Sandoval Signpost

 

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  The Gauntlet
 

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: enchantment enhancement

Dear Friends Back East,

Yesterday, as I huddled under my small portico peacefully watching Arizona’s wind-blown earthiness blast across my pink graveled yard, uprooting my snake weed collection, defoliating my olive trees, and sandblasting my lizards, I suddenly marveled at how well I’ve adapted to the Land of Enchantment. And how I continue to progress.

There was a time when I became seriously upset when the high westerly winds caused my Placitas house to physically rotate to the northeast—accompanied by loud, unappealing grinding sounds—and then rotate back to the starting point when the winds chose to launch their attack from a different direction.

But now I’m totally okay with it. It simply reminds me of some interesting moments I’ve experienced in those very high-altitude revolving eateries to be found in cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, and Toronto, albeit my house moves with a less consistent velocity and with more lifting and lurching, wigging and wagging, sloshing and spilling.

I’ve joined the ranks of a great many New Mexicans who, after careful thought, have had their fiercely oppressive, sissy-like directional signals removed from their vehicles. Clearly, I am becoming a tough-minded westerner (who now has an eye on his brake lights and wipers).

The medical need for my visits to a dermatologist has gone from once a year as an eastern urbanite to once every 72 hours here in sunny New Mexico. But it’s critical that my skin’s continuously erupting, colorful array of solar-caused bumps and barnacles be excised, severed, detached, whacked—or at least thoroughly discredited—on a regular basis. Again, I’ve adjusted.

But the best thing I’ve done is to begin participating in UNM continuing education courses held in my area. They include a wide range of subject matter. Some are limited to a single lecture or workshop, while others continue for several weeks. There is no testing or grading, but the instructors seek active, meaningful student participation.

For example, an upcoming six-session course in New Mexico history asks that students bring with them to the first class “…a working ox cart with an attached ox or other large bovine, properly shod, and a durable flat bladed shovel.” I’m not sure about this. I can manage the ox cart (there’s a dealership nearby) but am unsure about an ox. That’s a horse of a different color. So, I’m more likely to take “History of the Persian Empire,” which only asks that we bring a functional scimitar.

There is also an eight-session course titled “Children’s Literature of the 1940s.” In addition to a nametag, the instructor suggests enrollees bring a small rug and pillow and a nickel for use in the drink machine, which has bottled grape and orange drinks, as well as chocolate milk. This could be a pleasant change of pace from six sessions of scimitar handling. I may give it a go.

I am suddenly reminded of something the Buddha said: “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” I think I am about to become a green chili cheeseburger and Patrick, an open can of turkey and giblets. Come and see us before it’s too late.

—Your Friend, Herb, Placitas


re: the Placitas people problem

Placitas doesn’t have a horse problem. It has a people problem. Like pet hoarders accumulating unsustainable, unhealthy populations of animals in order to “save” them, the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) filed a lawsuit against the BLM claiming that removing the horses would interfere with the members’ rights “to enjoy observing, photographing, and writing” about the horses. Since that lawsuit, the horse population exploded.

Recovery from the horses’ unintentional ecosystem destruction will take decades, if it happens at all. Small cacti that grow symbiotically with grass are decimated, perhaps to extinction. Cryptobiotic soil crusts, which take as long as one hundred years to form, have been destroyed. Riparian vegetation and stream banks are trampled. Most tragic of all: the impact of this invasive species on the native wildlife. Grass chewed to the ground starves small mammals, which in turn starves coyotes, foxes, bobcats, owls, and hawks.

Why are public officials ignoring New Mexico livestock statutes regarding “running at large”? Statute 77-14-4 states: “The boards of county commissioners of the counties of this state are authorized and empowered to prohibit the running at large of livestock within the limits of any conservancy or irrigation district organized under the laws of the state.”

And 77-14-7- B, states: “The sheriff, or other peace officer or proper military authority, shall impound livestock found running at large.”

Humane removal of all horses is the only solution. Contraception merely stops the current over-population at over-population while the ecosystem destruction and the horse/human safety hazard continues.

Unfortunately, it seems the only things that motivate change are a truly horrific tragedy, a lawsuit, or both. Somebody wrecked a vehicle in the April horse collision, in which two horses must have died painful, terrifying deaths. I, personally, have thousands of dollars in medical bills as a result of a badly broken ankle that occurs as I tried to chase horses away from the archeological site they have been trampling.

Will public officials, who haven’t done their job enforcing the “running at large” statutes, be held accountable? Or will it be WHOA? Their actions to block removal of an unsustainable horse population endangers public safety and interferes with the rights of Placitas residents “to enjoy observing, photographing, and writing” about the wildlife that belongs here. Lynn Montgomery in his May Signpost letter was right: We can’t go on this way any more.

—Susan Blumenthal, Placitas


re: feral horses problem / skin in the game

If ever there were a time when Placitans would benefit by coming together in a common cause, now is that time. Overpopulation of feral horses is a critical issue that is worsening with each day that passes. Positive and immediate steps toward a solution are paramount. It is also manifest that practically no one escapes having skin in this game, intended or not, and if only for the sake of the horses.

  • Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA): WHOA has been stymied from its intended use of the birth-control agent PZP by the NM Department of Agriculture. However, should PZP be approved today, and WHOA licensed to apply it, it would be years before herd size would be significantly reduced. The WHOA lawsuit (to have the horses declared “wild”), now on appeal vs. BLM, is in no way a solution to our immediate problems. It is unfortunate and ironic that WHOA now opposes the concept of a horse sanctuary, as it earlier had proposed a similar plan.
  • Eastern Sandoval Citizen’s Association (ES-CA): unwilling to grasp this nettle, “Too big an issue, too divisive,” and yet, to not address it, substantively, risks losing relevance and losing leadership.
  • Las Placitas Association (LPA): LPA has genuine concern for the horses and for the Placitas Open Space (POS), however, if LPA is the steward of the POS, it would do well to enforce the charter of the POS with regard to horses.
  • Placitans (all of us) and realtors: increasingly, horse/vehicle interface is a threat to life and limb; landscaping, peaceful use of property, property values are all threatened. Seeing horses slowly weakening, decimation of the Placitas Open Space and many Placitas landscapes is of genuine concern.
  • Sandoval County Sheriff: at this writing, within the last few weeks, three horses have been killed in vehicle accidents as the horses forage widely in search of sustenance. Drivers have had to swerve dangerously to avoid hitting horses. Sandoval County sheriffs have responsibility for public safety, but claim they are lacking in capability to act.
  • NM Livestock Board (NMLB): caught in the middle, significant exposure to public criticism by acting (rounding up the horses), or not acting (failure to fulfill NMLB’s responsibility). NMLB doesn’t want to round up the horses as long as they think the community is supporting the idea that free roaming or “wild” horses are okay.
  • Governor Martinez: vetoed funding for a horse sanctuary already passed by the NM Legislature based on a lack of credible community consensus, lack of coordination with the NM Parks Department, and costs. The Governor could gain considerable support by facilitating a forward-looking dialogue, and providing leadership on the horse issue.
  • City of Albuquerque (Open Space Division): keeping the Placitas Open Space open, viable, healthy, and historical sites protected is in their great interest. The proliferation of free-ranging horses violates these interests.
  • San Felipe and Santa Ana Pueblos: the pueblos say they are good stewards of the land, so is it not reasonable to expect them to return their horses to their own lands, and to care properly for those horses, and, without fences, there will be further migrations into Placitas.
  • Sandoval County Commission: The Commission’s endorsement of a plan for a park and sanctuary would enhance the quality of life in this part of the County, while exhibiting leadership and initiative. Commissioner Lucero’s meeting of interested parties, scheduled for June 5, is a step in the right direction.

Can the thoughtful people of Placitas come together? To do nothing will harm and probably kill the horses; ad hoc, voluntary efforts at feeding the horses are a Band-Aid, and will not suffice as the summer and drought advance inexorably. An organized interim effort must be mounted, involving BLM, NMLB, Placitans, and their organizations. Immediate needs are: feeding, fencing, veterinary services, birth control, and cessation of in-migration from pueblos. And as they do when livestock in Kansas or Wyoming are stranded during blizzard conditions, would BLM provide hay bales during this drought? BLM and NMLB should declare, promptly, and in considerable detail their asserted scope of jurisdiction over the horses, if any, and what they would do with the horses should they act on that jurisdiction.

A horse sanctuary is a bright dream, and the most comprehensive and the most thoughtful, long-term solution offered to date. To sit by and oppose it without offering a viable alternative, or joining in to improve it, is beneath the quality of Placitans.

Can some understanding and accommodation be reached between WHOA and BLM to the ultimate benefit of the horses? Collaborate vs. litigate? The lawsuit goes away, funds and energy become directed to the immediate needs of the horses, BLM supports proper care of the horses on its lands, and a sanctuary is created on the Buffalo Tract as a demonstration of public/private cooperation, leadership, and statesmanship.

—Ash Collins, Jr., Placitas
[Collins’ unedited letter is posted on the web version of the June Signpost]

Here is Ash Collins, Jr.’s unedited letter:

To the Signpost    5/19/13

If ever there were a time when Placitans would benefit by coming together in common cause, now is that time, and the common cause is the horses.

This is not to suggest that we are of unified opinion on all aspects of this issue, far from it.

However, most thoughtful and informed people of this community are in agreement that

It is a critical issue,

It is worsening with each day that passes, and,

Positive and immediate steps toward a solution are paramount. 

Skin in the Game

It is also manifest that practically no one escapes having skin in this game, intended or not, and if only for the sake of the horses:

Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA): They’ve been at this business much longer than most of us. And, many of their efforts have been beneficial for the horses. However, it is certain that the horses have rapidly outnumbered the solutions. Horses have proliferated through breeding and in-migration from pueblo lands. The land (Placitas Open Space and surrounding areas including our own private properties) can no longer sustain them. WHOA has been stymied from its intended use of the birth-control agent PZP by the NM Dep’t of Agriculture, which, in turn, says the manufacturer of the drug hasn’t applied for a license in the state. However, should PZP be approved today, and WHOA licensed to apply it, it would be years before herd size would be significantly reduced. WHOA has been able to out-place some horses to a sanctuary, may be able to locate more sanctuary availability, and may become an effective agent for an adoption process. The WHOA lawsuit (to have the horses declared “wild”), now on appeal vs. BLM, is in no way a solution to our immediate problems. Further, as BLM defends this lawsuit, its options that could provide immediate help to the horses are restricted. Should WHOA win or lose, the horses face an uncertain outcome, and without immediate help, many may suffer and die awaiting that outcome. Finally, it is unfortunate and ironic that WHOA now opposes the concept of a horse sanctuary, as it earlier had proposed a similar plan. (See below). WHOA should not be expected to hold exclusive ownership of this issue. Should WHOA  begin to collaborate, and contribute its thinking to and support of a sanctuary plan, now, we would all be the better for it.


Certain Concerned Individuals:

A handful of concerned individuals have conducted extensive research, and developed the key elements of a comprehensive plan, including a Sanctuary for horses and a public recreation area, in a public/private partnership. Their skin in the game is their deep concern for the horses, and the damage their proliferation has wreaked upon our lands and our community. Although characterized misleadingly by some few extremists as “horse-haters”, their motivation is more realistically and effectively favoring the long-term survival of our horses.

This ad hoc group of Placitans, including Marty Clifton, Mike Neas, and Zane Dohner and others has done all the heavy-lifting toward a creative and comprehensive plan for a solution. This plan includes purchase of the “Buffalo Tract”, consisting of 3,400 acres of BLM land adjacent to the Placitas Open space. The question is: how far do they have to go before others join in, and support their efforts by speaking up and helping out?

Senator Sapien: In conjunction with the ad hoc group labored successfully for passage of funding legislation for a Recreation Park and Horse Sanctuary, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Martinez, in part because of the adverse lobbying efforts of WHOA.  The effort continues.

ES-CA: Unwilling to grasp this nettle; “Too big an issue, too divisive”, and yet…to NOT address it, substantively, risks losing relevance, losing leadership. And yes…skin in the game? Of course; fine minds, excellent work on some of Placitas’ issues, knowledge of how the machinery of government works…potentially very powerful in supporting this Sanctuary plan.

Las Placitas Association (LPA): Genuine concern for the horses, AND for the Placitas Open Space. LPA support of and contribution to the Sanctuary plan can help bring the community together, to LPA’s credit. If LPA is the steward of the Placitas Open Space, it would do well to enforce the charter of the Open Space Plan, with regard to horses on the Open Space.

Placitans (all of us): Increasingly, horse/vehicle interface is a threat to life and limb; landscaping, peaceful use of property, property values are all threatened. Seeing horses slowly weakening, decimation of the Placitas Open Space and many Placitas landscapes is of genuine concern. Purchase of the Buffalo Tract under the federal Reclamation and Public Purposes Act for a park and sanctuary would eliminate the possibility of gravel mining on this land…a goal which has clear consensus, as expressed in hundreds of letters from Placitans to the BLM in reference to the Rio Puerco planning process.

Real Estate People: Once, the few horses were a minor attractive footnote; now herds in increasing numbers are a real threat to quality of life, and diminishing property values. The realtors, as a group, should raise their voices in support of the Sanctuary plan, or another feasible plan.

Sandoval County Sheriffs: At this writing, within the last few weeks three horses have been killed in vehicle accidents, as the horses forage widely in search of sustenance. Drivers have had to swerve dangerously to avoid hitting horses. Sandoval County sheriffs have responsibility for public safety, but claim they are lacking in capability to act. Must we wait for horse/vehicle interface to result in an accident? Does the Sheriffs’ Posse of Sandoval County still exist?

Bureau of Land Management (BLM): Exposed to WHOA lawsuit, potentially with national implications; meanwhile, manpower and resources are drained. Said to be preparing to begin fencing in BLM areas that presently are unfenced, but may be delaying action because of the WHOA lawsuit. A fence without breaks would help prevent horse migration from pueblos to Placitas. There are estimates of 60 horses, free roaming in BLM’s Buffalo Tract and Placitas Open Space.

NM Livestock Board (NMLB): Caught in the middle; significant exposure to public criticism by acting (rounding up the horses), or not acting (failure to fulfill NMLB’s responsibility). NMLB doesn’t want to round up the horses as long as they think the community is supporting the idea that free roaming or “wild” horses are OK.  Therefore, they say they won’t start rounding up the horses unless the community consensus changes, or there are injuries or deaths.  The situation, from their perspective is complex: Many horses are from the sovereign Santa Ana and San Felipe pueblos.  There’s WHOA and their lawsuit against the BLM (for “illegally” rounding up “wild” horses).  There are a few isolated complaints by residents, but not enough to get the NMLB to round them up.  Bottom line: If NMLB fails to act, they abandon their authority to tell Placitans not to come to the aid of the horses by feeding and watering them.

Gov. Martinez: Vetoed funding for a horse sanctuary, already passed by the NM Legislature,

said to be based on a lack of credible community consensus, lack of coordination with the NM Parks Dept. and costs. The Governor could gain considerable support by facilitating a forward looking dialog, and provide leadership on the horse issue. The Governor, wisely, opposes horse slaughter. She would do well to favor and support an alternative: The Sanctuary.

NM Parks: Should favor a well-developed plan for a recreation/horse sanctuary in eastern Sandoval County, especially as such would serve as a model for addressing a major problem in New Mexico and the Western U. S., while strengthening NM Parks’ relevance and leadership in helping find a solution to this critical issue.

Sandoval County Commission: The Commission’s endorsement of a plan for a park and sanctuary would enhance the quality of life in this part of the County, while exhibiting leadership and initiative. Commissioner Lucero’s meeting of interested parties, scheduled for 5th June is a step in the right direction.

NM Congressional Delegation: Struggling now with horse-slaughter legislation that would continue the ban on slaughter houses in U. S. Should the ban not be continued, the first or second such slaughter operation in the nation will be in New Mexico. No reasonable person wants to see the horses end up there. But we must act together, with plan and purpose to prevent it.

City of Albuquerque (Open Space Division): Keeping the Placitas Open Space open, viable, healthy, and historical sites protected is in their great interest. Free-ranging and proliferating horses violate these interests. The Open Space Division is now planning to complete the fencing around the Open Space, but when? What is LPA/Albuquerque Open Space going to do with the occupying horses? Fence out or fence in?

San Felipe and Santa Ana Pueblos: Yes, the pueblos, from whose lands came most of the new horses occupying the Placitas Open Space; dozens? More than that; scores, more likely. The pueblos’ reputation is being sullied by their allowing their horses off their lands, and into Placitas. They say they are good stewards of the land, so is it not reasonable to expect them to return their horses to their own lands, and to care properly for those horses? And, with fences, to prevent further migrations into Placitas.

Can Thoughtful People of Placitas Come Together?  To do nothing will harm and probably kill the horses; ad hoc, voluntary efforts at feeding the horses are a Band-Aid, and will not suffice as the summer and drought advance inexorably. An organized interim effort must be mounted, involving BLM, NMLB, Placitans and their organizations. Immediate needs are: feeding, fencing, veterinary services, birth control, and cessation of in-migration from pueblos. (As they do when livestock in Kansas or Wyoming are stranded during blizzard conditions, would BLM provide hay bales during this drought?) BLM and NMLB should declare, promptly, and in considerable detail their asserted scope of jurisdiction over the horses, if any, and what they would do with the horses should they act on that jurisdiction.

A horse sanctuary is a bright dream, and the most comprehensive and thoughtful long-term solution offered to date. To sit by and oppose it without offering a viable alternative, or joining in to improve it, is beneath the quality of Placitans.

Can some understanding and accommodation be reached between WHOA and BLM to the ultimate benefit of the horses? Collaborate vs. Litigate? The lawsuit goes away, funds and energy become directed to the immediate needs of the horses, BLM supports proper care of the horses on its lands, and a sanctuary is created on the Buffalo Tract as a demonstration of public/private cooperation, leadership, and statesmanship. 

Ash Collins, Jr. Placitas, NM

 
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