The Two Way Street

At the Women’s Congress for Future Generations, legendary scholar, author and activist Riane Eisler called for a global shift to economic practices and policies that value caring for other beings and for the earth.

Her idea – that the real “wealth of nations” is not simply financial, but consists of the contributions of people to each other and to nature – illuminates SEHN’s goal in convening the Women’s Congress.

We invite you to make your contribution to the work of cultivating and protecting our real, collective wealth – in service of future generations.

Nearly 500 Congress participants gathered in Minnesota this November to delve into the question: how do we shift from a culture based on dominance and exploitation of resources, to one focused on long-term collective well-being, partnership, and a relational approach to the community of life?

We explored the tenets of the Owl Economy, a wisdom-based approach to economics calling for a recognition that the Earth is the source of our life and our economic activity.

We offered participants a template for action, Heartland & Headwaters, to support the emerging grassroots movement of women organizing and innovating for future generations as a result of the Congress.

And out of our Caucus of All Waters, we developed the Declaration of Rights of All Waters, articulating the innately-held rights of the oceans, lakes, rivers, aquifers, and clouds, as well as the related responsibilities of humans to protect these waters.

Throughout the Congress, we wove music and the arts into the proceedings. With song, we invoked the living rights of all nature. With music, we grieved the earth’s losses and celebrated our power to make change. We danced and sang the new forms of law and policy into being.

We at SEHN are honored and inspired to steward this critical work of uniting women to demand systems-level change. We invite you to stand with us and offer your support for this critical, narrative-shifting work of our time.

We are steadfastly committed to calling forth a legal system grounded in guardianship and care for future generations. At the cusp of 2015, we are exploring innovative partnerships and possibilities for a next women’s gathering – which we’ll share with you in the coming weeks and months.

As we do this courageous work together, Joanna Macy again reminds us that we are not alone, and our efforts matter:

“Future generations are a two-way street. I work for them, and they hold me in an embrace of deep time. They help me see my life is one short little span in a great span of time, and I mustn’t fall prey to measuring my success by what I can see happening in my lifetime.”

San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations

From La Jicarita

San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations.


Today the San Miguel County Commission unanimously voted to adopt the San Miguel County Oil and Gas Regulations ordinance, which uses zoning and stringent requirements to regulate how and where the oil and gas industry can explore, drill, and hydraulically “frack” within the county. At the last public hearing before the adoption of the ordinance, Robert Freilich, the land use law attorney who helped the county draft the ordinance, stated, “This ordinance is a lot better than Santa Fe’s ordinance.” He also acknowledged the hard work of the members of PROTECT San Miguel County, whose diligence in reviewing the ordinance and helping in its revision makes it one of the toughest in the country. After the commissioners passed the ordinance, they also thanked all of those who had worked so hard to make this a reality.

La Jicarita spoke with PROTECT San Miguel County member Bob Wessely about what makes the San Miguel County ordinance so strong. He described it as basically a “large collection” of details that have gone through four or five incremental drafts to address problems raised by his organization and by the public at the 15 or so hearings held over the last several years. He cited four areas in which the final draft is particularly rigorous:

  • Permit application processes and studies are extensive, including detailed environmental impacts, water availability, traffic, infrastructure, geohydrology, fiscal impacts and emergency response plans.
  • Regulations for enforcement now include the hiring of a well-qualified county inspector, paid for by the industry, who will be responsible for overall application review as well as frequent monitoring and inspections stipulated in the ordinance. The strong post-permit monitoring now includes a 10-year annual inspection of abandoned wells for possible leakage.
  • The industry is held responsible for all County costs, including application technical review, ongoing inspection and monitoring, and additional off-site infrastructure (roads, judicial system, etc.).
  • Protection and mitigation requirements have been expanded to cover all areas of potential impacts by the drilling process (surface water, groundwater, air, noise, lighting, traffic, viewshed, etc.).

These regulatory requirements will apply to the eastern portion of the county—the boundary line is about 30 miles east of I-25 and runs from north to south— where exploration and drilling will be allowed. The western portion of the county is off limits.


Other regulations that PROTECT requested or worked on with the county have also been included in the ordinance:

  • Pre-operation baseline testing requirements for air quality and water quality are extensive.
  • Air quality monitoring has been strengthened to protect county citizens from potential leaks of gasses during operations (drilling, fracking, and extraction). Closed loop systems are required. Open pit storage of fluids is prohibited.
  • Disposal of all wastes must be at state approved waste facilities, of which there are none within the county.
  • Water quality requirements were strengthened by designating which substances the industry has to test for.
  • Set back limits from drilling operations were established for a wide arrange of categories. Residential and school set backs are 4,000 feet, approximately a kilometer; non-residential structures are 1,000 feet; and groundwater recharge areas such as wetlands, acequias, and rivers are 1.5 miles. Conchas Lake, a popular recreation area, has a 2-mile set back.

I asked Wessely if he felt this ordinance would act to discourage oil and gas development because of its onerous requirements. He answered that it would certainly discourage a “fly by night” operator and would make large companies like Shell carefully consider whether it’s worthwhile, before engaging in the process. While there is currently no drilling taking place in the county, there are leases in the Watrous area (west of the dividing line) and some ranchers in the eastern area are desirous of having drilling on their ranches.

San Miguel County Board of Commissioners (L to R: Commissioner Marcellino Ortiz, Nicolas Leger, Consultant Steve Burstein, Dr. Bob Freilich, Commissioner Art Padilla, Commissioner Gilbert Sena, County Manager Les Montoya) final Oil and Gas Ordinance Public Hearing, 3 November 2014.

The San Miguel Oil and Gas Regulations were long in the making. La Jicarita asked Pat Leahan, with the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center and PROTECT San Miguel County, to provide a timeline of how the public and county worked together to promulgate this ordinance.

  • In 2008 the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center was asked by some folks in Mora County to look into leases that were being requested in Mora County, which prompted the Center to see if there were any leases also being pursued in San Miguel County.
  • In October of 2009 the Center went before the San Miguel County Commission to present the information that there had been drilling activity in 2006. The county was unaware of that fact and when it looked into county regulations involving extraction found that the regulations dealt primarily with gravel and other types of mining, not oil and gas.
  • San Miguel County Attorney Jesus Lopez directed the commission to look into drafting a moratorium on oil and gas drilling to give the county time to look into the issue.
  • At the November 10, 2009 county commission meeting the Peace and Justice Center presented documentation on the well that was drilled in 2006—location map, permit application, capping, etc.—and the Las Vegas Basin White Paper, a report that was commissioned by the group Drilling Santa Fe to analyze the impacts of potential drilling and fracturing in the Basin. The Center also presented this information to the mayor of Las Vegas who imposed a moratorium within the city limits.
  • On December 8, 2009, the County Commission adopted Resolution 12- 08-09-NATURAL RESOURCES, proposing the adoption of a one-year moratorium on conditional use permits for oil, gas or geothermal exploration, extraction, or drilling. A moratorium was passed on January 10, 2010.
  • In early 2010, after a screening of the film “Split Estate” a small group of people (Bob Wessely, Leslie Hammel-Turk, Brad Turk, Barbara Ehrlich, Kim Kirkpatrick, Carole Silon, Pat Leahan, Kate Daniel, Don Shaw, and Arielle Hawney) organized PROTECT San Miguel County to educate themselves and strategize on the issue of oil and gas development.
  • The Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center retained the New Mexico Environmental Law Center as a consultant to help draft an oil and gas ordinance. After consulting with Drilling Santa Fe it learned of Robert Freilich, the land use attorney who helped draft the Santa Fe County Ordinance. Freilich was subsequently hired by the county to help draft the San Miguel ordinance.
  • PROTECT San Miguel County sponsored and participated in many community forums and talks on Community Peace Radio to educate the public. A San Miguel County Oil and Gas Ordinance Task Force had been established and members of PROTECT joined the task force. The task force proved largely ineffective because of obstructionist tactics by the New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association representative.
  • The moratorium on oil and gas development was renewed several times for a total of four years.

While folks in San Miguel County are celebrating the passage of these regulations, neighboring Mora County is navigating tough legal terrain. In 2013 Mora County passed an outright ban on oil and gas development and is now embroiled in two industry lawsuits. Last week, U.S. District Judge Browning heard arguments on a motion for summary judgment in the SWEPI LP (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) vs. Mora County lawsuit. Based on his statements in the courtroom—“Some of these provisions are pretty wild; they’re pretty inconsistent with centuries of federal law” —it seems likely that at a subsequent hearing he will rule that either some of the language in the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance is unconstitutional or that the entire ordinance should be thrown out. Another lawsuit filed against Mora County by private landholders and the Independent Petroleum Association remains extant but settlement negotiations are ongoing.

Documentary about Fracking: At What Price

There will be a Global Frackdown on October 11th

If you would like to participate or organize an event in Santa Fe, go to

Here is the outline of the event in an email from Lars Panaro:

It is now just 2 months until the October 11 Global Frackdown. With over 150 organizations already signed up as partners, the third Global Frackdown looks to be a powerful day of action. Already partners are signed up from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom, and all across the United States.
These are challenging times for our climate and with the political situation in many of our countries on energy issues.  The Global Frackdown – coming on the heals of the big climate march in New York (September 21) – will provide a forum for us to collectively push back against big oil and gas, call for a ban on fracking, and demand our government officials to push for a renewable energy future.
Food and Water Watch New Mexico will be hosting an event for Global Frackdown. Visit for details
If you have not already, please sign up to be a partner organization here:
Please contact me with any questions!  Thanks.
Please share this with your networks and on listservs to help spread the word.
Please like us on facebook

Please sign up to take action on our website.


From Santa Fe New Mexican

FRACKING BAN A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water

A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water  Roger Alcon tends cattle on his family’s ranch in Mora County on May 16. Alcon’s family has run cattle in the area for five generations, and he supports the county’s ban on drilling for natural gas by using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, even though it would mean money for allowing drilling on his land. Julie Cart/Los Angeles Times

Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Sun Jun 2, 2013.

By Julie Cart
Los Angeles Times | 5 comments

OCATE — Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals … and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a Northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.”

Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country.

“I don’t want to destroy our water,” Alcon said. “You can’t drink oil.”

In embracing the ban, landowners turned their back on potentially lucrative royalty payments from drilling on their property and joined in a groundswell of civic opposition to fracking that is rolling west from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation.

Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010 after it came to light that an energy company held a lease to drill under a beloved city cemetery.

Since then, more than a dozen cities in the East have passed similar ordinances.

The movement leapfrogged west last summer when the town of Las Vegas, N.M., took up the cause, calling for a halt to fracking until adequate regulations protecting public health are adopted.

It has now reached California, where communities are considering similar bans.

Culver City — home to the nation’s largest urban oil field — is drafting oil and gas regulations that call for a moratorium on fracking. Citizen groups in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are preparing their own community rights ballot measures aimed at outlawing the procedure.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture rock formations, releasing oil and gas that is hard to reach with conventional drilling methods. A blizzard of applications to sink wells using fracking is spurring a nationwide energy rush sometimes called the “shale gale.”

Among the leading concerns of opponents is the absence of any federal law requiring companies to fully identify the chemicals in their fracking fluids. Such formulas are considered by the industry to be a trade secret. Community-based anti-fracking campaigns — citing public health issues — call for complete disclosure of injection fluids.

Many New Mexico counties welcome oil and gas production, an industry that adds to the tax base and employment rolls. But in sparsely populated Mora County, where 67 percent of the 5,000 residents are Spanish-speaking, people cherish their culture and way of life.

Sandra Alcon said her neighbors don’t care about mineral rights or oil money. They are angry about the way energy companies’ “land men” treated them. Residents here are seen as easy marks for hustlers offering little compensation for oil and water rights, she said.

“They know we have a lot of elderly and rural people; some don’t speak English,” she said. “They don’t know that some of us went to college and some of us have the Internet.

“I may look stupid, but I’m not. I know what they are doing.”

Mora County, using its authority to regulate commercial activity, specifically barred corporations from fracking. The ordinance also established that citizens have a right to a safe and clean environment.

County Commission Chairman John Olivas said the ordinance is not a referendum on oil and gas. Rather, he said, it “is all about water,” estimating that 95 percent of the county’s residents support the ban, although some argue that the jobs and income that accompany drilling would help the depressed area.

Olivas, a hunting and fishing guide, said he grew up watching his parents work in the uranium mines of Eastern New Mexico. When the mines played out, towns shriveled up.

Chasing that boom-and-bust economy is not worth despoiling an environment that remains remarkably untouched and provides a sustainable living for most people here, he said.

“We are one of the poorest counties in the nation, yes, but we are money-poor, we are not asset-poor,” Olivas said. “We’ve got land, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got our heritage and we’ve got our culture.”

The California community closest to adopting an anti-fracking ordinance is Culver City, which includes a portion of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. More than 1 million people live within five miles of the field, where some 1,600 wells have been drilled since 1925.

The City Council is considering a fracking moratorium, even though only 10 percent of the field is within the city limits. The bulk of the wells are in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

City officials and residents say they are concerned about air and water quality, as well as about earthquakes being triggered by drilling at 8,000 to 10,000 feet — the depths where the untapped oil is found.

Low-magnitude earthquakes have been associated with fracking, but Ed Memi, a spokesman for PXP, which operates in the Inglewood Field, called suggestions that high-pressure drilling causes earthquakes “hysterical accusations.”

“There is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused felt seismic activity anywhere in California,” Memi said. “The practice of hydraulic fracturing has been subjected to dozens of studies in recent years, and the fundamental safety of the technology is well understood by scientists, engineers, regulators and other technical experts.”

But Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City’s vice mayor, said the city needs to see more study of fracking’s impact before it could be allowed.

“I grew up in L.A. All my life I’ve heard about air-quality problems, earthquakes and water issues,” Sahli-Wells said. “It just so happens that fracking really hits on the three major challenges of this area. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for people to wake up and say, ‘We are fracking on a fault line? Is this really in our interests?’ “

If Culver City moves forward with a moratorium, it could take months to complete, she said.

Fracking is unregulated in California, and no accurate figures exist detailing how many of the state’s wells are completed using the technique.

A number of anti-fracking bills are pending before the state Assembly, and statewide regulations are being finalized by the state Department of Conservation.

Sahli-Wells endorses legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, that calls for a moratorium on fracking in California until a comprehensive six-year study can be undertaken.

“Look before you leap” legislation is pending in other states.

On a recent day back in Mora County, Roger Alcon drove his ranch with his herding dog, Pepper, at his side. He said the region’s aquifer has been depleted by oil and gas operations in the region. He sees no reason to hasten the water decline.

Alcon pointed out the truck window toward the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“We have what we need,” he said. “To me, the fresh air and the land, and water. It’s better than money.”

Thomas Linzey on The Journey Home

Tune in and listen to Diego Mulligan interviewing Thomas Linzey,
the senior legal counsel for the Environmental Legal Defense
Fund, CELDF, during his radio show.

DATE:  Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
TIME:  5:00-6:00 pm Mountain time
WHAT:  “The Journey Home” radio show, hosted by Diego Mulligan
RADIO:   KSFR 101.1 FM – Santa Fe Public Radio
Tune in live/streaming

Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, CELDF, will be presenting a
Democracy School in Santa Fe the week of April 19th-20th.

Las Vegas challenges mayor

Subject: “Recall Effort Under Way for Mayor [City of Las Vegas, New Mexico]”  Optic, NM

“….people upset at the mayor for refusing the Community Rights
Ordinance [banning drilling and fracking and asserting people’s
rights to a sustainable future and democracy in their community]
that seeks to make it unlawful for any corporation to engage in
the extraction of oil, natural gas or other hydrocarbons within
the city and its watersheds.

Ortiz, who doesn’t have veto power, has refused to sign the
controversial law, saying it’s unconstitutional because it
seeks to strip corporations of their rights.

The mayor brought up that issue Wednesday night, reiterating
that he opposes oil and gas drilling in the community but
didn’t sign the ordinance because of the language in it.”

The Community Rights Ordinance that the City of Las Vegas City
Council passed into law, April 2012 by a council vote 3:1, does
not challenge the State or Federal Constitution, as Mayor Oritiz
is stating above.

The Ordinance challenges a Supreme Court’s interpretation and
ruling that in 1886 set precedent giving corporations the same
rights as people–giving “personhood” to a corporation.

In the 2013 court ruling Judge O’Dell-Seneca challenged and
denied corporation’s protection under the Constitution as
“persons,” citing sections of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution
in support of her contention that corporations were never
intended to be constitutionally protected “persons.” She
declared that “an even more dubious proposition is that the
framers of the Constitution of 1776, given their egalitarian
sympathies, would have concerned themselves with vesting, for
the first time in history, indefeasible rights in such entities.
. . that language extends only to natural persons.”

She went on to declare that “it is axiomatic that
corporations, companies, and partnerships have no ‘spiritual
nature,’ ‘feelings,’ ‘intellect,’ ‘beliefs,’
‘thoughts,’ ‘emotions,’ or ‘sensations,’ because
they do not exist in the manner that humankind exists. . . They
cannot be ‘let alone’ by government, because businesses are
but grapes, ripe upon the vine of the law, that the people of
this Commonwealth raise, tend, and prune at their pleasure and need.”

(For the full editorial on this recent ruling, see attached pdf
“A New Civil Rights Movement:  Liberating Our Communities from
Corporate Control A Pennsylvania Judge Holds That Corporations
Are Not “Persons” Under the Pennsylvania Constitution” by
Thomas Alan Linzey, Esq., Executive Director
March 28, 2013

Drilling Mora County

Recall Effort Under Way for Mayor

By Martin Salazar
April 11, 2013

A notice of intent to recall Mayor Alfonso Ortiz was filed with
the city clerk’s office late Wednesday, setting in motion a
process that could lead to an election at which voters would
decide whether to oust Ortiz before the expiration of his term.

The effort to remove Ortiz from office is led by longtime
activist Lorenzo Flores, who has been critical of the mayor’s
actions in the past.

Flores announced that he had filed the notice during the public
input portion of Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting.

“I’ve come before you like David before Goliath,” Flores
said. “… Enough is enough.”

“Let nature take its course,” Ortiz later responded, saying
that Flores has a right to circulate the recall petition.

“As mayor of the city of Las Vegas, I’m not impressed with
the title,” he said.

“There’s a lot of responsibilites. I have stretched myself
physically; I’ve stretched myself financially to do as much as
I can for the city. My interest is to be very visible, make the
city look very positive.”

Flores didn’t specifically outline why he is targeting the
mayor for recall during his remarks.

“The people have to do what they have to do,” he said in
Spanish. “It’s nothing personal.”

City Attorney Dave Romero cut Flores off when he began talking
about the mayor’s appointments and their connections to a
hotel owner who Flores alleged is exploiting members of the community.

He said people in Las Vegas are struggling to pay their bills
and getting cut-off notices. Flores said city government needs
to help the people. He, along with his Brown Berets, left the
Council chamber after speaking.

Flores didn’t immediately respond to a message left for him
Thursday morning.

But in a letter to the editor published in the Optic in
February, Flores criticized the mayor for his continued support
of City Manager Timothy Dodge.

“Apparently, the mayor will not nor cannot function without
Tim Dodge,” Flores wrote.

“We are not better off with Dodge at the helm,” Flores
wrote. “Despite the mayor’s praise for him, Tim has divided
our business community, he continues to blabber-mouth our
chamber of commerce and the Las Vegas economic development
people. He has done nothing for the over 3,000 at-risk youth in
our city. He has done nothing for infrastructure improvements on
the west side.”

The notice of intent to file a petition of recall has 30
signatures, including several people upset at the mayor for
refusing the community rights ordinance that seeks to make it
unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of oil,
natural gas or other hydrocarbons within the city and its watersheds.

Ortiz, who doesn’t have veto power, has refused to sign the
controversial law, saying it’s unconstitutional because it
seeks to strip corporations of their rights.

The mayor brought up that issue Wednesday night, reiterating
that he opposes oil and gas drilling in the community but
didn’t sign the ordinance because of the language in it.

Under the new city charter, 25 signatures are required on a
notice of intent to initiate recall in order to start the process.

The first signature on the petition is that of Francisco Lorenzo
Flores, and Mayor Ortiz asked the city attorney to explain why
that’s problematic if the signature belongs to the Flores who
appeared at the council.

Romero said Flores has previously been convicted, and as such,
he isn’t a qualified elector under the city charter and
isn’t allowed to sign the petition.

If 25 valid signatures are contained on the document, then the
next step is for a recall petition to be submitted to the clerk
for her approval as to form.

Organizers of the effort would then have 60 days to gather
signatures. In order to force a recall election, organizers must
gather enough signatures to equal or surpass 25 percent of the
people who voted in the last regular city election.

If enough signatures are gathered, an election will be held,
with voters deciding by a simple majority whether to recall or
keep Ortiz.

Ortiz said he’s trying to do the best he can for the
community, noting that he’s sacrificing time with his family
to do the job.

“I’m not here for the money,” he said. “I’m not here
for the $10,000 annual salary.”

He said he has worked hard to move the city forward on a number
of issues, including trying to improve its water infrastructure.

“The reason we’re working so earnestly to help the people
with this water issue, for example, is we’re looking ahead,”
Ortiz said. “I’m really concerned about the situation with
water. I’m saying without water we’re not going to survive.”


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El Rio Grande Del Norte

El Rio Grande Del Norte Map.

Thanks to NM Wilderness Alliance

El Rio Grande Del Norte



El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

 el rio grande del norte

Last Saturday was a blustery one and we set off in the hot-air balloon hoping to drop down into the Rio Grande Gorge near John Dunn Bridge.  Instead, we set off to the north on a bit of a wild ride toward the Colorado border and into El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument  (more on that, and other rides, in another post).

It was the kind of morning that makes you ecstatic to be alive.

~ ~ ~

Starting back in mid-2006 and up until March 2008 I worked with the BLM and Senator Bingaman’s staff to lay the foundations for the creation of this legislation.  My main task was to work with ranchers, sportsmens, local government officials, tribal representatives and others to find a way to work an agreement on what the legislation would look like and how the NCA might be managed if passed.  Community outreach and coalition building all the way – my specialty.

(read how hot air balloons changed the way we see the world)

It wasn’t easy, but with some decent early successes the process was able to move forward.

On March 30, 2011, Senator Bingaman introduced the El Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation (NCA) Area Establishment Act. Senator Udall cosponsored the act. The legislation would create about 235,980 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including two new wildernesses: the 13,420-acre Ute Mountain in Taos County and the 8,000-acre Río San Antonio Wilderness around San Antonio Mountain in Río Arriba County (map).

Just about everything you see in this photograph (looking north up the Rio Grande corridor from about 500 feet up near Cebolla Mesa) would be protected by the legislation. Ute Mountain is the large, volcanic mountain at the center top of the photograph.

Senator Bingaman has been trying to pass the legislation before he retires in December of this year (luckily, we have conservation star Senator Martin Heinrich to take over the seat).  On October 25, 2012, Senator Bingaman sent a letter to President Obama stating that he and Senator Udall will:

“….continue to work to advance legislation in the Senate to conserve these important areas in New Mexico, but in the absence of any certainty about the passage of legislation, we believe you should work with local communities to explore how a National Monument designation would protect the archaeological and cultural resources in these two regions. Since the legislation has been carefully crafted to secure broad support, we request that you carefully consider these proposals…”

(read the complete letter to President Obama)

So, while the El Rio Grande del Norte NCA bill is not moving forward, the possibility of a El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument status

El Rio Grande del Norte

A small group of elk run under the balloon across a dry wash last Saturday morning

would be fabulous.

I urge you to send a free fax of support for the designation to President Obama here.

~ ~ ~

What is El Rio Grande del Norte like?

Well, back in 2007, I wrote this about the area we wish to see protected:

The El Rio Grande del Norte encompasses some of the most spectacular lands in all of New Mexico. The Rio Grande cuts into the Servilleta lava flows that make up the Taos Plateau just above the Colorado border on the north side of Ute Mountain. Eight miles later, at the New Mexico state line, the river is 200 feet down, the gorge 150 feet across. West of Questa, where Big Arsenic Spring bubbles from the rock and pinyon jays heap in the winter, the river is a glinting green ribbon eight hundred feet down. The opposite rim is over half a mile away where, on summer mornings, bald eagles soar southward in pairs. At John Dunn Bridge the river enters The Box, an 18-mile stretch of 900 foot cliffs, famous among boaters.

The El Rio Grande del Norte is also the Rio Grande Migratory Flyway – one of the great migratory routes in the world. Eagles, falcons and hawks make the basalt walls of the Gorge their nesting homes. Ospreys, scaups, hummingbirds, herons, avocets, merlins and willits all traverse the Gorge. The sound of Sandhill Cranes migrating from the San Luis Valley to places like Bosque Del Apache can be deafening while on an October hike in the tablelands west of the river. It’s that western plateau that is perhaps the most wild. From the edge of the Gorge, vast grass and sagebrush mesas intersperse with the forested slopes of volcanic intrusions such as Cerro Chiflo, Cerro del Aire, Montosos and Cerro de la Olla. It is on these mesas where vast herds of pronghorn and elk find winter forage and calve and fawn along the rim late in the spring.

This substantial chunk of wild is bounded by the Gorge Rim on the east and Highway 285 on the west. The northern portion spills over 285, encompassing the broad, gently rolling grass and sage brush plains of the Rio San Antonio Gorge WSA, bisected by yet another gorge where raptors nest in 200-foot high lava walls and conifers clamber down to the Rio los Pinos. Perhaps the crown jewel of this whole area is Ute Mountain, a 10,093 foot high volcanic cone rising nearly 3,000 feet above the surrounding plain. Ute is something you can’t miss. Located about ten miles west of Costilla, it is the dominant feature for those driving north from Taos along highway 522. The steep slopes of Ute are covered in pinyon at the base, as well as pockets of ponderosa, aspen, white pine and Douglas Fir in the higher elevations. From grassy meadows of blue grama, western wheatgrass and Indian ricegrass where the trees thin, the Gorge is a jagged, inky slash dividing Ute from its sister cones to the west. Snow-capped Blanca rises to the north, just across the state line. The whole Sangre de Cristo range falls to the east, terminating, view-wise, at Wheeler Peak……