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re: correction to Placitas Flea Market starting
The first Placitas Flea Market to benefit the Placitas
Art In The Schools program will be on May 13. Flea markets will
then be held on the second Saturday of each month in the parking
lot of Homestead Village, in Placitas.
re: oblivious driver trashes landscape, threatens homes
Who are these people? Having been residents of Placitas for fifteen
years now, I like to think that as newcomers we've been pretty responsive
to the lessons that living in a fragile natural place has taught
us. Lately, we've seen some pretty stupid behavior, but yesterday
we saw something that made us very angry.
We had finished up a run to the landfill and heading home were
following a late model white Chevy Suburban up the hill from Bernalillo.
As we approached our turn, the woman driver ahead of us flipped
a lit cigarette butt out of her window and continued up towards
the S-curve. The smoldering butt slid off into the gravel at the
side of the road but if the winds had been just a little stronger
at that moment it would have rolled into the brush and started a
With the dead remnants of burned cottonwoods in the bosque, a
350-person fire crew trying to contain the Ojos Fire up north, a
county-wide fireworks ban, and a ban on open fires in our national
forests, isn't it pretty clear that everyone has to exercise caution
and consideration to preserve our community's safety? Tossing a
lit cigarette may be o.k. back in whatever city that woman came
from or she may have been raised to be careless about trashing other
people's property, but in any case there is no excuse for this kind
of behavior. Living in New Mexico is a gift and a privilege—it's
about time that everyone realizes how much is at stake and does
their part to protect our homes.
—TRASHED IN PLACITAS
re: religious-science policy amended at Rio Rancho schools
The big win was the federal court opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover
Area School District, on December 20, which greatly changed the
Rio Rancho situation in our favor. On Monday night, by virtue of
a sensible compromise, we gained a small but significant policy
advantage that may require occasional effort to sustain. We could
not have achieved more at this time, while three fundamentalist
Christians dominate the Rio Rancho school board.
Arising from sectarian religious motives, Rio Rancho’s Science
Education Policy 401 was adopted by the school board last summer
for the purpose of undermining classroom instruction in biological
and astronomical evolutionary science. Faced with determined opposition
by the district’s science teachers and by many others over
the last eight months, the school board amended its policy on Monday
night to bring it into conformance with New Mexico’s science-education
standards. While the policy serves no beneficial purpose, and needs
to be repealed, the amendment closed a loophole that was designed
to admit “intelligent design” and other forms of religious
creationism into public-school science classes, in derogation of
the scientific theories of natural evolution and the establishment
clause of the First Amendment.
I should like to see the errant threesome out of office, even
if they cause no more trouble for a while. Science Policy 401 cannot
have been their only misdirection to the school district.
—NAT GIFFORD, Corrales
re: county-wide high speed Internet available yet?
When will we have access to broadband which is now being set up
throughout Sandoval County? Evidently the Placitas Community Center
and the Placitas Fire Brigade are now set up. Sooner or later it
will be available to the public and I hope it's sooner rather than
later. For all of you as frustrated as I am with the molasses of
dial-up networking, perhaps it's time to urge the County to get
this project truly "off the ground." You can check out
and there's an email address there.
Anxiously awaiting being able to be part of this,
—LARRY GOODELL, Placitas
re: poison kills more than rats and mice—dead owls
and hawk found
I found two dead great horned owls. The owls have lived in the
arroyo for the past fourteen years. All of us who have known these
wonderful birds will miss them and the families they raised each
The two owls and a red-tailed hawk I found the week before probably
died as a result of secondary poisoning. I discussed the matter
with New Mexico Game and Fish and their representative came to the
Many Placitas residents use poison to control the rats and mice
who love our area as much as we do. I urge everyone to choose alternate
methods to control the rats and mice. They can certainly be a nuisance
in the immediate vicinity of the house, but they are part of our
ecosystem. Please, before using poison, think about the consequences
of its use on our local wildlife and pets.
It really was very sad finding the owls. They had become part
of our lives, and I saw at least one of them virtually every day.
When we had visitors, I loved to bring them to the edge of the arroyo
and point out the owls. They were very predictable and roosted in
the same places at the same time of day. No one who ever saw them
My fondest memory was the spring ritual when the mom or dad introduced
his kids to us. When the dogs and I walked in the arroyo and the
young were in the trees for the first time (the nest was in a nicho
in the side of the arroyo), they became a little excited. Mom or
dad made a soft sound almost like a dove's cooing, and the babies
calmed down immediately. I'm hoping that some of the young owls
in the nearby arroyos move back into the territory.
Even if you are not that concerned about wildlife, when using
poison outside, think of yourself and your children. When rat poison
and other toxic substances are used above ground, they seep into
the aquifer. It takes a while, but the toxins eventually get into
—MICHAEL MILONE, Placitas
re: longer life—dream or nightmare?
My friend Lali Sing was telling me over Easter that scientific
studies show we will be living longer lives. And that people living
to be one hundred and fifty will not be surprising in the near future.
Lali was pretty excited about all this.
I'm not so sure (I'm not even going to talk about overpopulation).
First of all, who is going to pay for all these life-extending operations,
replacements, and procedures? If we had some kind of national health
system then maybe this would be a good thing. But we don't. And
given the fact that we probably will never be as enlightened as
the rest of the world in terms of taking care of our elderly citizens,
it's a real concern. And then the current national debt that this
administration has run up is so serious that if and when they finally
decide to do what Clinton did and balance the budget, it is going
to come at the expense of things like health care, social security,
and education (god forbid we should do anything like eliminate the
tax breaks that have bankrupted the country).
So, while living longer lives may be a fantastic dream to some,
to me it's a nightmare. Eighty or ninety will be just old enough
for me, thank you.
—GARY W. PRIESTER, Placitas
If you’ve got some nuke waste, you can WIPP
Things could get a lot hotter at southeastern New Mexico’s
nuclear waste storage facility if the state carries out plans to
relax its rules.
Opened in 1999, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) stores
radioactive waste, such as contaminated equipment and soil, from
as far away as the Idaho National Laboratory and Washington’s
Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Now, the U.S. Department of Energy and the facility’s private
contractor, Washington TRU Solutions, want to accept hotter waste
that must be handled robotically. They also want the state to allow
for temporary aboveground storage and to eliminate a testing practice
that ensures waste doesn’t exceed the facility’s environmental
Despite blocking such requests during WIPP’s initial permitting
process, the state is now poised to accept them. What the decision
boils down to, according to Adam Rankin, communications director
of the state Environment Department, is whether the changes comply
with federal law regulating hazardous waste. “And we think
they do,” he says.
But New Mexico’s new stance marks a “total reversal”
of its position during the initial permitting process, says Don
Hancock of the citizens’ advocacy group Southwest Research
and Information Center. He adds that the proposed changes could
expose WIPP’s workers, and people along waste transportation
routes, to more dangerous levels of radioactivity in the event of
The state will hold public hearings from May 31 to June 6 in Carlsbad
and from June 7 to 9 in Santa Fe. For more information see www.nmenv.state.nm.us/wipp/.
High Country News (www.hcn.org) covers the West's
communities and natural-resource issues from Paonia, Colorado.
New Mexican Cable customers need economic freedom
—PAUL J. GESSING
It is a widely known economic fact that in the absence of competition,
consumers are stuck paying too much for too little in the way of
goods and services. Nowhere is that truer than it is in the cable
television market. New Mexico consumers are stuck with over-priced,
inferior-quality video services because federal and state regulations
have failed to keep up with fast-changing technologies. Unfortunately,
New Mexico is not alone in not keeping up—almost every state
in the union regulates cable providers under outdated statutes written
when the industry was in its infancy, before the word “Internet”
But we live in a much different world today. High-speed broadband
service can give consumers access to video, voice and data communications,
all wrapped in a single package. New technologies promise to completely
revolutionize home entertainment, education, business, and healthcare
in ways that we can only imagine. But if current regulations are
left unchanged, it will be years before these technological benefits
are available to consumers and states and nations that fail to update
their laws will be left behind.
The U.S. is losing ground in the percentage of households with
broadband service as we sit at a lowly 19th in the world. Slovenia
is expected to surpass the U.S. in broadband penetration by 2007.
The problem is simple—our outdated laws make it almost impossible
for new companies to enter the market. Companies could offer high-tech
Internet, TV, phone and more video services over new cables but
they must wade through quite a process to obtain a franchise for
video service. They are required to negotiate individual contracts
with every city government in each service area. It is estimated
that this cumbersome process will slow the deployment of broadband
services in the U.S. by as much as fifteen years.
We shouldn’t expect any real relief from rapidly-rising
cable bills until regulations are rewritten to allow for a competitive
market. We need New Mexico’s elected officials to push forward
with franchise reform as well. Our monopolistic system has run its
course; let’s try a competitive market for a change.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s
Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent,
non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated
to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited
government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.
Jane Braxton Little
This land is my land—really
—JANE BRAXTON LITTLE
President Bush wants to sell my land to fund rural schools. I mean
my land—not the vast tracts of federal forests and grasslands
I co-own with the proverbial New York cabbie, the Seattle widow
and all other American citizens. My private land—the 12 acres
I own with my husband. We bought it through a Forest Service land
exchange in 2000 and have paid taxes on it ever since.
Yet there it is, a tiny green polygon on the maps described in
the Feb. 28 Federal Register. There it is, part of the president’s
plan to sell 304,370 acres of Forest Service land to raise $800
million to fund the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination
Act, a popular county payments program established in 2000.
If our speck of land in rural northeastern California were the
only mistake in the president’s funding plan, we could all
laugh it off as another bureaucratic blunder. But the proposal is
replete with errors. Some are like the inclusion of our property,
mere slip-ups in a sloppy process done in haste. Others are far
more troubling, suggesting a strategy that veers from simply incompetent
Take California’s Plumas National Forest, where agency officials
have listed 700 acres that are already under contract to the Maidu
stewardship project. This first-of-a-kind program was approved by
Congress to demonstrate traditional Native American management techniques
on national forest land. At best, the listing is a thoughtless error.
At worst, it is a cynical response to an innovative undertaking.
Forest Service officials say the lands proposed for sale nationwide
are difficult and expensive to manage. They insist the parcels are
not environmentally sensitive or protected scenic areas. But the
list includes 730 acres in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic
Area in Washington and Oregon, archaeological sites in Alaska, and
two parcels at the head of Swan Lake within a wildlife refuge in
A mile-long roadless area near Eagles Nest Wilderness is among
the 21,000 acres for sale in Colorado. So are two popular rock-climbing
areas in Boulder Canyon and a snowboarding site around St. Mary's
Glacier. For spelunkers, Pluto Cave in California is part of a sale
tract with spectacular views of Mount Shasta.
The list includes 1,300 acres of a rare low-elevation old growth
forest in Washington's Sultan River Canyon. In Montana's Bitterroot
Valley, Bush wants to sell the Willoughby 40, an outdoor classroom
painstakingly restored to native pines and sagebrush and maintained
by the Ravalli County Resource Advisory Committee, Forest Service
employees and Lone Rock school kids. So much for collaboration.
Agency spokesmen admit they threw the parcel list together in
a rush aimed at producing enough property value to come up with
the funding commitment in the president’s budget. They acknowledge
that they used computer data that looked primarily at the size of
the tracts and whether they were separated from the main body of
the forest, not whether they played a role in recreation or other
Clearly, no officials at any level went out on the ground to review
the properties they have proposed to abandon. It they had, they
would have discovered the wildlife, watershed and aesthetic legacy
they are sacrificing for a pot of cash. They would have confronted
a funding scheme that values maximizing short-term income over preserving
public treasures. They might even have realized that the tiny 12-acre
parcel listed for sale in the remote Sierra Nevada is in private
The president’s proposal to sell national forest land to
raise revenue for a one-time payment is the land-management equivalent
of his strategy for leaving Iraq. It shows a profound lack of foresight.
Resolving the mistaken listing of my land will likely require little
more than a telephone call. It will take Congress to resolve the
more significant errors of this foolish proposal.
The Forest Service has extended the comment period on the administration’s
land-sale proposal to May 1. Write USDA Forest Service, SRS comments,
Lands 4S, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Mailstop 1124, Washington,
D.C., 20250-0030 or e-mail SRS_Land_Sales@fs.fed.us.
Jane Braxton Little is a contributor to Writers
on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado
lives in Greenville, California, and writes about forests and natural