The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


San Juan River oil-free

An investigation by two state agencies found no evidence of “oil sludge” that was reported in the San Juan River below Navajo Dam in late August.

The Oil Conservation Division of the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, and the Department of Game and Fish investigated the report after receiving a video showing a dark-brown substance in the river about four miles downstream from the trophy trout Quality Waters section. Site inspections and an analysis of the video turned up no evidence of oil, and no signs of dead or dying fish or other wildlife.

Investigators determined that the most likely explanation for the report was that a large amount of organic debris was flushed out of an arroyo during a heavy rain storm. Organic materials such as piñon needles, juniper berries, and salt cedar branches contain natural oils and could be mistaken for oil field byproducts.

The San Juan basin is a major producer of natural gas. There also is one oil well in the basin near the Colorado border.

“The San Juan is one of New Mexico’s most prized fisheries, so we take these kinds of reports seriously,” said Mike Sloane, Chief of Fisheries for the Department of Game and Fish. “Fortunately, after a thorough investigation, we are able to say there was no evidence of oil in the river, and the fishing—as always—is world-class.”

Marc Wethington, fisheries biologist with the Department, said fishing usually improves in late September as angling pressure subsides and cooler, shorter days make the trout more active. He suggests that anglers check with their favorite guide or fishing shop for advice on the best tackle and techniques for the season.”All-in-all, it will be a pretty typical fall for fishing on the San Juan,” Wethington said.


Wanted: citizens‘ participation in habitat stamp program

The Department of Game and Fish is seeking individuals interested in serving as advisors for the Habitat Stamp Program. As volunteers, advisors review and prioritize habitat improvement proposals and forward their recommendations to the State Game Commission.

Since 1990, all anglers, hunters, and trappers who use U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands must purchase a Habitat Stamp. The Habitat Stamp Program then uses the $5 stamp fee for on-the-ground habitat improvements.

Citizens have been involved in every aspect of the program, advising which habitats are most in need of improvement. Citizens represent sporting, environmental, or public land permittee interests and meet each spring to prioritize local habitat proposals. Citizens serve three-year terms.

“We have five regional Citizen Advisory Committees to involve citizens early on in the project-planning process,” said Dale Hall, Habitat Stamp Program manager. “What separates this program from other typical government programs is its citizen participation. Currently we are looking for volunteers to assist the Department in incorporating New Mexico’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for New Mexico into project selection and design processes.”

Appointed by the State Game Commission, fourteen current Citizen Advisory Committee members’ terms expire in December 2008. Expiring terms include eight sportsmen and two each of environmentalists and permittees. They meet in April each year and attend field tours in summer months.

To volunteer, contact Dale Hall at (505) 222-4725 or at before October 15.


Fall and winter gardening tips at Esther Bone

Rio Rancho’s WaterWise Xeriscape Garden (WWG) is a long-term work in progress. After several years of thoughtful plantings in a rugged environment, the garden has something green blooming or of interest all year long.

On October 4, a program on the WaterWise Demonstration Xeriscape Garden, including a tour of the garden, will be presented at the Esther Bone Memorial Library at 10:00 a.m. by Linda Poe and the Sandoval County Master Gardeners. Suggestions for possibilities for your own landscape plus advice on how to prepare gardens for the fall and winter months will be given. The Esther Bone Library is located at 950 Pinetree Road SE in Rio Rancho. The program is free and no reservations are required. For information, call the library at 891-5012, extension 3128 or email


Earth Talk

"U.S. population stabilization advocates see high immigration numbers as key to increased pollution, sprawl, and water and energy shortages."



Dear EarthTalk: Why are some environmental groups jumping on the immigration issue? What does immigration have to do with the environment? —Ginna Jones, Darien, CT

What to do about booming legal and illegal immigration rates is one of the most controversial topics on Americans’ political agenda these days. More than a million immigrants achieve permanent resident status in the U.S. every year. Another seven hundred thousand become full-fledged American citizens. The non-profit Pew Research Center reports that eighty-two percent of U.S. population growth is attributable to immigration.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that U.S. population will grow from 303 million people today to four hundred million as early as 2040. While many industrialized nations, including Japan and most of Western Europe, are experiencing population growth slowdowns due to below-replacement birth levels and little immigration, the U.S. is growing so fast that it trails only India and China in total numbers.

Advocates for U.S. population stabilization, including some environmental organizations and leaders, fear that this ongoing influx of new arrivals is forcing the nation to exceed its “carrying capacity,” stressing an already overburdened physical infrastructure. David Durham of Population-Environment Balance says that Americans who care about the environment should insist on reducing immigration, to recognize “ecological realities such as limited potable water, topsoil, and infrastructure.” He also cites studies showing that a permissive U.S. immigration policy drives up fertility rates in the sending countries, “which is the last thing these sending countries need.”

To others, the problem is larger than immigration itself. “People don’t just materialize at our border, or at any border,” says John Seager of Population Connection. “When you talk about immigration, you’re talking about the second half of a process that begins when people decide to leave their homes.” And they are usually leaving their homes because of hunger, lack of work, oppression, or any number of other often-desperate reasons. Seager and many others argue that by helping poor nations better address the economic and family planning needs of their citizens, Americans can not only help improve the lot of millions of people living in dire poverty, but also slow down the tide of immigration.

Groups focusing on the immigration-environment nexus are keen to get their voices heard, but many mainstream green groups shun the highly divisive topic, preferring instead to encourage Americans, who are infamous around the world for their huge homes, gas-guzzling cars, and extravagant consumption habits, to curb their unsustainable lifestyles, which they see as more fundamental to U.S. environmental problems than population pressures. With just five percent of the world’s people, Americans use a quarter of the world’s fossil fuels, own more private cars than drivers with licenses, and live in homes that are on average thirty-eight percent larger today than they were in 1975. By scaling back, Americans can take a big bite out of pollution, sprawl, and other environmental problems, while also setting a good example for those who land in the U.S. every year, lowering the nation’s collective carbon footprint significantly in the process.

Do you have an environmental question? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, PO Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881;


Federal money available to farmers and ranchers

Federal money is available for cost-share conservation projects through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) being administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The application period will have a deadline this year in late October or early November. Records need to be established with Farm Service Agency by the deadline.

EQIP is typically used in New Mexico for irrigation system improvements that conserve water, and rangeland improvements such as water development for livestock and wildlife, as well as brush management. It provides incentive payments and also helps promote agricultural production and environmental quality. It is a voluntary program that is intended to yield high quality, productive soils; clean and abundant water; healthy plant and animal communities; clean air; an adequate energy supply; and working farms and ranchlands.

For assistance in applying for EQIP, visit your local NRCS field office, or call 761-5444 or 761-4499.

Kyle Tator demonstrates traditional concepts of rain barrels and olla irrigation.


Valencia County office demonstrates traditional water conservation systems

Harvesting rainwater for use at a later time has been a practice for centuries by many societies. As living green and conserving natural resources has a renewal in our society, the concept of using a rain barrel is one way people can gather water for gardening instead of using groundwater.

Kyle Tator, New Mexico State University’s Valencia County Extension agricultural agent, has established a rainwater harvesting and water-wise gardening demonstration to introduce the traditional concepts of rain barrels and olla irrigation to the residents of his county. With a Rio Grande Basin Initiative grant, Tator is gathering the rain runoff from the roof of the extension office at 404 Courthouse Road in Los Lunas.

As the demands for groundwater increase in urban/rural communities, Tator says residents have asked for ways to conserve water and use it more efficiently.

“We installed rain gutters on the south side of our building to collect and direct the rainwater into five fifty-five-gallon barrels,” he said. “Water collected by this system is irrigating container gardens using the ancient olla form of irrigation. Ollas were brought into this region by the Spanish settlers and adopted by Native Americans for [their] benefit [in] growing crops in the arid lands of New Mexico.”

Even with the limited rainfall in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, Tator said his barrels have been full and even overflowing this summer. For every square foot of roof surface, the harvesting system gets about six-tenths of a gallon during a one-inch rainfall event. “During one rainstorm when we had an inch and a half of rain, our barrels overflowed,” he said, admitting that with 1,600 square feet of roof, larger storage tanks could be used. “But since this is a demonstration system, we decided we didn’t need to capture everything that runs off the roof.”

The captured water has been enough to water the container garden on the front porch of the extension office building. While Tator manually transferred the water from the barrels to the ollas, Spanish for “earthen jar,“ he explained how the irrigation system uses the buried unglazed clay pots as reservoirs for the water, which then seeps into the soil.

“I fill up the olla once a week, but it depends if there has been any rain, or if it’s been hot and windy. To determine if water is needed, I put my finger down into the olla. If the clay is moist, I don’t add water, as the moisture is absorbed by the plant roots. The spout of the olla dries out first.”

As the moisture moves into the soil, the plant roots grow toward and around the olla to be able to absorb the nutrients of the water. “While no research supports this, it is believed that irrigation by ollas results in almost one hundred percent of applied irrigation water being absorbed by plants,” Tator said. “Different plants have different water requirements, so we are studying which plants work best with this system.”

The demonstration system and garden is available for viewing during regular office hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. “We have a poster in the office window that explains the system and study. We invite people to stop by and learn more about this system,” Tator said.

“Our office is having an open house from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, October 11. This may be a perfect time for residents to stop by and see the demonstration system and garden and learn what else we do in the county.”


Showy Goldeneye

An excerpt from Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies and Central New Mexico

Showy Goldeneye
Heliomeris multiflora Nutt.


These three-foot-tall branching plants have many sunflower-like floral heads on wiry stems. A dozen or so yellow rays surround the golden disk flowers; involucral bracts covered with stiff hairs are narrow, unequal in length, and arranged in two rows. Rough lance-shaped leaves are three inches long, with the lower ones paired. Flowering from summer to late fall, showy goldeneye is common on dry slopes and along highways at all elevations below the alpine vegetation zone.

When a plant is discovered that is new to science, a botanist assigns it a Latinized two-part name. The first word of this binomial is the genus, designating the group of closely related plants to which it belongs. The second—in this case multiflora, meaning “many flowered”—is the specific epithet that distinguishes this plant from the others of its genus.

To be accepted by the scientific community, the name must be published with a detailed description of the new plant in Latin, including an explanation of how the plant differs from closely related plants along with data on where and when the plant was collected. A specimen must be preserved, and its place of deposition must be included in the published account.

Most wildflower enthusiasts refer to plants by their common names, and botanists often do so informally. Common names are in the local vernacular, their meaning is apparent, and laypersons can pronounce them. Nevertheless, lack of specificity can be a problem because common names often vary geographically. They may refer to more than one kind of plant (for example, goldeneye is sometimes applied to Heterotheca ssp., another common genus in the Southern Rockies), or one plant may have more than one name. Scientists rely on Latin plant names because each uniquely refers to a single species, and they are universally understood.

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