The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Giant Industries tests Placitas pipeline for startup, plans public Q&A meeting

Stakes and flagging appearing along a dormant petroleum pipeline in Placitas indicate pressure tests needed to revive the line are about to begin, according to an official of Giant Industries.

Giant also plans a public question-and-answer session about its project on May 4 in Bernalillo, executive vice president Leland Gould said. Company officials and project engineers will be available to meet with residents between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. that day at the Quality Inn on North Hill Road north of US 550 near I-25, he said.

Hydrostatic testing, using water under pressure to test the line for leaks, already is underway at the western end of the line and is expected to begin in the Placitas area early this month, Gould added.

The sixteen-inch pipeline built in the 1950s and unused since the 1980s originally carried crude oil more than four hundred miles diagonally across New Mexico, from the San Juan Basic in the northwest to Jal in the southeast. Giant bought the line last year and wants to reverse that flow to feed refineries in Bloomfield and Gallup currently operating well below their capacities.

A proposal by the previous owner to revive the line to carry highly volatile refined fuels was scrapped amid safety concerns and allegations a larger project had been broken into smaller parts to avoid federal scrutiny.

The line through Placitas roughly follows Las Huertas Creek from I-25 and passes through the Cedar Creek area to reach a pumping station on Camino de Las Huertas at Pine-D-Ranch Road before heading easterly past the Placitas Senior Center and along NM 165 before crossing Las Huertas Creek and the Crest of Montezuma.

Gould said a startup date for pumping crude through the line is dependent on the results of the testing and other engineering studies.

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert
Placitas area an important link for wildlife migration

On April 15, the Las Placitas Association and the Las Huertas Watershed Project presented “The Wildlife Trails of Placitas,”a very full three-hour program (without breaks). Reid Bandeen, who put the program together, explained that even though the Watershed Project was designed to protect the water quality of Las Huertas Creek and improve its associated riparian areas, the work also added to wildlife habitat. He said, “Placitas is smack-dab in the middle of a wildlife highway for bobcat, coyote, foxes, and many other birds and animals. This summer, during the drought, we expect to see bears in the orchards.”

Wildlife biologist Dave Parsons, vice-chairman of the Rewilding Institute, and well known for his attempts to reintroduce the Mexican wolf into the wilds of the Southwest, was the first speaker. He explained to the audience, which filled about half the pews of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, that wolves and mountain lions are good for their habitat. He called them “apex carnivores”—strongly interacting species that check large herbivore populations and thereby increase plant diversity and populations of small herbivores and birds. Parsons described “a tropic cascade” of harmful effects on the environment which occurs in the absence of large carnivores. Wolves and bears provide “a top-down regulatory effect on all other aspects of the environment.” He explained how this cascade was reversed with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.
A viable population of large carnivores requires thousands of square miles of wild places free of roads, livestock, and human predation. Protected areas are too small without wildlife areas between them—hence the mega-linkage vision and the creation of the Rewilding Institute.

Kurt Menke, chairman of the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition, said that Tijeras Canyon has been identified as one of the most endangered wildlife linkages in North America. I-40 and Route 66 are barriers to migration and cause dangerous traffic accidents and extensive road kill. The Coalition has made great strides over the last four years in its efforts, in cooperation with local and state agencies, to find ways to design and implement crossings and fencing for safe passage for the deer, bears, bobcat, foxes, cougar, coyote, skunks, and domestic animals that are routinely killed by motorists. Menke said that the Placitas area is also an important link for wildlife migration from the Sandias to the Jemez, Ortiz, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north.

For more information about the Coalition or to volunteer, call 922-9424, or visit

Visionary conservationist and author Dave Foreman spoke next about his rewilding project, which aimed at nothing short of connecting wildland habitat from the Alaskan Arctic down the spine of the continent, through the United States, and all the way through Mexico. Foreman said that this mega-linkage could take up to a hundred years to complete, but was necessary to prevent the extinction of many species. He called this the “sixth great extinction,” caused by humans and “a key reality in the world today.” He encouraged the audience to “think big in terms of time and space” and “see the big picture of how the Sandias fit in the transfer of the eternity of the past to the eternity of the future.”

Foreman said that linking Las Huertas to the mountains of the north is one of the greatest challenges of the rewilding project. He is the author of Rewilding North America, which develops these ideas in well-researched detail. For more information, visit

Foreman’s vision was inspirational but a lot to comprehend. Denise Smith, of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the final speaker. She talked about some small things which can be done by property owners to enhance wildlife habitat. Grants are available through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
Denise has been working in Placitas with Susan Blumenthal on her Las Huertas restoration project and with the Las Placitas Association. For more information, call 346-2525 or visit
The Las Huertas Watershed Project meets monthly and welcomes volunteers. For more information, call Reid Bandeen, at 867-5477, or visit

Ojito Blessing
Photo by Bill Diven

The 11,000-acre Ojito Wilderness provides the backdrop as public and tribal officials gather for a blessing from Zia Pueblo elder Lutherio Lucero (fourth from right). Joining in the subsequent ribbon cutting were (from left) Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, Bureau of Land Management state director Linda Rundell, Representative Tom Udall, Lucero, Zia tribal administrator Peter Pino, Representative. Heather Wilson, and Zia Governor Rudy Shije.

Ojito Wilderness officially dedicated

President Bush may have signed the Ojito Wilderness into law last fall, but only recently has a Zia Pueblo elder given the eleven thousand acres an appropriate blessing.

The dedication ceremony, on April 21, brought together tribal leaders, four members of the state's congressional delegation, area ranchers, and representatives of environmental groups, all of whom worked and compromised to create the first New Mexico wilderness area in ten years.

“Things like this don't happen easily,” Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM, said. “In the end, persistence won, hard work won over the people who thought it couldn't happen.”

“All the individuals and organizations on the ground were convinced this made sense,” added Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-NM. “When that is the message we're getting from New Mexico, it's easier to get consensus in Washington.”

Those groups and individuals included the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness hoping to save the wild area, Zia leaders hoping to reconnect the two separate areas of their pueblo, and Sam, Don, and former governor Bruce King, who saw the value of preserving the land and returning sacred sites to Zia.

While Domenici, Bingaman, and their staffs got the Ojito bill through the Senate, Democratic representative Tom Udall and Republican representative Heather Wilson joined forces to accomplish the same in the House.

“You know in your hearts how you helped the pueblo,” Zia administrator Peter Pino said. “The spirit world will reward you for your efforts.”

The dry and rugged wilderness contains evidence of ancient and recent cultures. Fossil remains of seismosaurus, the longest dinosaur on record, were found in the area and are on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque.

Ojito, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, is bordered by Cabezon Road, about ten dirt miles from US 550, west of San Ysidro. As in any wilderness, visitors are responsible for their own safety and may find roads impassable in bad weather, according to the BLM.

Wilderness information is available from the BLM Rio Puerco Field Office, in Albuquerque, and from the BLM Web site,

Pino said it may be another two years before surveys and appraisals are complete, allowing Zia to buy the land needed to make the pueblo whole again. While telling the story of the Zia people and their journey from the underground to what is now Sandoval County, he pointed to the New Mexico state flag with its Zia sun symbol in red on a yellow field.

“It's been waving all the time we've been here,” he said. “I think the symbol is happy.”

Want to volunteer at an archaeological site?

Are you interested in volunteering at the Tijeras Pueblo archaeological site? Sign up at this year’s annual Friends of Tijeras Pueblo training session on April 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The all-day training event will cover current and future projects. The keynote speaker this year is Beverly R. Singer, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology and Native American studies at the University of New Mexico. She is an internationally known and respected filmmaker and author of Wiping the War Paint off the Lens: Native American Film and Video.

If you are interested in attending this event, call the Sandia Ranger District in advance, at 281-3304, to reserve your training packet.


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