2014

  • By Anne Constable for The Santa Fe New Mexican
    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico was the center of a thriving culture. Massive multistory buildings called great houses rose against a dramatic high desert landscape of mountains and mesas. Chaco was the ceremonial and economic center of the San Juan Basin with some 400 miles of prehistoric roads linking it to other great houses in the region.

    In some ways, it still looks like it did centuries ago.

    “Right now, you can stand at Pueblo Alto, look north and see a landscape that is substantially the same as what the Chacoans saw,” said Barbara West, former superintendent of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

    But that could be changing.

    Chaco, a World Heritage Site, is surrounded by one of the most productive oil and gas basins in the United States. In 2012, San Juan County ranked No. 1 in natural gas production and fifth in oil production in the state. And now new drilling technology is making the region, once thought to be played out, attractive to oil and gas companies. Thousands of new wells are possible, some close to land that is sacred to Navajos and Pueblo Indians of Northern New Mexico.

    Some like West worry that the experience of visiting the remote ruin of the center of the ancestral Puebloan world will be diminished by the sight of oil and gas rigs, flare stacks and tanker trucks kicking up clouds of dust on the long dirt road leading to the awe-inspiring national park.

    Because of such concerns, the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed a resolution in April asking to be consulted on all management plans affecting its cultural properties.

    Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua Madalena, whose ancestors helped develop Chaco, said recently, “We have sacred sites and places out there. We want to continue to keep them private. These are places of worship. It’s like our church. This is where we go and pray in our Native culture as we have done from time immemorial.”

    Harry Walters, a Navajo anthropologist who still teaches part time at San Juan College, also feels uncomfortable about anything that disturbs the landscape, including oil and gas development in the area.

    He said new archaeological evidence suggests Navajo and ancestral Puebloans lived side by side and that Navajos believe the air their ancestors breathed is still out there. “We say they are still there. When you tamper with these [things], there are grave consequences,” Walters said.

    And Chaco figures in his culture’s ceremonial stories, like the one involving the great gambler who enslaved the Chacoan people until his brother risked everything to free them.

    “People who passed on, their spirits are still there, in the land, the water, the sunlight. When we go there, we go with great reverence and caution,” he said.

    Environmentalists warn new development could also contaminate groundwater, pollute Chaco’s dark skies and remote landscape, and even lead to higher crime rates and increases in domestic violence.

    ‘It should be done properly’

    Nowhere is the threat to Chaco more evident than from the air. Earlier this month, Bruce Gordon, president of EcoFlight, an organization that advocates for the environment using small planes, flew over the area oil and gas companies are eyeing for the future. The tour was organized by the Partnership for Responsible Business, an educational arm of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, which works to promote businesses that protect our air, land and water.

    After taking off from the Farmington airport in a Cessna 210, he first headed east over the circular fields where the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry grows Navajo Pride brand potatoes, corn, alfalfa, beans and small grains, such as barley, wheat and oats.

    The plane then soared south through a cloudless sky over a landscape of mesas and washes dotted with wells and a spider web of roads, many of them leading to a single well pad.

    Gordon pointed out ruins of some outlying great houses and then dipped a wing over Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure in the Chacoan system, located at the north end of the canyon. Occupied from the mid-800s to the 1200s, it was four stories high with over 600 rooms and 40 kivas.

    “This area is relatively unexploited,” but eventually there could be oil and gas rigs within five or 10 miles of the historic sites, he said. Already in the area outside Aztec, and in Wyoming and Colorado, “I can’t fly 30 minutes in any direction without seeing wells and the industrialization of the land.”

    According to Gordon, environmental organizations like his are trying to get out in front of the issue by educating people about what is at stake. “Nobody is against oil and gas, but it should be done properly,” he said.

    12,000 active wells, 15,000 miles of roads

    EcoFlight and another dozen or so environmental organizations are raising concerns now because the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office is in the process of writing a resource management plan amendment that will determine what this area looks like in the future.

    The office of the BLM manages federal lands in northwestern New Mexico stretching from the Colorado border to south of N.M. 550, east to Cuba and west to the Arizona line. The area also includes state and tribal lands and Indian allotments. And the federal agency oversees everything from grazing to recreation and wildlife as well as energy and minerals.

    According to The Wilderness Society, 94 percent of the BLM’s mineral acres in the Farmington area are currently being leased; Gary Torres, the field manager for the Farmington Field Office, says the number is 85 percent.

    Many of these leases have been held by production since the 1950s and ’60s. (A company can continue to hold a lease as long as its well is producing and it is paying royalties.)

    Torres said there are now about 16,000 active wells in the area, down from about 25,000 to 30,000. And the landscape is crossed by some 15,000 miles of roads, according to the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

    Drilling generates about a half-billion dollars in annual royalties, revenue that is shared between the state and the U.S. government. Prices are good for oil now, but not so much for dry gas.

    Now game-changing technologies developed in recent years are making it cost-effective to extract hydrocarbons in places previously passed over in the Mancos Gallup Shale Play along the N.M. 550 corridor. The area around Lybrook and Counselor is booming.

    WPX Energy and LOGOS Resources announced plans earlier this year to invest a total of $260 million in oil and gas production in the basin.

    Encana, a Canadian company that is another big player in the San Juan Basin, has 176,000 acres under lease and plans to drill 45 to 50 net wells this year at a cost of between $300 million and $350 million. In 2013, it paid $6 million in severance taxes and this year will pay more, said Doug Hock, media relations director.

    “This is one of our key areas of operation. Undoubtedly, we’ll have further capital to spend next year,” he said.

    “It wasn’t as if they didn’t know hydrocarbons were there, but they didn’t know how to get them out of the ground,” Torres said.

    Both hydraulic fracturing, a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas, and horizontal drilling — over distances up to a mile — are much more effective in extracting the minerals.

    Though widely debated and often decried, they do have some benefits, Torres said.

    Horizontal drilling, for example, allows companies to drill 20 wells from one well pad, which can help avoid damaging sensitive resources, Torres said.

    One BLM study, he said, showed that the new technology reduced impacts on the surface by 10 percent and increased recovery of minerals by 10 times.

    Amending the resource management plan

    The Farmington Field Office, which has deferred some leases in the area, is now preparing an amendment to its 2003 resource management plan to address problems unforeseen a decade ago.

    The BLM’s 4.2 million-acre planning area includes federal, state and private lands as well as Indian reservations within portions of San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley and Sandoval counties.

    The decision area includes 1.3 million acres of BLM-managed surface plus 1 million acres of federal mineral estate beneath lands owned or managed by private owners, the state or other federal agencies. The 34,000 acres of Chaco Culture National Historical Park are already protected and off-limits to drilling.

    A scoping period during which the public could voice its concerns about resource management concluded at the end of May. The office is now in what it calls the “alternative development stage,” during which a 20-member interdisciplinary team that includes biologists, botanists, engineers, recreation officials, visual resource managers, among others, is looking at ways to address the issues raised by the public. That process started about a month ago.

    “We talked about the big picture in 2003, but this is like we need to do our homework and make sure we are doing the right thing,” Torres said.

    By next summer, he said, the office hopes to have a draft environmental impact statement, which will analyze the alternatives. The public will have another opportunity to comment at that time. After reviewing the comments, the office will issue a determination. Once it signs a “record of decision,” that action will finalize the resource management plan amendment.

    Many of those concerned about the new development had asked the BLM to also produce a master leasing plan, but Torres said the area did not meet the technical criteria because, for one thing, the federal government did not own the majority of land in the planning area. However, he said, the environmental impact statement will consider “all the same issues that the master leasing plan identifies.”

    Several of the major players contacted about their business plans in the area did not return calls seeking comment.

    Adverse impact

    The Western Environmental Law Center, along with eight other groups, filed 105 pages of scoping comments on the resource plan amendment in May raising concerns about a new boom.

    Although oil companies have repeatedly assured the public that the new technology is safe, the document cites numerous examples of harm it has wrought on the environment and human health.

    Fracking, for example, caused methane contamination of drinking water and a explosion at a home in Brainbridge Township, Ohio. A fracturing fluid spill in Acorn Fork Creek in Kentucky resulted in a fish kill.

    Fracking resulted in groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The scoping comments by the environmental groups also cited numerous cases in which it was believed that fracking triggered seismic activity, including a 2011 preliminary report by the U.S.Geological Survey linking fracking fluid injection to a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

    The scoping comments cited a 2011 congressional report saying energy companies have injected more than 30 million gallons of diesel fuel or diesel mixed with other fluids into the ground nationwide between 2005 and 2009.

    All this activity increases the chances of spills, leaks, transportation accidents and illegal discharges of wastewater. A spill near Greeley, Colo., last year by PDC Energy released 2,880 gallons of oil and covered 3,900 square feet, leaving groundwater contaminated with benzene at a concentration 128 times higher than the state limit, along with the chemicals toluene and xylene, the document said.

    Fracking also requires thousands of round trips by heavy trucks transporting water and chemicals to drilling sites and waste away from the sites.

    Another concern is something called a “frack hit,” which occurs when horizontal drilling and historic and active vertical wells meet, a situation that could lead to blowouts.

    Environmentalists point out that the state is missing out on some royalties due to flaring, the burning off of excess natural gas.

    Although the BLM says the gas is of poor quality and can’t go directly into pipelines, Western Values Project claims New Mexico taxpayers have lost more than $42.5 million in royalties since 2009 due to natural gas flaring and venting. They point out that in North Dakota, many oil and gas companies are supporting gas capture planning as a way to reduce excessive flaring.

    Glenn Schiffbauer of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce said, “A valuable resource is just being burned. The BLM should pause and say, here’s a resource we can get royalties on.”

    “A closer look at some of the economics motivating the oil and gas industry’s push for great production reveals sheer industry greed and speculation,” the scoping comments conclude. “The bottom line is this — energy companies have told us, ‘Trust us, our fracking ingredients and the process for extracting natural gas are harmless.’ We now know that they have not been truthful and cannot be trusted. Without implementation of a precautionary approach to these risks, BLM will continue to place the health of our community and our environment at risk.”

    ‘We deserve better’

    Chaco, a remote site that records more than a half-million visitor days annually, is at the center of concern about adverse environmental impact from oil and gas drilling. Mike Eisenfeld, staff organizer at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said during a recent trip to the area, he saw an active natural gas well roughly six miles north of the site. And one day there could be pump jacks within five miles of the ruin.

    Besides compromising the sense of solitude there, development could interfere with one of the ways modern-day visitors connect with Chacoan people: Chaco, which has been designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, is one of the best places in the country to look up and see the same skies that inspired our ancestors.

    “Once the night sky is washed out, then that connection between the people of the past and ourselves will be lost,” West said.

    “Extensive development is incompatible with protection of the environment,” Eisenfeld said. “We deserve better with our heritage.”

    Gov. Madalena, who got a bird’s-eye view of Chaco recently himself, said he is still hoping BLM officials will visit his pueblo and make a presentation about what’s coming. “Money isn’t everything,” he said. “We are rich in culture, traditions. I think that’s more important than anything, than drilling.”

  • By Anne Constable for The Santa Fe New Mexican
    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico was the center of a thriving culture. Massive multistory buildings called great houses rose against a dramatic high desert landscape of mountains and mesas. Chaco was the ceremonial and economic center of the San Juan Basin with some 400 miles of prehistoric roads linking it to other great houses in the region.

    In some ways, it still looks like it did centuries ago.

    “Right now, you can stand at Pueblo Alto, look north and see a landscape that is substantially the same as what the Chacoans saw,” said Barbara West, former superintendent of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

    But that could be changing.

    Chaco, a World Heritage Site, is surrounded by one of the most productive oil and gas basins in the United States. In 2012, San Juan County ranked No. 1 in natural gas production and fifth in oil production in the state. And now new drilling technology is making the region, once thought to be played out, attractive to oil and gas companies. Thousands of new wells are possible, some close to land that is sacred to Navajos and Pueblo Indians of Northern New Mexico.

    Some like West worry that the experience of visiting the remote ruin of the center of the ancestral Puebloan world will be diminished by the sight of oil and gas rigs, flare stacks and tanker trucks kicking up clouds of dust on the long dirt road leading to the awe-inspiring national park.

    Because of such concerns, the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed a resolution in April asking to be consulted on all management plans affecting its cultural properties.

    Jemez Pueblo Gov. Joshua Madalena, whose ancestors helped develop Chaco, said recently, “We have sacred sites and places out there. We want to continue to keep them private. These are places of worship. It’s like our church. This is where we go and pray in our Native culture as we have done from time immemorial.”

    Harry Walters, a Navajo anthropologist who still teaches part time at San Juan College, also feels uncomfortable about anything that disturbs the landscape, including oil and gas development in the area.

    He said new archaeological evidence suggests Navajo and ancestral Puebloans lived side by side and that Navajos believe the air their ancestors breathed is still out there. “We say they are still there. When you tamper with these [things], there are grave consequences,” Walters said.

    And Chaco figures in his culture’s ceremonial stories, like the one involving the great gambler who enslaved the Chacoan people until his brother risked everything to free them.

    “People who passed on, their spirits are still there, in the land, the water, the sunlight. When we go there, we go with great reverence and caution,” he said.

    Environmentalists warn new development could also contaminate groundwater, pollute Chaco’s dark skies and remote landscape, and even lead to higher crime rates and increases in domestic violence.

    ‘It should be done properly’

    Nowhere is the threat to Chaco more evident than from the air. Earlier this month, Bruce Gordon, president of EcoFlight, an organization that advocates for the environment using small planes, flew over the area oil and gas companies are eyeing for the future. The tour was organized by the Partnership for Responsible Business, an educational arm of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, which works to promote businesses that protect our air, land and water.

    After taking off from the Farmington airport in a Cessna 210, he first headed east over the circular fields where the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry grows Navajo Pride brand potatoes, corn, alfalfa, beans and small grains, such as barley, wheat and oats.

    The plane then soared south through a cloudless sky over a landscape of mesas and washes dotted with wells and a spider web of roads, many of them leading to a single well pad.

    Gordon pointed out ruins of some outlying great houses and then dipped a wing over Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure in the Chacoan system, located at the north end of the canyon. Occupied from the mid-800s to the 1200s, it was four stories high with over 600 rooms and 40 kivas.

    “This area is relatively unexploited,” but eventually there could be oil and gas rigs within five or 10 miles of the historic sites, he said. Already in the area outside Aztec, and in Wyoming and Colorado, “I can’t fly 30 minutes in any direction without seeing wells and the industrialization of the land.”

    According to Gordon, environmental organizations like his are trying to get out in front of the issue by educating people about what is at stake. “Nobody is against oil and gas, but it should be done properly,” he said.

    12,000 active wells, 15,000 miles of roads

    EcoFlight and another dozen or so environmental organizations are raising concerns now because the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office is in the process of writing a resource management plan amendment that will determine what this area looks like in the future.

    The office of the BLM manages federal lands in northwestern New Mexico stretching from the Colorado border to south of N.M. 550, east to Cuba and west to the Arizona line. The area also includes state and tribal lands and Indian allotments. And the federal agency oversees everything from grazing to recreation and wildlife as well as energy and minerals.

    According to The Wilderness Society, 94 percent of the BLM’s mineral acres in the Farmington area are currently being leased; Gary Torres, the field manager for the Farmington Field Office, says the number is 85 percent.

    Many of these leases have been held by production since the 1950s and ’60s. (A company can continue to hold a lease as long as its well is producing and it is paying royalties.)

    Torres said there are now about 16,000 active wells in the area, down from about 25,000 to 30,000. And the landscape is crossed by some 15,000 miles of roads, according to the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

    Drilling generates about a half-billion dollars in annual royalties, revenue that is shared between the state and the U.S. government. Prices are good for oil now, but not so much for dry gas.

    Now game-changing technologies developed in recent years are making it cost-effective to extract hydrocarbons in places previously passed over in the Mancos Gallup Shale Play along the N.M. 550 corridor. The area around Lybrook and Counselor is booming.

    WPX Energy and LOGOS Resources announced plans earlier this year to invest a total of $260 million in oil and gas production in the basin.

    Encana, a Canadian company that is another big player in the San Juan Basin, has 176,000 acres under lease and plans to drill 45 to 50 net wells this year at a cost of between $300 million and $350 million. In 2013, it paid $6 million in severance taxes and this year will pay more, said Doug Hock, media relations director.

    “This is one of our key areas of operation. Undoubtedly, we’ll have further capital to spend next year,” he said.

    “It wasn’t as if they didn’t know hydrocarbons were there, but they didn’t know how to get them out of the ground,” Torres said.

    Both hydraulic fracturing, a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas, and horizontal drilling — over distances up to a mile — are much more effective in extracting the minerals.

    Though widely debated and often decried, they do have some benefits, Torres said.

    Horizontal drilling, for example, allows companies to drill 20 wells from one well pad, which can help avoid damaging sensitive resources, Torres said.

    One BLM study, he said, showed that the new technology reduced impacts on the surface by 10 percent and increased recovery of minerals by 10 times.

    Amending the resource management plan

    The Farmington Field Office, which has deferred some leases in the area, is now preparing an amendment to its 2003 resource management plan to address problems unforeseen a decade ago.

    The BLM’s 4.2 million-acre planning area includes federal, state and private lands as well as Indian reservations within portions of San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley and Sandoval counties.

    The decision area includes 1.3 million acres of BLM-managed surface plus 1 million acres of federal mineral estate beneath lands owned or managed by private owners, the state or other federal agencies. The 34,000 acres of Chaco Culture National Historical Park are already protected and off-limits to drilling.

    A scoping period during which the public could voice its concerns about resource management concluded at the end of May. The office is now in what it calls the “alternative development stage,” during which a 20-member interdisciplinary team that includes biologists, botanists, engineers, recreation officials, visual resource managers, among others, is looking at ways to address the issues raised by the public. That process started about a month ago.

    “We talked about the big picture in 2003, but this is like we need to do our homework and make sure we are doing the right thing,” Torres said.

    By next summer, he said, the office hopes to have a draft environmental impact statement, which will analyze the alternatives. The public will have another opportunity to comment at that time. After reviewing the comments, the office will issue a determination. Once it signs a “record of decision,” that action will finalize the resource management plan amendment.

    Many of those concerned about the new development had asked the BLM to also produce a master leasing plan, but Torres said the area did not meet the technical criteria because, for one thing, the federal government did not own the majority of land in the planning area. However, he said, the environmental impact statement will consider “all the same issues that the master leasing plan identifies.”

    Several of the major players contacted about their business plans in the area did not return calls seeking comment.

    Adverse impact

    The Western Environmental Law Center, along with eight other groups, filed 105 pages of scoping comments on the resource plan amendment in May raising concerns about a new boom.

    Although oil companies have repeatedly assured the public that the new technology is safe, the document cites numerous examples of harm it has wrought on the environment and human health.

    Fracking, for example, caused methane contamination of drinking water and a explosion at a home in Brainbridge Township, Ohio. A fracturing fluid spill in Acorn Fork Creek in Kentucky resulted in a fish kill.

    Fracking resulted in groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The scoping comments by the environmental groups also cited numerous cases in which it was believed that fracking triggered seismic activity, including a 2011 preliminary report by the U.S.Geological Survey linking fracking fluid injection to a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

    The scoping comments cited a 2011 congressional report saying energy companies have injected more than 30 million gallons of diesel fuel or diesel mixed with other fluids into the ground nationwide between 2005 and 2009.

    All this activity increases the chances of spills, leaks, transportation accidents and illegal discharges of wastewater. A spill near Greeley, Colo., last year by PDC Energy released 2,880 gallons of oil and covered 3,900 square feet, leaving groundwater contaminated with benzene at a concentration 128 times higher than the state limit, along with the chemicals toluene and xylene, the document said.

    Fracking also requires thousands of round trips by heavy trucks transporting water and chemicals to drilling sites and waste away from the sites.

    Another concern is something called a “frack hit,” which occurs when horizontal drilling and historic and active vertical wells meet, a situation that could lead to blowouts.

    Environmentalists point out that the state is missing out on some royalties due to flaring, the burning off of excess natural gas.

    Although the BLM says the gas is of poor quality and can’t go directly into pipelines, Western Values Project claims New Mexico taxpayers have lost more than $42.5 million in royalties since 2009 due to natural gas flaring and venting. They point out that in North Dakota, many oil and gas companies are supporting gas capture planning as a way to reduce excessive flaring.

    Glenn Schiffbauer of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce said, “A valuable resource is just being burned. The BLM should pause and say, here’s a resource we can get royalties on.”

    “A closer look at some of the economics motivating the oil and gas industry’s push for great production reveals sheer industry greed and speculation,” the scoping comments conclude. “The bottom line is this — energy companies have told us, ‘Trust us, our fracking ingredients and the process for extracting natural gas are harmless.’ We now know that they have not been truthful and cannot be trusted. Without implementation of a precautionary approach to these risks, BLM will continue to place the health of our community and our environment at risk.”

    ‘We deserve better’

    Chaco, a remote site that records more than a half-million visitor days annually, is at the center of concern about adverse environmental impact from oil and gas drilling. Mike Eisenfeld, staff organizer at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said during a recent trip to the area, he saw an active natural gas well roughly six miles north of the site. And one day there could be pump jacks within five miles of the ruin.

    Besides compromising the sense of solitude there, development could interfere with one of the ways modern-day visitors connect with Chacoan people: Chaco, which has been designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, is one of the best places in the country to look up and see the same skies that inspired our ancestors.

    “Once the night sky is washed out, then that connection between the people of the past and ourselves will be lost,” West said.

    “Extensive development is incompatible with protection of the environment,” Eisenfeld said. “We deserve better with our heritage.”

    Gov. Madalena, who got a bird’s-eye view of Chaco recently himself, said he is still hoping BLM officials will visit his pueblo and make a presentation about what’s coming. “Money isn’t everything,” he said. “We are rich in culture, traditions. I think that’s more important than anything, than drilling.”

  • In 1982, the National Park Service (NPS) did a study of all of the rivers in the United States and found that all 255 miles of the New Mexico portion of the 649-mile-long Gila River qualified for National Wild and Scenic Rivers designation.

    Through Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, Congress authorized the diversion of the Gila River if New Mexico agreed to buy water from Arizona to replace what the state takes out of the river. However, a Gila River diversion is costly and unnecessary and would harm the Gila River’s qualification to join the National Wild and Scenic River system. Less costly, common-sense, environmentally-friendly options should be instead considered to meet the water demands of southwest New Mexico. Designation as a National Wild and Scenic River is also a preferred alternative to damming the river.

    Read the briefing paper.

  • In 1982, the National Park Service (NPS) did a study of all of the rivers in the United States and found that all 255 miles of the New Mexico portion of the 649-mile-long Gila River qualified for National Wild and Scenic Rivers designation.

    Through Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, Congress authorized the diversion of the Gila River if New Mexico agreed to buy water from Arizona to replace what the state takes out of the river. However, a Gila River diversion is costly and unnecessary and would harm the Gila River’s qualification to join the National Wild and Scenic River system. Less costly, common-sense, environmentally-friendly options should be instead considered to meet the water demands of southwest New Mexico. Designation as a National Wild and Scenic River is also a preferred alternative to damming the river.

    Read the briefing paper.

  • There was a rally November 10 in Albuquerque at the Interstate Stream Commission’s meeting.

    The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission on November 24 said “yes” to a controversial proposal to divert water from the Gila River for use in southwestern New Mexico farms and cities – but with reservations.

    The commission agreed to formally notify the U.S. Department of Interior that it wants to proceed with a project that would divert water from the Gila during times of high flow, building reservoir storage so that it can then be piped for as yet unidentified uses. 

    Read our briefing paper here. 

    TELL GOVERNOR MARTINEZ “NO” TO A GILA RIVER DIVERSION
    The time is now for the future of the Gila River, the last major undammed river in New Mexico. At the end of 2014, the state of New Mexico must notify the Secretary of the Interior if it will move forward with a diversion project under the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA). It is difficult to imagine how the wild Gila here in New Mexico could be reduced to an industrialized zone with diversions, canals, access roads, reservoirs and fences like it is in Arizona.A Gila River diversion doesn’t make sense. It is infeasible – it is too expensive, with costs over $1 billion, will yield little water after evaporation and leaky reservoirs, and it will negatively impact the Gila’s fragile ecology including six threatened and endangered species.

    The answer is simple. Meet southwest New Mexico’s long-term water needs by using AWSA funding to implement local community water projects that will save the taxpayer money and protect the Gila River for future generations.

    PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE WILD GILA RIVER AND ATTEND ONE OF THESE IMPORTANT MEETINGS! PLEASE ALSO TAKE A MOMENT TO CONTACT GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ, TELLING HER TO SUPPORT COST-EFFECTIVE, NON-DIVERSION PROJECTS INSTEAD.

  • September 18, 2014

    Article and Photos by Shirin McArthur for the Grant County Beat

    Rain has not dampened the enthusiasm of people attending this year’s Gila River Festival, and not all the events are taking place out-of-doors. At noontime Thursday, the Silver City Museum’s Brown Bag Lunch Series featured Nathan Newcomer of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, who shared slides and stories from his 8-day hike down the Gila River with a friend and his dog.

    Newcomer’s hike took place from May 27 through June 3, 2014. June 3 was the 90th anniversary of the designation of the Gila Wilderness Area. They hiked along 50 miles of the Gila River, carrying packs that started out weighing 50 or 60 pounds each. Even the dog carried his own pack of food. Newcomer’s pictures revealed stunning vistas and clear, clean river water. They spotted tracks and scat from bears and a mountain lion, which Newcomer spotted one day across a grass-filled meadow.

    The photographs also showed numerous large piles of debris from last year’s flooding. Debris is not new to the Gila Wilderness area, which once experienced four major volcanic eruptions over a ten-million-year period. These “mega volcanoes” each spewed out at least 240 cubic miles of debris when they exploded. After the pressure built up underground and the volcanic lava exploded, the volcanoes collapsed, creating calderas, or giant, high-walled valleys which still form large parts of the Gila River canyon walls today.

    In addition to enjoying the sights and sounds of the Gila River and surrounding wilderness, Newcomer also spent a good deal of time taking GPS-tagged photographs of the Gila River and its environs using a tracking app on his tablet. In fact, almost all of the photos shown to the audience were taken with the tablet. The goal of this work is to create an inventory which he hopes will assist in the process of having the Gila River designated a Wild and Scenic River.

    One way that Newcomer and his buddy celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness designation was by asking ahead of time for people to share stories of friends and family who have experienced the Gila River in the past. They received over 250 of these stories, which they packed in with them and read out loud in the midst of the wilderness during one day of their hike. This opportunity to reverence the past proved to be a highlight of the trip.

  • Last week, on the 90th anniversary of the Gila Wilderness, our Executive Director Mark Allison and Gila Grassroots Organizer Nathan Newcomer emerged after 10 day and 50 miles of trekking across the Gila. As part of their journey, they read aloud the names of loved ones given to us by our members:

    “At dusk on the third night of our trek through the Gila Wilderness, on the bank of the babbling Gila River, deep in the heart of the Wilderness, many miles from the nearest pavement and below towering rock spires where Wild Cow and Water Canyons intersect with the fast flowing waters, we read aloud the names of your loved ones you entrusted us to carry. We hope you felt the memories come home as you wrote your beautiful letter or penned each name to give to us in preparation for our 50-mile trek, completed this week.

    Please know that the names we spoke aloud punctuated our time in the Wilderness in a way that is not possible to adequately describe. We can only give back our gratitude to you for allowing us to be in your service in this important way.”

     
  • The outside is in – as the Silver City Museum in cooperation with the Gila National Forest present this new exhibit opening on Saturday, May 24, 2014, from 11 am to 2 pm. The Silver City Museum is located at 312 W. Broadway in Silver City.

    “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild, and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the World.” Henry David Thoreau.

    The people of Silver City and Southwest New Mexico played an important role in both the establishment and preservation of the Gila Wilderness in 1924 and in the passage and signing of the Wilderness Act by President Johnson in 1964. This year, the nation is celebrating both of these important events.

    1924: Gila Wilderness Designation

    On June 3, 1924, the U.S. Forest Service established a new administrative tradition and set aside the nation’s first wilderness area. With the designation of 750,000 acres of the Gila National Forest as the Gila Wilderness, the Forest Service extended itself in a conservation direction promoted by Aldo Leopold, Arthur Carhart, and other agency staff.

    By Leopold’s vision, wilderness would contain large tracts of undeveloped land and an opportunity to step away from automobiles, asphalt, and the hurried, mechanized lives Americans increasingly were leading.

    The Gila later became one of the original areas included in the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964 with the passage of the Wilderness Act.

    On September 3, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. This historic bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people.

    Over the past 50 years, and as a result of America’s support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines “Wilderness” as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain.

    Visitors to the Gila Wild exhibit will explore the passage of these events, the land, the people, places and things that have ventured in and out of our neighboring wilderness areas. The exhibit will also have engaging hands-on discovery stations with activities for children and adults outlining the “Leave No Trace” principles. The seven principles provide a framework that helps public land visitors understand and practice their own minimum impact ethic, regardless of whether they are on a day hike, or a month-long mountaineering expedition.

    The public is invited to an opening reception with light refreshments from 11 am to 2 pm on Saturday, May 24. Ray Torres, District Ranger of the Wilderness District, will provide opening remarks and be available during the opening to answer questions about the Gila Wilderness. Smokey Bear will also be available to greet visitors to the exhibit.

    The exhibit will remain on view through December. Throughout the year, guest speakers, community organizations, and even a mule or two will be providing a schedule of lectures and family fun activities as we celebrate the Gila Wild. A special birthday for Smokey Bear is being planned, too.

    Excerpts within this press release were provided courtesy of the U. S. Forest Service.

    Funding in part for all exhibits and programs at the museum is made possible by the generous support of the members and volunteers of the Silver City Museum Society.

    The Silver City Museum creates opportunities for residents and visitors to explore, understand, and celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Southwestern New Mexico by collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting the regions unique history. For more information about the museum and its programs please contact Museum staff at (575)538-5921 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • For Immediate Release
    December 4, 2014

    The legislation now moves on to Senate

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), part of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition, today celebrated the passage of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3879). The defense bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Columbine Hondo provision in the legislation will protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. A House companion was introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed along with several other wilderness bills that would protect almost 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

    “Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for your hard work and dedication and for making Wilderness a priority,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

    Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo has been broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

    “NM Wild is proud to be part of a diverse coalition in Taos County that includes elected officials, Acequia partners, land-grant members and livestock grazing permittees,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for NM Wild. “We have worked for many years on the Columbine Hondo campaign, and it is wonderful to see each of us reach this historic milestone that will protect 45,000 additional acres in Taos County for future generations.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will forever protect our land and water that the people of Red River and other communities depend upon” said Mayor of Red River, Linda Calhoun. “It is a true bipartisan measure supported by people from all walks of life.”

    Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

    “My family has depended on the Columbine Hondo for years,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to preserve our land and water, and I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

    Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

    “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a wilderness more deserving of protection than Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “I am thankful that Congress listened to our community and safeguarded this amazing area.”

  • For Immediate Release
    December 4, 2014

    The legislation now moves on to Senate

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), part of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition, today celebrated the passage of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3879). The defense bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Columbine Hondo provision in the legislation will protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. A House companion was introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed along with several other wilderness bills that would protect almost 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

    “Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for your hard work and dedication and for making Wilderness a priority,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

    Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo has been broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

    “NM Wild is proud to be part of a diverse coalition in Taos County that includes elected officials, Acequia partners, land-grant members and livestock grazing permittees,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for NM Wild. “We have worked for many years on the Columbine Hondo campaign, and it is wonderful to see each of us reach this historic milestone that will protect 45,000 additional acres in Taos County for future generations.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will forever protect our land and water that the people of Red River and other communities depend upon” said Mayor of Red River, Linda Calhoun. “It is a true bipartisan measure supported by people from all walks of life.”

    Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

    “My family has depended on the Columbine Hondo for years,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to preserve our land and water, and I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

    Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

    “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a wilderness more deserving of protection than Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “I am thankful that Congress listened to our community and safeguarded this amazing area.”

  • For Immediate Release
    December 4, 2014

    The legislation now moves on to Senate

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), part of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition, today celebrated the passage of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3879). The defense bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Columbine Hondo provision in the legislation will protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. A House companion was introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed along with several other wilderness bills that would protect almost 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

    “Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for your hard work and dedication and for making Wilderness a priority,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

    Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo has been broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

    “NM Wild is proud to be part of a diverse coalition in Taos County that includes elected officials, Acequia partners, land-grant members and livestock grazing permittees,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for NM Wild. “We have worked for many years on the Columbine Hondo campaign, and it is wonderful to see each of us reach this historic milestone that will protect 45,000 additional acres in Taos County for future generations.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will forever protect our land and water that the people of Red River and other communities depend upon” said Mayor of Red River, Linda Calhoun. “It is a true bipartisan measure supported by people from all walks of life.”

    Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

    “My family has depended on the Columbine Hondo for years,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to preserve our land and water, and I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

    Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

    “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a wilderness more deserving of protection than Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “I am thankful that Congress listened to our community and safeguarded this amazing area.”

  • For Immediate Release

    The legislation now moves on to Senate

    The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild), part of the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition, today celebrated the passage of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act (S. 776/H.R. 1683), as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3879). The defense bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Columbine Hondo provision in the legislation will protect 45,000 acres of incredible wildlife habitat, an important source of clean water, and a prized hunting and fishing destination.

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act was introduced by Senator Tom Udall and co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich. A House companion was introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1).

    The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed along with several other wilderness bills that would protect almost 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Washington.

    “Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Luján and Lujan Grisham for your hard work and dedication and for making Wilderness a priority,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

    Community support for safeguarding the Columbine Hondo has been broad and deep. The Columbine Hondo Wilderness Coalition includes business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, Acequia parciantes, mountain bikers, elected officials, conservationists, and others who have worked together for years to preserve this natural treasure.

    “NM Wild is proud to be part of a diverse coalition in Taos County that includes elected officials, Acequia partners, land-grant members and livestock grazing permittees,” said John Olivas, traditional community organizer for NM Wild. “We have worked for many years on the Columbine Hondo campaign, and it is wonderful to see each of us reach this historic milestone that will protect 45,000 additional acres in Taos County for future generations.”

    “The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act will forever protect our land and water that the people of Red River and other communities depend upon” said Mayor of Red River, Linda Calhoun. “It is a true bipartisan measure supported by people from all walks of life.”

    Just north of Taos, the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is the last remaining portion of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to be designated as wilderness. It is crowned by 13 miles of high alpine ridges and peaks that tower above 11,000 feet, including its high point, Gold Hill at 12,711 feet elevation.

    “My family has depended on the Columbine Hondo for years,” said Erminio Martinez, a livestock permittee in Columbine Hondo. “It is our responsibility to preserve our land and water, and I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for working so hard to pass the Columbine Hondo Wilderness Act this year.”

    Columbine Hondo is home to elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bear, pine marten, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This area is a significant clean water source for the central Rio Grande Corridor of New Mexico, supplying water to two of the larger Rio Grande tributaries – the Red River and the Rio Hondo. The water safeguarded in the Columbine Hondo area supplies many Acequias used by the local agricultural community.

    “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and I cannot think of a wilderness more deserving of protection than Columbine Hondo,” said Roberta Salazar, Executive Director of Rivers & Birds. “I am thankful that Congress listened to our community and safeguarded this amazing area.”

  • 2015 10 16 17 06 29

  • By Scott Martelle, LA Times
    March 22, 2014, 4:00 a.m.

    It’s hard to imagine a successful scenario for congressional Republicans’ latest inane effort to undermine conservation — and the Obama administration — but this little gambit is worth noting. And shouting down.

    The bill has one of those populist, good-government-sounding names that you just know masks a hidden agenda: Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. Who could be against that? Well, once you read the bill, just about anyone who cares about preserving public lands.

    The bill, House Resolution 1459, effectively strips the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906to move with speed — not Congress’ strong suit — to preserve lands that are deemed of public interest. The administration did just that two weeks ago by adding 1,665 acres of federal land north of Mendocino County’s Point Arena to the California Coastal National Monument. Notably, it acted because Congress failed to.

    Under the law moving through Congress, President Obama still would have been able to make that designation because it was so small. But the proposed law would force a new review process for any such designations of more than 5,000 acres.

    Dissenting Democrats added this contrary view to the majority in the report from the Natural Resources Committee:

    H.R. 1459 is a disingenuous proposal to weaken the president’s authority to establish National Monuments under the Antiquities Act. The bill would apply the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to future presidential monument declarations. While the majority has repeatedly sought to truncate or prohibit environmental reviews for drilling and mining, H.R. 1459 aims to require heightened environmental analysis for potentially time-sensitive conservation proposals.

    H.R. 1459 would deem a monument designation above 5,000 acres a major federal action, requiring environmental review. The bill also limits the president to one monument designation per state, per year. These arbitrary hurdles are only intended to undermine the Antiquities Act and slow down conservation. Congress passed the Antiquities Act of 1906 to give presidents the latitude to protect historically and culturally significant sites. Previous Congresses understood the importance of allowing the executive branch to move quickly to conserve resources, particularly given the pace of congressional action.

    Sixteen presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have used the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments. Some of the nation’s most cherished and visited national parks, including the Grand Canyon, were first designated national monuments because past presidents had the foresight to set them aside. Presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect resources central to the American story and identity, including Native American sacred sites, historic battlefields, and natural treasures like the Grand Staircase Escalante. With the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument and the Harriet Tubman National Monument, among others, recent declarations by President Obama have included sites significant to an even more diverse range of American communities.

    The bill could well pass the House; anything is possible in a legislative body that has voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a dead-horse issue given the makeup of the Senate and Obama’s guaranteed veto. But like those efforts, it’s hard to imagine this bill getting much further than the corroded minds of the House members who are pushing it.

    Which brings us to the basic question: Why is Congress wasting so much time and energy on petulance, at the cost of doing something meaningful about creating jobs, fighting global warming, protecting privacy and a host of other A-level issues?

    Maybe what we need is an Ensuring Public Memory of Congressional Inanities Act.
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-congress-national-monuments-obama-parks-grand-canyon-20140321,0,1272891.story#ixzz2x01MTU6A

  • By Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News
    05/23/2014 

    LAS CRUCES >> The Organ Mountains served as the perfect backdrop as several hundred southern New Mexicans gathered Friday at Oñate High School to celebrate the formal designation that established the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was joined by Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, White House Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and community and business leaders in Las Cruces and Mesilla. A ceremony that lasted almost two hours was staged on Oñate’s soccer field.

    In the not-too-far distance to the east, the afternoon sun and clouds cast different shades of blue and gray that highlighted the beauty of the mountains.

    “Today is the culmination of a community-led effort to conserve, protect and promote these public lands, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the businesses that will benefit from the tourism and recreation, and the wildlife that rely on this unique habitat,” Jewell said. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding desert peaks are steeped in culture, history, wildlife and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors — from hunting to hiking to gazing at ancient petroglyphs and fossils — and the president’s action ensures that these cherished landscapes are celebrated and passed on to the generations of New Mexicans and Americans to come.”

    Wednesday, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate nearly 500,000 acres as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Udall and Heinrich, New Mexico Democrats, emphasized what other rally speakers said: strong public dialogue and participation was key in persuading Obama to use his presidential authority to declare the new national monument.

    “This is a great day for New Mexico — thanks to so many New Mexicans who spoke up and worked hard, we have a new national monument,” Udall said. “It will put the unique and spectacular desert landscapes of Doña Ana County on recreation maps around the world, creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. I’m proud to join (retired U.S.) Senator (Jeff) Bingaman, Senator Heinrich, Secretary Jewell — and especially the many people of Doña Ana County who love Las Cruces’s beautiful backdrop and wanted it protected for generations to come. Today we celebrate them.”
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on Friday at Oñate High School. (Carlos Javier Sanchez — Sun-News)

    Heinrich added, “This celebration and tremendous accomplishment would not be possible without the community’s strong support. I give my heartfelt gratitude to the diverse coalitions and stakeholders from southern New Mexico who worked tirelessly to make today a reality, and I thank Senator Jeff Bingaman who helped push this effort many years ago.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help preserve our cultural identity, promote tourism in the region, boost the local economy, and foster recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and camping.”

    Adrian Avila, a 21-year-old New Mexico State University senior who works for Groundwork Doña Ana County a Las Cruces youth organization that helps develop leadership potential, said he has seen, firsthand, the hidden treasures and benefits the national monument can provide.

    “We were working on a project in the desert peaks to inventory the artifacts out there,” said Avila, who was born and raised in Las Cruces. “We would see a lithic, an arrowhead or a ground stone. I walked down a (former) river (bed) and saw a wall of petroglyphs. Even though I’ve lived here all my life, I’d never seen anything like that. I never knew those things existed out there.”

    But those who opposed the monument’s designation were apparently turned away from Friday’s event. A small group gathered at a restaurant near Oñate High School, but were not allowed to enter the rally, which was conducted in a fenced area.

    Las Crucen Bev Courtney said the monument’s designation was “unilateral enforcement of executive power,” used by Obama.

    “…The federal designation was undemocratic, unilateral, and misleading,” said Courtney, in a portion of an email sent to the Sun-News. “The will of the people of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County has been ignored in favor of well-funded and organized special interest groups. The land is already protected and this latest action is unnecessary and endangers our community.”

    Las Crucen Ron Camunez, who also publicly expressed concerns that the national monument designation included too much land, was able to attend Friday’s event.

    “The designation has been made. What can we do about it,” Camunez said. “We’ve reached the point where we have to accept the fact and work together now that it’s been done.”

    Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452.

  • By Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News
    05/23/2014 

    LAS CRUCES >> The Organ Mountains served as the perfect backdrop as several hundred southern New Mexicans gathered Friday at Oñate High School to celebrate the formal designation that established the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was joined by Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, White House Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and community and business leaders in Las Cruces and Mesilla. A ceremony that lasted almost two hours was staged on Oñate’s soccer field.

    In the not-too-far distance to the east, the afternoon sun and clouds cast different shades of blue and gray that highlighted the beauty of the mountains.

    “Today is the culmination of a community-led effort to conserve, protect and promote these public lands, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the businesses that will benefit from the tourism and recreation, and the wildlife that rely on this unique habitat,” Jewell said. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding desert peaks are steeped in culture, history, wildlife and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors — from hunting to hiking to gazing at ancient petroglyphs and fossils — and the president’s action ensures that these cherished landscapes are celebrated and passed on to the generations of New Mexicans and Americans to come.”

    Wednesday, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate nearly 500,000 acres as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Udall and Heinrich, New Mexico Democrats, emphasized what other rally speakers said: strong public dialogue and participation was key in persuading Obama to use his presidential authority to declare the new national monument.

    “This is a great day for New Mexico — thanks to so many New Mexicans who spoke up and worked hard, we have a new national monument,” Udall said. “It will put the unique and spectacular desert landscapes of Doña Ana County on recreation maps around the world, creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. I’m proud to join (retired U.S.) Senator (Jeff) Bingaman, Senator Heinrich, Secretary Jewell — and especially the many people of Doña Ana County who love Las Cruces’s beautiful backdrop and wanted it protected for generations to come. Today we celebrate them.”
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on Friday at Oñate High School. (Carlos Javier Sanchez — Sun-News)

    Heinrich added, “This celebration and tremendous accomplishment would not be possible without the community’s strong support. I give my heartfelt gratitude to the diverse coalitions and stakeholders from southern New Mexico who worked tirelessly to make today a reality, and I thank Senator Jeff Bingaman who helped push this effort many years ago.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help preserve our cultural identity, promote tourism in the region, boost the local economy, and foster recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and camping.”

    Adrian Avila, a 21-year-old New Mexico State University senior who works for Groundwork Doña Ana County a Las Cruces youth organization that helps develop leadership potential, said he has seen, firsthand, the hidden treasures and benefits the national monument can provide.

    “We were working on a project in the desert peaks to inventory the artifacts out there,” said Avila, who was born and raised in Las Cruces. “We would see a lithic, an arrowhead or a ground stone. I walked down a (former) river (bed) and saw a wall of petroglyphs. Even though I’ve lived here all my life, I’d never seen anything like that. I never knew those things existed out there.”

    But those who opposed the monument’s designation were apparently turned away from Friday’s event. A small group gathered at a restaurant near Oñate High School, but were not allowed to enter the rally, which was conducted in a fenced area.

    Las Crucen Bev Courtney said the monument’s designation was “unilateral enforcement of executive power,” used by Obama.

    “…The federal designation was undemocratic, unilateral, and misleading,” said Courtney, in a portion of an email sent to the Sun-News. “The will of the people of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County has been ignored in favor of well-funded and organized special interest groups. The land is already protected and this latest action is unnecessary and endangers our community.”

    Las Crucen Ron Camunez, who also publicly expressed concerns that the national monument designation included too much land, was able to attend Friday’s event.

    “The designation has been made. What can we do about it,” Camunez said. “We’ve reached the point where we have to accept the fact and work together now that it’s been done.”

    Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452.

  • By Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News
    05/23/2014 

    LAS CRUCES >> The Organ Mountains served as the perfect backdrop as several hundred southern New Mexicans gathered Friday at Oñate High School to celebrate the formal designation that established the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was joined by Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, White House Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and community and business leaders in Las Cruces and Mesilla. A ceremony that lasted almost two hours was staged on Oñate’s soccer field.

    In the not-too-far distance to the east, the afternoon sun and clouds cast different shades of blue and gray that highlighted the beauty of the mountains.

    “Today is the culmination of a community-led effort to conserve, protect and promote these public lands, but it’s the beginning of a new chapter for the businesses that will benefit from the tourism and recreation, and the wildlife that rely on this unique habitat,” Jewell said. “The Organ Mountains and surrounding desert peaks are steeped in culture, history, wildlife and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors — from hunting to hiking to gazing at ancient petroglyphs and fossils — and the president’s action ensures that these cherished landscapes are celebrated and passed on to the generations of New Mexicans and Americans to come.”

    Wednesday, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate nearly 500,000 acres as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    Udall and Heinrich, New Mexico Democrats, emphasized what other rally speakers said: strong public dialogue and participation was key in persuading Obama to use his presidential authority to declare the new national monument.

    “This is a great day for New Mexico — thanks to so many New Mexicans who spoke up and worked hard, we have a new national monument,” Udall said. “It will put the unique and spectacular desert landscapes of Doña Ana County on recreation maps around the world, creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. I’m proud to join (retired U.S.) Senator (Jeff) Bingaman, Senator Heinrich, Secretary Jewell — and especially the many people of Doña Ana County who love Las Cruces’s beautiful backdrop and wanted it protected for generations to come. Today we celebrate them.”
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation
    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell autographs Paul Bardwell’s book during a dedication ceremony celebrating President Obama’s designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on Friday at Oñate High School. (Carlos Javier Sanchez — Sun-News)

    Heinrich added, “This celebration and tremendous accomplishment would not be possible without the community’s strong support. I give my heartfelt gratitude to the diverse coalitions and stakeholders from southern New Mexico who worked tirelessly to make today a reality, and I thank Senator Jeff Bingaman who helped push this effort many years ago.

    “The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will help preserve our cultural identity, promote tourism in the region, boost the local economy, and foster recreational opportunities like hunting, hiking, and camping.”

    Adrian Avila, a 21-year-old New Mexico State University senior who works for Groundwork Doña Ana County a Las Cruces youth organization that helps develop leadership potential, said he has seen, firsthand, the hidden treasures and benefits the national monument can provide.

    “We were working on a project in the desert peaks to inventory the artifacts out there,” said Avila, who was born and raised in Las Cruces. “We would see a lithic, an arrowhead or a ground stone. I walked down a (former) river (bed) and saw a wall of petroglyphs. Even though I’ve lived here all my life, I’d never seen anything like that. I never knew those things existed out there.”

    But those who opposed the monument’s designation were apparently turned away from Friday’s event. A small group gathered at a restaurant near Oñate High School, but were not allowed to enter the rally, which was conducted in a fenced area.

    Las Crucen Bev Courtney said the monument’s designation was “unilateral enforcement of executive power,” used by Obama.

    “…The federal designation was undemocratic, unilateral, and misleading,” said Courtney, in a portion of an email sent to the Sun-News. “The will of the people of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County has been ignored in favor of well-funded and organized special interest groups. The land is already protected and this latest action is unnecessary and endangers our community.”

    Las Crucen Ron Camunez, who also publicly expressed concerns that the national monument designation included too much land, was able to attend Friday’s event.

    “The designation has been made. What can we do about it,” Camunez said. “We’ve reached the point where we have to accept the fact and work together now that it’s been done.”

    Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452.

  • Sky Island Alliance is currently seeking qualified candidates to apply for the position of Executive Director. We are looking for an experienced, highly motivated leader with a strong vision of how to lead the organization to higher levels of accomplishment, financial stability, and growth.

    The Executive Director is responsible for the operations, staff, and finances of the organization. The Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for the development and consistent achievement of the organization’s annual and long term strategic plans. The Executive Director is the primary face of the organization and will guide our current staff of ten to achieve the organization’s ambitious conservation goals in the region.

    The preferred applicant will have demonstrated leadership in managing a non-profit organization, donor and foundation fundraising ability, financial management skills, and experience managing and mentoring a diverse and passionate staff. He/she will also have appropriate education and/or experience working in a natural resource or conservation field as well as significant knowledge of legislative and administrative issues related to natural resource policies. The candidate will need excellent verbal and written communication skills; including public speaking, media communications, grant writing, and outreach materials production.

    Sky Island Alliance is a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the rich natural heritage of native species and habitats in the Sky Island region of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. We work with volunteers, scientists, land owners, public officials, and government agencies to establish protected areas, restore healthy landscapes, and promote public appreciation of the region’s unique biological diversity.

    To learn more, please see the complete position description on our webpage at www.skyislandalliance.org. Applications will be reviewed as they are received and will be accepted until February 28, 2014.

  • Dear FriendsThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

    I want to personally invite you to join the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance for a critically important public meeting.

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is coming to Las Cruces for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument campaign this Friday and she wants to hear from YOU. This will be the only opportunity to speak directly to Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration.

    THIS IS OUR BEST CHANCE to show support by attending the public meeting so Secretary Jewell can see our enthusiasm for herself. The more people we have in attendance, the better chance we have for action on a national monument!

    Who: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senators Tom Udall & Martin Heinrich, and YOU

    What: Public meeting to discuss protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument

    When: Friday, January 24, at 3 p.m.; Doors open at 2:15 p.m.

    Where: Ramada Inn, 201 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88005

    Why: To finally protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    You can also RSVP by replying to this e-mail or to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Thank you for your support, and if you are able to help us contact members about the event today and tomorrow, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Mark Allison

    Executive Director

  • Dear FriendsThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

    I want to personally invite you to join the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance for a critically important public meeting.

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is coming to Las Cruces for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument campaign this Friday and she wants to hear from YOU. This will be the only opportunity to speak directly to Secretary Jewell and the Obama administration.

    THIS IS OUR BEST CHANCE to show support by attending the public meeting so Secretary Jewell can see our enthusiasm for herself. The more people we have in attendance, the better chance we have for action on a national monument!

    Who: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senators Tom Udall & Martin Heinrich, and YOU

    What: Public meeting to discuss protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument

    When: Friday, January 24, at 3 p.m.; Doors open at 2:15 p.m.

    Where: Ramada Inn, 201 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88005

    Why: To finally protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

    You can also RSVP by replying to this e-mail or to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Thank you for your support, and if you are able to help us contact members about the event today and tomorrow, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Mark Allison

    Executive Director

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