Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Maggie Hart Stebbins: Highlight Of My Time on County Commission

On August 20th, Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins issued the following press release.

Leading the Way on Innovative Bernalillo County/UNM Partnership that Protects North Golf Course from Development

I’m thrilled to share with you exciting news of an event that will always stand out as a highlight of my first three years as a Bernalillo County Commissioner-- This past week, I had the privilege of joining Jack Fortner, President of the UNM Board of Regents; UNM President Dr. Robert Frank; and leaders from UNM Area neighborhoods to celebrate an outstanding accomplishment -- the approval of a partnership that will preserve the UNM North Golf Course as Open Space!

Saving the North Course has been a top priority for me from my first day on the Commission and I’m overjoyed that concerned neighborhood and community leaders and UNM Officials worked with me to find a solution that protects the last, best open space in our part of the county.

Both the Board of Regents and the County Commission approved an agreement that allows the County to dedicate $1.5 million from our Open Space budget in exchange for a 15-year conservation easement on the 80-acre North Course property. The County’s investment will fund installing a new, more efficient irrigation system, replacing aging trees and landscaping, and improving the very popular pedestrian path along the perimeter of the course.

The University and the County leveraged our respective resources to engage in a partnership that is truly a win-win-win for everyone involved. The 80-acre course provides a host of environmental and recreational benefits -- the new irrigation system alone will save an estimated 20 million gallons of precious groundwater every year, at a time when our water resources are threatened on a number of fronts.

And I am pleased that the residents of District 3, who have faithfully contributed to the County Open Space program, finally have a property that is within easy reach of our neighborhoods.

In these days when partisanship and turf battles seem to paralyze our governments, I’m especially proud of this partnership because it demonstrates how local leaders can do great things for the community when we work together. I hope that it will serve as a model for future collaboration between governments in this region.

Also this past week, at dusk, I paid a visit to the North Course. As I walked my dogs, with the 70-year-old elms arching above me, I joined at least a hundred other residents who were doing the very same thing – children and parents, kids with soccer balls and dogs and runners - dozens of people just like me who were taking advantage of the peacefulness of that open space. It was a beautiful sight and I felt very proud to have had a part in preserving that experience for years to come.

As always, I am grateful for your support that gave me the opportunity!

September 4, 2012 at 09:44 AM in Bernalillo County, Land Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins & UNM Area Residents Celebrate Partnership with UNM to Preserve North Golf Course

Agreement with University of New Mexico Protects Open Space for 15 Years

Hart-Stebbins_1Bernalillo County – District 3 Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins tonight celebrated a new partnership with the University of New Mexico that will protect the UNM North Golf Course as green open space.

The 76-acre course is now protected from development for 15 years and becomes the first Open Space property in Bernalillo County located in Commission District 3.

“Today we celebrate the actions of two public entities, UNM and Bernalillo County, who have come together in a true partnership to do something great for the people of this community,” said Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. “Preserving this last, best open space in the urban core of Bernalillo County is a major accomplishment and I’m grateful to the many people from our UNM area neighborhoods, my fellow commissioners, and the UNM Board of Regents who helped make this possible.”

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents and the Bernalillo County Commission both unanimously approved the agreement in respective meetings held today. The county will invest $1.5 million from the voter-approved Open Space fund to upgrade the outdated and inefficient irrigation system, replace aging tree stock, and improve the popular pedestrian path around the course. The improvements to the irrigation system could save up to 20 million gallons of groundwater every year.

“UNM is pleased to partner with Bernalillo County and the North Campus neighborhoods in this innovative approach to preserving a treasured piece of green space enjoyed by the campus community,” says UNM President Dr. Robert Frank. “This agreement is a prime example of how the University is committed to working closely with our communities to enrich the quality of life we all share.”

Bernalillo County's Open Space program currently manages approximately 1,000 acres at 12 properties around the county. The properties are located in the North and South Valleys and the East Mountains. UNM will continue to own and operate the golf course which is the first open space to be located in County Commission District 3.

August 15, 2012 at 01:05 AM in Bernalillo County, Land Issues, Recreation/Open Space | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

One Year Later: Udall Visits Santa Clara Pueblo Burn Scars

Santa clara udallOn Saturday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall toured areas of Santa Clara Pueblo (SCP) devastated by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire for an update on the status of clean up and restoration efforts.

To view photos of the visit, click here.

Udall visited sites burned by the Las Conchas fire with SCP officials including Governor Walter Dasheno, Lieutenant Governor Bruce Tafoya and Forestry Director Michael Chavarria. Representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation were also on hand.

On the tour of the canyon, Udall saw sediment removal sites, two of the Pueblo’s four ponds, high activity tributaries and debris flow.

“As we continue to experience devastating wildfires across the west,” said Udall, “it is evident that the aftermath, flash flooding in particular, is causing emergency situations that are worse than the fire itself. The restoration efforts of Santa Clara Pueblo are ongoing, and I want to underscore the need for all of the federal agencies involved to work as a team with the Pueblo to make sure we provide maximum assistance.”

The flooding that followed last year’s fire washed out Pueblo roads, destroyed stream beds and transferred an estimated 388,000 cubic yards of sediment into SCP’s four ponds, rendering them useless in the absorption of flood water. Much of the pueblo’s efforts have focused on rebuilding roads and the removal of hazardous trees and sediment.

Udall also heard about a setback in the progress of sediment removal when a flash flood refilled the ponds with new sediment, underscoring the need for continued cleaning and restoration efforts to prevent future catastrophic flooding.

July 8, 2012 at 08:21 AM in Environment, Land Issues, Sen. Tom Udall, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

One Year Later: Udall Visits Wallow Fire

Udall wallow fireThis past Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (photo from Sen.Udall) visited areas impacted by the 2011 Wallow Fire in Catron County to discuss restoration efforts, preventive measures against future large-scale wildfires and the lasting impacts it has had on the community.

To view photos of the visit, click here.

“It's been one year since the Wallow Fire raged through New Mexico and Arizona," said Udall. "As we prepare to address the aftermath of the most recent blazes, it’s important to review the recovery process from last year's fires, the lessons we have learned and how we can better prepare for the next.”

Udall toured Wallow Fire burn sites with Forest Service officials and local ranchers. They discussed the Forest Service’s work to remove hazardous trees, control erosion and thin the forest to prevent future large-scale wildfires from occurring. Udall also heard from local ranchers about the Wallow Fire’s damaging impacts on the the watershed, grazing and the local economy as a whole.

Wallow fire
Photo above shows progress made (from Sen. Udall)

“I am impressed by the work that has been done and encouraged by the honest and productive conversation between the Forest Service and area ranchers. Post-fire effects, like flooding and erosion, can cause more harm than the fire itself and, as a result, our ranchers and tourism industry are hurting. It's important for people to know that over 3 million acres of Gila Wilderness remains untouched and open for business. I encourage them to come visit and support the local economy," said Udall.

Last year, the Wallow fire burned over 538,000 acres before it was fully contained on July 8, 2011. This year, the record-breaking Whitewater-Baldy Fire in Catron County and the Little Bear Fire in Lincoln County have burned approximately 298,000 acres and 44,000 acres.

Based on concerns in the state, Udall cosponsored legislation with Sen. Bingaman to eliminate the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance coverage to take effect after a policy is purchased. The legislation was included in the Flood Insurance Bill that passed the Senate on June 29.

This week, Udall is touring several sites impacted by last year’s Wallow and Las Conchas fires to examine the long-term impacts and the implications for the current record-breaking wildfire season. Saturday, he will visit Santa Clara Pueblo to tour areas impacted by the Las Conchas Fire with Pueblo Governor Walter Dasheno and former Governor J. Michael Chavarria. The tour will include a visit to the pueblo’s sediment removal project and high activity tributaries and debris flow.

July 5, 2012 at 08:20 PM in Environment, Land Issues, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wild Wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico

The wildfires burning at 1.5 miles an hour in Colorado and New Mexico. Devastating. Barb and I loved Colorado. We took many many trips up into the mountains. In 2009 we went to the Cache La Poudre River canyon, just west of Fort Collins. We rented a cabin for a week and got our first up close view of the health of the forest with the bark beetle infestation. It was not on our radar at all but what we saw was forests mile after mile dead. Dead trees, millions of dead pine trees, rendering entire forests dead. 

We had both heard of the Bark Beetle (Pine Beetle), we knew the Pine Beetle was wreaking havoc, but to see the full extent was shocking and sad. I can remember thinking this is as bad as the gulf coast disaster but in a different way. There is very little coverage of this disaster, the killing of whole forests happened fast, and it is already gone. These hundreds of square miles of standing ghost trees are a tinderbox waiting to happen.

Here is a link to an article from the NY times published in 2008. There is an excellent 6 minute video within the article describing the Pine Beetle infestation, how they infiltrate the tree, and kill the tree.

There are not many articles that tie the Pine Beetle's killing of entire forests to these very wild wildfires, burning intensely hot and very fast. But it does not take a rocket scientist to determine that forest that are full of dead trees will burn fast and hot.


Map of High Park Fire 2:25 a.m. MT, June 11, 2012, showing heat detected by satellites at 2:25 a.m. MT, June 11, 2012, MODIS/Google Earth/Wildfire Today

The Pine Beetle has done much damage and it is not finished in some forests. It is clear the pine beetle has been able to survive because of warmer temperatures in the winter, more very cold below freezing days would kill the beetles off. In the natural past cold winters kept the forest in balance. We are watching more collateral damage of global warming, too much fossil fuel burned, too much living out of balance. Bye bye to the beautiful back forests along the Cache La Poudre river, see ya next life time.

June 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM in Climate, Environment, Land Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2012

LasVegas, New Mexico, Adopts Community Bill of Rights; Bans Corporations from Fracking for Shale Gas

LvvoteblogphotoPhoto to the right from Drilling Mora County. The three Councilors: Councilman Feldman, Councilwoman Tonita Gurule Giron and Councilman Romero voted in favor of the Ordinance.

"Revolutions always start small—we know that. The Abolitionists started with 12 kids in the 1840s.This one has started small as well with a handful of communities intent on turning the existing system upside down. Hopefully, if we move forward it will make it OK for others to follow in the path. And we must make that path by actually walking it.”
Andrew Feldman, sponsor of "Las Vegas Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance"

(Monday, April 2, 2012- Las Vegas, NM) In front of a standing-room only crowd of residents, by a vote of 3-1, the City Council, Las Vegas New Mexico enacted the Las Vegas Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance, drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which places into law a local Bill of Rights, including the right of all residents, natural communities and ecosystems to water from natural sources, the right of residents to unpolluted water for use in agriculture, the rights of natural ecosystems to exist, and flourish and of residents to protect their environment by enforcing these rights. Also enumerated is the right to a sustainable energy future, and the right to local self-government.

To protect these rights, the ordinance makes it unlawful “for any corporation to engage in the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Las Vegas and its watersheds, for any corporation to engage in the extraction of water from any surface or subsurface source within the City of Las Vegas and its watersheds for use in the extraction of subsurface oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons, to import water or any other substance…used in the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons, into the City of Las Vegas or its watersheds for use in the extraction of subsurface oil, natural gas or other hydrocarbons within the City of Las Vegas and its watersheds.”

It is now also unlawful  “for any corporation…to deposit,store, transport or process waste water, produced water, frack water, brine or other materials, chemicals or by-products used in the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons, into the land, air or waters within the City of Las Vegas,” or to “use a corporation to construct or maintain infrastructure related to the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Las Vegas or its watershed.”

The process for adoption of this local law was punctuated by drama. On February 15th Council member Andrew Feldman introduced the bill and the Council voted unanimously to advertise the ordinance and to place it on the agenda for a final hearing and vote on passage at the regularly scheduled March 21st Council meeting.

Mr. Feldman stated: "Along with the City of Pittsburgh, this is how we change federal law, folks. It starts at the bottom. We do this, and other cities do it. It starts a ball rolling that hopefully will not stop. We change our laws in this great country that protect us instead of protecting corporations."

At the hearing, no one spoke in opposition to the proposed law, but numerous voices rose in support. From the 115 community members in attendance, some spoke eloquently of the revolutionary nature of this bill. Local proponent for the ordinance Miguel Pacheco commented “This is a time we have to take a stand. This is not going to be easy, but it is the right thing to do. Our congress is holding us back. Our federal government makes the wrong choices for us in many instances. That's why this ordinance gives rights to nature, to us human beings. It elevates life. It puts corporations down where they should be. This ordinance is protecting innocents, all those who can't speak for themselves. Profit is not what human beings are about.  We need to care for one another, to take care of our environment, future generations and all living life forms."

Lee Einer of Las Vegas stated that “Our minds have been colonized, just as our land has been colonized. We live with in a legal framework that considers corporations to be persons, and Mother Nature to be property. I think that's strange! I think we have it backwards! I think Mother Nature is a person!  I think corporations are property! I think it's time to construct our laws differently."

Las Vegas NM National Wildlife refuge
Photo above: Las Vegas NM National Wildlife Refuge

Mayor Alfonso Ortiz waxed eloquently in favor of the proposed law, saying: “Be serious about what is going on here. We are challenging the establishment, federal laws. If people are looking for profit--money isn't going to mean anything if we have no drinking water. It's not just important to vote for this ordinance, but to follow through and make sure other communities do as well.  If we pass this, we will set a model for the county to pass it easily, for Mora County to pass it easily--and hopefully other counties--we need to emphasize this to the New Mexico Association of Counties and the Municipal League."

However, at the meeting on March 21st, Council and community members were dismayed to learn that the mayor and Alfonso Ortiz and the City attorney, David Romero, decided to omit the question from the agenda, so that a vote could not take place. Residents were told there would be a second hearing and a motion for a second advertisement only.

At that meeting, the mayor, who stands for re-election on April 17th, stated “I feel very comfortable with the ordinance. I just want you to understand it…we’re not against it. We’re in favor of it. You’re dealing with friends. It’s a given we want to do the right thing. I’m already convinced. The ultimate goal is that the ordinance passes.”

Mr. Romero had this to say: “I’m in full favor of working with you to strengthen this ordinance. The administration is not against this ordinance.”

None-the-less, a vote was prevented. There was further discussion and testimony from community members and against the protests of the mayor and city attorney, a unanimous vote by Council scheduled a special meeting for the vote on adoption within two weeks, prior to the upcoming election. And again, the agenda was manipulated and the special meeting scheduled for three weeks out, rather than the two weeks voted upon by Council. Supporters of the ordinance discovered the change and notified the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Andrew Feldman, and the meeting date was corrected to April 2nd.

At the April 2nd meeting, with more than 100 residents in attendance, as well as Karin Forster, attorney and executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the mayor and city attorney exposed their opposition to the ordinance publicly.

Mr. Romero stated that the ordinance “is preempted by state law and it has language which implies if this law is challenged, the city could consider seceding from the union or acting as a sovereign nation. That type of language in any ordinance is inappropriate. I would like to note that does not mean that from what I’ve heard that the average person is against the ordinance… And there is a 2nd part: the Community Bill of Rights… that section is just out of bounds with the laws as we know it…I feel so strongly about this that if it is passed by the council, under my oath as city attorney, I may have to challenge the issue myself as part of my duties to…”

At this point the attorney’s comments became inaudible as the residents shouted “Resign, Resign!”
Mayor Ortiz stated, “I’m concerned about this ordinance because of the significance…If we were to look at this ordinance and look at elements of it, and maybe include some things, exclude some things…I think that the majority of the people are in favor of it, but there’s little flaws, little clues in there that can be readin different ways…”

When the vote came, Councilor Tonita Gurule Giron voted yes, Councilor Vince Howell no, Councilor David Romero voted yes, and Councilor Andrew Feldman voted yes.

After the vote the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Karin Forster told the city attorney the oil companies would be filing suit against the City of Las Vegas.

As a final “protest” against adoption of the ordinance, the mayor has so far refused to sign it, although he has no legal authority to halt or veto the law.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, and to enact laws which end destructive and rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.

April 20, 2012 at 01:06 PM in Corporatism, Fracking, Land Issues, Water Issues | |

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest Blog: Pearce’s Paltry Proposal for the Organ Mountains

GUest Blog by Alex Curtas. Alex is the Research and Special Projects Director for ProgressNow New Mexico, a nonprofit progressive advocacy organization.

In recent days, an already popular proposal to designate an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument has gained a handful of high-profile new supporters. On March 23rd, Congressman Martin Heinrich implored President Obama to utilize a comprehensive approach for protecting these culturally, historically, and environmentally significant New Mexico landmarks by designating America’s newest national monument under the Antiquities Act. Congressman Steve Pearce, however, introduced a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing bill that would open the door for exploiting more than 150,000-acres of land already under protection. Those who truly want what’s best for these pristine areas and the Doña Ana County economy should be skeptical of Mr. Pearce’s paltry proposal.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Bingaman to protect the Organ Mountains has been in the federal pipeline for years, but the 2010 wave of Tea Party-backed anti-conservation legislators (of which Mr. Pearce was one) dashed any hopes for passing such a bill. But now, in a half-hearted attempt to appease the growing constituency of southern New Mexico voters supporting national monument designation, Mr. Pearce has come out in favor of legislation using the “national monument” label but with drastically different interests.

Republicans in congress continually frame conservation issues in highly misleading ways – like labeling common-sense protections “land grabs” and falsely blaming high energy prices on the EPA – and Mr. Pearce’s ostensible support for an Organ Mountain national monument is no different. Mr. Pearce’s call for just 58,000-acres of protection is trivial compared to the 241,000-acre full national monument designation that would bring New Mexico thousands of jobs, and millions of outdoor recreation and tourism dollars, and which already enjoys broad support throughout the state.

Mr. Pearce dubs his bill a “compromise” when it’s actually a calculated attempt to strip these lands of common-sense protections that could sustain the land while supporting the local economy. Remember, Mr. Pearce has received some of the lowest rankings on environmental voting records given by the League of Conservation voters and he is a proud member of the , a group of extremist legislators whose website falsely declares that “a monument designation” can be “devastating…to communities and individuals.”

While Mr. Pearce wants to forfeit thousands of acres of protected land to allow for more harmful development and exploitation along the Mesilla Valley, Mr. Heinrich – along with a diverse coalition of conservation, economic, veteran, and sportsmen groups – are calling on President Obama to issue robust protections for these lands by way of the Antiquities Act. Past presidents have used the Act to create New Mexico’s treasured national monuments which contribute over $54 million in annual tourist spending and which support over 1,000 New Mexico jobs. Far from being “devastating” to “communities and individuals,” a true monument designation would bring more tourists, more jobs, and higher incomes to the growing communities of Doña Ana County.

ProgressNow New Mexico supports the effort to have President Obama designate an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument. Recently, along with other ProgressNow partners, we launched MonumentalWest.com as an online resource that provides information about this important endeavor. Visit the website to learn more about how you can help us call on President Obama to designate critical western lands as national monuments.

Alex Curtas

April 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM in Dona Ana County, Guest Blogger, Land Issues, ProgressNow New Mexico, Steve Pearce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Governor Martinez Establishes New Task Force

Breaking news!  Following the New Mexico State Engineer’s decision on March 30, 2012 [OSE File No. RG-89943] dismissing the San Augustin Ranch, LLC water rights application, Governor Susanna Martinez announced the creation of a new task force -- the Building Resilient Communities Task Force.

The stated goals of the task force are to examine the impacts of climate change on New Mexico communities (both urban and rural) and make recommendations by October 1 for building stronger, more resilient communities to be better prepared to adapt and respond to the serious impacts predicted by the scientific community. Governor Martinez will review these recommendations to determine what her administration can implement immediately and what might be appropriate legislation for the Legislature to take up in 2013.

“The Building Resilient Communities Task Force will pick up where  left off in 2007,” Governor Martinez said. “We must not drop the ball.  Under my predecessor’s leadership, New Mexico began to ask the tough questions.  It is more important than ever to search for the answers today with the impacts of climate change, the economic meltdown, and other challenges confronting New Mexico.”

Lora Lucero, an Albuquerque land use attorney, city planner, writer, and climate activist, has accepted the role of leading the Building Resilient Communities Task Force which will be comprised of members from the previous task force. “I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Lucero responded. “Climate change is a non-partisan issue which impacts us all, and our children’s children, without regard to political affiliation.  I look forward to working with everyone on the Task Force over the next six months and including the public in this very important work.”

April 1, 2012 at 12:59 PM in Climate, Environment, Government, Green Economy, Land Issues, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Susana Martinez, Urban Issues, Water Issues | |

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Southern NM Veterans’ Organ Mountains Tour Highlights Importance of Protecting Public Lands

Organ Aguirre Springs
Vets Discuss Value of Lands for Those Who Fought for America

On a tour of various landmarks in the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks region on Wednesday, Southern New Mexico veterans from every branch of the military discussed their strong shared support for protecting rich public lands within the Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks region in Doña Ana County. Veterans spoke of the importance of having protected mountains and open space at home for veterans to recreate and provide a sanctuary.

The tour included several natural and historic locations including the Organ Mountains, rare World War II Aerial Targets in the Sierra de las Uvas, and the historic Butterfield Stagecoach Trail.

“Veterans – more than most -- recognize that when our sons and daughters are fighting overseas, they’re fighting for so much more than our freedoms. They are also fighting for our land and our nation’s sacred places,” said Dona Ana County-area veteran Peter Ossorio. “To Southern New Mexicans, the craggy peaks of the Organ Mountains and its surrounding desert is one such sacred place. In fact, I would say protecting our public lands heritage is one of the most patriotic things we could do.”

The event, which was a desert tour of some of the public lands proposed for a national monument in Doña Ana County, was organized by local veterans and the national Vet Voice Foundation.  The Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act (S. 1024) would protect these resources as would a recently-announced proposal to create the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (see www.OrganMountains.org).

Just last week, a broad coalition of Southern New Mexico businesses, sportsmen, faith-based organizations, conservation groups and community leaders announced their support for a Presidential monument designation for the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks region. Representatives from the Offices of Sens. Bingaman and Udall, two sponsors of S. 1024, were on hand for the veterans tour, which included an expert on the Butterfield Stage and a local historian on the land’s significance.

“As veterans, we are committed to serving beyond the time when we were in uniform,” said Dona Ana County area veteran Bernie Digman. “Serving our country is about so much more than our time in the military – it’s about what we do when we take that uniform off. For me, that means fighting to protect public lands so that my kids and grandkids can enjoy the wonders of nature that I enjoyed as a boy.”

In addition, healthy public lands are critical to many returning veterans as they reintegrate to civilian life.

“You cannot understate the therapeutic value of a camping trip or a peaceful hike for our brothers and sisters who are returning home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Ossorio added. “These wild and beautiful places like the Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks region are a crucial part of the America our service members are fighting for.”

“Protecting public lands is about more than merely conserving acreage, it’s about preserving our history,” Digman said. “Right here in Dona Ana County we have the obvious places to protect – like the crest of the Organ Mountains. But we also have more hidden treasures, like the Butterfield Stage route and the bombing targets carved into the desert these are no less significant than the beautiful vistas we enjoy every day.”

Recent studies have highlighted the positive economic impacts of National Monuments.  A 2011 report on Carlsbad Caverns showed an annual tourist spend of $23 million, supporting nearly 350 direct and indirect jobs.

Organ WW2 bomb range 5
Photo above at the bomb range is (frmr state Rep.) Nate Cote and other Las Cruces area veterans.

“National Monuments mean local jobs,” said local veteran Nathan Cote. “How? Because when a monument is designated it immediately goes to the top of the list when it comes to tour books and travel blogs. A National Monument in our community will bring more visitors who will spend money and create jobs right here. There really is no downside.”

Nathan Cote, Bernie Digman and Peter Ossorio are all featured in a recent series of videos from the Vet Voice Foundation on the importance of preserving our public lands and heritage.

ABOUT Vet Voice Foundation
Vet Voice Foundation is a national group that works to mobilize veterans to become leaders in their communities on the important issues our nation faces. With regard to the conservation of our public lands, Vet Voice Foundation recognizes that when a service member is fighting for his or her country, they are also fighting for our nation’s natural wonders and an American way of life that is steeped in enjoyment of the great outdoors.

March 29, 2012 at 03:30 PM in Dona Ana County, Environment, Land Issues, Visuals | |

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Heinrich Calls Upon President for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation in Doña Ana County

Above photo from Exploring the Southwest Desert USA

On March 23rd - U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) sent a letter to President Barack Obama earlier this week urging him to designate an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County. In his letter to the president, Rep. Heinrich cited the multiple cultural, economical and environmental benefits this monument designation would provide for New Mexicans.

“This proposed monument includes part of the original route of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which took settlers and traders from Mexico City through Las Cruces and continuing north all the way to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo,” said Rep. Heinrich in the letter. “For more than 300 years, this road served as the sole route from Mexico City into New Mexico. Some of the most vivid characters in New Mexico’s history were active in this area, including Geronimo and Billy the Kid. The Butterfield Stagecoach Route ran right though the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, which also contain some of the most distinctive Native American petroglyphs and pictographs in the Southwest. The Organ Mountains continue to provide critical cultural resources for the growing Mesilla Valley population.”

Read Rep. Heinrich’s letter to President Obama »

“Moreover, protecting these resources will help boost the economy of southern New Mexico,” Rep. Heinrich continued in the letter. “Recent research done by the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce shows that the state’s 10 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act account for 1.3 million annual tourist visits and $54 million in annual tourist spending that supports 1,061 New Mexico jobs.”

March 27, 2012 at 01:39 PM in Dona Ana County, Environment, Jobs, Land Issues, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sierra Club Northern New Mexico Group Releases Candidate Endorsements and Bond Support

Below are the endorsed candidates and bond questions recommended by the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. Detailed candidate endorsements are attached for all four districts. The Northern New Mexico Group researched these bond questions and candidates thoroughly, and we urge Santa Feans to support them in the upcoming municipal election:

Candidates for Santa Fe City Council:

District 1: Patti Bushee

Councilor Bushee has been a long history of advocating for environmental issues, development of clean energy and responsible water use in her many years on the City Council.

District 2: Peter Ives

Ives, a new candidate running for this open seat, has worked as in-house counsel for the Trust for Public Land for 14 years and demonstrates a commitment to increasing awareness of sustainability in Santa Fe and protecting its water sources

District 3: Christopher Rivera

Rivera, also a new candidate running for an open seat, displays a strong knowledge of water issues and a concern for long-term planning to keep resources plentiful for future generations of Santa Feans.

District 4: Carol Robertson Lopez

Robertson Lopez is a former city councilor with superb knowledge of water issues and a strong record of advocating for smart water-conservation strategies

See more information on these candidates here.

Vote "yes" on the following bond questions:

Question 2: $14 million for Trails and Parks.

Question 3: $3.8 million for sustainable environmental projects.

January 31, 2012 at 06:13 PM in Candidates & Races, Land Issues, Santa Fe County Commissioner | |

SB 200 Guts Land Conservation Easements – Eliminating Incentives to Preserve Ecologically Important Lands for Future Generations

Kathy_SF CountyGuest blog by County Commissioner Kathy Holian.

Senator Phil Griego (D) has introduced SB 200  to drastically constrain the program of economic incentives that underpins conservation easements in New Mexico. Through Griego's bill, the Martinez administration is attempting to limit the scale and availability of tax credits to any landowner who wishes to put land under a conservation easement (CE).

The existing Landowner Conservation Incentive Act (LCIA) (Sec. 75-9-1 et seq. NMSA 1978) gives a landowner the ability to preserve land that is rich in ecological, cultural, recreational, or agricultural values, and obtain a NM tax credit up to $250,000, or half the value, whichever is less, of the donation of development rights. Moreover, the donation as a CE is, at present, transferable: for example, if a farmer has valuable arable land that he or she wishes to maintain in that condition (i.e., without being paved over by a housing development or parking lot or shopping mall), then the LCIA makes it possible to sell the tax credit, even when the farmer doesn't have enough tax liability to make it worthwhile for himself or herself.

"Land-rich, but cash-poor" is no longer a handicap for the farmer's (or rancher's) bottom line; his or her donation can be plowed back into the farm or ranch. Having a tangible economic benefit for the owner of agricultural land helps to preserve it, in perpetuity: for growing our food locally, or for keeping it in rangeland, or for preserving its scenic beauty and wildlife. In the last seven years, over 44,000 acres, with a total donation value of over $41 million, have been permanently protected at a minimal cost to taxpayers.

Griego's bill, SB200, would eliminate out-of-state landowners from the LCIA program, regardless of the conservation-worthiness of their land; would increase the tax burden to participants by converting capital gains to ordinary income, thus reducing their return; and would eliminate tax-relief benefits to NM businesses who purchase tax credits; would penalize married couples and families that jointly own land by limiting the number of tax credits; would institute a 5-year spacing requirement. This latter provision would make it nearly impossible to protect larger landscapes in phases or to work with landowners who own multiple, separate parcels worthy of conservation. By instituting a 5-year holding period, SB200 would eliminate tax credits and land protection as a financing tool, particularly for keeping land active in ranching or farming. SB200 eliminates nonprofits or conservation organizations from using CEs and redefines conservation purposes, thereby eliminating agricultural land as a conservation purpose under NM State Law. Finally, the Natural Land Protection Committee would be eliminated, so that there would be no public hearing process for the LCIA program.

SB 200 virtually guts the LCIA program. His bill is a frontal assault on land conservation in the State of New Mexico. If SB 200 passes and is signed into law, New Mexico will lose many benefits.

● Economic Development. Conservation easements on working, agricultural lands support a local and more resilient economy by circulating dollars within our rural communities, and conservation easements on scenic lands help promote and protect the State’s tourism industry.

● Jobs & Financial Benefits. Conservation easements enhance New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry (which contributes $3.8 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy and supports 47,000 jobs) and New Mexico’s agricultural sector (which contributes $3.39 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy and supports 23,000 jobs).

● Financial Alternative. The proceeds from the sale of tax credits allowed by the Land Conservation Incentives Act provide a reasonable alternative to landowners who are under economic pressure to sell their water rights or subdivide and sell portions of their family land.

● Voluntary. Conservation Easements are completely voluntary; no landowner has ever been forced to donate a conservation easement, nor can the government “take” a conservation easement through the exercise of eminent domain.

● Hunter Friendly. Although conservation easements typically do not require public access, conservation easements on lands with wildlife habitat are hunter-friendly because they benefit wildlife (by providing wildlife corridors and protecting existing wildlife habitat) and because game species roam between privately conserved lands and public lands.

● Alternative Energy. Conservation easements can be drafted to support limited alternative energy infrastructure that allows landowners to diversify their energy resources in pursuit of continued, effective management of their family lands.

● Culture & Heritage. Conservation easements on agricultural land rein in sprawling development and help preserve New Mexico’s cultural heritage and longstanding, traditional way of life.

● Food Security. Conservation easements on working farms and ranches help to protect our local food supply, maintain the integrity of our local food economy, and support New Mexico’s thriving—and growing—farmers’ markets.

● Minimal Fiscal Impact/Substantial Conservation Benefit. Over its seven year history, the fiscal impact of the Land Conservation Incentives Act has been less than $3 Million, yet has conserved over 44,000 acres of land, the conservation portion of which is valued at over $40 Million. In other words, the program has resulted in more than $10 of land conserved for every $1 claimed as a tax credit.

January 31, 2012 at 06:30 AM in Land Issues, NM Legislature 2012, Taxes | |