Sandoval Signpost

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  Eco-Beat

Greenman, Signpost cartoon c. Rudi KlimpertNew Mexico leads in green jobs bill package

The New Mexico Legislature will be hearing a green jobs bill package that could make New Mexico a leader in the green economy. The proposed legislation (SB 420, SB 318, and HB 622) will provide resources for schools, tribes, communities, and businesses to train a local workforce in twenty-first century green collar trades and attract sustainable green industries to New Mexico.

Green industries are those that enhance environmental quality by reducing pollution or producing products using sustainable processes and materials. Typical green jobs include solar panel installation, retrofitting existing buildings, water purification, bio-diesel production, organic gardening, and green manufacturing.

“Because New Mexico is ranked number two for its solar resources and number twelve in the U.S. for its wind resources, we are uniquely positioned to lead the emerging green economy,” says Dr. John Fogarty, Executive Director for New Energy Economy.

House Speaker Ben Lujan is sponsoring HB 622— the Green Jobs Bonding Act—which would approve up to $20 million from a state revenue bond and have no impact on the general fund, to provide financial support for higher education institutions to create green job training programs. Priority for funding will be given to programs that help disadvantaged populations such as low-income and rural constituencies.

In conjunction, Senator Eric Griego’s bills will promote job creation and economic development by providing appropriate incentives for green industries to bring their businesses into New Mexico. SB 318—Development Training Funds for Green Jobs—if enacted, will appropriate a minimum of $1 million from Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) funds to aid green businesses, particularly small businesses, in supporting a new workforce.

Senator Griego is also sponsoring SB 420—Severance Tax Investment in Green Industries —which would allot up to $15 million of the Severance Tax Permanent Fund for New Mexico industries that provide green jobs to local residents.

Dr. Sheila Ortego, President of the Santa Fe Community College, commented that “this legislation will create the necessary support that will allow New Mexico to leverage tens of millions of dollars of federal funds from the Green Jobs Act and the Congressional economic stimulus package. There is tremendous interest in our existing curriculum in green building and renewable energy, with students of all ages signing up to refocus their career or start a new one. We look forward to breaking ground on our new Sustainable Technologies Center this August, where we will be able to meet demand for even more classes and partner with business and industry in making Santa Fe and New Mexico one of the top places for green jobs.”

“Altogether, the proposed green jobs package fits well with the goals of Governor Richardson’s Green Jobs Cabinet and supports President Obama’s oft-stated interest in promoting clean renewable energy,” adds Fogarty.


Car Rental Companies

Rental car companies are offering many more hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles in response to increased consumer demand for better mileage and lower emissions. Pictured: a Hybrid Hyundai Sonata on a Hertz lot in Louisiana.

EarthTalkTM

—From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that most of the big car rental companies have gone “green” lately. What’s the story? —Ari Zucker, New York, NY

No doubt, rental car companies large and small have responded to increased consumer demand for fuel efficiency in the last few years by stocking up on gasoline-electric hybrids and other vehicles with better mileage and lower emissions. But whether or not these companies will continue their commitment to fuel efficiency as gas prices fall and consumers begin to look again at bigger cars remains to be seen.

Hertz may have sparked the trend in 2006 when it launched its Green Collection, which includes thousands of fuel-efficient cars such as the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse, and Hyundai Sonata. These models, now available at fifty airport rental locations, average thirty-one miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway, and most carry the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s SmartWay certification, indicating lower greenhouse gas and other emissions. In June 2007, Hertz bolstered its green offerings significantly by incorporating some thirty-four hundred Toyota Prius hybrids into its American rental fleet.

Meanwhile, other companies are towing the line as well. Avis and its partner Budget offer twenty-five hundred hybrids (Toyota’s Prius and Nissan’s Altima) for rent in the U.S. And Advantage Rent-a-Car, a smaller but up-and-coming player in the industry, has pledged to turn one hundred percent of its rental fleet “green” by 2010.

Not to be outdone, Enterprise—the nation’s largest rental car company, with a total fleet of 1.1 million rental vehicles—offers some 440,000 vehicles that get twenty-eight mpg or better in highway driving. Some five thousand of the total are hybrids (Toyota’s Camry and Prius and Ford’s Escape SUV), while another seventy-three thousand can run on the ethanol-based biofuel or on regular gas. Customers of Enterprise (or one of its sister brands, Alamo or National) can also opt to pay an extra $1.25 per rental to offset their carbon emissions. (Funds go to Terra Pass, which funds clean energy projects.) And last year, the company opened several new “green branches” where sixty percent of the vehicles for rent are hybrids or other fuel-efficient models.

Of course, green car rentals do come with a premium. Renting a hybrid typically costs $5 to $15 more per day than an equivalent conventional car. In a recent comparison on overall costs (including gas expenses), SmarterTravel.com’s Sarah Pascarella figured that a two-day trip from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park was $55 cheaper in one of Hertz’s Hyundai Accent economy cars than in a hybrid Prius from their Green Collection. Comparisons with vehicles from Avis and others yielded similar results. “I found choosing an economy car over a hybrid was often the more economical choice,” she reports.

In order to encourage greener rentals despite the cost premium, San Francisco International Airport now offers travelers a $15 credit if they rent a hybrid from any of the companies operating there. Elsewhere, in-town rental locations usually offer better deals on hybrids, although customers should still expect to pay a premium for renting green no matter where they are—at least until both supply and demand for such vehicles rises, which will inevitably lead to price reductions.

Do you have an environmental question? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, PO Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 or submit it to earthtalk@emagazine.com.


About those darn Junipers

—Michael Crofoot

Do you remember Janet Shaw’s nice article in the July issue of the Signpost about “turning bushes into trees?“ She wrote about trimming up the lower branches of sprawling and scraggily Juniper bushes to produce beautiful Juniper trees that look very natural, almost like a wildlands park. They even look a bit like giant bonsai evergreens and really are wonderful to look at and also to look through to see more of our magnificent long views of the surrounding landscapes.

But there is more to consider about trimming Junipers than their beauty. It turns out that there are a number of other ecological reasons to tidy up our Junipers with saws and loppers…  

First, it is important to know that widespread Junipers are generally not considered natural in the Southwest and are sometimes even called weed trees. With Piñons mixed in with the Junipers, they can be called artificial climax forests. Scientists say that of the approximately twenty million acres of Juniper and Piñon woodlands in the Southwest, perhaps only about ten percent of them are natural. Before the arrival of the Spanish, there were grassland wildfires in our area on average about every three to ten years or so. These were caused by lightning strikes and also some were Indian-lit fires to help rejuvenate the grasslands and thus produce more wildlife. These very low grassland fires would often kill the small seedling Junipers coming up among the grasses. This regular cycle of grassland fires would also burn out the lower branches of larger Junipers, which must have made them look a bit more like Juniper trees. And finally, the coming of the Spanish with their growing herds of livestock led to the broad scale suppression of grassland wildfires in part because there was less grass from overgrazing. And with the livestock hereabouts there were yet more animals stomping juniper seeds into the ground where many more Junipers could proliferate. Also, there have apparently been some climatic changes, as in long drought times, which also contributed to large changes in native vegetation.

Juniper trees can grow very well in the subsoils and are also notorious for sending out long roots just below the surface of the earth, which essentially dries out the upper soil far from the Juniper trunks. The seedlings of our native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs simply cannot grow without more soil moisture than the Junipers leave behind.

As many residents know all too well, some of us are beset by allergic reactions to the massive yearly releases of Juniper pollen. This allergic reaction is often caused by having Junipers growing close to resident homes. In Junipers, the sexes are separate, which means that there are both female and male Junipers. These two kinds of Junipers are often pretty easy to differentiate just now. To identify male Junipers, look for a more yellow color of the leaves and the tiny pollen buds. Because it is only the male Junipers which release pollen, taking out those offending male Juniper trees around one’s home could help with the bothersome allergic reactions.

Further, with Junipers spreading over the landscape there is a broad scale loss of biodiversity in both plant and animal species. Thus we lose the diverse arrays of native plants which hold the fertile topsoil in place with its valuable organic matter. When hard rains come, almost every few years, the accompanying erosion can leave only impoverished subsoils and so it is harder for other native plants to colonize this radically changed environment.

So when limbing or eradicating Junipers for whatever reason, the tree trunks can make great firewood for the owners, while the cut Juniper branches can be further processed into erosion controlling structures right on the surrounding lands. In erosion gullies, of which there are many in Placitas, one can lay in the Junipers to make brush dams right across the gully. Some local stones put on top of these Juniper branches can create silt dams right across the erosion gully. These dams both slow down the erosive force of the water released by a hard rain and they also trap some of the water-borne silt. Native plant seeds can be sown around these structures where new soil and seeds can grow.

In young, smaller erosion gullies, the cut branches can be laid running straight down the erosion gully, which again reduces the powerful erosive force of rain and the Juniper branches often quickly fill up with silt. On more gentle slopes lacking erosion gullies, the land can still be damaged by the erosive overland rainwater flow. Often in such conditions, many miniature gullies are formed, which can grow into much larger erosion gullies. Here, the cut juniper branches can be laid in long, low windrows on the contour to slow the overland rainwater flows and also to trap silt.

So the next time you consider trimming your Junipers into beautiful trees, please do also remember all the other ways that the Junipers can be trimmed or removed to help restore the biodiversity of our native plants and animals.

References: Landscape Changes in the Southwestern United States: Techniques, Long-term Data Sets and Trends by Craig Allen, Julio Betancourt, and Thomas Swetnam; Where Have All the Grasslands Gone? by Craig Allen; Land Use History Impacts on Biodiversity—Implications for Management Strategies in the Southwest by Gary Nabhan, et al.


New Mexico State Forester urges preparedness for spring wildfire danger  

FLate winter winds and increasing temperatures are creating high fire danger across many areas of New Mexico, according to New Mexico State Forestry. Since January 1, 2009, fifty-six fires have burned 4,971 acres of state and private land. Because of this, New Mexico State Forester Arthur “Butch” Blazer is calling for state residents and visitors to be prepared for the upcoming fire season.

“Much like last winter, fire danger is very high across parts of New Mexico,” said Blazer. “Communities in eastern and southern New Mexico are currently at risk for catastrophic wildfire and for that reason, I urge residents and visitors in those areas to be prepared for fires, and do their part to prevent wildfires from starting.“

The weather pattern that brought abundant snowfall to northern New Mexico this winter also brought strong winds to eastern and southern parts of the state. These winds are drying out thick grassy fuels that cover many areas of New Mexico due to heavy monsoonal moisture last year.

New Mexico State Forestry along with local, state, and federal interagency partners have begun promoting fire prevention and preparedness through roadside billboards across the state. The simple message on these billboards urges New Mexicans to “Think Smart, Don’t Let Wildfires Start.”

New Mexico State Forestry also has the following suggestions for fire prevention and preparedness: When traveling by auto, only pull over into developed areas such as rest stops, to prevent heat from catalytic converters from sparking fires in roadside grass.

Residents living in rural settings should make sure grasses and weeds on their property are kept short, to help stop the spread of an oncoming grass fire. Other cautions include the following:  

•Keep firewood and debris away from buildings on property.

•Don’t throw burning matches or lit cigarettes to the side of a road.

•Be aware of any current restrictions that may limit or ban the use of fire in your area.

•If a wildfire is burning near your home or community, tune in to local radio or television stations for latest information on the fire and any possible evacuation orders.

•Should an evacuation become necessary, remember to take important financial and insurance documents and prescription medications, and let friends or other family members know you are evacuating.


Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold  was an American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He was  influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness preservation.

Forester’s log: lingering on Leopold

—Mary Stuever

“I don’t know what I am doing here,” the speaker says from the microphone on the conference stage. “Until yesterday, I didn’t even know who Aldo Leopold was.” Albino Garcia isn’t the only presenter new to writings of the mid-20th century forester. Leopold crafted visions for wildlife management, wilderness designations, fire use, land ethics, and an array of other significant natural resource concepts that are as valid today as they were more than a half century ago.

Garcia goes on to describe his work with youth who are on the front lines of gang wars. He explains that before his program had been asked to run a community garden, the only thing he had been planting in the ground were kids: kids he had been trying to help, but who had been shot and killed in their violent world. “I didn’t know what to do with seeds, but many of the elders in our community agreed to show us…” By the time Garcia leaves the podium, not a soul in the audience doubts why the young man is speaking at a conference dedicated to engendering a land ethic within the complicated fabric of our society.

John Francis starts his message with a short riff on his banjo. He is talking to the audience today, but he didn’t talk for seventeen years. He explains that after observing an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay in 1971, he stopped riding in cars, and spent twenty-two years walking across the country, studying environmental issues at three universities along the way. When he found himself arguing with people about his decision to walk, he also stopped talking. Now, a United Nations Ambassador for the environment, Francis’s life work continues, demonstrating that each person’s actions can truly make significant differences.

Albuquerque Architect Tony Anella outlines another dilemma. He contrasts and compares two Albuquerque-area subdivisions. La Luz is a centralized townhouse community with awesome mountain and river views and plenty of open space built in the early 1970s. River’s Edge, a platted suburban subdivision with the same proximity to the Rio Grande, was designed without regard to the environment. The settlement patterns of River’s Edge are duplicated throughout the Southwest, despite the clear success of the La Luz model in providing a higher quality of life. Anella suggests that immediate profit is behind these poor land use choices. He is preaching to the choir. The conference participants are self-selected, sharing common ground through their respect for Aldo Leopold who, among a long list of achievements, established the first Rio Grande park in the Albuquerque bosque.

A young mother stands at the audience mic, juggling the month-old infant in her arms, and asks why there is so much gray and white hair in the audience and on the stage? We are striving to be multicultural in our conversation, but how can we also be intergenerational?

Mixed among the tension of global climate change and deteriorating environmental conditions, the conference has also been a two-day celebration of successes—including stories of children monitoring ecosystems, thinned forests withstanding catastrophic wildfires, arroyos recovered with grasses and erosion-reducing rock structures, and water quality improving as communities set higher standards.

This ‘kickoff event’ at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque is billed as “a cultural conversation,” and the workshop ends in a discussion on how to move forward. One speaker suggests we don’t need another conference, we just need to go out there and “do.” However, despite the sellout crowd attending this event, it is clear we need thousands or millions of people engaged, not just a few hundred gathered for two days in Albuquerque. With 2009 representing the one-hundred-year anniversary of Aldo Leopold’s arrival in the Southwest, there are dozens of events planned in Leopold’s honor. At the end of this year, perhaps Leopold’s legacy will truly linger in our Southwestern psyche.

The Forester’s Log is a monthly column published in newspapers and magazines primarily in the American West. Stuever is a forester in the American Southwest. She can be reached at sse@nmia.com. For more information on Aldo Leopold, visit aldoleopold.org.


Mexican wolf thriving in New Mexico

—U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A total of fifty-two Mexican wolves were counted in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2008, according to the annual survey conducted by the Interagency Field Team for wolf reintroduction. There were also fifty-two Mexican wolves recorded in the 2007 survey. Surveys are conducted in January of each year.

Pups born in the summer must survive to December 31 to be counted as part of the Mexican wolf population. Fixed-wing aircraft and functional radio-telemetry were used to confirm five wolf packs on New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, five packs on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and six lone wolves—two in Arizona and four in New Mexico. The survey indicated that there were only two pairs that met the federal definition of breeding pairs at year’s end.

Of the fifty-two wolves, forty-five were born in the wild. One captive-born female wolf (F836) was released to the wild in 2008. In 2008, one wolf was temporarily captured twice after dispersing outside of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, but the animal was translocated back into the recovery area on both occasions. In previous years, wolves were removed because of livestock depredation, for dispersing outside of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, or for repeated nuisance behavior. No such wolves were removed in 2008. Illegal shooting was the leading cause of documented loss of wolves in 2008.

“Our interagency partnership has made strides toward obtaining the biological information needed to manage wolves in a working landscape that also supports traditional livestock operations and public recreation,” said Benjamin N. Tuggle, PhD, Regional Director for the Service’s southwest region. “Except for the illegal shooting or suspicious demise of seven wolves, 2008 would have seen Mexican wolf populations on the upswing again. These mortalities are an intolerable impediment to wolf recovery. We will continue to aggressively investigate each illegal wolf killing to help ensure that anyone responsible is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Seven of the ten packs produced at least eighteen pups, with eleven surviving until the end of the year. However, based on the definition in the final rule establishing the reintroduction project, the count only recognizes two breeding pairs because by year’s end, one or more of the mates in two packs had died. In addition, three packs had only a single offspring survive until December 31 (survival of two or more pups until December 31 in the year of their birth is required to qualify as a breeding pair). In two of these packs, one pup died under suspicious circumstances late in 2008, resulting in both packs not qualifying as a breeding pair.

“We were fortunate this year—we did not remove any wolves from the population for management purposes under the AMOC Standard Operating Procedures,” said Tuggle. “In 2008, we received substantial public input on the wolf reintroduction effort as part of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Completing the draft EIS and implementing a wolf-livestock interdiction program are priorities for us.”

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project is a cooperative effort administered by six co-lead agencies: Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies function as an Adaptive Management Oversight Committee. This management approach provides opportunities for participation by local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals from all segments of the public.


Owl Clover

Owl-clover

Mountain wildflowers of the Southern Rockies and Central NM

Owl-clover Orthocarpus luteus Nutt.Snapdragon Family — Scrophulariaceae

—Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire

Club-shaped yellow flowers protrude among leafy bracts at the top of foot-tall stems. The half-inch-long flowers are wider than they are long, with a bulge below the tip. Bracts among the flowers are hairy with linear, pointed divisions. Stem leaves are long and narrow. Owl-clover blooms abundantly in dry meadows throughout the season from the ponderosa pine to the spruce-fir zone.

Despite its name, owl-clover is not a clover; nor is it even related to clovers, which are in the Bean Family. Orthocarpus means “straight fruit,” referring to the straight seedpod. Luteus means “yellow.”

Snapdragon Family
Flowers in this large family display many sizes, shapes, and colors to match specific bee, wasp, fly, moth, or hummingbird pollinators. The five petals are joined at the base and open into two lips. The upper protects reproductive structures, and the lower may provide a landing platform. The blossoms of Snapdragon Family plants often resemble those of the Mint Family, but there should be no confusion between the two. Most mints have square stems and aromatic foliage, but snapdragon stems are round, and their foliage is odorless. Cardiac glycosides such as digitalis produced by foxglove are important heart medicines. Beardtongue, foxglove, butter-and-eggs, slipper flower, and, of course, snapdragons are favorite ornamentals.

Color Vision in Bees
When bees began to acquire food from flowers early in the evolution of both groups, flowers were dull green, and bees were color-blind. Through millennia of coevolution flowers became colorful; at the same time bees developed color vision, allowing them to spot flowers among the foliage. Unlike humans, bees are unreceptive to red, but they perceive ultraviolet as a distinct color, and some flowers we see as white appear as a vibrant ultraviolet color to bees. Thus, bees bypass red flowers and frequent blue, yellow, and white ones, especially when the latter appear to them as ultraviolet.

Bumblebees as Pollinators
Bumblebees exist on pollen and nectar, and their bodies have developed structural adaptations to help gather this food. A coating of long, branched hairs accumulates pollen. Stiff hairs on the forelegs comb pollen from these hairs and pack it into hollowed out sections of the hind legs that serve as carrying baskets. Sharp spurs on the bee’s middle legs pry the pollen masses loose back at the nest.

Some bumblebees have short tongues, whereas others have tongues that can measure an inch long. The long-tongued bumblebees are normally attracted to long corolla-tubed flowers where they collect nectar with their tongues, transfer the liquid to their honey stomachs, and then disgorge it into honey pots within their nests.

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

 

     

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