Conservation District Incumbents Win Big

ElectionYesterday’s contested races for three positions on the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District Board turned out to be not just a landslide, but a blow-out. Incumbents Alfred Baca, Patricia Bolton and Marvin Mendelow won 78%, 85% and 81% of the vote, respectively, according to the unofficial count. Wild Horse Observers Association President Patience O’Dowd, who challenged incumbent Bolton, garnered the fewest votes of any candidate. Although we expected only about 150 voters to turn out, the actual number was about 70% higher (257).

It’s great to see that common sense prevailed, and incumbent supervisors committed to addressing the many conservation needs in the District were shown overwhelming support by the broader community.

Unofficial results:

Position 1:

Patricia Bolton       214 (84.6%)
Patience O’Dowd     39 (15.4%)

Position 2:

Marvin Mendelow     205 (81.0%)
Renee Sposato          48 (19.0%)

Position 5:

Alfred Baca             200 (77.8%)
Jami D. Watson        57 (22.2%)

Polls close in 3 hours– Get out and vote for conservation!

Be sure to take a few minutes to vote before 7 pm today in the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District election. We encourage votes for Baca, Bolton and Mendelow. You can learn more about these three candidates here and read about the election in this Sandoval Signpost article. With such a low-turnout election, every vote matters. Make your voice heard in support of District-wide soil and water conservation efforts. There’s easy parking and no lines at the polling station: Our Lady of Sorrows Gymnasium, 301 S. Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo. Polls open until 7 pm.

Reminder: Vote today for Baca, Bolton and Mendelow!

check boxEvery vote will count in the election for three supervisors with the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District. Encourage your friends and neighbors to vote. See our post of May 3 below to understand why this particular election is so important.

Let’s not let our Soil and Water Conservation District, which is a local government entity, be used by free-roaming horse advocates seeking a political platform. Our District needs and deserves supervisors who are committed to district-wide conservation efforts, including riparian area restoration, flood control, erosion prevention, and watershed health.

Vote 7 am to 7 pm, Our Lady of Sorrows Gymnasium, 301 S. Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo. Bring proof that you reside in the District, such as a voter registration card or utility bill or other documentation.

Vote on Tuesday!


Area in foreground, unprotected by fencing, shows bare, eroded soils from overgrazing by feral horses. Behind the fence, native grasses grow, protecting the soil from erosion.

Three district supervisor seats are open on the 5-member board of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (Coronado SWCD) and three free-roaming horse advocates are hoping to get elected to them on Tuesday. This might be amusing if it weren’t such a bad idea. District Supervisors are charged with helping farmers, ranchers and other landowners address soil and water conservation needs—and the overpopulation of free-roaming horses in our District and throughout New Mexico is a serious cause of environmental degradation.

Patience O’Dowd, President (and perhaps the only remaining member?) of the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA), is running against incumbent supervisor Patricia Bolton in hopes of joining her cousin Gary Miles on the Coronado board. We think O’Dowd, who actively promotes the presence of free-roaming horses on District grasslands, riparian areas and watershed–despite the environmental damage this causes–and who has a history of burning bridges with people she works with, would make a poor supervisor.

Two other associates of Miles–Jami Watson and Renee Sposato– are running against incumbent supervisors Al Baca and Marvin Mendelow. Sposato and Watson are or were part of Gary Miles’/Placitas Animal Rescue’s self-proclaimed “Wild Horse Management Team.” Watson, Sposato, and O’Dowd (as well as Miles) all live in the Indian Flats neighborhood of northeastern Placitas. We think the District benefits from having supervisors outside the Placitas area. Baca and Mendelow are from Algodones and provide representation and understanding of soil, water and flood control issues in that part of the District.

We’re also skeptical that O’Dowd, Sposato and Watson are interested in organizing conservation projects, restoring degraded habitat, and building positive, effective relationships throughout the District. Given their history of working on free-roaming horse issues, it strikes us as implausible that all three have suddenly developed an interest in natural resources conservation work. We think it’s more likely they are looking for a platform to espouse their views about free-roaming horses–or maybe they just can’t forgive Coronado for issuing a resolution in 2013 that pointed out the environmental damage feral horses were causing.

After a couple years of turnover and turmoil, Coronado SWCD is starting to find its feet again and get some new projects going. If you support soil and water conservation and you’d like to see Coronado SWCD become a more effective organization, we urge you to vote for Alfred Baca, Patricia Bolton and Marvin Mendelow. Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District elections have a very low turn-out, so your vote will make a difference.

Polls are open Tuesday, May 5th, 7 am to 7 pm, Our Lady of Sorrows Gymnasium, 301 S. Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo. Bring proof that you reside in the District, which includes Algodones, Bernalillo, Placitas, San Ysidro, Town of Cochiti Lake, and all or parts of several pueblos, including Santa Ana and San Felipe.

You can learn more about Coronado SWCD at and learn more about the candidates and election here and in this Sandoval Signpost article.

Thrashing about


A trio of Crissal Thrasher eggs. Photo courtesy of Zane Dohner

A bird-watching neighbor who regularly walks the Placitas Open Space spotted this Crissal Thrasher nest in an old Russian olive tree in the bottom of Las Huertas Canyon. He got a photo of the fuzzy hatchlings a few days later.

Thrasher 3

Two hatchlings. Photo courtesy of Zane Dohner

It’s always entertaining to watch Crissal Thrashers as they zealously dig through dirt and leaf matter to snag spiders and other insects. They may be drably colored, but they make up for it with their intense eyes and that serious beak. You can hear their beautiful song here.

Crissal thrasher. jpg

The elegant Crissal Thrasher. Photo credit: John J. Mosesso, National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII)

Trio of WHOA Horse Bills Die in Committee

New_Mexico_State_Capitol_east_entranceThree horse-related bills and amendments died in committee at the Roundhouse yesterday. They were crafted by Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA NM) president Patience O’Dowd and sponsored by Gail Chasey, D-Bernalillo.

In the packed meeting room, opposition to all three bills was strong, with many people from around the state speaking out against them. As the meeting wore on, Rep. Chasey may have realized she’d been railroaded into sponsoring some rather bad pieces of legislation. O’Dowd was chastised a couple of times by Candy Ezzell, Chair of the Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee (and a rancher who knows her horses), for making misleading statements.

Number 1HB 410 proposed to prohibit “horse slaughter or transporting horses for slaughter for human consumption.” It also banned the transportation of horse meat for human consumption within New Mexico. A violation of either law would have been a misdemeanor. While meant to strike a blow against horse slaughter in general, the confusing, poorly written bill would have presented significant enforcement issues. A reader who attended the committee hearing writes, “The ranchers and other horse folks at the hearing…noted that anyone hauling a horse through New Mexico would have to ‘prove’ the horse wasn’t [intended] for human consumption.” The vote: 7-1 against. [Note: this paragraph has been revised to correct the original post].

Number 2Currently, horses are legally considered livestock rather than companion animals, and must be treated and cared for according to livestock and animal husbandry laws. Different laws (cruelty-to-animals laws) address the humane treatment of companion animals and pets. HB 411 proposed to amend an existing animal cruelty law to include “equines not classified as food animals.” Changing which section of the law horses fall under, while it sounds simple, would have many repercussions and present significant problems for ranchers, farmers, horse boarders and trainers, producers of horse events, and others who work with horses. Like cruelty-to-animal  laws, livestock laws also provide protection to animals. Groups such as the American Horse Council and other national and state equine organizations are against redefining horses as companion animals, but it’s a complex issue with arguments on both sides.

Regardless, this particular bill was not well thought out. According to the NM Livestock Board (NMLB), “The proposed amendment is difficult to understand and impossible to implement.” The NM Department of Agriculture said it would “cause problems for normal agricultural operations across the state.” The LFC’s Fiscal Impact Report noted that the bill conflicted with existing state and federal laws regarding livestock and presented a number of enforcement issues. And what the heck are “equines not classified as food animals,” anyway? The NMLB wrote, “It incorrectly leads one to believe there is such a classification as a ‘food horse.’ No such classification or definition exists.” The upshot? 7-1 against.

Number 3HB 412 would have required the NM Livestock Board to “identify and monitor animals at the Mexican border that have been rejected for slaughter for human consumption.” By way of background, horses that are transported to Canada or Mexico must appear to be in reasonable health; horses that are obviously ill or decrepit are turned away at the border. However well-intentioned, HB412 was short on specifics and timelines, didn’t define what is meant by “identify and monitor,” and included no funding for the cash-strapped NMLB to carry out the ambiguous tasks. This one failed 8-0.

Joining Forces to Spur Action

sage grouse

Sage grouse populations in the West are threatened by habitat destruction from free-roaming horses.

Frustrated by the continuing overpopulation of free-roaming horses and degradation of public lands throughout the West, 13 organizations banded together a couple years ago to form the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition.

Among the Coalition’s members are the Wildlife Society and other conservation organizations, sportsmen organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and National Rifle Association, and natural resources professional societies such as the Society for Range Management.

According to the Coalition, “The overpopulation of horses and burros on public lands poses a severe threat to the native fish, wildlife and plants that characterize a healthy rangeland ecosystem.”