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Santa Ana presents wildlife corridor proposal

Signpost staff

On September 20, representatives of Santa Ana Pueblo invited several local organizations to Santa Ana Star Casino to present a proposal for a wildlife corridor that would include the 3,100-acre parcel of BLM land known as the Buffalo Tract.

The meeting was attended by members of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant, Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association, Las Placitas Association, and other residents who are concerned about the future of the Buffalo Tract. The BLM land has been impacted by many years of drought, overgrazing, and recreational abuse by off-road vehicles. It contains over one billion dollars worth of sand and gravel, which a new BLM Resource Management Plan may designate for mining. It also offers a wildlife corridor between the Jemez and Sandia Mountains.

Santa Ana created a Department of Natural Resources (SADNR) in 1996 with a stated mission to “develop and implement natural resource management programs which protect, preserve, and enhance the natural living environment for current tribal members and future generations.” Representatives of SADNR showed a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the tribe’s accomplishments, including restoration of native wildlife habitat throughout their Rio Grande bosque, and the Jemez Corridor Conservation Project.

They said that access and control of the Buffalo Tract is needed to complete a wildlife corridor. They are seeking support for their request from our congressional delegation, for an act of Congress is required to transfer the land to Pueblo ownership. They have submitted a plan to rehabilitate lands damaged by mining and overgrazing, wildlife water development, and closure of non-essential roads. The Pueblo has stated that they are opposed to urban development, new roads, sand/gravel/precious-metal mining, livestock grazing, and the “over-grazing of feral horses that results in the total destruction of the natural habitat.”

In response to questioning, tribal representatives said that access to the public would be limited, except for the possibility of non-motorized trails connected to the Placitas Open Space. They said that the Pueblo intends to get out of the gravel-mining business as soon as they can complete contractual obligations to Lafarge. Gravel mining, they said, is no longer necessary to the tribal economy. They promise legal covenants that would prohibit mining the Buffalo Tract.

San Felipe Pueblo made a presentation at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church last month (September, 2014, Signpost). San Felipe is also seeking ownership of the tract and promises a wildlife corridor that would include a horse sanctuary. They also promise to stop gravel mining.

The San Antonio de las Placitas is seeking to take possession of part of the Buffalo Tract under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. They want to develop a solar farm, develop hiking trails and picnic areas, and develop a historic working museum. The Land Grant is presenting a town hall meeting at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church on October 11, at 10:00 a.m.

Plans for a Santa Ana public meeting have yet to be announced. For more information, visit santaana-nsr.gov or email wildlifecorridor@santaana-nsn.gov.


WHOA survey

—Bill Diven
Horse advocates say a new survey shows Placitas residents want to keep their free-roaming horses free, although a group of critics says not so fast.

The poll commissioned by the Wild Horse Observers Association of Placitas (WHOA) found nearly 86 percent of respondents want the community to keep the horses that have bred legal and environmental battles, public and private confrontations, and an untold number of foals in recent years. Just over 14 percent endorsed rounding up the horses and moving them out of the area.

Of those who wanted to keep the horses, about half chose managing them in a designated sanctuary on the Bureau of Land Management’s 3,100-acre tract in northwest Placitas known as the Buffalo Strip. A quarter favored managing the horses on unfenced private land and all public lands including the Albuquerque Open Space, while a lesser number supported using both the BLM and Albuquerque public lands.

The city of Albuquerque has repeatedly indicated it maintains its 560-acre property “for the benefit of all native plant and animal species” and has fenced the perimeter in part to keep the horses out. The BLM is currently updating a regional resource-management plan that includes the future of the Buffalo Strip.

In the poll, WHOA indicated that horse management includes birth control administered yearly and cattle guards and fences as needed for public safety.

Southwest Planning of Santa Fe conducted the poll from August 19 to 26 by calling nine hundred Placitas homes selected randomly. It reported 208 households participated in the six-question survey.

In one question, WHOA queried people on the possibility of a highway corridor through Placitas connecting Interstate 25 to I-40 by way of State Route 14 and found more than 87 percent of respondents opposed. The poll question linked the corridor to expanded gravel mining and the likely end of free-roaming horses in the area.

Two other questions asked respondents about their age (18.3 percent under 55) and length of residency in Placitas (evenly split among fewer than ten years, ten to 19 years, and twenty years or more).

Meanwhile, the organizers of Let Our Lands Rest called the survey misleading and challenged its claim of being independent since WHOA commissioned it and was consulted on the goals of the survey. They also criticized the structure of the survey, saying three horse questions didn’t mention environmental and public-safety concerns while the fourth jumbled the horse and highway-corridor issues.

According to its website, Let Our Lands Rest offers a “fact-based perspective” to let Placitas residents make their own decisions on the horse controversy. The website also calls the presence of the horses devastating to the environment and local watersheds.

Meanwhile, on the legal front, WHOA has appealed an unfavorable court ruling in a lawsuit it filed against the New Mexico Livestock Board. NMLB has been responding to complaints from landowners about horses on their land, taking possession of the animals, and then advertising them as stray livestock before putting them up for auction.

WHOA argued state law differentiates between wild horses and stray livestock, but a state district judge ruled NMLB was acting within the law.

Last year, in a separate lawsuit, a federal judge rejected WHOA’s claim that the BLM failed to protect and inventory the Placitas horses under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The judge, however, rejected the case on technical grounds.


ES-CA Statement on Buffalo Parcel transfer

—Robert A. Gorrell, President, ES-CA

In ranked order of importance from most to least, Eastern Sandoval Citizen’s Association, Inc. (ES-CA) supports the transfer of land commonly known as the "Buffalo" Parcel that is north of Placitas from BLM ownership to any entity that will bind themselves and their heirs to:

  1. Never allow any type of mining or extraction (except water) on the property.
  2. Allow only uses of the land that are commonly considered low-water uses.
  3. Allow public access on established trails.
  4. Establish and maintain wildlife corridors.
  5. Restrict motorized vehicular use to emergencies, property maintenance, and accommodation of physically challenged visitors.
  6. Never allow commercial or recreational firearm discharge on the property.
  7. Provide an easement for a north vehicular emergency route between Placitas and I-25.

José Alberto Terán captures the runaway emu in Bernalillo with the help of his son Luis.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Renegade emu escapes again

—Bill Diven

A known absconder made another break for freedom before being recaptured after a short pursuit along the railroad tracks in Bernalillo.

The Sunday morning call came to police as an ostrich on the loose near the downtown Rail Runner Express station. Closer inspection showed that the critter hunkered down between the tracks to be an emu, a cousin of the ostrich and the largest bird native to Australia.

Up to six-feet tall and capable of running fifty miles-per-hour, corralling the flightless bird presented a challenge, especially given the bird’s powerful legs and dangerously clawed feet. Bernalillo police, however, recognized the wandering fowl from past encounters and knew whom to call.

José Alberto Terán, backed by his son Luis, soon arrived with ropes and straps prompting a low-speed chase across the tracks and along Oak Street. Eventually the Teráns cornered the emu against a fence, and José applied a bear hug to take it into custody.

The 55-pound bird seemed at that point to have surrendered only to send feathers flying in a last bid for freedom as José wrestled it into the back seat of his pickup truck.

José told the Signpost that the emu belongs to a relative who received it from a friend who no longer could care for it. Its home has been a fenced lot roughly a quarter mile away on Gutierrez Road from which the bird has made three previous escapes, he said.

 
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