2013

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Earth Matters co-producer, Dr Kim McCreery, NM Wild Regional Director/Staff Scientist, talks with Las Cruces City Council member Gill Sorg and Lucas Herndon, Executive Director of Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    They will be discussing the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument Proposal, the scope and purpose the purpose of the monument, the economic advantages it will bring, the assurances for protecting these sensitive and magnificent areas for future generations, the environmental protections it will provide for flora and fauna, the range of uses that will be permitted and the recreational and inspirational character of this magical and enchanting landscape as well as dispel certain misinformation and false rumor that has been disseminated.

    Listen to the streaming audio:

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Earth Matters co-producer, Dr Kim McCreery, NM Wild Regional Director/Staff Scientist, talks with Las Cruces City Council member Gill Sorg and Lucas Herndon, Executive Director of Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    They will be discussing the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument Proposal, the scope and purpose the purpose of the monument, the economic advantages it will bring, the assurances for protecting these sensitive and magnificent areas for future generations, the environmental protections it will provide for flora and fauna, the range of uses that will be permitted and the recreational and inspirational character of this magical and enchanting landscape as well as dispel certain misinformation and false rumor that has been disseminated.

    Listen to the streaming audio:

  • Public News Service-NM: January 9, 2013

    Earth Matters co-producer, Dr Kim McCreery, NM Wild Regional Director/Staff Scientist, talks with Las Cruces City Council member Gill Sorg and Lucas Herndon, Executive Director of Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    They will be discussing the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument Proposal, the scope and purpose the purpose of the monument, the economic advantages it will bring, the assurances for protecting these sensitive and magnificent areas for future generations, the environmental protections it will provide for flora and fauna, the range of uses that will be permitted and the recreational and inspirational character of this magical and enchanting landscape as well as dispel certain misinformation and false rumor that has been disseminated.

    Listen to the streaming audio:

  • View the Captain’s Log

  • View the Captain’s Log

  • The Taos News
    July 11, 2013 

    Barely had the Río Grande del Norte been designated a National Monument when Tri-State Generation and Transmission announced a plan to run a high-capacity transmission line through a corridor that could include part of the newly designated area.

    While we appreciate the importance of investing in infrastructure and making the electrical system more reliable, we can’t begin allowing such potentially disruptive development in the Río Grande del Norte — especially when the Monument has just been established.

    Tri-State, based in Denver, supplies electricity to Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, among others. Its proposed “Valley Corridor Project” would bring a 230-kilovolt line from Alamosa, Colo., to Northern New Mexico.

    Tri-State hasn’t yet determined a particular route for the line, and conservationists who worked for years (and some for decades) to see National Monument brought to fruition are staunchly against allowing the line into Taos County.

    Though electric lines don’t seem particularly destructive when compared to, say, mineral or oil and gas development, disturbances created by the construction, including the roads necessary to bring in heavy machinery, and maintenance of the lines are not to be discounted. Recent wildfires — including the Thompson Ridge and Tres Lagunas fires — are stark reminders that even once in place, electrical lines can have destructive effects on the landscape.

    Not to mention the aesthetics: Imagine hiking through the roadless plateau, possibly encountering elk or eagle, contemplating the thousands-of-years-old petroglyphs you just saw, and thinking yourself connected to the Río Grande’s ancient volcanic and storied human history — only to be confronted with humming modernity in the form of straight, stark poles and strung wires towering over you and your surroundings. It certainly would detract from the experience.

    This is exactly the kind of activity the monument designation is intended to block.

    A Tri-State spokesperson said the company doesn’t think “conservation and infrastructure development are mutually exclusive,” but we think that in this case, they most certainly are. And we are grateful that those who fought long and hard to see the 240,000-acre Río Grande del Norte receive permanent protection feel the same way.

    Enduring preservation requires constant vigilance, and this line could be the first test of that resolve. Taos County is lucky to have dedicated residents and supporters who are up to the task.

  • The Taos News
    July 11, 2013 

    Barely had the Río Grande del Norte been designated a National Monument when Tri-State Generation and Transmission announced a plan to run a high-capacity transmission line through a corridor that could include part of the newly designated area.

    While we appreciate the importance of investing in infrastructure and making the electrical system more reliable, we can’t begin allowing such potentially disruptive development in the Río Grande del Norte — especially when the Monument has just been established.

    Tri-State, based in Denver, supplies electricity to Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, among others. Its proposed “Valley Corridor Project” would bring a 230-kilovolt line from Alamosa, Colo., to Northern New Mexico.

    Tri-State hasn’t yet determined a particular route for the line, and conservationists who worked for years (and some for decades) to see National Monument brought to fruition are staunchly against allowing the line into Taos County.

    Though electric lines don’t seem particularly destructive when compared to, say, mineral or oil and gas development, disturbances created by the construction, including the roads necessary to bring in heavy machinery, and maintenance of the lines are not to be discounted. Recent wildfires — including the Thompson Ridge and Tres Lagunas fires — are stark reminders that even once in place, electrical lines can have destructive effects on the landscape.

    Not to mention the aesthetics: Imagine hiking through the roadless plateau, possibly encountering elk or eagle, contemplating the thousands-of-years-old petroglyphs you just saw, and thinking yourself connected to the Río Grande’s ancient volcanic and storied human history — only to be confronted with humming modernity in the form of straight, stark poles and strung wires towering over you and your surroundings. It certainly would detract from the experience.

    This is exactly the kind of activity the monument designation is intended to block.

    A Tri-State spokesperson said the company doesn’t think “conservation and infrastructure development are mutually exclusive,” but we think that in this case, they most certainly are. And we are grateful that those who fought long and hard to see the 240,000-acre Río Grande del Norte receive permanent protection feel the same way.

    Enduring preservation requires constant vigilance, and this line could be the first test of that resolve. Taos County is lucky to have dedicated residents and supporters who are up to the task.

  • The Taos News
    February 15, 2013

    Last week, our Congressional delegation reintroduced a bill to protect 236,000 acres along both sides of the Río Grande as a national conservation area.
    We applaud their perseverance.

    This swath of dramatic landscape includes the Río Grande Gorge, and the Ute and San Antonio mountains in Taos and Río Arriba counties.

    The so-called Río Grande del Norte has long been used for such traditional uses as grazing, hunting, fishing and gathering firewood. The area also contains many religious and cultural sites.

    The timing is right to ensure this land remains permanently for the use of the people. The creation of a conservation area would prohibit new roads as well as future mineral development.

    And making Río Grande del Norte a national conservation area would help attract visitors who, too, would want to enjoy these wild lands. This could be a welcome boost to the local economy.

    Locally, strong support has been demonstrated, including by local governments, Taos Pueblo leaders, land grant associations and various community groups.
    But an attempt at protection failed last year during the legislative deadlock.

    Similarly, granting wilderness protection to 45,000 acres in the Columbine-Hondo area didn’t go anywhere in Washington, D.C., despite broad local support.

    Now, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (who was elected to Jeff Bingaman’s seat last year) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján remain committed to conservation.

    We agree that the natural resources of Northern New Mexico are worth protecting and offer them our support.

    Poor election turnout

    Taos County has 24,902 registered voters, but most of them decided to skip the Feb. 5 election for school board members and a two-mill levy.
    That’s too bad.

    In Taos, only voters residing in two districts could select a candidate, but anyone could vote to renew a two-mill levy that was set to expire after six years. The funds will be earmarked for capital improvements, activity buses and school technology.

    So, how many Taos voters headed to the polls to cast their ballots on the two-mill levy? The results say 1,397.

    In Taos’ District 3, one candidate got 171 votes while the other received 35.

    The situation was not much better in Peñasco, though Questa voters were engaged in determining the fate of their now-suspended board.

    In September, only 1,918 voters showed up to decide on a Taos County Educational gross-receipts tax.

    We question why voters don’t get fired up about school elections. The schools have an important role in our community. It is in there our future leaders, business owners, employees, and artists are created.

    And, early voting makes it easy to stop at the bureau of elections in the county complex to mark Xs on an official ballot.

    So, for those who didn’t vote, what’s your excuse?

  • The Taos News
    February 15, 2013

    Last week, our Congressional delegation reintroduced a bill to protect 236,000 acres along both sides of the Río Grande as a national conservation area.
    We applaud their perseverance.

    This swath of dramatic landscape includes the Río Grande Gorge, and the Ute and San Antonio mountains in Taos and Río Arriba counties.

    The so-called Río Grande del Norte has long been used for such traditional uses as grazing, hunting, fishing and gathering firewood. The area also contains many religious and cultural sites.

    The timing is right to ensure this land remains permanently for the use of the people. The creation of a conservation area would prohibit new roads as well as future mineral development.

    And making Río Grande del Norte a national conservation area would help attract visitors who, too, would want to enjoy these wild lands. This could be a welcome boost to the local economy.

    Locally, strong support has been demonstrated, including by local governments, Taos Pueblo leaders, land grant associations and various community groups.
    But an attempt at protection failed last year during the legislative deadlock.

    Similarly, granting wilderness protection to 45,000 acres in the Columbine-Hondo area didn’t go anywhere in Washington, D.C., despite broad local support.

    Now, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (who was elected to Jeff Bingaman’s seat last year) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján remain committed to conservation.

    We agree that the natural resources of Northern New Mexico are worth protecting and offer them our support.

    Poor election turnout

    Taos County has 24,902 registered voters, but most of them decided to skip the Feb. 5 election for school board members and a two-mill levy.
    That’s too bad.

    In Taos, only voters residing in two districts could select a candidate, but anyone could vote to renew a two-mill levy that was set to expire after six years. The funds will be earmarked for capital improvements, activity buses and school technology.

    So, how many Taos voters headed to the polls to cast their ballots on the two-mill levy? The results say 1,397.

    In Taos’ District 3, one candidate got 171 votes while the other received 35.

    The situation was not much better in Peñasco, though Questa voters were engaged in determining the fate of their now-suspended board.

    In September, only 1,918 voters showed up to decide on a Taos County Educational gross-receipts tax.

    We question why voters don’t get fired up about school elections. The schools have an important role in our community. It is in there our future leaders, business owners, employees, and artists are created.

    And, early voting makes it easy to stop at the bureau of elections in the county complex to mark Xs on an official ballot.

    So, for those who didn’t vote, what’s your excuse?

  • By Larry Sanchez / Taos County Commissioner on Mon, Mar 25, 2013
    Albuquerque Journal

    I am very proud to be a New Mexican, a Taos County leader and a Vietnam-era veteran. But I am especially proud today because of how we all came together as a community to support designation of the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. 

    As a veteran, I believe strongly in the importance of service to our country. This is the greatest nation on Earth. We take care of each other and our communities. We fight for everyone to have a chance to access better education, housing, services and safety. We strive for a healthy environment to preserve our rich cultural heritage.

    These are the values American soldiers have always fought to protect, and they are the values we pass down to each successive generation.

    It is this cooperative spirit at its best that helped protect the public lands and the watershed of Rio Grande del Norte.

    Sportsmen, ranchers, business owners, community leaders and conservationists all worked with the Taos County Commission and our congressional delegation to develop legislation that met our shared needs and goals.

    When Congress was unable to pass a bill protecting Rio Grande del Norte, we joined together and appealed to the Department of the Interior and the White House for action. Thankfully, our calls for action were answered by President Obama through his designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

    The reason for our persistence is Rio Grande del Norte’s value to New Mexico.

    Many people in both Taos and Rio Arriba counties have used and enjoyed Rio Grande del Norte lands for generations – grazing their cattle, gathering firewood and piñon nuts, and hunting and fishing. The region also attracts visitors from around the country and state who come here to enjoy outdoor recreation with their families.

    These visitors are particularly important to our local economy, staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants. Thanks to our collective efforts, future generations will continue to be able to enjoy this unique landscape.

    Most important, as a veteran I want to point out that our men and women returning from war have benefited from our public lands as a place to heal.

    After serving during the Vietnam era, I was fortunate to return home to Questa and be embraced by my family and community. I hunted on the lands of Rio Grande del Norte and fished the river.

    Today, I volunteer with the non-profit Disabled American Veterans to help build better lives for all of our nation’s disabled veterans and their families. I want to help other veterans experience the peace and recreation that our public lands offer.

    Ensuring veterans and our families can always access the Rio Grande del Norte took a village, as they say.

    Several local policymakers worked hard, including retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. They all worked for action in Congress and later, from the White House. Other local collaborators include mayors, small business owners, chambers of commerce, ranchers and farmers, artists, sportsmen’s organizations and, yes, even veterans, all of whom pushed for permanent protection of the public lands that are essential to our community.

    Together, we’ve ensured that Rio Grande del Norte will be passed down intact to the next generation. We have also left a lasting example for our young people of how serving and collaborating with one another can improve our community.

    And now that it is a national monument, Rio Grande del Norte will be protected forever.

  • By Larry Sanchez / Taos County Commissioner on Mon, Mar 25, 2013
    Albuquerque Journal

    I am very proud to be a New Mexican, a Taos County leader and a Vietnam-era veteran. But I am especially proud today because of how we all came together as a community to support designation of the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. 

    As a veteran, I believe strongly in the importance of service to our country. This is the greatest nation on Earth. We take care of each other and our communities. We fight for everyone to have a chance to access better education, housing, services and safety. We strive for a healthy environment to preserve our rich cultural heritage.

    These are the values American soldiers have always fought to protect, and they are the values we pass down to each successive generation.

    It is this cooperative spirit at its best that helped protect the public lands and the watershed of Rio Grande del Norte.

    Sportsmen, ranchers, business owners, community leaders and conservationists all worked with the Taos County Commission and our congressional delegation to develop legislation that met our shared needs and goals.

    When Congress was unable to pass a bill protecting Rio Grande del Norte, we joined together and appealed to the Department of the Interior and the White House for action. Thankfully, our calls for action were answered by President Obama through his designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

    The reason for our persistence is Rio Grande del Norte’s value to New Mexico.

    Many people in both Taos and Rio Arriba counties have used and enjoyed Rio Grande del Norte lands for generations – grazing their cattle, gathering firewood and piñon nuts, and hunting and fishing. The region also attracts visitors from around the country and state who come here to enjoy outdoor recreation with their families.

    These visitors are particularly important to our local economy, staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants. Thanks to our collective efforts, future generations will continue to be able to enjoy this unique landscape.

    Most important, as a veteran I want to point out that our men and women returning from war have benefited from our public lands as a place to heal.

    After serving during the Vietnam era, I was fortunate to return home to Questa and be embraced by my family and community. I hunted on the lands of Rio Grande del Norte and fished the river.

    Today, I volunteer with the non-profit Disabled American Veterans to help build better lives for all of our nation’s disabled veterans and their families. I want to help other veterans experience the peace and recreation that our public lands offer.

    Ensuring veterans and our families can always access the Rio Grande del Norte took a village, as they say.

    Several local policymakers worked hard, including retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. They all worked for action in Congress and later, from the White House. Other local collaborators include mayors, small business owners, chambers of commerce, ranchers and farmers, artists, sportsmen’s organizations and, yes, even veterans, all of whom pushed for permanent protection of the public lands that are essential to our community.

    Together, we’ve ensured that Rio Grande del Norte will be passed down intact to the next generation. We have also left a lasting example for our young people of how serving and collaborating with one another can improve our community.

    And now that it is a national monument, Rio Grande del Norte will be protected forever.

  • By Benjamin Fisher, Silver City Sun-News
    05/19/2013

    SILVER CITY — More than 30 Mexican gray wolf enthusiasts and interested residents stepped into the shade at the Little Walnut Creek Picnic area for the 15th Anniversary Lobo Birthday Party on Sunday.

    Featuring guest speaker Dave Parsons, carnivore conservation biologist and former US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, and live music by the Silver City String Beans, the event was held by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

    According to the group’s website, the Alliance is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wild lands and wilderness areas.

    Before his speech, Kim McCreery, Regional Director and Staff Scientist for the Alliance had visitors welcome Parsons with a howl.

    Parsons was chosen as guest speaker because the event was held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Mexican gray wolf’s reintroduction project, which Parsons personally jump-started.

    Parsons said he got the job in 1990 when he discovered that the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Service had done nothing to help reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf, which it was legally required to do since the wolf’s identification as an endangered species 14 years earlier in 1976.

    He held the position of Recovery Coordinator from 1990 to 1999. In 1998, he said he saw the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduce 11 Mexican gray wolves.

    Parsons took the opportunity to give a brief history of the reintroduction efforts, which he believes have made missteps since his retirement.

    “The main reason we don’t see more wolves is that the government has been dragging its heals and making choices that do not lead to successful reintroduction,” he said.

    He said that the biggest misstep was in 2004 — after a jump from 11 to 55 wolves since 1998 — when the Fish and Wildlife Service handed control of the reintroduction to a six-state governing body.

    By 2008, the number of wolves had dropped from 55 to 39. Then, seeing the problem, the Fish and Wildlife Service took back the reigns and the number has risen again to 75.

    “The agency also receives a lot of pressure from special interest groups,” Parsons said. “A lot of the livestock groups, but also the hunting groups. They can’t look at things ecologically and see that the wolf could actually benefit the well-being of the game they hunt. I guess they’re afraid of the competition.”

    McCreery was very happy with the event.

    “It’s clear that we have a lot of people here who really care about and want the wolf to succeed,” she said. “They want to be informed. They’re asking intelligent questions and, here, getting intelligent answers.”

    Benjamin Fisher can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5803.

  • By Benjamin Fisher, Silver City Sun-News
    05/19/2013

    SILVER CITY — More than 30 Mexican gray wolf enthusiasts and interested residents stepped into the shade at the Little Walnut Creek Picnic area for the 15th Anniversary Lobo Birthday Party on Sunday.

    Featuring guest speaker Dave Parsons, carnivore conservation biologist and former US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, and live music by the Silver City String Beans, the event was held by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

    According to the group’s website, the Alliance is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wild lands and wilderness areas.

    Before his speech, Kim McCreery, Regional Director and Staff Scientist for the Alliance had visitors welcome Parsons with a howl.

    Parsons was chosen as guest speaker because the event was held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Mexican gray wolf’s reintroduction project, which Parsons personally jump-started.

    Parsons said he got the job in 1990 when he discovered that the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Service had done nothing to help reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf, which it was legally required to do since the wolf’s identification as an endangered species 14 years earlier in 1976.

    He held the position of Recovery Coordinator from 1990 to 1999. In 1998, he said he saw the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduce 11 Mexican gray wolves.

    Parsons took the opportunity to give a brief history of the reintroduction efforts, which he believes have made missteps since his retirement.

    “The main reason we don’t see more wolves is that the government has been dragging its heals and making choices that do not lead to successful reintroduction,” he said.

    He said that the biggest misstep was in 2004 — after a jump from 11 to 55 wolves since 1998 — when the Fish and Wildlife Service handed control of the reintroduction to a six-state governing body.

    By 2008, the number of wolves had dropped from 55 to 39. Then, seeing the problem, the Fish and Wildlife Service took back the reigns and the number has risen again to 75.

    “The agency also receives a lot of pressure from special interest groups,” Parsons said. “A lot of the livestock groups, but also the hunting groups. They can’t look at things ecologically and see that the wolf could actually benefit the well-being of the game they hunt. I guess they’re afraid of the competition.”

    McCreery was very happy with the event.

    “It’s clear that we have a lot of people here who really care about and want the wolf to succeed,” she said. “They want to be informed. They’re asking intelligent questions and, here, getting intelligent answers.”

    Benjamin Fisher can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5803.

  • Scott Streater, E&E reporter

    A national environmental group says it will file a legal complaint against the Obama administration if it allows oil and gas drilling, mining and logging activity on public lands during the ongoing federal government shutdown.

    The Center for Biological Diversity sent a two-page letter today to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling on her to ban drilling, mining and logging on public lands, saying allowing such activity to continue during the shutdown violates a suite of federal laws.

    If Jewell does not, or if the shutdown does not soon end, the group plans to seek a federal court order “to stop these lawless extractive activities on our public’s lands,” wrote William Snape, CBD’s senior counsel, in the letter to Jewell.

    “We recognize that federal agencies have been put in a difficult position with the shutdown, and we are looking forward to the government reopening,” Snape wrote. “However, it is contradictory and illegal to restrict public access to public lands such as the National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Offshore Areas, and Bureau of Land Management lands, while allowing environmentally degrading private activities to occur on those same lands.”

    Among other laws, Interior is violating the Anti-Deficiency Act if it is continuing to process and approve these types of activities during the ongoing shutdown, Snape wrote. The law, first approved by Congress in 1884, essentially states that the federal government cannot spend or authorize money that has not been appropriated to it by Congress, Snape said.

    “Even if some of these activities are allegedly exempted ‘essential’ or otherwise under various Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance, we don’t see how they can lawfully continue absent full staff to ensure robust compliance with safety and environmental laws, including those in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), National Park Refuge Act (and related laws), the National Wildlife Refuge Act, and others,” Snape wrote.

    Blake Androff, an Interior spokesman, said the department had not yet received Snape’s letter. “We will review the letter once it is received,” he said.

    But Celia Boddington, a BLM spokeswoman, said in an email that the agency “is not processing any onshore oil and gas permits during the shutdown.”

    As for logging, Boddington said that last week, BLM “directed an orderly suspension and shutdown of active operations on some timber sale contracts, including stewardship contracts and agreements.”

    The American Petroleum Institute scoffed at the notion of shutting down all oil and gas development on federal lands.

    “Shutting down energy development would cut off a lifeline that continues to deliver millions in revenue a day to the government during the shutdown,” said Carlton Carroll, an API spokesman. “These are much-needed funds that will help keep essential services running.”

    Still, BLM last week postponed a planned oil and gas lease sale scheduled to take place this week in New Mexico because of the government shutdown (Greenwire, Oct. 9).

    “It’s absurd that while everyday Americans are locked out during the shutdown, it’s business as usual for those reaping a profit from our public lands,” Snape said today in a statement. “These damaging drilling, clearcutting and mining actions must stop as long as the federal government remains shuttered.”

  • Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns, Special for USA TODAY

    Among the annual rites Americans undertake this spring — from cleaning the garage to prepping the garden to analyzing the schedules of their favorite baseball team — we’d like to suggest one more. Prepare to inspect your property.

    In particular, promise yourself to visit some part of the 84 million acres of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth and most significant sites from our collective history: our national parks.

    They belong to you, after all. Isn’t it about time you checked on the inheritance bequeathed to you by previous generations?

    There’s some good news and bad news for this year’s inspection tour.

    The good news is that your holdings have expanded. In January, when President Obama signed the legislation creating Pinnacles National Park in California, he ended a 10-year drought, during which Congress had failed to create a new national park. That’s the longest fallow period since the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, was set aside in 1872.

    In addition, the president dusted off a 1906 law and put it to use saving even more places with the mere stroke of his pen. Invoking the unique, unilateral authority granted presidents since the time of Theodore Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act, Obama created nine new national monuments.

    These monuments commemorate people and places important to American history:

    Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad that ushered slaves to freedom across Maryland.

    A Civil War site at Virginia’s Fort Monroe.

    The Ohio home of Charles Young, the first African-American U.S. Army colonel who commanded the famed Buffalo Soldiers in the Philippine-American war and then led them in protecting Sequoia National Park at the turn of the last century.

    The California home and workplace of civil rights and farm labor leader César Chávez.

    A collection of sites in Delaware called First State National Monument, meaning the Park Service at last has a presence in all 50 states.

    In addition to Pinnacles, these four other new monuments protect vital landscapes and ecosystems:

    1,000 acres in the San Juan Island archipelago in Washington’s Puget Sound.

    4,700 acres of sensitive archaeological sites at Chimney Rock in Colorado.

    7,200 acres of central California coastline at Fort Ord.

    240,000 acres around the Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico.

    All in all, that’s something to cheer about, an exercise in what Roosevelt called the “essential democracy” of the national parks, “the preservation of the scenery, of the forests … and the wilderness game for the people as a whole instead of leaving the enjoyment thereof to be confined to the very rich.”

    This grand experiment, applying the Declaration of Independence to the land and proclaiming that our most majestic and sacred places should be preserved for everyone and for all time, has been renewed and refreshed by these additions. Every American is a little richer for it — and not just in the total amount of acres each of us co-own with one another.

    And the bad news? The budget stalemate in Washington, known as “the sequester,” is hitting the national parks especially hard. Right at the moment when these treasures are preparing for the busiest part of their year, the mandatory across-the-board funding cuts mean park managers won’t be able to hire all the seasonal workers needed for the tourist season. Some campsites will have to be closed. Some interpretive programs led by the nation’s most popular government employees, National Park Service rangers, may not be offered. This will diminish the educational and inspirational potential of what Stephen Mather, the first NPS director, correctly called these “vast schoolrooms of Americanism.”

    Some in Congress, complaining about Obama’s flexing of the Antiquities Act, have threatened to repeal what has proved to be our nation’s most important conservation tool over the course of a century.

    Sadly, as we learned in making our PBS documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, congressional indifference to the health of our parks and shortsightedness in regards to their lasting value is nothing new. The earliest parks had to be protected by the Army (including Charles Young and his Buffalo Soldiers) because Congress didn’t get around to creating an agency to do the job until 1916, when the National Park Service came into being.

    That same year, when it set aside what is now Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Congress declined to appropriate any money for the new park’s preservation on the belief, one senator explained, that “it should not cost anything to run a volcano.” And when Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to save the Grand Canyon from being despoiled, many in Congress howled that he had overstepped his executive authority. Does anyone now doubt he did the right thing?

    But spring is not the season of discouragement. It’s the season of hope. From Acadia in Maine to the Everglades in Florida, from California’s Death Valley to Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic, there are more than 400 sites in the national park system.

    Visit one this year. Take your family. Show your children — or your parents — part of the magnificent inheritance that belongs to every American.

    Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns are creators of the PBS documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. In 2009, they were named honorary park rangers by the director of the National Park Service.

  • Renee Blake, Public News Service-NM

    (03/11/13) SANTA FE, N.M. – Plans to change the drilling rules on Otero Mesa are raising concerns about the potential impact on an important aquifer. Until now, Otero Mesa has been protected from the waste left from natural gas drilling, thanks to an executive order from former Gov. Bill Richardson that called for a closed-loop system with the waste hauled away. However, 90 percent of Otero Mesa is on federal land, and the Harvey E. Yates Co. is seeking approval from the federal government to leave its waste in a pit there, instead.

    Judy Calman, an attorney for New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, said current law favors the state rules, but it is not a sure thing.

    “The federal government is required, according to the Supreme Court, to comply with state law unless they can show some really good justification for not following the state law, which they haven’t tried to do.”

    Calman is concerned that making an exception for oil and gas special interests could lead to other New Mexico laws being ignored. The decision has been delayed. It was supposed to be announced by Jan. 23.

    Aquifers can easily become contaminated, she warned.

    “It’s not just like a big pool of water,” she said. “It’s in little pockets that are at different levels. It’s very fragile. If you break through one you have the potential to break through more.”

    The Salt Basin aquifer is estimated to have enough water to provide 90 years of water for a million New Mexicans.

    Rikki Seguin, field associate with Environment New Mexico, also works with the Otero Mesa Coalition. She said it is too late to keep gas drilling out of Otero Mesa, but added that keeping the New Mexico rules in place can help protect the land and the groundwater.

    “It’s very important that New Mexicans are speaking up, asking Jesse Juen to require them to follow state law,” she said.

    Juen is the state director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Meanwhile, Environment New Mexico reported, more than 10,000 public comments requesting permanent protection for the area have been filed.

    Comments may be made to the BLM by emailingThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; comments also may be made by phone to 505-954-2222 (press 1 for Otero Mesa).

  • After three failed attempts to dam and divert the Gila over the past 50 years, New Mexico voters have been asked for the first time whether or not they support the diversion project and would be willing to pay higher taxes to facilitate its construction.

    Results come as the State of New Mexico considers diversion of 14,000 acre feet of water from the Gila River. A new poll conducted by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies reveals that New Mexico voters are overwhelming in favor of protecting rivers for people and wildlife, and that opposition to the proposed Gila River diversion is rooted in that preference.

    Read the press release.

  • The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is seeking an intern to assist in grant writing and fundraising efforts. The candidate should have excellent written and oral communication skills, and be self motivated and organized. This is an unpaid position, but may be eligible for academic credit.

    You will have the opportunity to:

    • Gain experience in non-profit grant writing and reporting
    • Learn how to conduct foundation research
    • Prepare letters of inquiry
    • Get valuable on-the-job experience in implementation and tracking of annual fundraising plan and help protect Wilderness in New Mexico!

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance’s organizing efforts span the state and involve many diverse groups, including ranchers, sportsmen, land grants, acequia communities, tribal and religious leaders, scientists, youth, and community leaders. We are the only statewide wilderness group in New Mexico with a proven track record of building diverse coalitions to protect our public lands. Currently, we are working to permanently protect over 2 million acres of wild public land that would protect important wildlife habitat, watersheds, grasslands and forests.

    You will work directly with the Interim Executive Director to support the work to protect New Mexico’s best wild lands. If this sounds like the type of internship you would be interested in, please contact:

    Tisha Broska

    Interim Executive Director

    New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

    505-843-8696, ext. 106

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