Las Placitas Association to host
workshop on conservation easements
—REID BANDEEN, LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION
With residential development proceeding apace in the Placitas area,
one wonders from time to time what our local landscape might look
like in five, ten, or twenty years. What will remain of the great
vistas and open spaces that drew many of us here in the first place?
Open-space preservation is an increasingly popular topic these
days. Tracts of undeveloped land are valued by many, not just for
the pastoral scenery they provide but for wildlife habitat and a
host of other “ecological services.” With land values
so high in Placitas, owners of developable tracts of land ask, how
could I possibly realize any financial value out of my land without
selling it for development?
Conservation easements provide an alternative to this default
approach. A conservation easement is essentially a contractual agreement
to leave a tract of land undeveloped, or developed in a limited
way, subject to various stipulations, essentially dedicating the
land as open space in perpetuity. Just as land may come with water
rights or mineral rights, the conservation-easement contract effectively
constitutes “development rights” which hold a discrete
portion of the overall land value. As with the other resource rights,
the conservation easement takes on a sort of commodity value. The
easement may be sold (or donated) by a willing landowner to a willing
buyer with an interest in preserving the land.
Current state and federal law allows for substantial tax breaks
for individuals donating conservation easements. Some federal and
state programs provide grant funds to pay for conservation easements
on land with particular agricultural or ecological values. Conservation
easements provide the opportunity of a win-win situation for both
landowners seeking to realize the financial value of their holdings
and communities interested in open-space conservation.
Las Placitas Association, a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving
quality of life in the Placitas area, is hosting a half-day workshop
on this fascinating and timely topic on Saturday, June 17, from
9:00 a.m. to noon, at the Placitas Community Center (41 Camino de
las Huertas). Some of the state's leading experts on conservation
easements and some local property owners who have donated easements
on their land will share their knowledge and experiences. Join us
for what promises to be an enlightening and valuable morning with
LPA. Admission is free, and refreshments will be provided.
For more information, visit the LPA Web site, www.lasplacitas.org,
or call LPA board members Lolly Jones (771-8020) or Reid Bandeen
Good news from Placitas Recycling Center:
“If it comes in the newspapers, it goes out with the newspapers”
—ROBIN BRANDIN, PLACITAS RECYCLING CENTER
One of Placitas’s great mysteries—and frustrations—has
been eliminated. After months of confusion about what to take out
of newspapers brought to the Placitas Recycling Center, the board
of directors of the Placitas Recycling Association has reached an
agreement with its vendor: “what comes with the paper, stays
with the paper.”
In the words of board member Carol Rushton, “Just when you
thought all was lost and no way to heal the pain of separation,
along comes hope. For those who bring great passion to the art of
recycling, there is very good news.”
Recyclers and volunteers who work at the recycling center no longer
have to separate the kraft paper inserts from the rest of the newspaper.
Master Fibers, to which the association hauls its paper, has decreed
that nothing has to be separated from the newsprint—neither
the slick-paper ads nor the kraft-paper advertisements.
“We want to thank the Placitas community for taking the
time and effort to separate their newspapers in the past. Now we've
all been given a break. We can put our anxiety on the shelf, get
our life back, and dump those tabloids with abandon,” enthused
Rushton. The new motto at the recycling center is “if it comes
in the newspapers, it goes out with the newspapers.”
In other news, the Placitas Recycling Center has been selected
by the New Mexico Recycling Coalition to receive a Recycling Achievement
Award as the Community-Based Recycling Program of the Year. The
award will be presented at a ceremony at the Hotel Albuquerque at
Old Town on June 14.
The Placitas Recycling Association continues to look for new ways
to support and promote recycling in the community. Other materials
the center accepts include corrugated cardboard (clean and flattened),
aluminum, No. 1 and No. 2 plastic, printer cartridges, brown paper
bags, and white and mixed paper. “When we find out about places
that accept recyclables we can’t take,” noted association
president Len Stephens, “we try to pass it on. For example,
we recently learned of a new location to recycle old tires. Jai
Tires, on Girard, in Albuquerque, will take them off your hands
for ninety cents each and recycle them into landscaping material.”
Information about this and other recycling
locations, as well as a detailed list of what the Placitas location
takes, can be found on the Placitas Recycling Center Web site, www.placitasrecycling.com.
The Placitas Recycling Center is on Highway
165, about a half-mile east of I-25, and is open every Saturday
from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Corn ethanol isn't all it's cracked up to be
This was supposed to be a cakewalk, a no-brainer, a slam-dunk. Ethanol
from corn lessened our dependence on foreign oil, they told us.
It helped our struggling Midwestern farmers. It was much better
for the environment. Who could not support this? As it turns out,
quite a few of us. Ethanol plants are sprouting like weeds in mid-America,
but more and more question marks are emerging along this corn-paved
road to energy independence. Ethanol, as it is made from corn, isn't
nearly the renewable fuel it's cracked up to be.
Here's the simple but telling equation: Our federal farm bill
subsidizes the growing of corn—about $10 billion this past
year, according to the Environmental Working Group. That policy
leads to overproduction of this thirsty crop, which drains the Great
Plains' precious Ogallala Aquifer and requires massive amounts of
nitrate fertilizer that, inevitably, seep into that same groundwater.
Our federal, state and local governments also subsidize the building
and operation of ethanol plants, usually with incentives and property
tax breaks. Many of these plants have been cited for water and air
Yet another subsidy, more than 50 cents a gallon, occurs at the
pump. The fuel desperately needs it because, depending on the ethanol
content and the vehicle, it gets anywhere from 5 percent to 30 percent
worse mileage efficiency than regular unleaded. After all this,
how can we view the corn ethanol apparatus any other way than the
obvious? It is little more than political gift to the corn and ethanol
When you scratch beyond those lobbies' slogans and sound bites,
the realities emerge.The latest: Some, perhaps a majority, of our
newest ethanol plants are making the switch from natural gas to
coal to make the fuel. Because coal is cheaper, a new Iowa ethanol
plant has chosen that route. Similar plants are planned for North
Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and perhaps Kansas. The problem, says
the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that the carbon emissions
alone from the coal plants will far outweigh any possible gains
in using ethanol in our tanks.
Other corn ethanol realities:
•Producing one gallon of corn ethanol needs 1,700 gallons
of water to irrigate the corn and process the fuel, according to
Cornell researcher David Pimentel, who's been lambasted by ethanol
proponents because he says what they don't like to hear. Because
of that depletion, the Ogallala Aquifer in the Plains is under considerable
stress. Crop irrigation has already effectively dried up most of
the aquifer in the Texas Panhandle, western Kansas and eastern Colorado.
•Growing corn for ethanol increases soil erosion and reduces
biodiversity, according to Washington State University researchers.
•The Des Moines Register, in an enterprise story last fall,
found that Iowa's ethanol plants have contaminated the state's air
and water. A corn ethanol plant in Hastings, Neb., was cited for
clean-air violations every year from 1995 to 2004. And some studies
performed in California, where ethanol blends are required in the
Sacramento and Los Angeles areas, show that the fuel increases harmful
•Nearly half of all ethanol plants are owned by Cargill and
ADM, and that percentage is likely to increase, according to the
Renewable Fuels Association.
•In parts of the Midwest this spring, the price of Ethanol-10
was higher than regular unleaded. Since a gallon of E-10 lacks the
energy content of a gallon of regular, the price of the former must
be 15 to 75 cents cheaper to offer any real savings for consumers.
(Check out www.fueleconomy.gov.)
So does all this mean we should forget ethanol entirely as a player
in our energy future? Well, no. Ethanol will become a more attractive
alternative when we kick our corn addiction and get serious about
more efficient alternatives. It can be made from numerous materials—landfill
waste, livestock manure, even beer waste, as Coors is demonstrating.
But what really has scientists and researchers excited is cellulose.These
materials include wheat straw, hemp, miscanthus and switchgrass.
The latter promises the greatest rewards. The technology is developing
quickly. The huge advantages of cellulosic ethanol are threefold—it's
much easier on our natural resources than corn, it yields much more
energy per acre (and it's a perennial), and it emits two-thirds
less greenhouse gases. America's first commercial cellulosic ethanol
plant may break ground next year in Idaho. It will use wheat straw
and barley to make its ethanol. That's a good first step. From there,
we can pursue truly environmentally friendly fuels and put this
culture of corn ethanol to bed.
Pete Letheby is a contributor to Writers on the
Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org).
He is a writer and reporter in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Robert Tórrez to speak on acequia and land
On June 3, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, at the Placitas Community Center,
Robert Tórrez, former New Mexico state historian, will speak
on “Acequias and Land Grants in New Mexico History,”
with a concentration on our area. Robert Tórrez is the author
of UFOs Over Galisteo and Other Stories of New Mexico.
He has also published numerous articles in periodicals such as True
West, Historical Review, and New Mexico Magazine. This
event is sponsored by Las Placitas Association. For further information,
please contact Elaine Sullivan, at 771-1171.