April 2014

Green Fire Times – 60 Months


This is the 60th monthly edition of Green Fire Times. Though GFT has been pigeonholed by some as an “environmental” publication, this edition is actually the first time we have focused almost entirely on current environmental issues at play in New Mexico. When I use terms like “environment” or “bioregional sustainability,” I include people as part of that. Throughout the past five years, GFT has sought to present a mix of articles that reflects our region’s communities, cultures, economy and the environment in ways that show how interdependent all of those elements are.

In time for Earth Day and related events More >

Fighting Goliaths in the Land of Enchantment


Barbara Basler


Its law office, in a small adobe building that is also home to two beauty shops, is a warren of tiny rooms filled with sagging bookshelves, mismatched furniture and sleeping dogs. The slightly shabby Santa Fe office of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center doesn’t look like it houses a formidable legal force. But it does.


The Law Center is the most important environmental organization in New Mexico today,” says Antonio Luján, a former state representative. “It has credibility with the Legislature, credibility with communities, and it takes on the right issues.”


For more than two decades, this smart, More >

Snapshots from Around New Mexico: Hot Environmental Issues in 2014


The following are a sampling of responses from a wide range of environmental organizations in response to being asked to briefly identify what they consider to be the most pressing environmental issues facing New Mexico. Taken together, one cannot help being moved by the clearly heartfelt commitment of these advocates as they go all-in to protect our land, air, water and interdependence with the rest of nature. Contact information is provided, and we encourage you to dig deeper and find a way to support your chosen issue and organization. We must all be involved in shaping our own destiny.


Earl More >

New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light


Joan Brown


What do Methodists, Mormons, Mennonites, Jews, Buddhists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Bahá’ís, Muslims, Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers and Unitarians have in common? All these faith communities care for creation and work to address climate change through New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light (NMIPL). Established as a nonprofit in 2006, NMIPL is one of 40 state affiliates of the national organization Interfaith Power and Light (IPL). Episcopal priest Sally Bingham conceived the idea of IPL 13 years ago when she realized faith communities have an incredible role to play in addressing the spiritual and ethical implications of climate change by motivating their congregants More >

The New Mexico Mining Act

A landmark New Mexico law comes of age


Shelbie Knox


Some of the biggest mines in the United States operate in New Mexico. The Chino and Tyrone copper mines, the fourth- and fifth-largest open-pit mines in the United States, flank Silver City in the southwestern corner of the state. From the Highway 152 overlook that skirts the edge of the Chino pit, the three-story-tall dump-trucks that haul copper ore up haulage roads look like so many scurrying ants.

In the north, near Questa, the Molycorp molybdenum mine (now owned and operated by Chevron Mining Inc.) may not be so large, but it nonetheless More >

Cleanup of Toxic Uranium Legacy Taking Decades

NMED to allow discharge of 5,500 gallons per minute of contaminated groundwater directly onto the land


Laura Watchempino and Susan Gordon


The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released a draft permit for public review in December, 2013 on groundwater discharges at the Homestake Mine near Milan and finished collecting comments in February.

The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and its member groups submitted technical comments on Discharge Permit 200, stating that the permit as drafted will not ensure protection of the public’s health or future water supplies. One major flaw in the permit is that pre-uranium development background values were More >

Roca Honda Uranium Mine: A Bad Idea


Nadine Padilla


Communities of northwestern New Mexico are still struggling to clean up contaminated lands resulting from the last uranium mine boom of the 1940s –1980s. During that time, our area, the Grants Mineral Belt, produced more uranium than any other place in the world and accounted for almost half of all the uranium produced in the United States. This production was laxly regulated for the workers, the environment and the general community. Contamination of our water and land and exposure to radiation have taken a toll. Cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, birth defects, miscarriages and other health problems plague our More >

Stormwater in New Mexico


Michael Jensen


Stormwater happens when rain or snowmelt runs along the ground, often picking up sediment and other forms of pollutants, and into rivers, streams and lakes.


Despite the arid climate in much of New Mexico, there can be very large amounts of rain in a short period of time. In addition, New Mexico landscapes often have sparse vegetation and steep topography, and land development creates large areas of impermeable cover from parking lots, streets and sidewalks. All of these factors lead to increased velocity of runoff during storm events, which, in turn, leads to more pollution being picked up by More >

Profile: Amigos Bravos


Amigos Bravos is a statewide conservation and environmental justice advocacy organization, the mission of which is to protect and restore the waters of New Mexico. The organization’s capacity has been built over a 26-year history. Headquartered in Taos, Amigos Bravos has a strong presence in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, a staff of six, over 2,000 members, and a cadre of over 50 dedicated volunteers.


The mission and practice of Amigos Bravos is to ensure that environmental protection is linked to social-justice principles. The organization is recognized for being an inclusive, multicultural, culturally competent advocacy organization and for its success in building More >

NM Legislative Review of the Water Trust Board:

A Constructive Tool to Protect Watersheds


Michael Aune


The state of New Mexico appears to place a greater emphasis on the infrastructure and storage for the delivery of water than on the preservation and protection of the water supply, such as headwaters and aquifers. Of the $89 million in the state’s capital outlay bill designated for water projects signed by Gov. Martínez in mid-March, only $6 million is designated for watershed restoration and forest thinning. That is less than 7 percent for efforts to protect and preserve the sources of water.


During the 2014 New Mexico Legislative Session, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) More >

Defending the Peoples’ Commons: Part 1


Maceo Carillo Martinet, Ph.D.


Recently, I was traveling in northern New Mexico with two other environmental scientists who work on restoring the land’s health. After passing miles of eroded land with barely any vegetation, one of the scientists lamented, “It’s sad to see the land so scarred and damaged like this.” The other scientist responded confidently, saying, “Yeah, it’s just another example of the tragedy of the commons. It’s the same old story throughout the Southwest.” His colleague seemed to agree.

Another example of the tragedy of the commons”? The expression “tragedy of the commons” is used to describe the destruction More >

The SouthWest Organizing Project

Protecting Communities’ Quality of Life


Juan Reynosa


When an industrial operation begins in a New Mexico community, local governments work to make sure the operation is effective, that all of the proper permits are issued and that the wheels of commerce are well greased. Unfortunately, this often leaves the job of protecting the community’s quality of life to the people who live there. While regulators and elected officials debate policies that could protect people, community organizations concerned with environmental issues face the daily reality of dense industrial presence right in their backyards. This intersection of industrial impact and political inaction is often More >

Year of Decision Confronts Gila River


Dutch Salmon


As an icon of wildness, freedom of flow, sport and recreation, the Gila River knows no superiors in the Southwest, albeit its modest current averages less than 100 cubic feet per second year-round, and agricultural diversions sometimes take even that for “beneficial use.” By the time the Gila, headed west from its source high in New Mexico’s Mogollon Range, is some 80 miles into Arizona, most of its story is told, its course a dry wash, its riparian zone scoured and stripped. It’s a great story, though, that first 200 miles. At the end of this year the river’s More >

State Land Office Works to Restore La Plata River Habitat


Story and photos by Marti Niman


At first glance, the Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) outside of Farmington seems an unlikely site for wildlife habitat or even for a river. Tucked between a stretch of warehouses, gas stations and fast-food strip malls, the dirt road into the area winds through dune-like stretches of sand before veering under a small canopy of cottonwoods clustered along the sandy banks of the La Plata River. Much of the river is eroded, undercut, clogged by sediment and overgrown with invasive plant species such as salt cedar, Russian olive and kochia. Both the State Land More >

Honoring Our Ancestors This Earth Day 44


Jack Loeffler


It isn’t as though we haven’t heard powerful voices through time extolling both the wonders of nature and the importance of preserving those wonders. Although Henry David Thoreau lived but 44 years (1817–1862), his abundant writings reveal his depth of concern for the natural history of the landscape around Concord, Mass., and for the need for civil disobedience when the governing body governs awry. Thoreau steeped himself in the countryside around Concord. When he entered the path through the woods, he endeavored to be in the woods whole-mindedly, savoring the flavor of nature, working assiduously to leave his concerns More >

HOME: Earth Day Community Celebration


Saturday April 26, 12 – 4 pm, Railyard Park, Santa Fe


Griet Laga


This place is home. I feel at home.” What does that really mean? Does the sense of home require a particular connection? Do certain smells, tastes, memories, feelings or people bring us closer into this feeling? How about being at home in ourselves? What are the connections between home, Earth and ourselves?


HOME: Earth Day at the Railyard, on April 26, will be a colorful, village-style community festival in celebration of our interconnectedness with each other and the natural world. More than 30 local groups and community leaders involved in More >

Earth Day 2014 Newsbites


Earth Day SF Bike-a-Thon and Southside Celebration—April 26


This Earth Day, you are invited to take action. Join Youth Allies’ Bike-a-Thon from 2:30-3:30 pm starting at Railyard Park, continuing down the river trail and Agua Fría Rd. to the Southside of town, where there will be a celebration from 3:30-5:30 pm at Earth Care/Zona Del Sol, 6601 Jaguar Dr. By participating you will help support one of the first solar projects on the Southside, organized by local youth in Earth Care’s Youth Allies program. Youth Allies leaders won a competition, created by Positive Energy, that will provide a full solar array More >

Newbites – April 2014


Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Lobbies NM Congressional Delegation

The Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities, a member of the Washington, DC-based Energy Communities Alliance, was formed in 2011, and plays a role in protecting and promoting communities of northern NM. The coalition is comprised of eight cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Members of the Regional Coalition traveled to Washington D.C. in late February to advocate for $255 million in support of environmental remediation at LANL, the minimum amount needed to meet the cleanup agreement negotiated between the NM Environment Department and the US Department More >





April 20, 10 am-2 pm

BioPark Party for the Planet

The Aquarium, Botanic Garden, Tingley Beach and the Zoo

What can you do to protect the planet and its animals and plants? Hands-on activities, discovery stations, talks and demonstrations. Children’s Seed Festival. Activities free with admission. 505.764.6214


April 20, 10 am-3 pm

Petroglyph National Monument

Activities including safe solar viewing, live raptor presentation, Wild Wolf Sanctuary and hands-on activities. Free. http://www.nps.gov/petr/planyourvisit/events.htm


April 21, 10 am-6 pm

Celebrate the Earth Festival

La Montañita Co-op, 3500 Central SE

Info booths, music, dance, face painting, kids’ activities. Kids’ Bike Rodeo and education. 505.217.2027


April 21, 11 am-1 pm

Junkado Parade

Silver Ave. beginning at Yale, moving More >

What’s Going On? – Albuquerque – April 2014


April 2, 5:30-7:30 pm

Green Drinks

Hotel Andaluz, 125 2nd St.

Network and mingle with people interested in local business, clean energy and other green issues. Featured speaker: Will Lana, CFA, on Sustainable Investing. 505.244.3700, Lindsay@nmgreenchamber.com


April 3, 10:30 am-2 pm

NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council Meeting

NMSU Campus, 4501 Indian School NE

Discussion of legislative session outcomes, innovative legislation in other states connecting food, farming and health initiatives, local food policy councils’ work around the state. RSVP: 505.660.8403


April 3-4

NM Solar Companies Meet German Solar Delegation

UNM Science Park Rotunda Room, 801 University SE

Discussion sessions and opportunities for NM solar companies to meet reps from 8 German More >