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letters, opinions, editorials
The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
Bill Diven’s article in the March 2004 edition may have given your readers the mistaken impression that the repeal of the regressive gross-receipts tax on food will result in a decrease of revenue for the town of Bernalillo.
In fact, the food-tax repeal legislation ensured that city and county governments will receive the same amount of funding they would have received had the tax remained in place. Stores are required to report their grocery sales to the state taxation and revenue department, which will calculate how much tax revenue the city would have received from those sales. City and county governments will then receive increased distributions of funds from the state government that exactly make up for their lost food-tax revenues.
The food-tax repeal benefits New Mexicans without impacting local governments.
Think New Mexico
[Editor’s note. Presumably Mr. Nathan is referring the quote from Mayor Aguilar in the election-issues story by Bill Diven:“Wait and see how dropping the sales tax on some food and medicine affects revenue.” Hopefully, Mayor Aguilar will find out that the tax change is truly revenue neutral when the state begins issuing checks based on the new tax law next fiscal year.]
re: bikers in national forests advised to stay on roads, trails
I recently moved to the Placitas area from Oregon and am a regular user of the national forest, finding enjoyment running and walking on the trails and roads.
I have been active in native-plant restoration projects in Oregon, so am quite aware of the fragile nature of plants and soils. When backpacking in the Canyonlands National Park in Utah, we were told to not venture off designated trails as it would harm the delicate desert crust and plants, so I try to follow that rule locally as well.
I have a new mountain bike that I would like to ride in the local forest, and being sensitive to natural environments, I was curious as to what rules there might be about where people are allowed to ride. So I phoned the local forest service office and asked for information. I was told their preference is for people to use the forest-service roads and designated trails, and not to bike in wilderness areas or signed restoration areas.
I asked specifically about user-developed trails that I have seen and sometimes used, and was advised: "User-developed trails are not really okay, but are fair game because we are not able to be out there to prevent it. We would prefer that you not use those trails as user-developed trails are usually not well laid out, so they tend to be erosive and worsen the erosion problem in the forest." My understanding from this conversation is that people should minimize use of existing user-developed trails, refrain from riding off trail, and not create new trails.
I thought it important to share this information and encourage others to engage in sensitive and sensible use of the forest, protecting the natural environment as best we can. We should all be concerned stewards of this valuable local resource and use it in a way that protects and preserves it for the enjoyment of others as well as ourselves.
re: off-trail biking, hiking cause serious ecological damage
Thank you for highlighting the Trust for Public Land’s efforts to preserve habitat and open space in Placitas in your last issue. These efforts are important in preserving the landscape and way of life that so many of us value here.
In that same vein, it’s important to protect the beautiful public land we have the privilege to live so near and enjoy on a daily basis. This isn’t as easy as it used to be. Impacts that used to be perceived as minor, when few people lived here, such as hiking or biking off trail, are compounded by the numbers of people impacting the ecosystem and landscape today. The damage has a cumulative effect, and as our population grows the effect is and will continue to be more and more damaging. We must be more cognizant of our impact if the landscape we love so much, like the grassland area of the National Forest near Placitas, is to remain as beautiful as it is. That area is considered to be a premier example of ungrazed desert grassland and has been designated a research natural area.
In addition to damage to plant communities, our impact on the land surface can cause major changes in the landscape in short periods of time. Erosion problems can be caused by disturbances to delicate cryptobiotic soils, also known as biological soil crusts. In Cryptobiotic Soils: Holding the Place in Place, by Jayne Belnap, a soil ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, it is noted that cryptobiotic soils “increase the stability of otherwise easily eroded soils, increase water infiltration in regions that receive little precipitation, and increase fertility in soils often limited in essential nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon.”
Foot and bicycle traffic on these biological soil crusts leave long winding strips of damage, killing decades of growth in areas of well-developed crusts. Young soil crusts don’t even have visible features and distinctive coloration, so they may be damaged without even noticing it. The organisms that form cryptobiotic soils (cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses) are only metabolically active when they are wet. In arid areas such as ours they are extremely slow to recover after being damaged. If damage is not prolonged and favorable conditions exist (there is average precipitation and soils adjacent to the damaged areas are stable), disturbed areas of soil crust may fully recover in fifty to 250 years. The problem is that damage often is prolonged and favorable conditions often don’t exist. For instance, we’ve had several years of below-average precipitation. Once an area is damaged, it is more prone to wind and water erosion, and the exposed sediments in the damaged area can then blow over adjacent healthy areas of cryptobiotic soils, killing them. The cumulative effect can result in irreversible soil loss.
I could spend hours researching and explaining the science behind the negative impacts that careless use of the national-forest lands can have, but the important thing is for us to be caring and responsible users of our beautiful “backyard” for our enjoyment, the enjoyment of others, and the enjoyment of future generations.
Tilford & Green: Environmental & Engineering Geology
P.S. I took it for granted that everyone would know that vehicular traffic was damaging to undisturbed desert soils, so I only mentioned foot and bicycle traffic in my letter, but just this morning I saw fresh, deep tire tracks going off the forest-service road onto a previously undisturbed area! So just to be clear, please be aware that foot, horse, bicycle, and vehicle traffic off established roads and trails is very damaging to our valuable natural resource.
I'm Uncle Duffy, and I approve this message ...
As you may know, I have a monthly column on the Signpost Web site. In the past month, I've received over a half a dozen letters from frustrated Placitans who have been concerned because new folks moving in to the newer subdivisions (not named) simply don't get it regarding the night sky here. They emblazon their houses at night with illegal lighting, which in one case—so I'm told by one of my loyal readers—shines up a blank wall, making it look like there's a drive-in movie screen in the distance.
My readers can't understand, nor can I, why someone would move here and then have such disrespect for the night skies and total disrespect for their neighbors, even in adjoining subdivisions, that they want to illuminate their houses at night. I just don't get it. Part of the reason most of the folks in Placitas built or moved here was because of the tranquility and the beautiful night skies so they can see the planets and stars.
So what to do about it? Uncle Duffy does not like the ideas he's heard so far: a vigilante approach to the lighting system, or an enormous searchlight trained on the house of the newcomers. I've even heard suggestions of a massive neighborhood horn honking outside the offenders' home. That would work, if it didn't disturb others.
Maybe enough people will send them a copy of this letter, and they'll be good neighbors and turn off the floods. Maybe. This month I won't mention names, since I assume the situation will be corrected.
If I'm elected to the Placitas County Commission, I promise to:
Make Highway 165 the same speed limit in both directions (50, not 45, not 40)!
Make the 50 mph signs bigger and put flashing lights on them, along with flashing arrows (solar-powered, of course, for my environmentally sensitive constituents) and whatever else will catch the attention of those people who either can't see them or who think the limit is 40 or 45 or whatever.
Make it a $100 Public Nuisance fine if you have more than two cars backed-up behind you—speed up or pull over so they can pass!
Impose another $100 Public Nuisance fine for those who insist on going 35-45 during prime commuting hours (7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m).
Make the frontage road down by I-25 "No Trucks Over 5,000 Lbs" so those damned gravel trucks will have to go to Algodones, where there's no traffic!
See, it'll be easy to raise money for the new County...
Your Commissioner the Commuter
Bob, I’ve had you and your ilk—who think that life is a contest to see how close to my bumper you can get without having your teeth jammed down your impatient gullet when I suddenly hit my brakes, riding my rear bumper more often than I care to reflect upon. My advice to you is to take your meds, slow down, and enjoy life.
The guy you pass over the double yellow line on the S-curve (your’s truly), is going to arrive at the bottom of the hill and pull up right behind you, much to your chagrin, while you wait with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake pedal, for the red light to change. Save yourself the embarrassment and ask, why do I care if I get to the bottom of the hill 30 seconds faster than the guy I pass. The guy you pass (me again) is probably not going to have the same massive stroke that you are from all your aggressive Type A impatience. And, do you love your job so much that you cannot get behind your desk fast enough?
—Just an ordinary, noncompetitive, non-Type A speed limit observing guy