approval must come next.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado(firstname.lastname@example.org). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.