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  The Gauntlet
c. Greg Leichner

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Wild Horses

Wild horses in Placitas. Photo credit: Barb Belknap

re: Statement from WHOA on horse slaughter

WHOA has requested Governor Martinez to Ban Horse Slaughter in NM by Executive Order. This is one of the means available to her office.  WHOA has also asked her to discontinue having her Livestock Board members lobby the NM State Legislature in favor of horse slaughter, as they have mis-leadingly done this last year, utilizing only parts of GAO (Government Accountability Office) reports.

These GAO reports actually recommend the Ban of horse slaughter. Susanna Martinez has made statements that she is against the proposed horse slaughter plant opening in New Mexico, but has only passively asked the federal authorities to deny it. She can continue on with feel good words, to pass the buck to the federal government, or, she can lead, and utilize the means available to her office as Governor, to Ban Horse Slaughter for human consumption in NM. Moreover, horse flesh is not approved by the FDA for sale in the US. These issues are covered in detail in the article on Daily Kos "NM Governor Susana Martinez—Against Horse Slaughter . . . Really? Hotlist this diary:            Slaughter-Really-

—Patience O’Dowd, Wild Horse Observers Association, Placitas

re: “Land of Enchantment” or “Land of Dismemberment”

We must take action now! After six years of closures of horse slaughter houses in the U.S., New Mexico would be the first in the nation to kill and process horse meet to send abroad to satisfy foreign gourmet tastes.

Is this what New Mexico wants to be known for? Thanks go to Governor Martinez, Land Commissioner Powell, and Attorney General King, and many others, who expressed the vehement opposition. We hope the Tourism Department and businesses as well, will realize what opening this endeavor will do to trash the mystique of the “Land of Enchantment.”

Many will just not come here because New Mexico allows the killing of American horses for foreign markets. What a downer! The idea is repugnant and repulsive to me! The blame lies on animal abusers, over-breeders, and especially Congress who can never pass any spending Bill without scapegoating some innocent animal, starting with the Burns Amendment targeting wild horses, then the wolves, and weakening the Endangered Species Act. In November, the Agricultural Appropriations Bill was passed without banning the U.S.D.A. from using tax payer money for horse meat inspections, and President Obama signed it.

The solution is passing “The American Slaughter Prevention Act,” which prohibits the sale or transport of horses or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent of processing for human consumption. Never has a Bill with such strong public support been denied its “due process” in Congress, year after year, by our Senator Jeff Bingaman who is chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.

Contact him and express support of SB1176 and HB2966. You may also call or write Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at: 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington D.C. 20250. Keep our beautiful state the Land of Enchantment, not the Land of Dismemberment.

—Betty J. Pritchard, Bernalillo

re: big apple whoopee

Dear Friends Back East,

I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s visit to your teeming—but swarming—city. Thank you for allowing me to share your lodgings along with your splendid company.  

Airline connections from the Big Apple to Albuquerque have become increasingly peculiar.  My return route took me through both Miami and Honolulu, and I nearly missed connections in Calgary. But I have no complaints—it was worth the trip to spend time with my old friends back east! Thank you again for your hospitality. 

I must again apologize for letting the giant rat into the spare room. I was certain it was merely a forlorn stray cat that I saw peering in the window from the fire escape—whimpering and scratching. But it was dark, making it difficult to discern rodent eyes from feline, and it was only after opening the window and glimpsing the long, slick tail snake across the windowsill that I realized my sleepy, though well-intended foolishness. 

Ridding the premises of this oversized, steroid-addicted varmint caused a terrible commotion which I, like you, will not soon forget. I still don’t know which of you used that left handed titanium driver so effectively on the bold, bedraggled creature, but the club’s obvious utility lends itself to expanded advertising claims for Titleist.

It was certainly an imaginative notion to cancel plans for the Radio City Music Hall in favor of a scenic jaunt to Hoboken and a tour of the National Hubcap Museum. You can’t beat spontaneity. As you predicted, the crowd was considerably less, and I’ve never in my life seen walls and ceilings populated with so many round, silvery objects. 

Driving over to Brooklyn to photograph homes belonging to members of the Russian mafia was also exciting—certainly more than taking in a Broadway show. Thanks, more or less, for that memorable experience as well.  

It was good to find Mighty Patrick, aging coon cat, in good health upon my return. Perhaps it’s because Patrick is unaccustomed to prolonged absences on my part that he was a bit distant at first. He greeted me in a rather stilted, formal fashion as if to say, “I’m glad you decided to come back, sir, but fervently hope going through security was mega-humiliating for you in all respects.” 

But not long after I went to bed, I felt his furry form recline against my lower leg. A bit later, the wee lad changed locations and fell asleep on my chest, purring softly into my face. 

—Your Friend, Herb

Bandelier, Valles Caldera set management example

—David Menicucci

With our public forestlands increasingly vulnerable to devastating forest fires, many people have begun to question the competence of the US Forest Service. But, this agency is unquestionably skilled in irritating citizens and harming businesses with steadily growing numbers of restrictions to public forestland. Some of these restrictions appear to be arbitrary and poorly justified.

Given his priority to open the monument to citizens, Lott sought the assistance of Los Alamos County, which he considers to be a collaborator in properly managing the monument. The county agreed to supply bus service between White Rock and Bandelier so that the public could visit the monument while Lott’s team reorganized.

Jason Lott, superintendent of Bandelier, explained that the National Park Service’s mission is to help citizens “enjoy their property” by allowing them to use it. “Our goal following the fire was to open the Monument to the public as soon as possible, once we completed assessments and understood the conditions of the landscape,” he said. “But we were hampered by flood risks.”

Lott explained that such collaboration is common in the Park Service. “Local businesses and the neighboring communities provide services that our visitors need to enjoy their public property. They will sleep in lodges, shop in stores, and eat in restaurants. It is a winner for both of us.”

Lott is extraordinarily serious about citizen access to Bandelier. He maintains a professional journal of his activities at the monument. Dozens of his logbooks document his NPS career. In the opening pages of each logbook, he said, he has hand-written the NPS mission statement: “I want to be constantly reminded that we exist to serve the public by allowing them access to their property.”

Lott suggested that flooding was “at least a seventy-five year rain event,” and the ensuing torrent “would probably have been substantial, even without the fire,” but it strained the budget and caused delays.

Sharon Stover, Chair of Los Alamos County Council, agreed, “Bandelier is a productive and cooperative neighbor that supports our community.”

The actions of Lott and Trujillo demonstrate a fruitful and enlightened approach to managing public forest property, one that respects the rights of citizen-owners to access and use their lands. If the USFS could expand their vision and emulate these actions, all parties would benefit. The time is right for a new approach. The place to start is in the Jemez Mountains.

The closure of the Jemez Las Conchas burn scar to all entry is a case in point. This appears to be an unwarranted and bewildering overreaction. Only nineteen percent of the burn scar was severely burned, and over half was either lightly affected or untouched by fire. Access to these slightly affected areas is a sensible expectation, certainly for pedestrians. Yet the USFS remains obstinate, and the continued closure of the area has outraged hikers who want to survey their public land, eliminated planned deer and elk hunts, and damaged businesses such as lodges and outfitters.

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is also open to most activities, and the elk hunts have been on schedule. Dennis Trujillo, Executive Director, worked with his staff to mitigate flooding issues on roads and to remove hazard trees along trails, especially in the areas most affected by fire. Thus, even the severely burned areas have been open to hunters this fall.

There is a better way to manage public land, as exemplified by two public forest properties that were included in the fire zone. The Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve are open for visitors, including vehicular traffic, hunters, and hikers.

Trujillo explained that the fire-induced hazards, such as burned trees, will remain in place for years to come. “We have staff looking at potential hazards and respond accordingly to the forecasted weather for every event,” he explained. Trujillo is also diligently working to restore the world-class fisheries that were damaged by the ash that washed into the streams. “I would like to have fishers back on those waters by next spring,” he declared.

While these two agencies demonstrate respect for the rights of the citizen-owners of these public lands to access their property, the USFS seems to have confused public land stewardship with private land ownership.

Menicucci is a retired national lab researcher who owns a bed & breakfast in Los Alamos. He is a registered NM hunt and fish guide.

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