ES-CA Weighs in on BLM Buffalo Tract

What’s in store for the BLM Buffalo Tract north of Placitas? More mining? Real estate development? Preservation of the wildlife corridor?

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) recently surveyed its membership regarding their preferred uses for the land, asking members to rate seven potential uses or restrictions. (Several entities are hoping to obtain all or part of the BLM acreage for various purposes).IMG_0251

Not surprisingly, the majority of ES-CA members surveyed oppose any type of mining on the land. Their other priorities for the land include low water use, limited public access, and prohibition of motorized vehicles (except for emergency and maintenance). A statement by ES-CA regarding the types of land uses it supports, based on its member survey, can be read here.

You can check out the ES-CA website at www.es-ca.org, and their blog at www.es-ca.org/blog.

Santa Ana Buffalo Tract meeting Saturday

Pronghorn antelopeThe Pueblo of Santa Ana will present its plan for the BLM Buffalo Tract at a public meeting tomorrow, October 25, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Tribal Council Chamber, 2 Dove Rd., Santa Ana Pueblo. (The pueblo headquarters are a short distance north of the town of Bernalillo. At Walgreens in Bernalillo, turn right onto Hwy 313 and go two miles to Dove Rd., then left on Dove Rd.).

The pueblo’s plan for the land, should they acquire it, focuses on habitat restoration and preservation and enhancement of wildlife corridors. We wrote about the pueblo’s experience in these areas in an earlier post.

This public meeting is a great opportunity to learn more about the Pueblo’s Natural Resources Division and expertise, view an excellent slide presentation of their accomplishments in habitat and river restoration and wildlife management, and learn about their goals for preserving wildlife on the Buffalo Tract.

Santa Ana is one of several entities hoping to obtain the BLM tract. In addition to the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant Association, San Felipe Pueblo, mining interests and real estate developers are all hoping to acquire some or all of the 3142-acre parcel of rolling foothills, arroyos, and creek basin. And everyone is waiting for the BLM’s revised Rio Puerco Resource Management Plan, which is expected to be released in the next few months. This document will contain BLM’s plans for this tract, including a potential expansion of mining operations, as well as BLM’s plans for other lands in the BLM Rio Puerco region.

Habitat + water = wildlife

Wouldn’t this be nice to see on the Buffalo Tract!

Santa Ana Pueblo talks the talk, and then walks the walk.

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Mule deer.
Photo courtesy of Pueblo of Santa Ana. Used with permission.

Santa Ana cougar family

Mountain lion family visiting a tire drinker at night.
Photo courtesy of Pueblo of Santa Ana. Used with permission.

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Elk.
Photo courtesy of Pueblo of Santa Ana. Used with permission.

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Bobcat.
Photo courtesy of Pueblo of Santa Ana. Used with permission.

WHOA’s three strikes

scales_of_justiceLast week, the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) lost its bid to have the US Supreme Court hear its case against the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the Placitas free-roaming horses. WHOA had previously lost the case in US District Court and lost its subsequent appeal in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. WHOA then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court (No. 13-1385 v. Wild Horse Observers Association, et al., Petitioners). On October 6, 2014, the petition was denied, which simply means the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, not finding it compelling. WHOA has now exhausted its remedies and the case is effectively over.

WHOA’s initial 2011 lawsuit filed in US District Court claimed the Secretary of the Interior and the BLM had violated a federal law protecting wild horses because the agencies hadn’t recognized the free-roaming horses of Placitas as wild.* WHOA also sought an injunction against an Algodones resident to prevent him from working with the BLM to gather free-roaming horses on his land.

Wait, there’s more

WHOA filed a separate lawsuit against the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB), in February 2014. In that suit, WHOA argued the Placitas horses are not livestock and shouldn’t be treated as livestock by NMLB. In July, New Mexico’s Second District Court decided the case against WHOA, ruling the horse are estrays and can be impounded under state livestock laws. In August, WHOA filed an appeal with the NM Court of Appeals. It will be some time before the outcome of that appeal is known.

While WHOA’s legal wrangling will continue a bit longer, so far the group is 0 for 4.

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*Only horse herds identified, inventoried and designated as wild following enactment of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 are considered “wild” under federal law and subject to the law’s protections. No free-roaming/wild horse herd was identified in the Placitas area at that time. New Mexico does have two wild horse herds: one herd of 56 roams the BLM’s Bordo Atravesado Herd Management Area east of Socorro. A second herd of 90 roams the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory in the Carson National Forest.

Three entities vie for BLM “Buffalo Tract”

horse_bufftractEveryone seems to want a piece of the Buffalo Tract, a 3142-acre chunk of BLM land that sits at the north end of Placitas. Along with San Felipe Pueblo and the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant Association (SALH) is interested in the parcel. The Land Grant is hoping to acquire 1500 acres of the tract through the federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act and is presenting its proposal at a public meeting:

Saturday, October 11, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Las Placitas Presbyterian Church

If successful, the organization would develop hiking/equestrian trails and picnic areas on the land. In a recent meeting, Land Grant representatives told us they are working to separately acquire 100 acres of the BLM tract for a solar farm, which would provide revenue to establish an historic working museum in northern Placitas (an architect’s model of the museum will be displayed at the Oct. 11 meeting). The Land Grant’s ad on page 12 of the October issue of the Sandoval Signpost has additional information.

The Pueblo of Santa Ana is also hoping to acquire the BLM tract, via congressional legislation or direct acquisition from the BLM. The primary aim of the “Santa Ana Wildlife Corridor Proposal” is to restore the natural habitat on the land and protect the wildlife corridor through which elk, mountain lion and other animals move between the Sandia and Jemez mountain ranges (read a summary of the proposal here). Most of the Sandia-Jemez corridor lies within the pueblo’s current boundaries. Adding the remaining portion that occurs on the BLM tract would mean the pueblo could ensure the viability of the entire corridor and protect it from development. We recently wrote about Santa Ana’s strong track record in land restoration and wildlife management. Santa Ana will present its plan at a public meeting:

Saturday, October 25, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Pueblo of Santa Ana Tribal Council Chamber
2 Dove Rd., Santa Ana Pueblo

San Felipe Pueblo, the third contender for the BLM tract, presented its plans at a public meeting on August 23. San Felipe Pueblo land manager Ricardo Ortiz indicated part of the BLM acreage would be combined with adjacent pueblo lands and used for a horse sanctuary and related tourism operation. The sanctuary would be managed by a Colorado organization. It was not clear how many horses the sanctuary would accommodate. Wildlife corridors would also be protected, Ortiz said, but he provided no specifics. In September, the local Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) began publicly soliciting funds for a San Felipe “Wild Horse Sanctuary,” with donations going directly to WHOA.