A Call to Residents of Sandoval County

Laura Robbins

SANDOVAL COUNTY OIL AND GAS ORDINANCE CITIZENS’ STUDY GROUP

This is a reminder about action to be taken by the Sandoval County Commission. The Commission is about to vote on an extremely permissive Oil and Gas Ordinance that could radically affect the quality of our lives as well as property values in a large part of Sandoval County.

Here’s how the Commission plans to make it easy for oil and gas companies to drill near your home or ranch or farm:

  • NO public notice
  • NO public hearing

Your wakeup call will occur when the company starts drilling next to your home.

Sounds unbelievable?

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Deer Creek Fire and Other Forest News

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

 

Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan to manage the lightning-caused Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa by using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The Deer Creek Fire started Sept. 15 on Peggy Mesa in the old San Diego prescribed burn area and adjacent to the site of this summer’s lightning-caused Peggy Fire.  Objectives for managing the Deer Creek Fire include:

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Deer Creek Fire Smoke Rises Over the Nascimientos

Photos R.W.

Smoke from the lightning strike caused Deer Creek Fire has now become visible in the southern parts of the Jemez Valley.  It started on Sept. 18 when it was estimated at about eight acres, but has most likely grown by now. No new reports on its progress have yet been posted  on New Mexico Fire Information or the Santa Fe National Forest sites.

The fire is burning on the Jemez Ranger District next to the site of the Peggy Fire.

 

Night Sky Observation Event Offered in Valles Caldera

VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE

PAJARITO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

Photo Jim Stein Photography

Night sky hanging over the Valle Grande.

 

The Valles Caldera offers some of the darkest skies in our area and is a great place to get a better look at the night sky on clear nights.

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) working with the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VALL) offers a night sky observation event on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. PEEC astronomers Galen Gisler, Dave North, Akkana Peck, and Rick Wallace along with VALL park rangers will point out constellations, planets, and other celestial objects with the help of telescopes and lasers.

They will use lasers to reveal constellations and other celestial objects visible to the naked eye and also set up telescopes to give a closer look at planets, star clusters, and celestial objects visible that night.

This event is free to the public, aside from the VALL entrance fee. No registration is required. To attend, meet at the Valles Caldera National Preserve Visitor Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. For more information about this and other Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) programs, visit www.peecnature.org, emailprograms@peecnature.org or call (505) 662-0460.

 

 

California Condors Back from the Brink

By Sandra West

PAJARITO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

Photo by Joe Fitzgibbon.

A very rare visitor to New Mexico, this California Condor flew into Los Alamos in April, 2015. 

The largest bird in North America, which existed only in captivity in the last 1980’s, is taking to the skies in growing numbers, and its story will be told at the Los Alamos Nature Center on Tuesday, Sept.19 at 7 p.m. Four condor experts, Bette Korber, Melissa Moore, Shorty Esch, and Jeanne Fair, will talk about the California Condor’s story and bird science conducted at LANL. This free presentation is open to the public.

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Eclipses and Phantoms

By Sandra West

PAJARITO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

 

On Friday, September 9, at 7 PM in the Los Alamos Nature Center planetarium, three local astronomers, who watched the eclipse from within the path of totality, will share stories, photos, data, and videos from the August 21st total solar eclipse.

The full-dome film Phantom of the Universe will play in the planetarium at 2 PM on Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10.

Phantom of the Universe, a film that uncovers the heavenly mystery of dark matter, can be seen at 2 PM on September 9 and 10 in the nature center planetarium. The film traces existence back to its beginning, stretching through space and time to reveal its unique connection to the Large Hadron Collider.

For more information about these and future planetarium shows, please visit www.peecnature.org/planetarium. To reserve tickets, call (505) 662-0460.

 

Continental Divide Trail Remains Closed

By Julie Anne Overton

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has extended the closure of a segment of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) on the Coyote Ranger District to provide for public safety as fire crews continue to work on the Ojitos Fire in the Chama River Wilderness.  The temporary closure is in effect until Dec. 31, 2017, unless it is rescinded earlier.

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The Mighty Bighorn

By Daryl Ratajczak

Wildlife Biologist, Forest Planning Team

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

Fragment of photo by Jwanamaker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28291925

Bighorn Sheep.

I stood motionless, afraid to even blink let alone breathe. His bulbous eye focused on the offcolored rock sitting before him. His 220-pound frame was sleek and well-defined but nothing compared to what it would be in a few months when he bulked up to begin defending his right to breed. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram standing before me was already a fine specimen, he was soon going to be a fierce competitor as well. Imagining the thunderous clap resounding from his mighty horns as he beat down his rivals, I had little doubt he would maintain his bloodline this coming breeding season.

So went my first encounter with New Mexico’s largest wild sheep. You can imagine my surprise as I learned about this majestic animal and its struggle to maintain a foothold in the rocky and wild places it calls home. As an invited member to a bighorn sheep management meeting, my first priority was to gather as much information about the animal as possible. As a wildlife biologist, I have managed numerous species of big game animals, but this was going to be my first foray with bighorns, therefore, I was quite content letting the experts lead the discussion.

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The Planned Destruction of the Nation’s Past, Present and Future

By R.W.

Photo by Laurascudder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10621997

Monarch Cave Ruin cliff dwelling on Comb Ridge

Fossil-fuel corporate polluters, represented by  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, are reaching their soiled, grasping mitts on vast areas of natural wonder that define this country, this continent, areas that hold  deep historic and cultural meaning as well as enduring habitats, endangered monuments to this country’s earliest human habitation , and also monuments to its natural diversity, linking our past and present, and linking a wide variety of biospheres.

President Donald Trump described the removal of secessionist war leaders statues as destroying  the nation’s history and culture. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he said.

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See the Solar Eclipse in the Valles Caldera Tomorrow

VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE

The Great American Eclipse is coming, and everyone is invited to the Valles Caldera National Preserve to watch it.

Join rangers to witness and learn more about this spectacular natural event, free of charge, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 at the Valle Grande Entrance Station on N.M. 4. The maximum partial eclipse will be reached at approximately 11:45 a.m. MDT, Monday.
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The Effects of Climate Change on Hummingbird Populations 

By Sandra West

PAJARITO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

On Saturday, August 12th, researcher Bob Walker will lead two groups, one at 7:30 AM and one at 9:30 AM, to the hummingbird monitoring site in Bandelier National Monument. This location is one of a network of sites in the Western U.S. that tracks the impact of climate change on the movement and behavior of hummingbirds. To join one of the groups, visit peecnature.org to register. This is a free program offered by Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

These tours will start from the Los Alamos Nature Center and carpool to the site. The first hummingbird monitoring session will meet at 7:30 AM and the second will meet at 9:30 AM. Registration is required for this event, and admission is free. This program is open to individuals ages 12 and older.

For more information about these and other Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) programs, and to register for the count, visit www.peecnature.org, email programs@peecnature.org or call (505) 662-0460.

Smoke from Peggy Fire Still Rises Above the Jemez

Photos R.W.

Smoke from Peggy Fire as seen on NM Highway 4 just north of the schools.

The Peggy Fire, now in ite ninth day, has reached almost 600 acres. Dianne A. Berry, of the Santa Fe National Forest issued this information: “Fire crews took advantage of favorable weather conditions yesterday to make good progress through both ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper vegetation controlled ignitions.  Interior spot fires continue to be moderated by the minimal needle litter and ladder fuels in the San Diego prescribed fire treatment area.  Crews will continue controlled burning operations as conditions allow.”

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Neurotoxic Pesticide Returns to our Grocery Shelves

By U.S. Senator Tom Udall

UNITED STATES SENATE

In March, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt contradicted the findings of his own agency’s scientists and reversed the EPA’s proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide used on fruits and vegetables derived from a class of World War II nerve agents that has been shown to impair brain development in children. Latino farmworkers who live in rural communities are at the highest risk, but the pesticide has been detected in drinking water and on picked fruits and vegetables sold in stores. Even oranges that have been washed and peeled have been shown to contain chlorpyrifos. We must act to protect the health of children, farmers and farmworkers. Join me in speaking out, and stay tuned for more information in coming days.

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Smoke and Bird Updates

Photos R.W.

A brief smoke event with the wind travelling in the same direction as yesterday, but much less fierce, and picking up much less smoke. The Forest Service update tells us that the affected area has grown to 256 acres.

They also include an interesting explanation for yesterday’s photogenic event: “Fire activity was low to moderate throughout the day Saturday until about 5:30 p.m. when a storm cell brought much stronger winds out of the north, drastically increasing fire activity and pushing the fire to the south. The winds also helped create the very visible smoke column in the late afternoon. The blacklining that crews had worked on over the past several days held the fire in spite of the dramatic shift in wind direction and speed. Today, crews on scene continued to blackline the perimeter and look for spot fires. ”

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Forest Plan Revision Open Houses to Take Place in Santa Fe and Pecos.

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

These Open Houses are intended to keep the public involved between our more formal rounds of public meetings and we will keep you informed when we are ready for the next round of evening and technical public meetings. If you can’t make it to an Open House, please call (505-438-5442) or email (santafeforestplan@fs.fed.us) us with any questions.

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Gathering Monsoon Both Decreases and Increases Fire Danger

A couple of lightning caused fires that have broken out currently suggest a different pattern of fire danger emerging. The forests are still dry and ready to ignite at any carelessly flicked cigarette butt or abandoned campfire, but the recent weather has brought with it some increased moisture in the forests together with instances of dry lightning storms.

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Explore and Discuss Creating Climate Solutions with the Northwest Earth Institute

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) is bringing another discussion course developed by the Northwest Earth Institute to Los Alamos. Change is our Choice: Creating Climate Solutions is a five-week discussion course where participants will learn about climate change and how to take action to mitigate its causes and effects in their own lives, our community, and our world. This course meets at the Los Alamos Nature Center on Thursdays from 6:00 to 7:30 PM starting July 13th and running through August 10th. This free course is open to the public. Space is limited, and advance registration is required.Continue reading

Final Update and Some Observations on the Cajete Fire from the New Mexico Fire Information and Santa Fe National Forest Pages

Photo SFNF.
Under the leadership of Type 3 Incident Commander Matt Armantrout, firefighters today are mopping-up hot spots, gridding for residual heat, and addressing fire suppression repair needs, including removing hazardous trees along Highway 4. Crews and overhead personnel are being demobilized and re-assigned to other incidents. Command of the Cajete Fire will transition to a Type 4 organization and the Jemez Ranger District on Tuesday.

Isolated smoke may be visible as concentrations of heavy fuels smolder within the fire perimeter, though no further fire growth is anticipated. Hot and dry conditions persist, with a chance of rain and thunderstorm activity possible for the fire area.

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Los Amigos de Valles Caldera Make a Date Change

Los Amigos in action.

Due to complications from the Cajete Fire, Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Valles Caldera National Preserve’s industrious friends group, will be celebrating their 10th anniversary and the grand opening of the preserve bookstore on July 22nd during our 17th Preserve Birthday Bash! Between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, enjoy music, refreshments, artist demonstrations, facepainting, visiting wildlife from the New Mexico Wildlife Center, a 10% discount at the bookstore, souvenirs, and a drawing. A ribbon cutting will be held at the new bookstore at noon.

For additional information about this event and the Preserve Birthday Bash, check out our events calendar, https://www.nps.gov/vall/planyourvisit/calendar.htm. See you at the party!

http://losamigosdevallescaldera.org/events/

El Cajete Fire is contained at 96 percent.

Joshua Szopinski

SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST

There are still 359 personnel on the site. They consist of 3 Type 1 Crews, 4 Type 2 crews, assisted by 14 engines, 1 dozer, 4 water tenders, 2 Type 1 helicopters, 2 Type 2 helicopters, and 1 Type 3 helicopter

On Thursday, June 22, California Team 3 will transition to a Type 3 organization that will patrol the fire. As containment objectives are met, some crews and overhead are being demobilized or re-assigned to other incidents.

Currently crews on the fireline anticipate minimal fire activity. They continue mop-up and fire suppression repair, working to remove signs of suppression activity and prevent erosion.

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Cajete Fire Burn Area Closed to the Public until July 31

The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) today issued a closure order for the approximately 1,400 acres on the Jemez Ranger District burned by the Cajete Fire.  The restricted area includes:

  • all lands, roads and trails within the fire perimeter (depicted on the closure map),
  • Trail #137 between the last bridge coming from the Las Conchas Trailhead (before the trail ascends) and the East Fork Trailhead, and
  • segments of Forest Road (FR) 270 south of the fire and FR 4G, 4GA and 4GB on the northwestern point of the burned area.

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Nukes and  Marshmallows

By R.W.

Last year, for the third year in a row, the Energy Department and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board listed the possibility of an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction (criticality) in our neighboring town of Los Alamos as one of the most pressing problems facing the nuclear weapons program.

In a field of zero tolerance for mistakes, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) appears to be performing a high risk act at great cost not just to its employees, as in the possibility offered above, but also to neighboring communities, the country’s taxpayers and possibly to the whole planet. We in the Jemez are one of those neighboring communities, and liable to be among the first to suffer the consequences of the culture of neglect that pervades the lab. There is no emergency notification system for all of us that live in the backyard of the lab, we need to be prepared for surprises, but it would at least be nice to know what these might be.

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More Abandoned Campfires in Santa Fe National Forest

There will be another community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. June 18, 2017 at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, 6 Riverview Court, La Cueva, NM. to give the community latest information on the El Cajete Fire.

It has been determined the fire was started by an abandoned campfire. The carelessness of these campers has disrupted peoples’ lives, cost the taxpayer millions of dollars and endangered the lives of hundreds of firefighters. Three more abandoned campfires that needed the attention of fire crews in the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) were reported on the New Mexico Fire Information site. This is happening as smoke billows over the mountains and over 300 firefighters battle the nearby 1.367 El Cajete blaze.

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El Cajete Fire 55 Percent Contained

Yesterday, at 6:00 p.m. the Santa Fe National Forest issued the following update on the El Cajete Fire:

Location:  The fire is burning in the Jemez Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest, on both sides of NM Highway 4 along the southern boundary of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  The Cajete Fire started approximately one mile northeast of Vallecitos de los Indios.  The fire area runs along the East Fork of the Jemez River and is to the west of the burn scars from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire and the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire.

Start Date: June 15, 2017     Cause: Abandoned campfire    Size: 1,315 acres     Containment: 55%

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P’êpô?

By R.W.

Mountain Fish.

When I hear the Jemez speak their amazing sounding language I can rarely separate a single word from the flow, let alone catch any of the meaning of what is being said. I have once or twice been coached, by bored Jemez looking for distraction, to utter simple greetings or pronounce the odd name place, only to have my attempts greeted with either puzzlement or total amusement.

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El Cajete Fire Continues to Burn

By R.W.

Photo R.W.

The wind has changed direction from overnight, but otherwise no notable improvements in the behavior of the El Cajete Fire has been observed, with 0 percent of the over 700 acre blaze contained. The good news is that no human casualties or damage to property have been reported, with firefighters taking measures to save structures in the path of the flames. They have been conducting back burns between the fire and people’s homes to create protection zones.

Air temperatures are high, and humidity levels low; forecasts call for these conditions to continue into the foreseeable future, leaving no option but “full suppression” for the fire on part of the firefighting crews. The fire continue to head in a southeasterly direction, just as it was yesterday. Also, just as through most of the day yesterday, NM Highway 4 remains closed from its intersection with  NM Highway 126, above which, on the stretch leading to Valle Grande, the worst fire conditions are occurring.

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El Cajete Fire Still Spreading

By R.W.

Photo R.W.

Heavy smoke drifted down into the Jemez Valley overnight and early this Friday morning.

With the first light of dawn fire crews are back at the El Cajete Fire site. At the moment the fire is reported to have reached the area just west of previous devastation caused by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, taking out yet another still unburned area of the Jemez Mountain forests. At last report the fire was still 0 percent contained, at about 700 acres and drifting in a southeasterly direction. About 200 hundred people have been evacuated from the area and about 300 structures are considered to be at risk. Thick smoke drifted down the Jemez Valley overnight and into this morning.

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Not Burning Yet

 

Writing for the New Mexico Political Report Laura Paskus reports that in Santa Fe National Forest, officers found 41 abandoned or unattended campfires over Memorial Day weekend, and of that number, on Monday alone, 19 were in the Jemez.  The total for the Jemez for this year is 49 already.

It appears that they were all safely dealt with, the holiday weekend is behind us, and no palls of smoke are visibly rising from the mountains. Thank you Forest Service for dealing with this.