Thursday, December 01, 2011

White House Honors Tiffany Calabaza as a "Champion of Change"

Two of the Native American youth to be honored are from the Land of Enchantment, be proud New Mexico!  Below is the press release from the White House:

On Thursday, December 1st, eleven Native American Youth leaders will be honored at the White House as Champions of Change. These young people are Champions in their tribes and communities as they work to improve the lives of those around them through innovative programs that help others, raise awareness of important issues like suicide and bullying prevention, energy efficiency and healthy eating.

“The ‘Champions of Change’ for Native American youth are here to share their stories and to attend the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  They are examples of the generation that will build a stronger future for Indian Country by continuing to address the challenges facing American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Charlie Galbraith.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.

Tiffany Calabaza is one of the outstanding young Americans who was selected from a group of hundreds who answered President Obama’s call to share their stories of leadership and community service.  To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 12:00 pm ET December 1st.   There will also be a Twitter Q & A session with the Champs and Jon Carson (@JonCarson44) that will begin at 1:30 pm ET. 

Tiffany Calabaza is currently a student at Colorado College and has helped bring renewable energy technology to her hometown of Kewa, New Mexico. Tiffany worked with her advisor and others at Colorado College along with tribal community members and tribal community leaders on education and development of the energy technology. Through her community based research, everyone agreed upon converting one of their community windmills into a solar water pumping station which will pump ground water in a more efficient fashion allowing livestock and other small wildlife to have a source of drinking water. The project continues to involve both Colorado College students as well as Kewa tribal members. The goal is to educate her community on renewable energy technologies so that it will raise awareness on the efficiency and benefits of engaging with this technology.  Overall, Tiffany’s goal is to provide her people with solutions to allow the cattle to spread evenly throughout the rangelands and avoid over grazing, preventing further damage to our land.

December 1, 2011 at 09:43 AM in Environment, Native Americans, Obama Administration, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

White House Honors Jemez Pueblo Emmet Yepa as a “Champion of Change”

Two of the Native American youth to be honored are from the Land of Enchantment, be proud New Mexico!  Below is the press release from the White House:

Today, Thursday, December 1st, eleven Native American Youth leaders will be honored at the White House as Champions of Change. These young people are Champions in their tribes and communities as they work to improve the lives of those around them through innovative programs that help others, raise awareness of important issues like suicide and bullying prevention, energy efficiency and healthy eating.

“The ‘Champions of Change’ for Native American youth are here to share their stories and to attend the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  They are examples of the generation that will build a stronger future for Indian Country by continuing to address the challenges facing American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Charlie Galbraith.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.

Emmet Yepa is one of the outstanding young Americans who was selected from a group of hundreds who answered President Obama’s call to share their stories of leadership and community service.  To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 12:00 pm ET December 1st. There will also be a Twitter Q & A session with the Champs and Jon Carson (@JonCarson44) that will begin at 1:30 pm ET. 

Emmet Yepa from the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, is an environmental advocate in his tribe and wants to find solutions to help educate his people and future generations about the importance of recycling. Emmet helped to form the Walatowa Green Stars Recyclying Group in 2010 which consists of four youth members and is focused on preserving and keeping their ancestral lands beautiful through recycling. Despite initial challenges to get approval, the Green Stars persisted and currently educate students at local schools and have implemented recycling bins in designated areas within their Pueblo. Since 2010, Walatowa Green Stars had been recognized with numerous awards and given opportunities to speak at local and national conferences.  Emmet’s ultimate goal is for his tribe to eventually have its very own Recycling Center.

DFNM found the video below on youtube: A PSA of the Green Stars.

December 1, 2011 at 09:25 AM in Environment, Native Americans, Obama Administration, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Heinrich Applauds Progress On New Tribal Land Rules To Expedite Home Building And Energy Development

220px-Martin_HeinrichThe following is a press release from U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich's office.

U.S Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-1) applauds the Department of the Interior for proposing a rule to modify regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) process for approving the lease of lands the federal government holds in trust for tribes and individuals. The proposed reform identifies specific processes – with enforceable timelines – through which the BIA must review leases. The regulation establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business, and renewable energy development, so that, for example, a lease for a single family home is distinguished from a large solar energy project.

“I am pleased that the Department of the Interior and the Administration recognizes the critical need to streamline the approval process for housing, commercial development, and renewable energy projects in Indian Country,” said Rep. Heinrich. “Representing tens of thousands of Native Americans in central New Mexico and working closely with the leadership of our surrounding tribes, I know well that Native American leaders want what we all do: to secure the well-being of their people, to advance their opportunity, and to create good jobs and spur economic growth. The role of federal government should be to partner with them in advancing those goals, not be an impediment or point of contention.”

Since 2009, Rep. Heinrich has championed legislation to reform Indian land leasing regulations to streamline the approval process for home ownership, expedite economic development, and spur renewable energy development in Indian Country. The bill, the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act, unanimously passed the House Committee on Natural Resources on November 17, 2011.

Specifically, the HEARTH Act would expedite the lease approval process by allowing tribal governments to approve trust land leases directly, rather than waiting for approval from the BIA. 

“We can put the dream of owning a home or business on tribal land within reach of Native families,” said Rep. Heinrich. “This bill would cut through bureaucratic red tape and open doors to homeownership for Native American families in New Mexico and across the country and spur economic development in Indian Country.”

Rep. Heinrich’s legislation has widespread support from pueblos, tribes and housing organizations across the country. “The HEARTH Act of 2011 will go a long way in strengthening tribal self-determination and tribal economies at the same time. We know the time frame for individual tribal members to receive a home-site lease is arduous and can be as long as three years under the current Bureau of Indian Affairs process, but we anticipate that these improvements in leasing and enhanced tribal control over surface leasing will help more tribal members get into homes quick,” said National American Indian Housing Council Chairwoman Cheryl A. Causley. “The NAIHC strongly supports the HEARTH Act of 2011 because it respects and fosters Indian tribal decision-making, expedites what can often be lengthy Federal administrative processes, and will improve the delivery of Federal housing assistance and expand economic opportunity in tribal communities.”

November 29, 2011 at 05:02 PM in Native Americans, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Presidential Proclamation -- National Native American Heritage Month, 2011

Native-American-Heritage-Day-615x585Today is the Third Native American Heritage Day. The day was started in 2008, introduced by Rep. Joe Baca of California. When Rep. Baca introduced the bill he stated the following:

"The day, Baca said in offering the bill, is intended to pay tribute to American Indians for their many contributions to the United States, and the legislation encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe the day through appropriate ceremonies and activities. Further, it encourages public elementary and secondary schools to enhance student understanding of American Indians by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, and contributions." Credit for quote and image given to Indian Country.com.

New Mexico is one of the culturally richest Native American States in the Nation. With New Mexico not even being 100 years old yet, not until 2013, it is my assumption the Native cultures here are the least Americanized. The Native Culture's being so rich here is one of the reasons New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is the only state which has 19 Peublos all still inhabited. And a total of 22 American Indian Tribes. The attached American Indians wall map shows the locations of the Native american populations throughout the U.S. per the 2010 census.

What follows is an announcement from the White House declaring November National Native American Heritage Month.

NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH, 2011

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

From the Aleutian Islands to the Florida Everglades, American Indians and Alaska Natives have contributed immensely to our country's heritage. During National Native American Heritage Month, we commemorate their enduring achievements and reaffirm the vital role American Indians and Alaska Natives play in enriching the character of our Nation.

Native Americans stand among America's most distinguished authors, artists, scientists, and political leaders, and in their accomplishments, they have profoundly strengthened the legacy we will leave our children. So, too, have American Indians and Alaska Natives bravely fought to protect this legacy as members of our Armed Forces. As service members, they have shown exceptional valor and heroism on battlefields from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan. Native Americans have demonstrated time and again their commitment to advancing our common goals, and we honor their resolve in the face of years of marginalization and broken promises. My Administration recognizes the painful chapters in our shared history, and we are fully committed to moving forward with American Indians and Alaska Natives to build a better future together.

To strengthen our economy and win the future for our children, my Administration is addressing problems that have burdened Native American communities for too long. We are working to bolster economic development, expand access to affordable health care, broaden post-secondary educational opportunities, and ensure public safety and tribal justice. In June, I signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council, to strengthen Federal engagement with tribal governments and promote economic prosperity in Indian Country and across rural America. This comes in conjunction with several settlements that will put more land into the hands of tribes and deliver long-awaited trust reform to Indian Country.

To bring jobs and sustainable growth to tribal nations, my Administration is connecting tribal economies to the broader economy through transportation infrastructure and high-speed Internet, as well as by focusing on clean energy development on tribal lands. First Lady Michelle Obama's recently launched Let's Move! in Indian Country initiative will also redouble efforts to encourage healthy living for American Indians and Alaska Natives. These actions reflect my Administration's ongoing commitment to progress for Native Americans, which was reaffirmed last year when we announced our support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Through a comprehensive strategy where the Federal Government and tribal nations move forward as equal partners, we can bring real and lasting change to Indian Country.

This month, we celebrate the rich heritage and myriad contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, and we rededicate ourselves to supporting tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and prosperity for all Native Americans. We will seek to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship by ensuring tribal nations have a voice in shaping national policies impacting tribal communities. We will continue this dialogue at the White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C. next month. As we confront the challenges currently facing our tribal communities and work to ensure American Indians and Alaska Natives have meaningful opportunities to pursue their dreams, we are forging a brighter future for the First Americans and all Americans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2011 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 25, 2011, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

November 25, 2011 at 12:04 PM in Holidays, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jobs: Obama Administration Announces Selection of Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project and 13 Others to be Expedited Through Permitting/Review Process

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced the selection of 14 infrastructure projects around the country that will be expedited through permitting and environmental review processes. The administration says it's an important next step in its efforts to improve the efficiency of federal reviews needed to help job-creating infrastructure projects move as quickly as possible from the drawing board to completion. 

One of the 14 selected for expedition is the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project, which will build two water treatment plants and deliver water through approximately 280 miles of pipeline, 24 pumping plants and numerous water regulation and storage facilities bringing a clean and sustainable water supply to the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will work to improve coordination between Federal and non-federal entities and to expedite land acquisition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management.

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District applauded the move by the Obama Administration.

“During this difficult economic time it is critical that we move as quickly as possible to put people to work building and repairing our aging roads, bridges, and infrastructure," said Luján. "It is also important to provide a long-term municipal and industrial water supply for the Navajo Nation, the city of Gallup and the Jicarilla Apache nation. The latest step by the Obama Administration to expedite the permitting process for the Navajo Gallup Water Supply project recognizes the urgent need to not only spur job creation and economic growth, but to also provide our communities with a safe and reliable source of water,” Luján added.

This announcement comes as a result of the Presidential Memorandum President Obama issued in late August at the recommendation of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Through the Presidential Memorandum, the President directed agencies to expedite environmental reviews and permit decisions for a selection of high priority infrastructure projects that will create a significant number of jobs, have already identified necessary funding and where the significant steps remaining before construction are within the control and jurisdiction of the federal government and can be completed within 18 months.  

As the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has highlighted, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of federal permit decisions and environmental reviews is one critical step the federal government can take to accelerate job creation. While many of these review processes are not under the control of the federal government -- state, local, and tribal governments are partners in the effort, as well -- the Obama Administration says it is committed to reforming the federal permitting and environmental review process to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible while continuing to protect the health and safety of all Americans, and to preserve opportunities for public participation in federal decision-making.

The Administration will apply broadly the information gathered while expediting these projects to further improve the permitting process for all projects.  And as part of the Administration’s commitment to efficiency and transparency, beginning at the end of November, the public will also be able to track the progress of projects under review through one central website.

Below is a list of the 13 other projects selected by those agencies, which represent diverse sectors of the economy and combined will support the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. 

Department of Transportation

Tappan Zee Bridge, New York: The Tappan Zee Bridge project will replace a deficient bridge that is a critical link in the regional transportation network. While the project is an ambitious one and construction will not begin for several years, improved coordination amongst multiple federal agencies will reduce the time needed to proceed from a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to a Record of Decision, potentially reducing the project timeline by multiple years. 

Crenshaw/LAX, California: The Crenshaw/LAX project will extend the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LA Metro) existing Green Line light rail nearer to the Los Angeles International Airport and connect it to the Expo Line light rail. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing additional targeted technical assistance to shorten the approval time for this project by several months. In addition FTA and LA Metro will pilot FTA’s new streamlined risk assessment approach for major transit projects to ensure risks and associated mitigation measures are identified and addressed promptly. 

Whittier Bridge, Massachusetts: The Whittier Bridge project on I-95 in Massachusetts will replace an existing bridge over the Merrimack River with a new, multi-modal bridge that will add lanes as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes. The lead agency, resource agency and project sponsor will facilitate better coordination to accelerate permit review and approval within six months, including an agreed upon schedule for document reviews and establishing a process for dispute elevation and resolution. 

Provo Westside Connector, Utah: The Provo Westside Connector highway project in Utah will build a new arterial roadway between Provo Airport and Interstate 15 to improve roadway system linkage in southwest Provo, UT. By increasing coordination among federal and state agencies, permit review and approval can be expedited, saving six or more months.  This time savings will be achieved through an agreed upon schedule for document reviews and establishing a process for dispute elevation and resolution. 

Baltimore Red Line, Maryland: The Baltimore Red Line is a 14 mile rail transit line connecting the suburban areas west of Baltimore to downtown, the Inner Harbor and Fells Point areas, and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus. This project has many outstanding permitting issues that will require substantial cooperation between a number of resource and other federal agencies. By engaging in early negotiations with all necessary federal agencies and optimizing coordination amongst the agencies this project will begin construction earlier than currently planned, potentially reducing the project timeline by two years.

Next Generation Air Transportation System Infrastructure Project, Texas: This Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot project will create Next Generation (NextGen) aviation procedures, including the implementation of new, more efficient routes, for the two airports in Houston, Texas. These performance based navigation procedures must comply with internal FAA approvals as well as reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. Integrating these reviews will expedite this project and studying the impacts of the new procedures will serve as a demonstration project for future NextGen procedural improvements. 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Denver Mariposa Housing Project, Colorado: In connection with a HOPE VI grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, this project will revitalize a distressed housing project located in South Denver. Portions of the project are underway and HUD will expedite its Part 58 review and review of the Revitalization Plan for the next phases.

City Market at “O” Street, District of Columbia: Located in Washington, DC, City Market at “O” Street is a mixed-use property consisting of 400 market-rate residential units, 16,000 square feet of retail space and a 57,000 square foot supermarket with financing under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Section 220 insured mortgage program. In conjunction with this project and others, FHA has embarked on an effort to streamline the approval process for loans, including review of related federal permits and is working with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to expedite the National Historic Trust approval, subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. 

Department of Commerce

Arroyo Sequit Watershed and Qwuloolt Estuary Coastal Habitat Restoration Project, California: This habitat restoration project is composed of two activities. The first activity is the Arroyo Sequit Creek Steelhead Barrier Removal in California, which will involve construction activities to remove existing physical barriers, including two dry weather crossings and one check dam, along the Arroyo Sequit watershed in northern Los Angeles County, CA. The second activity is the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration in Washington State and will involve restoration construction activities to restore 350 acres of currently isolated floodplain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite construction permits by up to one year, with the goal of beginning construction as early as 2012.

West Coast Coastal Habitat Restoration Project, California and Washington: This project is composed of four habitat restoration activities including Sears Point Tidal Restoration in California; Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration in California; Riverside Ranch Restoration in California; and the Salt Creek Estuary Reconnection in Washington State. The scope of these project activities will involve construction elements that will contribute to habitat restoration in these regions. This project will be expedited by up to one year by the facilitation of interagency resource coordination between the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Department of Agriculture

Cleghorn Ridge Wind Project, California: This wind generation project by Cleghorn Ridge Wind LLC would consist of up to 52 wind turbine generators aligned in a general east-west direction along the ridgeline at Cleghorn Ridge, in the San Bernardino National Forest. USDA Forest Service, U.S. Air Force, and Federal Aviation Administration will cooperate to complete the review of this project by federal agencies in as little as 18 months, rather than the three years originally estimated.

Deerfield Wind Power Project, Vermont: This wind generation facility by Deerfield Wind LLC in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont would consist of 15 two-megawatt turbines.  USDA Forest Service is working to expedite a Final Environmental Impact Statement before December 2011.

Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands, North Dakota and South Dakota: USDA Forest Service is working with an expedited process for reviewing oil and gas applications for wells and ancillary facilities such as pipelines and power lines in the Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands. There are approximately 80 applications currently in file. The expedited process involves early coordination with the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management and use of the 390 Categorical Exclusion provided under the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Comprehensive Review of Infrastructure Best Practices
In addition to unveiling the projects selected for expedited review today, the Administration will also instruct agencies throughout the executive branch to gather comprehensive information regarding their reviews of infrastructure projects, and the best practices they have developed. The Administration says it will use that information to develop recommendations to further improve the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability offederal permitting and environmental review, without compromising the responsibility to protect safety, public health, and the environment, through measures such as adopting sector-specific guidelines for timely reviews of permitting applications; encouraging early engagement with stakeholders; coordinating federal reviews with those of state, local and tribal regulatory agencies; and instituting greater oversight of the overall process.

Some of the Key Steps Taken By the Obama Administration On Permitting Reform:

Yesterday’s announcement is the latest in a series of "common-sense steps" the Obama Administration says it has taken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal permitting and review. According to the President, these steps are helping to speed job-creation in the near term while increasing our competitiveness and strengthening our economy in the longer term. Just as importantly, the Administration says it has taken steps to also ensure that permitting and review processes continue to provide safeguards for public health and the environment while offering opportunity for constructive engagement by stakeholders.

A statement released by the Adminstration listed these examples:

  • Just last week, the Obama Administration announced it will accelerate the permitting and construction of seven proposed electric transmission lines. This move will speed the creation of thousands of construction and operations jobs while transforming the nation’s electric system into a modern, 21st century grid that is safer and more secure, and gives consumers more energy choices. The public can track the progress of these and other transmission projects at http://trackingsystem.nisc-llc.com/etrans/utility/Search.seam. This effort is the latest achievement resulting from a 2009 agreement between nine federal agencies that has improved coordination among federal agencies, states, and other stakeholders involved in siting and permitting transmission facilities on Federal lands. 
  • In November 2010, the Council on Environmental Quality issued commonsense guidance for federal agencies on the use of categorical exclusions to improve the efficiency of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Protection Act. When used appropriately, categorical exclusions help agencies reduce unnecessary paperwork and delay, by using research and experience to identify in advance categories of activities, like routine facility maintenance, that do not need to undergo intensive environmental review because they do not have significant environmental impacts.
  • Over the past two years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have worked together to promote sustainable communities. For example, by partnering with local governments, the development community, and other key stakeholders, these agencies have helped to identify and remove key barriers to sustainable design and green building in their permitting process by increasing awareness of local ordinances that impact design, renovation and maintenance of buildings and the sites at which they are located.
  • Earlier this summer, the President signed an Executive Order to promote the safe, responsible, and efficient energy resources in Alaska. The EO established a working group to facilitate coordinated and efficient energy development and permitting in Alaska while also ensuring that all proper environmental and safety standards are met.

October 12, 2011 at 04:08 PM in Economy, Populism, Environment, Jobs, Native Americans, Obama Administration, Regulation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia: Redistricting Process Entails More Than Meets the Eye

GarciaThis guest blog is by State Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana-36), Senate Majority Whip of the NM Senate, and former member of the 2011 Interim Redistricting Committee. 

Many constituents that I represent have raised their concern that nothing was done during the recent redistricting session, and I believe they deserve a response.

This year's redistricting legislative session was expensive, contentious and has caused much disappointment to many New Mexicans—there is no denying that. I and my Senate colleagues understand the frustration that the public has with the outcome of the session, especially when our constituents wonder why it took nineteen days to develop redistricting legislation that was ultimately vetoed by Governor Martinez.

Preserving and Protecting Constitutional Rights
The true story of the redistricting session is anything but nineteen wasted days of “golfing” and time spent not doing anything. The story of the redistricting session was one of preserving the sacred rights of equal representation and voting rights granted to us through the New Mexico Constitution and United States Constitution.

It was a continuation of the fight that African Americans faced when they willfully met the gnashing of canine teeth, blasting of water cannons, burning of tear gas and pounding of police batons in Selma, Alabama—all to guarantee the right to vote. It was the fight of the Native American, which for nearly 172 years, from the inception of our country, did not have the right to vote. It was the persistence of Hispanics fighting to not have their political voice diluted by clever gerrymandering of district lines. This story was the great modern day reminder of the sacrifice leading to the approval of women’s suffrage.

The Complicated Redistricting Process
Along with the tremendous responsibility of the session went enormous effort. Preparations for the session actually began in 2010 as the federal government conducted the decennial census. As the 2010 census was being completed the Legislative Council Interim Committee met in January of this year to determine guidelines for the redistricting session. (See 2011 New Mexico Redistricting page.)

Subsequently, Senator Linda Lopez and Representative Mary Helen Garcia were chosen to serve as co-chairs of the Redistricting Interim Committee which was made up of 40 members of the legislature. In order to gain community input, the co-chairs convened five meetings throughout the state from June to August of this year.

The interim committee’s work developed into eight concepts for the House, nine concepts for the Senate, seven concepts for Congress, five concepts for the PRC and one concept for the Public Education Commission.

We were able to take the interim concepts into the session and that’s when much more technical and time consuming work began.

In the context of an individual Senate redistricting concept, we were tasked with assigning 2,059,179 people in New Mexico to 1,483 precincts that make up 42 Senate Districts.

"Dominoe Effect"
Enormous challenges were found at the precinct level. As I worked on my Senate district, I found that simply adding one precinct could require a neighboring senator to pull one or more precincts from their neighbor and a similar occurrence happening thereafter. One precinct change in southern NM would often result in a “domino effect,” eventually requiring changes to districts in Northern NM. Imagine all the different combinations possible when 42 Senators were simultaneously making changes to 1,483 individual precincts! Now, this is all in reference to only one Senate concept.

The previous complexities do not even point out the central rules that were to be followed such as: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, preservation of minority voting rights, one-man-one-vote, and sustaining communities of interest.

Look Beyond Slogans and Spin
Measuring the success of the redistricting session requires looking beyond clever slogans and glitzy sound bites. An accurate view shows that the work done during the special session was significant, heartfelt and meaningful.

Redistricting allowed many of us to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us to persist in the great struggle assuring equal voting rights for all people in New Mexico.

This is a guest blog by State Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Dona Ana-36). To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 11, 2011 at 10:36 PM in Guest Blogger, Hispanic Issues, Minority Issues, Native Americans, NM Legislature Redistricting 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Udall Holds Oversight Hearing on Federal Efforts to Clean Up Uranium Contamination

Udall U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility, held an oversight hearing yesterday on the status of cleanup operations at legacy uranium mining and milling operations in New Mexico and elsewhere in the United States. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) testified before the subcommittee about federal cleanup efforts.

During World War II and the Cold War, the federal government relied on extensive uranium prospecting and development throughout the country and especially in uranium-rich areas of the southwest. The uranium industry emerged overnight, at a time of minimal understanding or protection for individuals and the environment. The resulting radiological contamination created a legacy of sickness and pollution, a statement released about the hearing explained.

“The story of uranium development in the United States is a human story, and a tragic human story,” Udall said. “Even as the understanding of the dangers grew, the federal government failed to ensure that uranium workers and their families were safe from the hazards of exposure to radioactive materials.”

Navajo communities have seen some of the worst contamination. One of the most catastrophic examples, the collapse of the United Nuclear Corporation uranium mill tailings facility near Church Rock, NM, ranks as the largest accidental radiation release in U.S. history.

After Congressional hearings began to shine a light on the radiological contamination decades later, EPA, other agencies, and responsible private sector companies undertook the process of cleaning up thousands of abandoned uranium mines, and numerous mill and mine sites. Much work remains to be done.

Testimony: 3 Federal Officials
Udall questioned three key officials from different federal agencies about their commitment to continuing cleanup operations. All three pledged future support and acknowledged that significant work remains. Video of that questioning is available by clicking here.

“The Department of Energy established the Office of Legacy Management in 2003, with the express purpose of having a long-term, sustainable management of closed sites,” said David Geiser, director of DOE’s Office of Legacy Management. “So today we have 87 sites around the country that Legacy Management is responsible for…The Department set up the office explicitly for that long-term purpose.”

Udall stressed that each agency continue the ongoing cleanup projects and commit to providing necessary funding, especially for the Five-Year Plans for the Navajo Nation and the Grants Mining District.

“EPA has led the development and implementation of a coordinated federal plan to address the uranium legacy on the Navajo Nation,” said James Woolford, director of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation for the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “EPA maintains a strong partnership with the Navajo EPA, and, since 1994, EPA has provided technical assistance and funding to assess potentially contaminated sites and develop and implement response actions.”

Woolford reported that the EPA spends $12 million annually for cleanup efforts on the Navajo Nation, in addition to $4 million annually from DOE and a $5 million special appropriation for reclamation of a contaminated site near Tuba City, AZ. Udall commended the EPA for its recently announced plan to clean up the Northeast Church Rock site, the largest abandoned mine on the Navajo Nation and highest risk site in New Mexico, but sought further details on how that plan would be implemented.

Regulating Future Uranium Mining
The hearing also focused on proposed future uranium mining operations. Udall pressed the EPA and NRC, which jointly regulate these kinds of operations, to ensure that new uranium mining does not lead to future contamination. Many communities with legacy contamination are still waiting for cleanup while new mining is being proposed at, or near, the same sites.

“While cleanup is moving decades after the initial contamination, some of these communities are faced with new proposals to re-start uranium mining for energy purposes, opening up old wounds, and arousing new passions,” said Udall. Michael Weber, deputy executive director for the NRC’s Materials, Waste, Research, State, Tribal, and Compliance Programs addressed the regulation of new mining operations.

“The NRC’s comprehensive regulatory framework ensures safe operation and decommissioning of the existing facilities, as well as any planned facilities. The Agency’s standards conform to standards promulgated by EPA,” said Weber. “After a license is issued for a new uranium recovery facility, the NRC or Agreement State provides continued oversight of the operations through periodic licensing reviews, inspections, assessment, enforcement, and investigations.”

Concerns on Proposed Mine Near Crownpoint
Pressing the NRC on their commitment to ensure safe operation and decommissioning of existing and new uranium processing facilities, Udall raised concerns about a proposal for a new NRC-regulated mine near the community of Crownpoint. In response, the NRC testified that the “unique” requirements of the permit and the regulations in place would ensure a continued and safe drinking water supply for the community of Crownpoint should the proposed mining goes forward.

Working Together
Udall urged federal agencies to prioritize existing cleanup operations and to continue to work together, coordinating with state and tribal governments, to assist communities that have been impacted by uranium contamination. In response, the three federal agencies committed to further public involvement as cleanup plans continue.

October 7, 2011 at 12:42 AM in Mining, Native Americans, Regulation, Sen. Tom Udall, Uranium | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

10/8: NAVA Hosts Unprecedented Teleconference and Polling Event

From the Native American Voters Alliance (NAVA):
NAVA is hosting "Native America Speaks," an unprecedented statewide teleconference and polling event using participants' cell phones and displaying real-time results. The teleconference takes place at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, the Center for Lifelong Education at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe and the UNM Branch in Gallup. An information-gathering booth will also be set up at the Shiprock Fair. 

We are inviting Native American people 18 years old and up, including young people, elders, artists, professionals, voters and nonvoters alike to this event. The digital conference will take place at 10:00 AM on Saturday, October 8, 2011. Registration and check-in begins at 9:00 AM. The NAVA is also looking for volunteers, as well as participants. To register online, go to http://t.co/0hl34cP

Digital Conference: Issues Facing Native Americans
The relationship of Native Americans to power and politics is one of enormous complexity and speculation. At this unprecedented event, the NAVA, with its more than a decade of civic engagement with tribal communities, seeks to gather information to understand Native voter behavior by hosting a statewide teleconference in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Gallup to poll Native Americans using cell phones and show real-time results. This digital discussion on health care, Veterans, the economy and other issues affecting Native Americans -- who make up more than 10 percent of the state's population -- is based on a similar national polling event on congressional budget talks.

Native Americans at each site will have smaller discussions on the issues hosted by a moderator, and then be polled on their perceptions. The event seeks to contextualize the Native American decision-making process and involvement in American society.

Guest speakers include Alvin Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo), former Lt. Gov. of Santa Clara Pueblo and Indian Affairs Secretary; Joe Garcia (Ohkay Owingeh), former Governor of Ohkay Owingeh and Chairman of the National Congress of American Indians; and Leonard Tsosie, Navajo Nation Council Delegate and former state senator. Others, including political activist LaDonna Harris (Commanche), have been invited.

For more information, contact Event Organizer Amber Carrillo, 505-917-7698, or NAVA Executive Director Laurie Weahkee, 505-246-1819.

October 6, 2011 at 08:17 AM in Election Reform & Voting, Events, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Northern Navajo Agency Council Endorses Hector Balderas for U.S. Senate

HectorBalderas120 The Northern Navajo Agency Council yesterday announced its endorsement of Hector Balderas for the United States Senate.

Charlie T. Jones, Jr, President of the Hogback Navajo Chapter, cited Hector’s commitment to the communities in the Northern Navajo Agency. “As someone born in a small northern New Mexico town, Hector Balderas comes from a rural background similar to the majority of Navajo people. He understands and relates to the problems we are facing.”

“We need a Senator who represents and fights for all communities in New Mexico. Hector is a leader who will advocate for more investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation. These are the types of initiatives that New Mexico desperately needs,” Jones concluded.

“I’m humbled to receive the support of the Northern Navajo Agency Council. I look forward to working with the Council to implement policies that restore economic fairness to all hardworking people across the state. My top priority is ensuring that all communities in New Mexico are receiving the support they need to prosper,” Hector said

The Northern Navajo Agency Council is a recognized government subsidiary to the Navajo Nation Council that is empowered to advocate matters affecting citizens of the Navajo Nation. The Council represents twenty chapters, the majority of which are located in the state of New Mexico. 

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

September 20, 2011 at 02:14 AM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Hector Balderas, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eastern Navajo Agency Council Endorses Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate

MartinHeinrich120 Today, the Eastern Navajo Agency Council announced their endorsement of Martin Heinrich in his campaign for the U.S. Senate, according to a statement released by the campaign. The Eastern Agency Navajo Council is compromised of 31 local Navajo Nation Chapters, a majority of which are located in New Mexico. The Council helps advocate on behalf of the local Chapters on issues related directly to the Navajo Nation Government.

“The Eastern Navajo Agency Council supports Congressman Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate because he has proven to be a leader on many issues that are vital to our community and the needs of our people,” said Eastern Navajo Agency President Johnny Johnson. “We knew Martin before he was a Congressman, he was part of our community and truly understands our need for more infrastructure and education. We appreciate his leadership and know he will continue to be an effective advocate for the Navajo people in the United States Senate.”

“I’m honored to have the support of the Eastern Navajo Agency Council,” said Martin Heinrich. “As I have said in the past, too many people in Washington do not understand the unique issues of the Navajo people. That’s why I have made it a priority to foster sensible government-to-government relations so that federal policy meets the needs of our Native communities in New Mexico. I’ll continue that work in the United State Senate.”

The campaign explained that Heinrich introduced the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act, or the HEARTH Act, in May 2009 during his first term in Congress, to remove barriers between Native American families and homeownership. In September 2009, Heinrich helped lead the effort in the U.S. House to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and was successful in securing key language in the House version of the health insurance reform bill to modernize Indian health care.

Heinrich’s campaign for the United States Senate noted that he "has received strong and early support from a variety of organizations such as labor unions, environmental organizations and advocates for senior citizens." For more information on Martin Heinrich’s campaign, please visit www.martinheinrich.com.

For more information on the Eastern Navajo Agency Council, please contact Iyanbito Chapter President, Albert Shirley, at 505.728.6238.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

September 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Native Americans, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

White House Urged to Speed Up NM Clean Energy Development

More of this, please, especially at a time when clean energy advocates are conducting civil disobedience demonstrations in front of the White House urging President Obama to stop the Canadian tar sands oil pipeline from the Canadian border to refineries on the Gulf coast.

Sacred Power Corp., a member of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, issued the following release yesterday:

Nearly a dozen New Mexico business leaders have written to the White House advocating that President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar quickly transition to clean energy using public, private and tribal lands. David Melton, chief executive officer of Sacred Power Corp., delivered the letter and the message in person.

Before Obama left on vacation, he met with people at various stops in the Midwest. Melton, who visited with the president in Iowa, says the letter urges the president to work more quickly with tribal, federal, state and private partners to create local jobs while protecting national treasures using solar power.

Melton says, "Switching to solar would be good for the environment and add thousands of jobs to New Mexico's rural economy through the entire development process. You have the job creation at the module level, at the inverter level -- these are all large-scale manufacturing operations. You also have the integration level, the construction level, and finally, the operation level."

New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce President, Lawrence Rael, also commented on this job creation potential saying, "Responsible clean energy development on public lands offers great opportunity for green jobs in New Mexico. According to a recent New Mexico State University study, green jobs represent more than 35,000 New Mexico jobs and is a fast growing part of our economy."

The Interior Department is finalizing its plan for siting solar energy projects on public lands in six Western states. It has identified three study areas which encompass more than 100,000 acres as potential solar energy zones in New Mexico.

More nformation about the solar-energy zone locations is online at doi.gov.

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce creates new opportunities for business by advocating on behalf of renewable energy, strengthening local economies, and seizing the green business advantage. Our members believe in investing in people, protecting our air, land and water, and creating long-term profits. We are where profits and values meet. More information is available at www.nmgreenchamber.com.

August 25, 2011 at 08:07 AM in Climate, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fort Sill Apache Tribe Urges Interior to Withdraw "Fatally Flawed" DEIS for Jemez Casino

In its comment letter about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the off-reservation casino proposed in Anthony, New Mexico, within its Aboriginal Homelands, by Santa Fe multi-millionaire Gerald Peters and the northern New Mexico Jemez Pueblo, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe has urged the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior to withdraw the draft statement and start over. 

The letter, addressed to William Walker, Southwest Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, described the statement as "so inadequate as to preclude meaningful analysis" and urged the agency to revise and recirculate it. "In other words," said Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser, "the document is fatally flawed, and it should be withdrawn." 

Specifically, the Tribe is concerned that the statement considers only one site, only one type of project, and only one design, and that the statement incorrectly states that most of its jobs would go to New Mexicans when, in reality, the majority of its jobs would go to Texans. (An economic report describing this is posted on the tribe's website.)

The Tribe also expressed its concern that the statement failed to adequately address its deep historical roots in Southern New Mexico and made no reference to its current presence there with its Apache Homelands Casino in Deming. Finally, the Tribe stated its concerns about being shut out of the process by the Federal Government, particularly the agency's rejection of the Tribe's 2009 request for cooperating-agency status on the project. 

In summarizing its comments, Tribal Officials stated that, "We hope that our comment letter will help provide the BIA with some of the information it needs to make an informed decision, and we look forward to working cooperatively with the agency if this project continues." 

The Mescalero Apache Tribe is among the other tribes that are against the proposed $55 million casino, according to this AP article.

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is successor in interest to the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache people that lived in Southern New Mexico and Arizona until 1886, when they were forcibly removed and held as Prisoners of War of the United States for 28 years. The Tribe’s members are descendants of those people who upon their release in 1914 remained in Oklahoma and maintained their status as independent Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches until the tribe was restored years later as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. The tribe has long expressed its desire to return to its homelands. 

June 25, 2011 at 03:54 PM in Legal Issues, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (0)