Sandoval Signpost


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  The Gauntlet

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letters, opinions, editorials

Signpost welcomes letters of all opinions. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations. Anonymous pen name letters will not be published. Attach your name and contact information. Send to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889, Placitas, NM, 87043 or

Rhonda Lewis and Matt Heath perform at “Loot, Libations, & Laughter” in support of the Placitas Community Library.

re: thank you from Placitas Community Library

On September 11, supporters of the Placitas Community Library joined their friends to eat, drink, bid on auction items, and be entertained at “Loot, Libations, and Laughter.” The highlight of the evening was a reading of the play The Love List. Adobe Theater actors Rhonda Lewis, Matt Heath, and Tom Riley, led by director David Hunt Stafford, had the audience laughing out loud.

The event was a fundraiser for the library, which relies on local contributions for its operating expenses. Over eight thousand dollars was raised from ticket sales and proceeds from the auction. All the auction items, which included original art, vacations, jewelry, and a Spanish dinner for six by a professional chef, were contributed to the library.

The event was entirely a volunteer effort. The actors from the Adobe Theater and the Director all volunteered their time and wonderful sense of comedy. Anasazi Winery helped provide a comfortable venue on a rainy evening. Our auctioneer, Jake Finkelstein, gently encouraged bidders to outdo each other. Placitas is a wonderful community and the library is proud to be una placita para todos.

Thank you, Karen Cox, Board of Directors Chair, Placitas Community Library

re: not patriotic

Flying a flag that is in tatters is not patriotic. It shows a total lack of respect for the flag and for the nation that flag represents. If you want to show your patriotism, then retire your flag before it looks like this. There are numerous ways to do this including taking the flag to the American Legion where they will see to it the flag is retired properly.

—Gary W. Priester, Ranchos de Placitas

re: T-Mobile service in Placitas

I am writing in response to a letter in September’s Signpost, written by Gary W. Priester. His letter was about loss of T-Mobile service, and said that any responses will be forwarded to him by the Signpost. (Thanks for doing this.)

I, too, have lost T-Mobile service, here in Apache Mesa, which is just across 165 from Placitas Realty. I don’t have a Smartphone or anything like that, just an inexpensive pay-as-you-go flip-phone, which is all I need or want. When we moved here in 2014, we had Verizon, which generally has the best coverage anywhere you go. That is, unless you live in Apache Mesa.

I let the Verizon account lapse and went to T-Mobile since it had good coverage here.

I’ve recently noticed that my phone will show one or maybe two bars, and it won’t even ring here in the house, nor can I even access voicemail. In reading your article, it doesn’t sound like T-Mobile will be replacing that dish anytime soon. I think I’ll probably switch yet again, this time to AT&T, which does receive a signal here.

You said in your letter that you’d like to see how many other T-Mobile users have experienced service degradation.  I’d be curious as to how many folks you’ve heard from.

Best, —Brian Pendley, Apache Mesa, Placitas


New Mexico Wilderness Alliance concerned about potential impacts of geothermal leasing in the Jemez Ranger District

—Judy Calman, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Wild

A proposal to allow geothermal energy production on national forest land in the Jemez Mountains threatens popular hot springs and recreation areas, habitat for sensitive wildlife, and quality of life for area residents.

The Santa Fe National Forest is weighing several alternatives for geothermal development in the Jemez Ranger District, including areas abutting the Valles Caldera National Preserve and public comments on the agency’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement are due October 28.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is concerned about potential impacts and is encouraging the forest service to select its no-leasing alternative. “We believe this is an inappropriate area for commercial geothermal development, and we are committed to ensuring this treasured area’s essential character remains for New Mexico’s citizens, and for generations to come,” said Mark Allison, executive director of the Wilderness Alliance.

Geothermal development would increase fire risk and could lower the temperature of existing hot springs, because cooler water could mix underground with the hotter water, according to the forest service report.

The issue originated in May 2015 when Ormat Technologies of Reno, Nevada, proposed leasing about 46,000 acres for geothermal production. The forest service expanded the area to 195,000 acres based on U.S. Geological Survey maps of high geothermal potential.

Although it is a renewable energy source, geothermal production can have substantial environmental consequences, including surface disturbance for well pads and pumps (similar to those used in oil and gas operations), roads, transmission lines, and pipelines. Additionally, fresh water is required, and fracking often is used.

The proposed leasing area contains heavily visited recreation sites such as San Antonio hot springs, Battleship Rock, Soda Dam, and the Las Conchas fishing access, as well as sacred indigenous sites, roadless areas, and areas the Wilderness Alliance believes may qualify for wilderness designation.

In addition, the area is home to endangered species such as the Mexican spotted owl, the Jemez Mountains salamander, and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The community of Jemez Springs is vulnerable to impacts, including decreased tourism, increased truck traffic, and water contamination.

Although the Forest Service proposal bans surface disturbance in roadless areas and leasing within a mile of hot springs, geothermal production in the Jemez Mountains remains fundamentally inappropriate. In fact, the area is considered sacred to all of New Mexico’s pueblos and they have passed a joint resolution opposing this. The Wilderness Alliance is encouraging the public to get involved and to comment on the forest service Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

It’s a humbling thought: No one can manage wildfires anymore

—Allison Linville/Writers on the Range

It was midsummer in 2015, and the aircraft-dispatch board behind me was covered in scrawled phone numbers. Twenty-five aircraft managers were working the record-breaking fire season on the Idaho Panhandle, my first season as an aircraft dispatcher. Phones rang constantly, radios added their chatter, and every computer screen displayed maps of fires, weather or the location of airplanes.

For the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, 2015 ranked as the biggest fire year since 1926. Decades ago, a large fire was anything over 500 acres. These days, 500 acres would be considered small, and it’s not unusual anymore to see a fire torch 4,000 acres in just a few hours. Recent history tells us there’s a new trajectory for wildfire – toward fires that no one can understand, predict or “control.”

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, based in Boise, the five worst years in wildfire history all occurred in the last decade. At one point in 2015, there were 27,000 firefighters trying to put out blazes across the West. In the dispatch center on the Idaho Panhandle, we worked 12-hour days, six days a week, from July until October. Our job was to move the necessary pieces — the aircraft, crews, and equipment — to whatever places fire managers and incident commanders told us to. And that summer, it was an almost endless job.

Like everyone working in fire last year, we were exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.

In Montana, fire managers were watching fire models and using their extensive training and experience to manage fires just as they always had, only to have people on the ground begging them to understand that they were seeing something totally different. “Their models weren’t showing what a beast it actually was,” said a firefighter on the Flathead National Forest. She was talking about a fire that she barely escaped before it blew up.

It occurred to me last August that wildfires have become qualitatively different. And it was a disturbing thought, the realization that no one had the ability to manage fire anymore. Fire managers can’t understand the fires we have today, because their training and experience are no longer relevant to modern-day fires.

Given the conditions now piling up — hot summers, long fire seasons, low snowpack, heavy fuel loading, an ignorant public, erratic storms — there is simply not enough education or experience available to help teach a fire manager what to do. It’s not the managers’ fault; it’s not any one person’s fault.

People with thirty years of experience are seeing things they’ve never seen on fires before. No one in 2014 could believe or understand all of the extreme fire behavior they saw that year, and then the erratic fires of 2015 surprised them again. This is not a manageable force of nature, and no one is qualified to manage it, because it’s never existed before.

When I’ve mentioned this to people who are not involved in fighting fire, I can see on their faces that they won’t, or can’t, believe me. Most people continue to think that we still have to put out every fire — an outdated idea — but even more worrisome is the fact that many people, including the fire managers themselves, apparently do not yet realize what wildfire has become, an unprecedented force.

I am afraid of this force, and of the idea that we can still handle it. I recently left Forest Service dispatch for a variety of reasons, but one was that I was amazed we hadn’t had any fatalities on the national forest that year. Amazed.

I don’t think it is necessary to always send crews in to save people’s homes or other structures. Sometimes, the most effective way to manage fire is to just keep people out of danger. The risk to firefighters is always present, but the risk now seems elevated beyond comprehension.

In order to avoid losing lives in this time of unprecedented fire behavior, fire managers—and all Westerners—need to recognize that there is no model for what we are already seeing this summer. The wildfire that destroyed two hundred homes and killed an older couple near Lake Isabella, California, this June travelled 11 miles in its first 13 hours. “It was like a tornado,” a homeowner told the Associated Press, “but it was fire.”

The power of modern wildfire is astonishing and horrifying, and it far surpasses any previous experience or knowledge. Welcome to the future.

—Allison Linville is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News ( She lives in Montana.

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