The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


LED bulbs

LED bulbs have not been known for their brightness, but manufacturers are working hard to change that. EarthLED is lighting the way with its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs, pictured here, which deliver the equivalent of 100-watt and 50-60 watt incandescents, respectively.



Dear EarthTalk: What’s the story with LED light bulbs that are reputed to be even more energy-efficient than compact fluorescents?


Perhaps the ultimate “alternative to the alternative,” the LED (light-emitting diode) light bulb may well dethrone the compact fluorescent (CFL) as king of the green lighting choices. But it has a way to go yet in terms of both affordability and brightness.

LEDs have been used widely for decades in other applications—forming the numbers on digital clocks, lighting up watches and cell phones and, when used in clusters, illuminating traffic lights and forming the images on large outdoor television screens. Until recently, LED lighting has been impractical to use for most other everyday applications because it is built around costly semiconductor technology. But the price of semiconductor materials has dropped in recent years, opening the door for some exciting changes in energy-efficient, green-friendly lighting options.

According to, LED bulbs are lit solely by the movement of electrons. Unlike incandescents, they have no filament that will burn out; and unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury or other toxic substances. Proponents say LEDs can last some sixty times longer than incandescents and ten times longer than CFLs. And unlike incandescents, which generate a lot of waste heat, LEDs don’t get especially hot and use a much higher percentage of electricity for directly generating light.

But as with early CFLs, LED bulbs are not known for their brightness. According to a January 2008 article in Science Daily, “Because of their structure and material, much of the light in standard LEDs becomes trapped, reducing the brightness of the light and making them unsuitable as the main lighting source in the home.” LED makers get around this problem in some applications by clustering many small LED bulbs together in a single casing to concentrate the light emitted. But such LED “bulbs” still don’t generate light much brighter than a thirty-five-watt incandescent, much too little light for reading or other focused tasks.

If LEDs are going to replace incandescents and CFLs, manufacturers will have to make them brighter. EarthLED is lighting the way with its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs, which use multiple LEDs in a single casing to generate light.

The EvoLux delivers light equal to that of a one-hundred-watt incandescent, the company says. But the $80/bulb price tag may be tough to swallow. The ZetaLux, which retails for $49.99, delivers light equivalent to a fifty- or sixty-watt incandescent, will last fifty thousand hours and costs only $2/yearly to run.

Other bulb makers are working on similar designs for high-powered LED bulbs, hoping that an increase in availability will help spur demand, which will in turn lower prices across the board. Until then, consumers can find LED bulbs suitable for secondary and mood lighting purposes in many hardware and big box stores. C. Crane’s 1.3-watt LED bulb, for example, generates as much light as a fifteen-watt incandescent bulb. Check your local hardware store for other options, as well as online vendors such as Best Home LED Lighting, Bulbster, and We Love LEDs.

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You name it, Rio Rancho will recycle it...well, almost anything

Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful (KRRB) will be conducting America Recycles Day on Saturday, November 1 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The collection will take place at Wal-Mart, located at 901 Unser Boulevard, in the northeast parking lot.

As part of this citywide collection of recyclable and reusable items, local organizations and businesses will be collecting specific items. These items will include plastic bags, used children’s books, eyeglasses, hearing aids, ink/printer cartridges, propane tanks, charged fire extinguishers, non-perishable food, used clothing/shoes of wearable quality, passenger vehicle tires (limit four; no rims or truck tires), refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, freezers, AC units, hot water heaters, dishwashers, cardboard, office paper, newspaper, magazines, coated book stock, all plastics #1 through #7, aluminum, copper, brass, steel, bronze, stainless steel, computers, scanners, monitors, printers, VCRs, digital phones, DVD players, copiers, fax machines, televisions, microwaves, cell phones, and rechargeable batteries.

This collection is for Rio Rancho residents only and is subject to weather. Trash (household, yard), animal waste, biomedical waste, and hazardous waste will not be accepted. Beneficiaries of this event include Shining Stars Preschool, Rio Rancho Host Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, Bolton Iron Works, Storehouse West, St. Felix Pantry, Boy’s Appliance, and Enchantment Electronic Recycling.

For more information, please call 896-8729. KRRB is a division of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. You may also visit the city’s website ( and look for KRRB’s Kerby Coyote mascot icon and link.

River otters back in New Mexico

A native New Mexican once found in streams and rivers throughout the state has returned home after a sixty-year absence. Five river otters were released in the waters of the Rio Pueblo de Taos on Taos Pueblo.

The wild otters were trapped and transported from Washington by USDA Wildlife Services and Taos Pueblo as part of a larger otter reintroduction program organized by Taos Pueblo; The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; and the New Mexico Friends of River Otters, a coalition of citizens, agencies, and conservation organizations dedicated to restoring otters to the state.

“Protecting and restoring native wildlife is important to the heritage and ecology of New Mexico, and one of the main roles of the Department of Game and Fish,” Department Director Bruce Thompson said. “Today’s release is a positive first step in an effort to return otters to watersheds across the state.”

River otters are highly social, playful, semi-aquatic members of the weasel family. They are believed to have once inhabited the Gila, upper and middle Rio Grande, Mora, San Juan, and Canadian river systems and occasionally were mentioned in the journals of early settlers.

There have been no confirmed sightings of river otters in the state since 1953. Decades of trapping and habitat loss are believed to be two factors in their disappearance.

“We are extremely excited that Taos Pueblo has taken the initiative to ensure that our playful furbearing friends are once again diving and swimming in the Upper Rio Grande Watershed,” said Melissa Savage with the New Mexico Friends of River Otters.

In 2006, the State Game Commission directed the Department of Game and Fish to initiate efforts to restore otters to state waters. A Department study identified several rivers as suitable restoration sites, including the Upper Rio Grande, White Rock Canyon, and Middle Rio Chama in the Rio Grande Basin; and the Upper Gila, Lower Gila, and Lower San Francisco rivers in the Gila River Basin. A second, larger release is scheduled on the main stem of the Upper Rio Grande in November.

The New Mexico Friends of River Otters, a coalition of government agencies and conservation organizations, plans to release additional otters. Members include Amigos Bravos, Earth Friends Wild Species Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Four Corners Institute, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Local residents author book with great insight and knowledge of our beautiful surroundings.

Book review

Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing Their Natural History

by Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire


It might seem there are already plenty of guides to Western plants. But Christmas just became easier for people who have wildflower lovers on their shopping lists. Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies creates its own niche, part field guide, part good old-fashioned storytelling, making it a delight to carry along on rambles and to add to any collection of resources on native plants. This book is special, both informative and entertaining with uncommon extras, reflecting the authors’ widespread interests.

Both authors are well-qualified to compile this book. Carolyn Dodson, retired after a career in library services, holds a master’s degree in biological sciences and teaches wildflower identification classes in the continuing education division of the University of New Mexico. William W. Dunmire served as a naturalist in national parks for many years, has been a field biologist with The Nature Conservancy, and has authored other books about plants in the region. At present, he is an Associate in Biology at the University of New Mexico. The splendid line drawings are the work of the late Walter K. Graf.

The result of this impressive collaboration is a superbly illustrated and enthusiastically recommended field guide to the principal wildflowers most commonly associated with Southern Rocky Mountain landscapes, including the Sandias and Jemez Mountains, during the high country seasons ranging from spring to the end of fall. It features 201 good-sized four-color photographs, fifty-eight line drawings, a map, and 192 pages of information, including each featured plant’s physical description as a wildflower, the plants’ individual roles in human history, their relationship with birds and insects, their origins and family characteristics, as well as their evolutionary details. From western wallflower, columbine, larkspur, shooting star and lupine, to water hemlock, primrose, flax, scarlet penstemon, and bluebells, the flowers showcased in this very highly recommended reference include the individual flower’s Latin name, and the guide also features a glossary, suggested references, a selected bibliography, and an index. Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies could well serve as a template for similar field guides for wildflowers in other sections of the country.

The beauty and variety of native plants the authors present in this work is astounding. They both pass on their admiration for and joy in becoming acquainted with the spectacular summer show put on by the southern Rocky Mountains every year. Bill Dunmire will be signing copies of the book, available for sale at the winery during the Placitas Holiday Sale, November 22 and 23.

Rainwater harvesting saves water, breaks the law


All Mark Miller wanted to do was wash some cars and water the grass in front of his new car dealership.

As the proprietor of Utah’s first LEED-certified, environmentally-friendly car dealership, Miller wanted to minimize his reliance on water from Salt Lake City’s public utility. So his extensive remodel of the building included two large new cisterns designed to capture rainwater for irrigation and car washing.

But Miller was surprised to learn that trapping water on his own roof would be illegal. “The state said no,” he explains. “In order to use the system, we had to have an existing water share. It’s ludicrous.”

Miller is not the only water-conscious Westerner to run afoul of the region’s prior-appropriation doctrine. Conservation advocates, including many utilities, have embraced the idea of using water collected from roofs, and stored in cisterns or rain barrels, to reduce reliance on dwindling surface water or groundwater supplies. Yet in Utah, Colorado and Washington, it’s illegal to do so unless you go through the difficult—and often impossible— process of gaining a state water right.

That’s because virtually all flowing water in most Western states is already dedicated to someone’s use, and state water officials figure that trapping rainwater amounts to impeding that legal right. No one actively enforces these laws, as Boyd Clayton of the Utah Division of Water Rights notes: “We’re not like cops out looking for speeders. Spending time enforcing these cases is not a priority.”

As a result, would-be water harvesters often learn about potential legal trouble only when they try to do the right thing, as Miller did, by asking for a state permit. That’s what happened to Kris Holstrom, who runs an organic farm outside Telluride, Colorado. The well she’s relied on for years provides less water than it once did—a change she attributes to drought and increased development. So she asked the Colorado Division of Water Resources for a permit to collect runoff from building roofs—and was denied.

“They felt that the water belonged to someone else once it hit my roof,” she says. “They claimed that the water was tributary to the San Miguel River”—which runs some three miles from her place and is fully allocated to other users downstream. How much of the precipitation that falls on Holstrom’s farm eventually reaches the river? Likely not much.

A recent hydrological study found that little precipitation that falls on undeveloped areas in Colorado’s Douglas County actually reaches streams. In a wet year, fifteen percent of the precipitation does; in a dry year, none. Most observers agree that water collection by a few scattered rural residents is not going to affect overall supplies. Intensive collection by many urban residents, on the other hand, really might affect a region’s water budget—though advocates argue that widespread adoption of the practice can reduce reliance both on other water supplies and on costly storm water management and wastewater treatment.

Many municipalities embrace the practice; Austin, Texas, has subsidized residential rainwater-collection systems for years. Elsewhere, the practice thrives underground. In July, a store in Durango, Colorado, hosted about thirty people at a presentation about water harvesting.

“All these folks were either collecting or interested in getting started,” says Laurie Dickson, owner of the Eco Home Center. “Some live in town; some live out on the mesa where they have to haul water, and they don’t want to do that anymore.”

Dickson readily acknowledges that she regularly sells such water-harvesting supplies as rain barrels and filters. “It’s not illegal to sell the parts. It’s kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

State legislators in Colorado, Utah, and Washington are working on new laws that would allow small-scale collection of runoff without a specific water right. But given the numerous interest groups with a stake in water law, it’s no easy task. Legislators in Washington and Colorado have had a hard time crafting rules dealing with the issue, though some expect that water harvesting—by rural residents, at least—in Colorado will be legalized next year. In hopes that it will be, Kris Holstrom is planning to install a five thousand-gallon cistern.

Cities have stepped in, too. Seattle now has a master water permit that allows residents of most neighborhoods to collect some rainwater. A similar solution is in the works for Mark Miller, who has worked out a deal whereby he will be covered for free under the city utility’s water rights. City officials view that as a good deal for them, too.

“The advantage to the city is that we can then take some demand off our system,” says Jeff Niermeyer, the city’s public utilities director. “That means we won’t have to develop other (water) sources as soon.”

Ski tips at the Esther Bone Library

Parabolic skis, straight skis, twin tip skis—what’s the difference? Ski professionals from Twin Tip National will conduct a workshop at the Esther Bone Memorial Library on November 18 at 6:30 p.m. to get you tuned in to what has been going on in the ski industry over the last ten years. You will learn why twin tips are different, why the twin tips skis have created a new revolution, how they compare to snowboards, and exactly what freestyle skiing is all about.

This workshop is free and prior registration is not required. The Library is located at 950 Pinetree Road SE in Rio Rancho. For information, please call 891-5012, extension 3128.

Take a hike!


I thought we’d go for a hike,” I told the boy I’m mentoring. “You know, look at stuff.”

“How about we go to a movie?” he parried. “Or we could play electronic poker.”

He’s not an unusual kid. There has been a major swing in his generation away from all things outdoors. The National Academy of Sciences said, “All major lines of evidence point to an ongoing and fundamental shift away from nature-based activity.”

When I was a kid, you couldn’t keep me inside a building. This was long before iPods, Xboxes or computers and the Internet. We were so poor we didn’t have a television set until I was in high school.

Outside was another story. There were no adults watching what you did; there were semi-feral kids to run with, neat things to poke and whack with a stick, trees to climb, and places to start a fire. We didn’t worry about Lyme disease from ticks, West Nile from mosquitoes, and we thought bugs were fun to play with. Parents didn’t worry about stranger-danger, residential restrictions, and unsupervised games. If we did get in trouble, it was our fault and we should have known better.

“If you get a broken leg, don’t come crying to me,” my mother would say.

To this day, mountains are a wonderland and refuge for me. Yellowstone National Park Supervisor Suzanne Lewis agrees. She tries to lure children to national parks, telling parents about the fun of “No Child Left Indoors.” She said television has caused kids to fear nature because it shows mountains full of predators, poisonous snakes, and rabid bats. Filmmakers spend years waiting for animals to do something ferocious, so they can manhandle or wrestle them into higher ratings. The truth is, when you clomp along a trail, your chance of seeing any animal is small.

In all the years I’ve spent hiking the mountains, I have seen only two bears. Both of them ran away from me. I might have glimpsed a mountain lion. I have seen more deer, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, skunks and, yes, mountain lions in the city of Boulder than I have in the mountains. The mountains are boring, if you expect them to be like what you see on television or in the movies.

At the same time, advertising has encouraged us to remove smells except for flowers or citrus and to avoid germs and dirt of all kinds. There are plenty of city people who shudder at the thought of sleeping in a tent, pooping in the woods, and not taking a shower for days. As one juvenile said with disdain as he watched me stuffing my backpack, “You’re going to grub in dirt again, huh?”

Dirt is not all bad. I read somewhere that a too-clean house can lead to more illness than a sloppy one. Our immune systems need to be challenged by sub-acute doses of antigens so they can fight off bigger, disease-causing amounts. Living in a slightly dirty house may actually be good for you. Grubbing in the dirt is probably a healthful activity.

I can hear the doors slamming on that argument.

The good news is that Western states lead the nation when it comes to participation in hunting and fishing—for people aged sixteen and older. The West probably also leads the rest of the country in kids just messing around outdoors, thanks to our vast amounts of easily reached public land. Nonetheless, young people from eight to eighteen spend an average of six hours a day involved with electronic media, including three hours of television. They spend less than a half-hour of the day outside.

How do you get a boy or girl to like the outdoors? I suppose if you started them really young and took them outside, perhaps using bribery or sheer force, you might eventually get them to like it. To me, it’s a no-brainer: Swinging on trees, plotching around in water, getting dirty and not caring, building a fire and camping, is pure delight.

So it’s frustrating and discouraging to me as I look out across the foothills. I hear their “Bali Hai” calling song, and I want to get outside and hike in the open air.

How is it possible youngsters can’t hear that? How can they not like what I love?

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