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Eco-Beat

Placitas Recycling Association conducting spring drive for new volunteers

The Placitas Recycling Association (PRA) announced a spring drive to recruit more volunteers to work at the recycling center on Highway 165 on Saturday mornings. “Our community is changing. We have new residents using the recycling center and who may wish to contribute a small amount of time to help us keep the center going,” commented PRA President Chris DiGregory. “We’re not asking for a lot of time. Just a couple Saturdays a year.”

The PRA has made a lot of improvements to the recycling center over the last few years. The yard has been expanded, and new trailers have been purchased to contain the recycled materials. A concrete wall has replaced most of the old fence, and its attractiveness is being enhanced with beautiful wildlife panels donated by Placitas area artists.

“Not everybody realizes that the recycling center is an all-volunteer operation. When you bring your materials to the center, those people helping unload and manage the operation are all residents of the Placitas area, volunteering their time to help make this a green community,” adds Chris Anderson, PRA Vice President and Volunteer Coordinator. “We need more volunteers so that we don’t overload the terrific volunteers we currently have. The goal is for volunteers to work only two Saturdays per year unless they would like to work more often.” Saturday volunteer schedules typically run from about 7:45 to 11:15 a.m., including 15 minutes before and after the 8 -11 operating hours to open up and close the facility.

For those who may not be able to help on Saturday mornings, the PRA also needs people who can volunteer at other times, baling plastic or transporting the recycled materials to vendors in Albuquerque. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how much work goes into keeping an operation like this running. We have to do almost all the work ourselves, including making sure the trailers are emptied and ready to accept new materials each and every Saturday. No one is paid to get the center ready and deal with all the materials. We rely on the generosity of residents who donate their time,” notes DiGregory. “Our volunteers are the backbone of our operation. Very simply, we couldn’t offer this important community service without them. Sometimes I think we don’t show our appreciation enough, but rest assured, we are extremely grateful for their generosity.”

Volunteers will be handing out fliers at the recycling center during the spring drive, asking visitors to join their ranks. Those interested can sign up at the center on Saturday mornings, phone Chris Anderson at 554-1951, or e-mail her at ca516294@aol.com.

The all-volunteer Placitas Recycling Center is located on Highway 165 one-half mile east of I-25. It is open Saturday mornings between 8:00 and 11:00 a.m., except on posted holidays. The center recycles cardboard, office paper, newspaper and mixed paper, aluminum, No. 1 (PETE) and No. 2 (HDPE) plastics, bagged polystyrene peanuts, and inkjet printer cartridges. At this time, it does not accept glass or non-aluminum metals.  More information about the center and the materials it accepts can be found at www.placitasrecycling.com.


Las Placitas Association May trails workshop

The Las Placitas Association (LPA) will be hosting an outdoor workshop on hiking trail maintenance and construction on Saturday, May 8. We’ll focus on trail maintenance, construction, and erosion control on the west side of the Placitas Open Space. Our favorite trail specialists from the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division will join us and provide all necessary tools. This work is part of LPA’s continuing efforts to assist the City of Albuquerque in implementing the management plan for the Placitas Open Space. Las Placitas will provide drinks and snacks for this morning workshop. Please wear sturdy clothes and bring work gloves, a sun hat, extra water, and some rain gear. We’ll meet at the Placitas Homesteads Mercantile (The Merc) parking lot at 8:30 a.m., carpool to the site, and work until about noon. The area is beautiful this time of year, and your participation helps to assure the viability of the Placitas Open Space!

For more information on the workshop and LPA, log on to our Web site at http://www.lasplacitas.org, or call Reid Bandeen at 867-5477. We look forward to seeing you May 8!


Plastic bags

Americans go through some 92 billion disposable plastic bags each year

EarthTalk® —The Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk:

How effective have plastic bag bans and restrictions been on reducing plastic litter and other problems associated with their proliferation? And is it really better to use paper bags, which will just lead to more deforestation?                     

—Peter Lindsey, New Canaan, CT

Plastic bags, first introduced in the 1950s as a convenient way to store food, have since developed into a global scourge, littering roadsides, clogging sewer drains and landfills, and getting ingested by animals and marine life. And in recent years we’ve discovered how they are so prolific that they now comprise a significant portion of the plastic and other garbage that has collected in huge ocean gyres far from land.

A few countries around the world—Bangladesh, China, India, Australia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan and Mumbai, among others—have taken stands against plastic bags through taxing their usage or banning them outright. The environmental think tank, Worldwatch Institute, reports that China’s decision to ban free plastic bags in 2008 has cut demand by some 40 billion bags, reduced plastic bag usage there by 66 percent, and saved some 1.6 million tons of petroleum.

In March 2007, San Francisco became the first (and is still the only) major U.S. city to implement an across-the-board ban on plastic bags. Large supermarkets and pharmacies there had to ditch plastic shopping bags by early 2008 in favor of paper bags or those made from all-natural biodegradable cornstarch-based plastic. Environmentalists are particularly fond of the latter option for those who don’t bring their own grocery bags, as these cornstarch bags offer the biodegradability of paper without the deforestation, as well as the convenience of plastic without the damage to ecosystems. San Francisco officials had originally tried to work with retailers on reducing plastic bag use voluntarily. But after a few years of little or no cooperation, they decided to just institute the ban on anything but biodegradable bags. The result has been a 50 percent drop in plastic bag litter on the streets since the ban took effect.

Los Angeles followed suit, and its city council voted in 2008 to ban plastic bags beginning in July 2010—but the ban will only take effect if the state of California doesn’t follow through on a statewide plan to impose a fee on shoppers who request plastic bags. City council members in L.A. hope the ban will spur consumers to carry their own reusable bags and thus reduce the amount of plastic washing into the city’s storm drains and into the Pacific Ocean. Several other U.S. cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, have considered outright bans like San Francisco’s, but each settled instead on plastic bag recycling programs in the face of pressure from the plastics industry and retail commercial interests.

While increased demand for paper bags in the wake of plastic bag bans could lead to more deforestation, most paper grocery bags in use today are made from recycled content, not virgin wood. Also, an added benefit of paper over petroleum-based plastic is its biodegradability.

Americans go through some 92 billion disposable plastic bags each year and only five billion paper ones. If the nation banned plastic bags, it is likely that paper varieties would only make up a small part of the difference, in light of the proliferation of reusable canvas shopping bags as well as the availability of biodegradable cornstarch plastic.


Sandia Ranger District picnic area scheduled openings

As the weather warms up, the Sandia Ranger District will start work on summer projects in the Sandia and Manzanita Mountains. The projects that may impact visitors will include Las Huertas Picnic ground, Capulin Snow Play area, and Nine Mile picnic ground renovations.

The Las Huertas Canyon Picnic grounds will remain closed due to the renovation.

“Hopefully weather will cooperate which will allow construction to finish mid-summer,” said Sandia District Ranger Cid Morgan. This much-needed renovation is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) which is also funding a new trailhead that will be under construction in the Manzanita Mountains near Cedro Peak on FS Road 462.

The plans for the Capulin Snow Play area are to have the tubing and sledding areas expanded and the existing slope regraded to provide for additional terrain for snow play in the Sandia Mountains.

Nine Mile Picnic ground will be closed for repairs and hazard tree removal until mid-June.

Schedule of picnic area openings:

• North of I-40, Balsam Glade and Doc Long (front part) picnic grounds are open year around.

The following areas will be open May 1, 2010:

• Capulin, Sulphur and Cienega picnic grounds.

• South of Hwy 14, Pine Flat picnic ground is open.

• West Side of the Sandia Mountains, Juan Tabo and La Cueva picnic grounds are open year around.

All areas have grills, picnic tables and restrooms. Due to bears in the area, do not leave food unattended or you could be fined up to $5,000 individually or $10,000 for an organization.

For additional information, contact the Sandia Ranger District at 505-281-3304.


Foal

The foal in the tank. Photo by Holly Smith

Forester’s Log: Swimming with Wild Horses

—Mary Stuever

I have recently been reminded, that here in the arid Southwest, water is a huge attractant. Last week, I returned home from an Arizona forestry field trip where a central theme had been the environmental impacts of large populations on watered environments. I was debriefing with a friend and my mother, and explaining that hordes of humans were not the only animals attracted to water. In my own hometown, a rural suburb near Albuquerque, a herd of free-roaming horses often come into my neighborhood to drink at my neighbor’s water tank. Occasionally, I went on to explain, one of the little foals fall into the square concrete enclosure and cannot get out unassisted.

The next morning, on my way to work, I notice these wild horses in the neighbors’ yard, and so I glance over at the tank. Sure enough, a baby horse head is visible above the concrete rim. I turn back toward the house to start the rescue process. I gather my houseguest Rose, call my wild horse-enthusiast friend Laura, and head down to the tank. This little guy (girl?) is clearly cold, and upon our arrival demonstrates that he is able to get his front legs out of the tank, but not able to make an exit. Rose heads off to a nearby horse stable to seek help, and I gather cinder blocks to build a step in the tank to assist the horse’s self-rescue attempts.

When I worked on post-wildfire recovery, one of our many tasks was to round up feral horses. We needed to reduce the free-roaming horse population so newly recovering vegetation could become well-established and prevent massive soil erosion. The relationship between a horse population and the vegetation on the land requires a careful balance if both are to thrive. By reducing the herd, which fortunately had had nine hundred animals removed five years earlier, we could reduce soil loss, but still provide for a herd that in many ways embodies the free-roaming spirit of the Apache people that cohabit the reservation and admire the wild horses.

The troubling challenge was what to do with the horses we captured. We could not sell them to the reservation residents, or they would end up back on the range we were trying to protect. So, the program funders required that we sell them off the reservation, which meant a trip to the auction for most animals. I bought one, and now keep him with a neighbor. My relationship with this free-spirited partner has opened me to the amazing world of horses. It has also made me keenly aware of how many horses need good homes.

Finding homes for horses that exceed the size of the herd an ecosystem is able to support seems like a mild task compared to the challenge of reducing the human impact on the landscape around communities like Sedona, Arizona. With over a million visitors each year, the national forest is hammered: trammeled ground too compact to grow plants, trees and shrubs stripped of lower limbs for an evening’s fire, long stagnant lines of carbon-monoxide-belching automobiles crawling through parking lots waiting to expunge the next wave of impact. Not a problem I know how to solve; certainly one that will take a community approach.

The problem I can help solve is getting the little horse out of the water tank. Holly and Allison from the stable return with Rose and together the four us of gather boards and bricks. Holly volunteers to get in the water with the horse and my own spastic fall into the tank adds another cold, wet volunteer stacking bricks and boards underwater. The young horse is quick to use the newly constructed step and pulls himself out of the tank before the reinforcements of wild horse fans arrive. I learn later that other neighbors helped guide the little guy back to his herd. The rescue is truly a community effort.

The lessons of the little horse linger in my thoughts. Like my Apache friends, many of us in my own community admire and revere the wild inspiration of living among free-roaming horses. Like the creeks of Sedona, open water provides an irresistible lure and becomes a focal point to contemplate the impacts of overpopulation. In this contemplation, I realize only community and communication can guide us to solutions, and to be rescued, we each have to do our own part.

 

     

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