Placitas area in danger of mineral drilling and mining
The Rio Puerco Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) is quickly nearing the end of its scoping period for collecting
public comments and input regarding possible future uses of the
nearly one million acres of public land under its jurisdiction.
The entire BLM Rio Puerco district is currently undergoing a four-year
Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision process to establish updated
land usages for approximately the next twenty years. The RMPs are
updated periodically to accommodate changes in resource demand,
demographics, and public land use preferences.
There are three BLM parcels in and adjacent to Placitas. These
parcels are in Unit 5 of the Rio Puerco District, and include the
approximately five thousand acres of BLM land north of the Placitas
Open Space, a 240-acre parcel located north of the Overlook subdivision,
and the roughly one thousand-acre Crest of Montezuma, situated northeast
of the old village of Placitas.
Several Placitas communities were at one time owned by the BLM.
When this land was sold for private development, the mineral rights
might not have been included and homeowners do not necessarily own
the mineral rights beneath their homes. There are those who have
claimed these mineral rights and several companies have currently
placed mineral claim stakes on the BLM Placitas property. Although
such claims do not permit mineral rights owners to begin drilling
or mining, it does establish a priority when or if the area is opened
for such use. The mineral claims that have thus far been staked
include oil and gas drilling (liquid minerals) and uranium mining
Although the BLM must justify what they deem are reasonable uses
for land under their jurisdiction and why they have concluded the
uses are reasonable, they cannot altogether assume what activities
affect nearby residents and the land. This is the reason for the
public input period, and this is the reason for the BLM’s
request for residents’ interests, thoughts, and ideas on future
usages of the lands. There are five main criteria that the BLM uses
as its measuring sticks: air and water quality, quality of life,
cultural and resource preservation, wildlife, and recreation.
Most Placitas area residents are well aware that the BLM Rio Puerco
lands are in close proximity to urban centers and in some cases
surrounded by residential areas. These lands often provide a recreation
source and buffer from commercial and additional residential development.
Hundreds of Placitas homes abut BLM lands and a majority of the
homes in Placitas have a view of these BLM lands. The Las Huertas
Creek Watershed in Unit 5 is a natural system for wildlife migration
and is home to a variety of wildlife and birds. The land lies in
the path of the Continental Mega Linkages called the Spine of the
Continent corridor, which runs over 3,976 miles along the Rocky
Mountains from northern Alaska through northern Mexico and links
areas of wildlife migration together. Many groups and individuals
maintain that protecting these lands provides a cornerstone of conservation,
is essential to the rewilding efforts in North America, and is vital
to maintaining biodiversity.
As pro-energy development policies gain traction, the prices of
these mineral resources escalate to levels that make previous exploration
efforts seem economical, giving those with mineral claims all the
more incentive to exercise their options. Using the Placitas-area
BLM lands could be especially attractive to energy companies as
they work to figure out geologic trends and possible petroleum deposit
connectivity in a much larger area, extending from west of Los Lunas
and Albuquerque through Placitas and on up to the Galisteo basin.
The Galisteo reserves have already been proven and BLM has indicated
there is much activity now in the zone west of Los Lunas and Albuquerque.
The energy companies involved in the region have been somewhat quiet
about what they are finding, due to the highly competitive atmosphere.
The Placitas area BLM lands are the only public lands in the large
area in between Los Lunas and the Galisteo basin, which must be
a very attractive prospect.
Currently, of the thousands of Placitas-area residents, only several
hundred have replied during the BLM’s initial scoping period,
which ended May 31, 2008. Fortunately for area residents, the BLM
has extended its timeframe, and public comments will be allowed
through September 30, 2008. Lew Fisher, a Placitas resident who
has established an ongoing dialogue with the BLM Rio Puerco Field
Office, recommends that residents who are opposed to allowing drilling
or mining on the BLM property around the Placitas community use
language in their submissions along the following lines: “I
respectfully request that the BLM land adjacent to Placitas be withdrawn
from mineral entry, to include both solid minerals and liquid minerals.
The land areas encompassed within this request include the Placitas
Block, the 240-acre tract to the south, and the Crest of Montezuma
land, which spans an additional one thousand acres. Placitas is
a growing community of over 5,500 residents, and mineral extraction
activities are incompatible with this residential area.” Mr.
Fisher continues, “Feel free to modify it, but please be sure
to keep your desired meaning clear. The financial sacrifice may
be a postage stamp. One thing, one time, one paragraph.”
There are several options to register your comment or opinion.
The BLM comment form at: http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nm/field_offices/rio_puerco
(You may fill out and submit the attached PDF comment form electronically
by clicking “Submit by email” on the upper right of
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fill out and submit the PDF comment form by printing it from the
above-listed website and mailing to:
Bureau of Land Management
Attn: Joe Blackmon
Rio Puerco Resource Area
435 Montaño NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107
You may also visit www.oneplacitas.com
for more information.
Members of the Bernalillo Town Council attend a
roadside workshop, in front of the site for the proposed One Placitas
Bernalillo Town Council rejects annexation
At the July 28 Bernalillo Town Commission Meeting, there was lively
discussion of an ordinance extending and increasing corporate limits,
and implementing an initial zoning to Special Use for a master-planned
retail shopping and business center just below Piedra Lisa Dam,
east of I-25 near exit 242. The Council previously tabled action
on this issue on May 8, 2008.
Preliminary planning for this development started in August 2006
when the council heard a presentation from its financial advisors
concerning the advantages of creating a tax-increment financing
(TIF) district. As presented, a TIF district would have been a separate
political entity controlled by the town for the purpose of increasing
the area’s capacity for collecting property and gross receipts
taxes. The town would be able to issue a bond on the district to
develop infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, signage, etc.) to attract
private development of stores, restaurants, and other businesses
that would contribute to town revenues. At that time, the application
was tabled pending study regarding drainage and flooding issues
Planning was further interrupted by a moratorium on such developments
in areas surrounding the Rail Runner stations. Since the moratorium
was lifted in November 2007, S-U zoning and Transit-oriented Development/Mixed-use
have become catch-all classifications designed by the town’s
planning and zoning department to give developers a freer hand.
At the July 28 meeting, several councilors again expressed various
criticisms of the proposed resolution. They worried that FEMA participation
was not yet spelled out, and that the Coronado Soil and Water Conservancy
District (CSWCD) concerns had not been adequately addressed. One
commissioner pointed out that this would have an impact on the neighbors
in Placitas—quite a few of whom were attending the meeting.
One Placitas resident wished to read into the record a public comment,
stating that this planning should be part of Sandoval County’s
general planning process for the Placitas area, in which Bernalillo
is now a participant. However, town attorney George Perez told him
that the public comment part for this resolution was closed in 2006.
The council voted unanimously to table the resolution and requested
a walk-through of the area with the developers, which was scheduled
as a workshop for August 5.
The company proposing this development is One Placitas Corporation,
represented at the roadside workshop by Eric Schoen. Schoen told
the Mayor Patricia Chávez and the town councilors that the
commercial development would fill the land from the toe of the dam
to the frontage road at I-25 (exit 242). He proposed a traffic signal
at the intersection with NM 165 and the extension of the frontage
road to exit 240.
The center could have a grocery store, sit-down restaurants, a
multiplex cinema, and a hotel. Schoen said that Placitas residents
had indicated these amenities would enhance their quality of life.
He said the development would bring hundreds of jobs and several
million dollars in gross receipts taxes. The corporation would pay
for all infrastructure, purchase water rights, and assume all liability.
Responding to questions from councilors, Schoen and the One Placitas
engineer said that traffic issues would conform to Department of
Transportation standards. It would not violate the flood control
regulations of FEMA, Corps of Engineers, the EPA, and the Town of
Bernalillo. S-U zoning would control the master plan; building permits
would be applied for as required.
A disgruntled crowd of mostly Placitas residents (especially concerned
about traffic issues) was reminded several times that public comment
was not allowed at town work sessions. Some Bernalillo residents
object to the annexation because they are concerned that it will
overextend the town’s public services, such as fire and police
protection. Some contend that S-U zoning for this development is
inconsistent with the town’s zoning regulations. They question
the the wisdom of deferring gross receipts tax by offering a TIF
to the developers. They also question the wisdom of moving the gross
receipts tax base away from established main street businesses.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the Mayor and town staff answered
a few questions from the public. Annexation of adjacent property,
they were told, is the prerogative of a municipality and is not
a public process. They also informed attendees that the public-comment
period for this development had already occurred; however, the town
would welcome concerns submitted by Placitas residents and neighborhood
Coronado Soil and Water Conservancy District chairman Will Ouellette
repeated his concerns that in the event of a dam failure in a catastrophic
flood, One Placitas would be the first part of Bernalillo that would
be flooded with up to two feet of water. He said that the dam, which
is managed by the CSWCD, is in terrible shape. He said that despite
previous agreements, he had recently received a letter from the
mayor declaring that Bernalillo was not included in the CSWCD.
A vote on the annexation and zone change was scheduled for the
August 25 Town Council meeting. The town attorney advised the council
that the annexation and zone change should be voted on separately.
The One Placitas developer again presented the project to the council.
Councilor Montoya’s motion to annex was met with silence from
the other councilors, despite urging from Mayor Chavez. The motion
died without further action, rendering the vote on a zone change
unnecessary since One Placitas is off the table for now.
Sandoval County Commission Watch
The County Commission had a busy month in August with an
agenda full of requests, some of which will appear on the November
4, 2008 ballot.
County Manager Debbie Hays received an approval to place the request
in support of hospitals in Sandoval County to impose a tax levy
of 4.25 mills each year, for not less than four and not more than
eight years, on each dollar of net taxable value of property in
Sandoval County, to pay contracting hospitals in accordance with
health care facilities contracts.
Phil Rios presented on behalf of Bruce Rizzieri, Mid-Region Council
of Governments, and received approval for a request that Sandoval
County impose a one-eighth of one-percent gross receipts tax which
shall be dedicated to the Rio Metro Regional Transit District in
equal portions for the purpose of management, operations, capital,
planning, construction, or maintenance of the New Mexico Rail Runner
Express, and for the management, operations, capital, planning,
construction, or maintenance of the Rio Metro Regional Transit District
system, pursuant to the Regional Transit District Act.
Sandoval County Fire Department’s request for a billing service
agreement with ESO Solutions, which provides a web-based patient
transport billing system, was approved. The current system is a
manual system that lacks online quality assurance. With the new
system, the county may anticipate an increase in revenue, due to
quicker, more accurate billing. It will require minimal staff and
from an information technology standpoint, is low cost.
The Division of Public Works received approval on a number of requests
including the Capital Cooperative Agreements for 2008 Legislative
Appropriations between Sandoval County and the State Department
of Transportation for Highway 165 and the Northwest Loop Road for
funds to mainly benefit access for the new Placitas Library. There
were also approved requests for a Memorandum of Agreement between
Sandoval County and the State Department of Transportation for participation
in the 5311 program for public transportation in rural and non-urbanized
areas. The vote to increase landfill fees was unanimously approved,
due to the fact many non-residents of the county use the landfill
and the cells are quickly nearing their capacity, meaning new cells
will need to be built.
Moira Gerety presented an update on the Sandoval County Broadband
Project. She told the Commission that although the team was doing
a good job, they did encounter their first real delay, a setback
that will probably cost them six weeks time. There were problems
with the sites of three towers, in particular the sites in Cuba,
Placitas, and Pajarito. The Forest Service denied the use of the
site in Cuba, but there are alternative locations available. Gerety
says that a benefit from having to locate alternative sites has
been discovering a possible new relationship and partnership between
Sandoval County and the Navajo Nation in Pajarito. With just a small
time delay, the group is still expecting to complete the project
—JOSHUA MADALENA, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
Now arriving at homes throughout the County: an up-to-date
edition of the highly popular Sandoval County Residents’
The colorful thirty-two-page guide includes information on almost
everything you’ll want to know about the many programs and
services available through the County, from the duties of the County
Commission to ways residents can locate missing pets, how to dispose
of household trash, or who to call for help getting to medical appointments.
Want to know how your property taxes are determined? Look in the
County Assessor’s portion of the guide for the important steps
in the appraisal process. You’ll also find information on
how to claim exemptions from property taxes for heads of household
or qualified veterans, as well as how to protest property valuations
if you don’t agree with the amount assessed on your property.
Want to get married or buy a home? The County Clerk’s portion
of the guide outlines the requirements for a marriage license or
how to make sure a deed is transferred and recorded in your name.
The Clerk’s Office also lets you know how you can register
to vote or run for political office.
In the County Treasurer’s section, you’ll learn how
to pay tax bills and how to get refunds if you overpay. The section
also gives an overview of the Treasurer’s duties, a list of
important dates in the taxpaying process, and information about
where your tax dollars are being spent.
Starting on page twelve of the guide, the County Sheriff’s
section provides information on the County’s principal law
enforcement office, as well as the many programs available through
the Sheriff’s community relations efforts. Included in the
Sheriff’s section are helpful tips to locate a missing pet,
as well as a list of important phone numbers for both emergency
and non-emergency calls.
The guide was produced by County employees to provide practical
information that residents can use in both day-to-day dealings with
County government or for once-in-a-lifetime needs.
Included is a comprehensive listing of County government phone
numbers, as well as those for area recreation centers, youth activity
programs, schools, and city and tribal governments.
It will never replace open, face-to-face communications between
County residents and staff, but does offer a way for residents to
access the programs and services that may benefit them or someone
The guide was first published in 1997 and is now in its fourth
edition. New this year are suggestions for day trips or quick getaways
that offer glimpses of our County’s history, multicultural
heritage, and diverse scenery, while not requiring much gasoline
or travel time. This year’s guide also includes advertisements
from local businesses and services that offset the booklet’s
production and mailing costs.
The guide is being mailed to residential addresses throughout Sandoval
County. If you don’t receive your copy in the next few days,
stop by County offices in Bernalillo and ask for a free copy. Information
contained in the guide also is available on the County website at
Questions or comments for Commissioner Madalena can be mailed to
him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40,
Bernalillo, NM 87004, or by email to email@example.com.
ESCAFCA launches website to provide information to residents
The Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA)
has launched a website to educate and inform people about flood
control in the area, the need for it, the cost, and what people
can expect the new authority to do if the ESCAFCA bond issue is
passed in November. The website is www.escafca.com
The home page features pictures and video footage of the summer
flood in 2006 that destroyed parts of Placitas, Bernalillo, and
Algodones. Additionally, there is a frequently asked questions (FAQ)
section, maps of the flood control districts, and information on
proposed projects that will be designed if the funding is approved
“Our goal with the website is to have a resource for people
so they can have their questions answered, understand why we need
flood control, and have a mechanism to communicate with us,”
said Sal Reyes, ESCAFCA Chairman. “People can also sign up
for our e-newsletter and will be kept abreast of future plans and
Residents in Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas will vote on the
ESCAFCA bond issue in November.
One of Bernalillo’s oldest traditional celebrations,
dating over 310 years, Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo is held annually
in August. In the drama and recognition of historical religious
influence, dance performers of Los Matachines progressed through
the town in a spectacular event which dates to the 1600's.
Presbyterian Church opens food bank
The rise in the cost of fuel, food, and utilities has had a devastating
impact on many Placitas households. In addition, the increase in
the cost of gasoline leaves families unable to travel from Placitas
to Bernalillo, where there are several food banks. To address this
immediate need, Las Placitas Presbyterian Church plans to open a
food bank in Placitas, to be named Casa Rosa. The bank will be located
in the pink home adjacent to the church on Highway 165 and will
be open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to noon, beginning August
Suggested donations include peanut butter, jelly, canned vegetables,
canned fruit, canned meat, canned soup, canned or bottled juice,
dried milk, bottled water (in gallon jugs or two-liter bottles),
toilet paper, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and boxes or bags
for recipients to take the food home. Anyone wishing to make a monetary
donation should make their check payable to Las Placitas Presbyterian
Church and in the memo line write “Casa Rosa.” Also,
anyone wishing to volunteer at the food bank should contact Ellen
Baker, chairperson for Casa Rosa, at 867-9623. All donations will
be gratefully received to help the church attain their goal of assisting
Placitas area planning continues
—KATIE WILLIAMS, SIGNPOST
Long-range planning for the Placitas area continued
this past month with residents and county officials packing into
a meeting space at El Zócalo in Bernalillo.
The August 14 gathering was headed by county long-range planner
Moises Gonzales and Cliff Spirock, an independent planning consultant
hired by the county to act as a facilitator between Placitas residents
and government officials. Also presiding over the meeting was Todd
Hathorne, Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman.
After introductions and the laying out of ground rules to prevent
the meeting from turning into a madhouse, Gonzales reintroduced
the County’s intentions for a master plan for the Placitas
area, and which residents were qualified to participate in the planning
process. Originally, the first phase of the process excluded many
residents of the Placitas area. Due to the public outcry at the
first meeting, County officials changed their original game plan
for gathering consensus from Placitas residents.
The majority of residents are now welcome to participate in the
area planning, including those individuals who live in the ETZ and
parts of Diamond Tail Ranch.
Another new addition to the planning process was the introduction
of the independent facilitator. This was due to the public accusing
the government of hidden agendas in the process. Moises Gonzales,
in an interview, wanted to make it very clear that “the County,
including all the planning and zoning officials, were working in
the best interest of the Placitas residents.” He went on to
dispel any rumors that he or anyone else in the County was working
The meeting continued with Bernalillo Planning and Zoning director
Kelly Moe speaking to residents about the Town of Bernalillo’s
role in the development of the Placitas area plan. “Bernalillo
has a small vision of itself,” he told the crowd. He assured
the residents that the town’s participation in the meeting
was by invitation and that Bernalillo had no plans to annex the
area to the east known as the ETZ. Moe took his position one step
further by distributing a handout that reiterated Bernalillo’s
involvement with respect to annexation.
The handout was a way for residents to submit their concerns directly
to the Town by requesting information about what parcels of land
the Town is planning to annex or has already annexed along the I-25
frontage road both north and south of NM 165.
After the discussion on existing conditions in Placitas and planning
issues, residents were allowed to give their input on the process
and what they felt was important to include in the plan. Orin Safier,
president of the Los Ranchos de Placitas Property Owners’
Association, was a voice that stood out of the crowd. He talked
about Placitans’ dedication to making the planning process
work. He noted, “Residents can work, shop, and dine in Bernalillo,”
which is why, in his opinion, Placitas doesn’t need any commercial
development. Mr. Safier proposed to the planning and zoning officials
the need for a “moratorium on planning, annexation, and rezoning
until the area plan is finished.” Gonzales recognized Mr.
Safier’s suggestion and agreed the County would research imposing
his suggested restrictions. After over an hour of public input,
the meeting concluded with information about Part II of the plan
schedule, the implementing of plan goals. The next meeting is on
Wednesday, September 17 at 6:00 p.m. at El Zócalo in Bernalillo.
For additional information about the planning process, contact
Moises Gonzales, County Development Department at 867-7656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forum focuses on wildlife passageways
On August 16, Las Placitas Association presented a three-hour
educational forum on the Placitas role in regional wildlife corridors.
The forum was opened by Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, who presented a progress
report on the Protect Our Wildlife Corridors mural, which is being
installed on the walls of the Placitas Recycling Center (see Arts
section, this Signpost). The first two of eight panels were completed
in August with the help of over two dozen local artists. The goal
is to spread the word about the passageways for wildlife in the
mountains of north-central New Mexico.
David van Hulsteyn and Laura Brookins, representing Wild Prairie
Partners, explained how their organization is working with a Placitas
group called Pathways to secure wildlife corridors from the Sandia
foothills through the Galisteo basin and north to the Sangre de
Ethnobotanist and storyteller David Wyllie spoke of his relationship
with the burrowing owls near his home on the bosque near Tomé,
The Wildlands Project‘s Dave Parsons is the carnivore biologist
responsible to a large extent for the reintroduction of the Mexican
wolf (Lobo) to the Southwest. He described the eradication of the
wolves and the slow progress of efforts to save them from extinction.
Parsons said the wolf and other top carnivores including bear and
mountain lions are considered “keystone species” that
are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. Large carnivores limit the population
and ensure the evolution of large herbivores like deer and elk.
He explained how the reintroduction of top predators to Yellowstone
and Olympic National Parks has improved the complexity and diversity
of plant life and small herbivores. It led to a decrease in the
population of midsize predators and an increase in bird life.
Parsons said that, in order to survive, top predators need a lot
of space—a minimum of five- to ten-thousand square miles of
protected wildlands. They also need corridors to move between the
protected lands throughout the continent. The reintroduction of
Mexican wolves to seven thousand square miles of the Gila and Apache
National Forest was a good start, hampered mostly by the politically-entrenched
livestock industry, which opposes the reintroduction. Ninety-five
percent of public lands provide open range for cattle.
Initial gains in the wolf population have lost ground since a new
management plan was put in place in 2003. Any wolf with three documented
cases of cattle predation can be removed. Many wolves have been
killed illegally. The Wildlands Project is looking into the purchase
of grazing permits as a permanent solution. Parsons said that they
are trying to hang on to what’s left of the wolf population
through the last months of the Bush administration, hoping for better
The next speaker was Dave Foreman, a lifelong environmental author
and activist, famed for his wilder days with Earth First! Foreman
worked for the Wilderness Society and lobbied for the Sandia Mountain
Wilderness designation. He said back then he realized two things:
protected areas are necessary to save the wilderness, and a grassroots
effort is required to create this protection. “These efforts
are more crucial than ever,” he explained, “in this
time of major extinctions—the greatest since the dinosaur
age came to an end.”
Foreman recently founded the Rewilding Institute, based on a vision
of a wildlife corridor on a continental scale. These “wildways”
would extend throughout the western spine of North America from
Alaska into Mexico. Foreman said that one of the biggest gaps in
this corridor was from the Placitas area to the Sangre de Cristos,
where the connectivity is threatened by development. He said that
we are struggling against major obstacles, and praised the artists
who are creating the mural at the recycling center and local environmentalists
who are working to protect the corridor.
The final speaker was Kurt Menke, one of the founders of the Safe
Passages Coalition, a volunteer organization founded in 2004 to
open up Tijeras Canyon to wildlife migration. “I-40 and Route
66 present one of the greatest barriers on the entire continent,”
he said. “Recent progress shows that it is possible to overcome
such obstacles. Safe Passages has worked with the New Mexico Department
of Transportation to study wildlife trails through the canyon and
road kill on the highway. They worked together throughout the GRIP
highway reconstruction project to include fencing, the clearing
of underpasses, cameras, warning systems, and signs.” Menke
added that these efforts have significantly reduced road kill and
have opened up the wildlife passages.