Wolf EIS Completed

Wolf

After reviewing extensive public comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has completed its evaluation of proposed changes to its Mexican wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico that will allow greater flexibility to conserve one of the nation’s rarest mammals and greater responsiveness to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior.
In releasing its Final En-vironmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on new provisions proposed under the Endangered Species Act in 2013 and revis-ed last summer, the FWS sets the stage for a final decision on the changes in the program in January 2015.
“We have received and analyzed more than 40,000 comments on the proposed changes as part of developing the Environmental Impact Statement, as well as consulted with state agencies, tribes, and other stakeholders,” said Ben-jamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “We believe the preferred al-ternative strikes the best balance in terms of what is needed to re-establish a genetically diverse wolf population while supporting the interests of other stakeholders on a working landscape.”…

90-Million-Year-Old Turtle Discovered

Turtle

In a second major archeological find for Sierra County this year, a Truth or Consequences man has found a 90-million-year-old fossilized turtle.
The Sentinel will not print the location of the find, since the fossil has not yet been excavated. The excavation will take place soon on Bureau of Land Management property.
Last June, a complete 3-million-year-old fossilized stegomastodon skull was found at Elephant Butte Lake, with the tusks intact. Another mastodon fossil was found in January in the San Andres Mountains. Jeff Dornbusch, a volunteer for Geronimo Springs Museum in T-or-C, found the turtle fossil two summers ago and didn’t know what it was, he said. He told how he was recently talking with BLM Archeologist Jim Renn about it, and Renn wanted to see it. Dornbusch took him there, along with a paleontologist with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, and they confirmed the age of the fossil…

Roadside Fire East of Cuchillo

Smoke Monitor obtained for Area

Winston volunteer fireman, Jim Jones, came upon the scene of a roadside fire Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 1:15 p.m. Jones was on his way to Truth or Consequences in his personal vehicle when he heard the call come over his radio. Monticello Fire Department was called and Jones stayed on scene to assist. Several hay bales had fallen from a vehicle just east of Cuchillo at mile marker 4…

 

Murder Charge Dismissed Against 1 Chavez

Court Proceedings

The murder charge filed against Deann Chavez has been dismissed by the Seventh Judi-cial District Attorney’s office. Paperwork filed at the Sierra County Magistrate Court on July 14, the same day as the Chavez’ preliminary hearing was scheduled for reflect the attorney’s office “nolle prosequi” decision. Deann Chavez, and her husband Frank Chavez, were arrested June 21, each on a charge of murder and tampering with evidence, following the shooting death of Jeff Martin on Las Palomas Canyon Road around 11 a.m. From documents filed in court, and all the witnesses who were in the area or had passed by, it showed that Deann was in a truck pulling a trailer ahead of her husband, Frank, who was witnessed stopped in the road arguing with Martin. Additionally, court records indicated that the blood splatter evidence was located on the front of the tractor that Frank was admittedly driving when the shooting took place…

 

Feud Ends In Fatal Shooting

Police beat

Feuding that spanned nearly three decades is said to have come to a fatal end when a man allegedly shot and killed another in the roadway of Las Palomas Canyon Road. Sierra County Regional Dispatch Authority received a report of a man laying on the ground next to a backhoe off Las Palomas Road Saturday morning, June 21. A passerby found the man just after 11 that morning. According to the man’s statement to investigators, he stopped to render aid, but when he touched the man on the arm and neck he realized the man was lifeless…

Rock Crawling Event To Bring Hundreds

rock-crawl-6-20-2014

Sierra County’s abundance of vast and rugged public land is bringing hundreds of adventure enthusiasts here during one week this fall to spend their time and money. The Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club is bringing its 24th Annual Chile Chal-lenge to the Caballo Lake State Park Riverside Camp-ground on Oct. 15-18, with hundreds of registrants and spectators expected to attend. The event has been held in Las Cruces for the past 23 years, but designation of the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, near where past events were held, has led to the number of trails available being cut and additional red tape for organizers. So this year, said Dan Petit, spokesman for the club, they are bringing the event here. Petit said the club limits the registered vehicles to 500, and already have about 175 participants planning to attend the upcoming event. Since registration doesn’t begin until July 4, there is no exact number of those who will be attending, but “In the past we have had 400 to 500 participants,” said Petit. “And with the anticipation of new trails for this event we think we will have a minimum of 250.” To be held in the Greer Canyon area east of Caballo Lake, the event will bring visitors here for four day…

County Lets Manager Go

sierra county

Following a closed-door executive Tues., May 13, Sierra County Commissioners re-opened the meeting to the public and in a unanimous vote approved a motion to terminate the contract with County Manager Mark Huntzinger, effective immediately. Commissioners then ac-knowledged County Human Resources Director Janette A. Monsibaiz would be handling the County Manager’s responsibilities, as efforts are initiated to fill the now vacant post.

Mired in Lack of Details
During the commission’s regular session, board members heard a brief report from newly appointed Flood Commissioner Jim Goton. In response to a query from Commission Chairman Walter Armijo, Goton confirmed he had officially accepted the resignation former Flood Director Barry Ragsdale submitted during the previous week’s special meeting. He later affirmed action had already been taken to advertise for candidates to fill the flood director vacancy. Goton told commissioners his immediate plan to address flood damage repairs throughout the County were focused on the “orderly dispersal of flood funding in the most cost efficient manner, with available information.” He then qualified this statement by stressing, “We have no information, and the GPS numbers do not work.” Goton explained he was unable to correlate areas slated for repairs with coordinates established on the approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worksheets. He noted at least three separate project sites were designated by identical coordinates and told commissioners his efforts to clarify this issue with FEMA officials was thus far without results. Goton went on to relay how much of the on-going repair work was beneficial. While stating he felt the present contractors were doing their best to address their respective project assignments, Goton said his inspection of worksites found a number of efforts were being focused on areas that differed from those designated in the FEMA worksheets. The flood commissioner reemphasized he was unable to properly direct repair efforts without accurate information and relayed how his discussion with a FEMA official in Louisiana served only to direct him to a Google Earth KMZ file which he had yet to be able to access as of the morning’s session.

County Manager Huntzinger explained how the aforementioned files were created with Google Earth, but were not accessible through the Google website. He indicated efforts would be made to aid Goton in accessing the appropriate files. Commission Vice Chair Frances Luna expressed dismay at Goton’s inability to obtain accurate details from FEMA authorities. She noted how former Flood Director Ragsdale had maintained regular communications with FEMA officials and questioned why these contacts and information conduits were not relayed to Goton. The Goton said he queried Ragsdale about this information, but received no response. Luna then questioned why the coordinates could not be located through old school methods; utilizing current maps and emphasized she felt the flood commissioner should be making a more concerned effort to acquire necessary information from FEMA authorities. In a brief statement from one of the contractors presently working on Flood Commission projects, commissioners learned the FEMA worksheets provided only with most basic directions regarding how contractors were to address designated areas of concern. Goton indicated this reinforced how a lack of detailed information was inhibiting the ability to effectively deploy contractor resources told commissioners and said while contracted firms were offering diligent efforts; they were doing so without any direct supervision in the field. Commissioner Bobby Allen questioned the latter statement to which Goton relayed how the responsibility of contractor oversight rested with the flood director’s position and was not included in the flood commissioner’s job description. Goton said he was scheduled to meet with Army Corps of Engineer authorities Wed., May 14 and suggested this session might provide information that would allow him to more effectively coordinate repair efforts. While commissioners considered no formal action regarding the flood commissioner’s report, Luna confirmed administrative assistance would be given to Goton pertaining to the acquisition of more detailed information from FEMA authorities and suggested the board should include regular monthly reports from the flood commissioner on future agendas. Chairman Armijo acknowledged the current tax levy presently provided the county with approximately $300,000 to fund Flood Commission activities. After noting Sierra County was one of only three New Mexico counties with an established flood commission, he suggested alternatives were available and indicated the annual funding could be more directly applied toward addressing flood repairs and…

Emotions Flood Meeting

Flood Meeting

After initiating their May 5 special meeting, Sierra County Commissioners opened the floor for public comments and were immediately confronted with an onslaught of concerns centering on newly appointed Flood Commissioner Jim Goton and recent flood mitigation actions taken by long time Flood Director Barry Ragsdale. Flood Director Ragsdale was first to address commissioners and in prepared statement, began by noting he has been forced to operate without an appointed Flood Commissioners for three of the seven plus years he has held the position. In responding to the September 2013 floods which ravaged areas along Animas Creek and several other major watersheds throughout the county, Ragsdale relayed how he met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials and how, over the past seven months, he has been working through mandatory application processes to acquire funding to address flood damage repairs. Ragsdale stressed his efforts have been focused on providing safeguards for area residents and addressing related property concerns in the best manner possible. Following Governor Susana Martinez’ April 29 appointment of Jim Goton to fill the long vacant Sierra County Flood Commissioner post, Ragsdale …

County Poised To Move On Flood Repairs

Kingston flood

With an April 16 endorsement by Sierra County Flood Director Barry Ragsdale, the final processing of six major flood remediation projects is now proceeding. This action is anticipated to deliver approximately $3.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to Sierra County’s coffers and in the coming weeks will allow the initiation of contracted work to address damage and issues related to the September 2013 floods. Sierra County Manager Mark Huntzinger confirmed the action April 17 and acknowledged the funding would be focused on six specific projects, which were identified through an assessment process involving FEMA authorities, Flood Director Ragsdale and other officials. Huntzinger said the Flood Director’s signature would now clear the way for FEMA to release the approved funds to State authorities, which would in turn allow the County to begin expending the revenues for the flood remediation projects. In a brief telephone interview April 17, Flood Director Ragsdale confirmed the aforementioned information and emphasized the overall initiative was a function of the Sierra County Flood Commission. Ragsdale noted final processing of an initial project to address portions of Animas Creek and several other sites in the adjacent area, was already complete. He said this effort served as an aid in streamlining the processing of the subsequent projects and anticipated actual work would begin in the Animas Creek area within the coming week. The Flood Director explained how the designation of numerous projects, rather than one comprehensive effort, ensured remediation efforts could be completed before the anticipated return of monsoon rains later this summer. The  initiatives included on the project worksheets now in final processing are: ….

What Kind Of Tourist Will Virgin Galactic Bring To Our Doorstep?

Spaceport America

With Virgin Galactic (VG) now aiming for its first launch by the end of this year, there are some entrepreneurial opportunities currently available for Sierra County residents. Virgin Galactic’s Carolyn Wincer, head of travel and tourism development, and Brandon Rettke, a Category manager/hospitality, both spoke to about 50 local residents who attended a March 27 meeting designed to inform potential entrepreneurs of the amenities VG staff, space tourists and their guests need. The first launch is planned for later this year, but could be postponed for further testing. However, Wincer said the company is moving forward in preparation for the planned flights that will take place at Spaceport America (SA). “We are on the home stretch,” said Wincer. “Right now we are finishing the interior of the gateway (its facilities at SA) and will begin moving into the building by mid-summer.” According to Wincer, 700 people have paid deposits to take a space flight, but at six (including two pilots) per flight it will take a long time for these to be completed. So, the company is making immediate plans for the first 85 who signed up. As the flights progress more than one rocket could be launched and eventually it hopes to be making at least two launches a month. “It’s important for the experience of the ‘pioneering team,’ the first 85 customers, to be a memorable one and for us to ensure it is safe – that we get it right,” she said……

County Tends To Fire And Flood Issues

Barry Ragsdale

While significant focus was placed on the Sierra County Commission’s consideration of flood mitigation contracts, topping the board’s March 18 meeting’s action items was the initiation of fire restrictions for all unincorporated areas of Sierra County. Local residents may recognize this as a yearly measure adopted when rising temperatures and spring winds combine to create the often dangerous wildfire conditions. This year, so far, most of NM has experienced less than average amounts of precipitations, prompting state authorities to implement fire restrictions earlier than usual. During the commission’s Feb. 18 session, Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca encouraged the board to implement fire restrictions. The sheriff explained how many areas of the county were very dry and said formal measures would allow him and his deputies to begin enforcing tighter control on inappropriate activities. As commissioners addressed proposed Ordinance No. 14-001, County Attorney Dave Pato acknowledged the standard measure included time constraints relating to restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks. Because of these established time limits and the early move to implement the fire ordinance, Pato suggested commissioners omit the normally included moratorium on fireworks, section 5-D, and address it as a separate measure on a future agenda. Commission members agreed and unanimously supported a motion to initiate an immediate moratorium on open and controlled burning including trash barrel burning. Agricultural burning may st…

Transforming Sierra County Into An Adventure Destination

Tourism Photo

Cuchillo resident LeRoy Henderson was in his yard last winter when a couple of out-of-state elk hunters drove into his driveway to inquire if an antique truck he had was for sale. After telling them no, Henderson said they asked him “What is there to do around here — is there someone we can hire to take us on some hikes or sightseeing tours?” The two men had paid thousands of dollars to spend a week hunting elk in the nearby Gila National Forest, and after bagging their limit on day one were looking for some adventure nearby, they said. Sierra County residents know there is an abundance of adventurous activities within a day’s drive, but for an out-of-town visitor who ends up here without a guide to direct them to these……

Commission Renews Leadership Posts

Walter Armijo

In their first regular session of the new year, Tuesday, January 14, Sierra County Commissioners addressed the election of leadership posts. In a two-to-one vote, members approved the reelection of both Chairman Walter Armijo and Vice-Chair Frances Luna for another term in their respective roles. Commissioner Bobby Allen abstained from the nomination and election process, but did cast the sole dissenting vote when members later addressed a resolution formalizing the election.

BOARD APPOINTMENTS After affirming the commission’s leadership for the coming year, board members attended to a number of pending advisory board vacancies. Prior to any action, County Manager Mark Huntzinger noted the City of T-or-C’s recent decision to establish term limits for advisory board appointees and suggested commissioners might consider this option. Vice-Chair Luna opened a brief discussion by emphasizing her opposition to term limits at this period of time. She acknowledged present difficulties in securing a sufficient number of community volunteers to fill available board vacancies and suggested the imposition of term limits would only further inhibit this process. Chairman Armijo concurred with Luna’s position, but also stressed his desire to continue actively advertising for new volunteers, who could possibly bring fresh perspectives to the various boards. In separate actions, commissioners unanimously approved the reappointment of Denise Addie-Villagomez as county representative to Sierra Vista Hospital’s Governing Board and renewed the terms of Planning Commission members Richard Sainz, Patrick Garay and Jeff Cox. After reviewing a small number of applications, board members wholly endorsed the appointment of Elephant Butte City Planner Bradford Dyjak to serve as member of Sierra County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board. Commissioners further renewed the terms Lodgers Tax Board members Kim Skinner and Linda Turner, while directing administrative staff to proceed with advertising for applicants to fill the seat being vacated by long-time member Catherine Wanek.

AUDIT REPORT ACCEPTED After County Manager Huntzinger acknowledged the County’s 2012-2013 fiscal audit report was complete and had been formally approved by state authorities, he briefly outlined the only two findings resulting from the process. Huntzinger …..

Diamond Named Ag Volunteer Of The Year

John Diamond

Last week during the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Annual Banquet agriculture producers, organizations and government agencies gathered to honor those who go above and beyond to promote their industry. Awarded that evening was Sierra County resident, John Diamond, recognized as the 2013 Ag Volunteer of the Year.
Matt Rush, CEO of New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau explained the award recognizes those that fight for agriculture on their own time with their own money. “John continues to make government agencies aware of farm and ranch issues, he travels to Santa Fe during session to lobby the legislature, and more recently he’s taken an active role in opposing the Mexican wolf program and the proposed BLM Tri-County Plan.”
John Diamond currently serves as President of the Sierra County Farm Bureau. During his acceptance of the award he shared the honor with his local farm bureau board. “We have a board of directors, fairly young in age, and with the leadership of several long-time members we are getting things done in Sierra County. We have supportive members. Together we bring awareness to issues facing our county, particularly those impacting agriculture. What we’ve done in Sierra County is a result of the combined efforts of many people, not just mine.”
Diamond is an active member of several organizations representing the industries he loves—ranching and hunting. In attendance that evening were representatives from ….

Wolves: In Government Clothing

Wolf Documentary

California film producer, David Spade, recently visited Sierra County while filming his two-part documentary series “Wolves in Government Clothing.” Wolves in Government Clothing is a film about predators both in the wild and in government, and how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has empowered both of them to destroy people’s lives. The film includes firsthand accounts from Americans across the country who are forced to deal with federal wolves on a daily basis. Local residents interviewed for the film included Crystal Diamond of Beaverhead Ranch who addressed the challenges of raising children among wolves, “Like all mothers, it’s our God given responsibility to protect our children from the dangers of the world. As mothers in wolf country, we have the additional challenge of protecting our children from a threat imposed by our own government and funded by our own tax dollars.” Spade says he was approached many years ago while in Yellowstone Park to sign a petition to bring wolves into the park. Understanding what it would mean to wildlife and livestock, he refused. Through the ESA it happened anyway, and the results were exactly what most Montanans had anticipated—livestock destroyed and wildlife ravaged. “Not all animals are compatible with civilization. California, where I currently live, has a grizzly bear on the state flag, but there are no grizzly bears in the state,” says Spade. “There is no way to mix this aggressive predator with populated areas. The grizzly bear is not unique in its inability to mix well with civilization.” During his visit to New Mexico wolf country the storyteller was introduced to …

Flood Damage Team Completes Assessments

Flooding

Federal, state and local officials this past week conducted individual assessments of areas statewide that were damaged in the September flooding, including sites in Sierra County.

Earl Armstrong, a spokesperson for the Region 6 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said he spent Monday, Sept. 30, here with others, including city and county officials, as part of a Damage Assessment Team that will soon present it findings to Gov. Susana Martinez. She will then use the information to request that the federal government declare an Emergency Disaster Area, which will allow individuals in the affected areas to apply for loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

SBA officials were also part of the team touring the affected areas in Sierra County. Look for future reports in the Sentinel about ways to apply for these loans and any other assistance available for flood victims.

Public Hearings On Wolf Proposals

Gray-Wolf

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will host a public hearing next month to receive public comments for the official record on two proposed rules: (1) Proposal to Remove the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threat-ened Wildlife and Maintain-ing Protections for the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) by Listing it as Endangered; and (2) Pro-posed Revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf.
The public hearing for both proposed rules will be on October 4, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Embassy Suites (Sandia Room), 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Comments on the proposals will be accepted orally and in writing at that time, or in writing through October 28.
For more information and for links to submit comments on the gray wolf delisting proposal go to …

Sierra County Flooded

pulled from mud

When weeklong rains culminated in a deluge on Friday, September 13, it left creeks roaring out of banks, people stranded along roads and low-lying drainages, and two people dead in Sierra County. An unusually wet monsoon season this summer was already leading to above-average rainfalls, but a storm that stalled over the area from September 8-13 brought a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall over a widespread area. According to Greg Lundeen, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in El Paso, rainfall record keeping for the region goes back to 1951, while weather temperature records go back further. The total 2013 monthly rainfall (so far) for this area is 5.89 inches (September 1-16), whereas in 2012 it was .35 inches, although different areas of the county received up to 10 inches overall during the duration of the storm. The highest daily totals were from September 12 (1.26 inches) and September 13 (3.28 inches) recorded at a NWS Cooperative Climate Station at the T-or-C airport. At KCHS, another official record keeping station for the area, the rainfall measured 1.9 inches on September 12 and 2.04 inches on September 13. The record-breaking rainfall shattered the 5.1-inch record from 1975. According to Bureau of Reclamation Resource Management Specialist Brent Tanzy, Elephant Butte Lake held about 93,000 acre-feet on September 11, and by Tuesday an additional 29,400 acre-feet had been added (a 31-percent increase) for a total of 122,700. Caballo Lake gained another 25,200 acre-feet. An acre-foot holds about 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover an acre to a depth of one foot with water. Tanzy said Elephant Butte experienced a 5-foot vertical rise, and Caballo a 10-foot vertical rise during the storm. One of the hardest-hit areas was along Ash Canyon, near Elephant Butte Dam. Department of Transportation (DOT) officials closed the road after water overran and damaged the roadbed there Thursday. The water was so powerful that DOT officials stayed in the area to prevent drivers from going around the barriers placed to keep them off the road. But it was too late for one man. TRAGEDY The body of Steven Elsley, 53, was removed from his rental car on Saturday, after a hiker found all but the hood of the vehicle buried under sand and boulders. State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said investigators believe Elsley, of Phoenix, Arizona, died after his car was washed from the road and carried nearly one mile down the ravine. New Mexico Spaceport America Public Information Officer David Wilson confirmed Monday that Elsley was a subcontractor for the primary contractor, Summit West, and was providing work on the terminal hangar facility. Bobbi …..

SEE THIS WEEK’S EDITION FOR MORE PHOTO COVERAGE AND REST OF THE STORY

Ash Canyon Closed

Flooding

After heavy overnight rains filled Sierra County’s Ash Canyon and began undercutting the adjacent road surface Thursday morning, September 12, authorities with the New Mexico State Police and NM Department of Transportation’s District One office moved to close New Mexico Highway 51 through the area until the road could be repaired. With forecasts of additional storms on the horizon, officials advised motorists to seek an alternate route and to utilize caution when traveling through low-lying areas throughout Sierra County.

Local Reaction To Possible Forest Road Closures

Lock Out

Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca said this week that he reiterates his pledge to not only not enforce potential road closures on the Gila National Forest, but will arrest any federal agent for trying to do so in Sierra County, should the U.S. Forest Service (FS) close the approximately 1,200 miles of roads in the Gila’s Travel Management Preferred Alternative Plan. Baca told the Sentinel in 2011, shortly after public hearings were held to provide input to forest managers, that he would not renew a $15,000 contract for his department to provide law enforcement inside the Gila boundaries and on roads within the county. “We (sheriffs) have jurisdiction in the forest anyway if the land is within our county, and I won’t take money for doing what I already get paid to do by the residents of Sierra County,” said Baca. The FS manages approximately 378,700 acres (a portion of the more than 3-million acre Gila National Forest) in Sierra County. Last February the FS’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) supported Preferred Alternative G, which would lead to closure of the more than a thousand miles of roads. A final ruling on the proposed changes is expected to be released to the public in “late fall 2013,” with implementation to begin in “early 2014,” according to FS officials. Baca has joined a growing number of elected sheriffs from across the West protesting what they contend is federal officials undermining state and local rights regarding law enforcement. He and other sheriffs in western states have said the state and U.S. Constitutions give the elected sheriffs sovereignty over federal officials in the counties they represent. A Captain in the New Mexico Army National Guard and Afghanistan War veteran, Baca said he is opposed to the agency’s proposed rules that the western sheriffs interpret as giving FS law enforcement…….

Three Die in Helicopter Crash

Helicopter Crash

A cause had yet to be determined as of press time September 5 in a helicopter crash that killed three people Saturday morning, August 31.
The crash occurred along State Hwy. 187 in the King Canyon area, between Las Palomas and Caballo.
The New Mexico State Police said that all three people on board the privately-owned helicopter died in the crash.
The victims have been identified as William Brownfield, 61, of Caballo, Duane Zietlow, 78, of Elephant Butte and the pilot, Ebenezer Priebe, 34, of Tucson, Arizona.
The case, still under investigation, has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Events Celebrate Summer’s End

entertainment

Over the coming weeks area visitors and citizens throughout the region will be invited to share in a number of local and regional events, which will be filling the final days of summer in celebration of harvests and community heritage.

HATCH CHILE FESTIVAL While many Labor Day weekend visitors will be focusing their attentions on recreational activities, others will also be targeting a visit to Hatch, New Mexico for this weekend’s annual celebration of the community’s world famous chilies. In addition to an opportunity for guests to secure their personal supplies of fresh and dried chiles, the annual event once again promises to provide a full weekend of fun and excitement for everyone. Beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, August 31, festivities will kick off with the annual Hatch Chile Festival Parade through town. The focus will then shift to celebration-central at the Hatch Municipal Airport, located one mile west of the downtown district on Highway 26. Saturday’s events begin with a formal opening ceremony at 11 a.m. The line-up will follow with live entertainment, the ever-popular chile eating contests, Ballet Folklorico, a Mariachi competition, and will conclude with a lively “Country Dance,” beginning at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 per carload. The event schedule for Sunday, September 1 will also begin at 11 a.m. with live entertainment and a similar line-up of contests and performances, concluding with a Spanish Dance starting at 9 p.m. Throughout the weekend, festival guests will also be invited to peruse a wide assortment of chile-related offerings from numerous vendors. The annual event will also feature a variety of arts and crafts, food vendors, an ATV rodeo, a horseshoe tournament and a relaxing beer garden to ease chile-seared taste buds. Additional information about this year’s Hatch Chile Festival is available online through the event’s website: www.hatchchilefest.com.

HILLSBORO, KINGSTON HERITAGE DAYS While the Hatch Chile Festival invites area visitors to sample some of New Mexico’s famous “heat,” those seeking a respite from the heat are invited to enjoy a scenic drive to the nearby Black Range Mountains for the Hillsboro and Kingston community’s Heritage Days Celebration. Also being staged both Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1, the event invites guests to enjoy a taste of the region’s history with numerous events and activities, many of which will be highlighting the area’s old west and mining background. Beginning at 10 a.m. and running through both days, activities will include a self-guided walking tour, wagon rides through historic Hillsboro, a traveling photo exhibit featuring “New Deal Public Art of New Mexico,” as well as an opportunity to view many interesting things at the Black Range Museum. Saturday’s activities conclude with a Cowboy Soiree, hosted by the Black Range Vineyards wine bar located on Main Street in Hillsboro. The weekend’s festivities will also include book signings, films and a creative reenactment of community’s infamous Fountain Murder Trial of 1899.

ELEPHANT BUTTE’S “ELEPHANT DAYS” Anyone wishing to extend their Labor Day celebrations is invited to stay over, or return to Elephant Butte next weekend, when municipal leaders welcome everyone to the community’s annual “Elephant Days” city celebration. Events and activities are scheduled to begin Friday afternoon, September 6 and continue through Sunday afternoon, September 8. Most of the scheduled activities will center at the city’s Event Grounds, located across Water Street from city hall, at 204 Warm Springs Boulevard. One of the celebration’s annual highlights, the Elephant Days Parade, begins rolling down Highway 195 through Elephant Butte at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, September 7. This year’s event once again features an exciting FMX Freestyle Motocross exhibition, with two shows scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. Guests are also invited to enjoy planned musical offerings, sample tasty fare from a wide assortment of vendors, and peruse the many interesting arts and crafts exhibits. Event activities will also include a Car and Motorcycle Show, hosted by the Elephant Butte Inn, a hot air balloon glow (weather permitting) on Saturday evening, the annual Balloon Regatta on Sunday morning, Rock Crawl demonstrations, and much, much, more. Further details about Elephant Butte’s city celebration, including vendor information, is available by contacting city officials at (575) 744-4892.

Proposal Includes All Of Sierra County For Wolf Reintroduction

Mexican Wolf

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced two important moves recently concerning the Mexican Gray Wolf, both of which are relevant to Sierra County. In recent weeks the agency released a proposal to expand the wolf recovery area to include all areas between Interstates 40 and 10, which encompasses all of Sierra County. If adopted, the proposal will mean wolves that stray into these areas will not be captured and returned to the initial Blue Range Recovery Area (BRWRA). And, according to FWS spokesman Tom Buckley, would open up these areas to future reintroductions. The FWS published the proposal in the Federal Register on June 13, giving residents in the area a chance to comment until September 11. These proposals can be read at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/pdf/Proposed_Revision_Wolf_10(j)_78_FR_35719_June-13-2013.pdf. Also this week, the agency announced New Mexico, Arizona and some other states would share $850,000 in grants for….

Kingston Area Threatened With Floods

Kingston flood

Up to three inches of rain hit the Kingston area on Sunday, August 4, with flooding occurring at the Kingston Campground (off NM 152) where Middle Percha Creek is located north of the campground running in a west to east direction. The Kingston Campground was basically washed away with lots of debris at the site, and a picnic table was also washed away. The nearly black, muddy water was filled with logs and other debris due to runoff from the Silver Fire burn scar. In Kingston, flows were high and some damage occurred to fences, bridges, and porches located along Percha Creek. Residents are still evaluating damages and loss of property due to the flooding. No flooding occurred in Hillsboro.

Gov. Declares Emergency Due To Storms

Damage funding

Gov. Susana Martinez signed an Executive Order this week authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to coordinate all requests for assistance and responses for aid and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, applicants requesting financial assistance from the state for necessary action taken in response to the emergency shall be required to demonstrate that the cost of the necessary action exceeds their available resources. This is determined based upon criteria developed in conjunction with the state agencies (if any) with financial and budgetary oversight responsibilities for the applicant. Martinez also directed the Adjutant General to order into service any elements of the New Mexico National Guard as are or may be needed to provide military support to civil authorities as needed for this emergency. The order supersedes any other previous orders, proclamations, or directives in conflict. The order also takes effect immediately, and shall remain in effect until such time as the Governor rescinds it. The order directs cabinet departments and agencies under gubernatorial control to provide any assistance that may be required by the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management or by the State Emergency Operations Center under the authority of the Governor’s Authorized Representative. It directs the Department of Finance and….

Black As Coffee

Animas Creek

Following several consecutive days of consistent rainfall in most parts of Sierra County this week, the residual impact of the summer’s catastrophic Silver Fire that ravaged the Black Range is now evident in creeks and arroyos downstream of the burn area. Here, Animas Creek flows black and thick with ash and fire debris on Thursday, July 25, just before it empties into Caballo Lake east of I-25.

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Independence Day Events

4th of July

After Mother Nature welcomed July’s arrival with some spectacular fireworks of her own, Sierra County residents quickly attended to storm cleanups in order to begin focusing on preparations for this weekend’s Independence Day celebrations.

FIREWORKS Highlighting the community’s annual observance of the Fourth of July will of course be the 2013 Elephant Butte Fireworks Extravaganza. This year’s pyrotechnic display will once again be staged off Rattlesnake Island at Elephant Butte Lake State Park (EBLSP) and is scheduled to begin illuminating the skies just after 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 6. EBLSP officials will waive standard park entry fees beginning at 6 p.m. They are anticipating a large turnout of visitors on hand to view the fireworks and share in other celebrations at one of the state’s most unique and impressive venues. Bearing in mind the recent turn to wetter conditions, organizers have set aside Sunday evening, July 7 as an alternative date for the annual show, should significant rain return to Sierra County Saturday evening, as some forecasts have suggested. Further details about this weekend’s festivities and other related information is available through EBLSP headquarters at 101 Highway 195, or by phoning (575) 744-5923. By law no personal fireworks are permitted within the boundaries of the state park. Despite the recent and potential rain, fire restrictions remain in effect throughout Sierra County and neighboring municipalities. Visitors, as well as local residents, are encouraged to abide by all current restrictions regarding campfires and are asked to practice safety when engaging in the proper use of legally permitted fireworks over the holiday weekend.

BULL RIDERS UNITE This weekend’s festivities will also be highlighted by the Freddie Torres Memorial Bull Riding event, named in honor of a former Mayor of T-or-C, longtime civic leader, businessman and much-beloved community figure, Freddie J. Torres. The special rodeo event is expected to feature some of the region’s top riders, who will all be vying to win a share of more than $7,000 in established cash prizes. The two-day gathering and bull riding extravaganza begins at 4 p.m. Friday, July 5 and continues again at the same time Saturday afternoon, with all activity centering at the Sierra County Sheriff’s Posse Arena, located at the end of Rodeo Arena Road, off Third Avenue, just east of downtown T-or-C. The scheduled line-up includes events for competitors of all ages. Young wranglers six and under will put their mutton-busting skills on display for an established $200 prize, while participants between the ages of seven and nine will focus on calf-riding techniques and a portion of the $300 set aside for the event. A Mini-Bull riding event will feature competition for 10 to 12 year old participants, who will vie for a piece of the $500 prize money earmarked for the contest. Teen-age riders 13 to 15 will gather from all parts to join in the Junior Bull riding events both Friday and Saturday. With a full $2,000 in prize money up for grabs, many of the region’s most promising young riders will be putting their finest skills on display. The weekend’s Open Bull riding events will highlight each day’s activities. This exciting contest will similarly feature many of the area’s best riders, who will compete for a full-ride, top honors and a hefty portion of the $4,000 prize money. The competition promises to be as fierce and the bulls will be ready to give everyone a tough time. The Pine Knot Saloon and Sullivan’s Riding Bulls are jointly sponsoring the Freddie Torres Memorial. All proceeds from the event benefit the Hot Springs Rodeo Association. Further details about the Freddie Torres Memorial and information about this weekend’s event, may be obtained by phoning Travis Sullivan at (575) 518-8164, or Victor Torres at (575) 635-0538.

OTHER ACTIVITIES •The Elephant Butte Inn and Spa, 401 Highway 195 in Elephant Butte, will host a Backyard Barbecue from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 6. The event will feature live music, games and prizes for all ages, as well as generous servings of barbecue, “trimmings” and a prime view of the evening’s fireworks display. Adult admission for the event is $12, $9 for children 5 to 10 years old and free for youngsters under 5 years of age. Further details are available at the Elephant Butte Inn, or by phoning (575) 744-5431. •Sierra County winery Shattuck Vineyard will be open to the public and feature free wine tasting over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Proprietors will welcome guests from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 7. Shattuck Vineyard is located at 43 Bridle Road in Caballo, New Mexico. For exact directions and other information phone (915) 491-9459.

Raising Children Among Wolves

Wolf on the Roadway

BEAVERHEAD RANCH On April 26, 2013, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) re-released two problem wolves just a short distance from our ranch at Beaverhead. These troublesome wolves had been temporarily removed from the wild after numerous accounts of human encounters and livestock depredations. The male, 1133, was captured near Reserve, NM after numerous reports of loitering around neighborhood homes and other heavily populated areas. The female of the pair and I share some history together. Female 1108 is a member of the Aspen Pack, born at Taylor Creek just ¼ mile from our private property which offered the only source of water in the area. In fact, during a routine cattle check in 2007, my husband was the first to discover and report the existence of the Aspen Pack den to USFWS. Area residents were already quite familiar with the pack. Earlier that year a terrified 8-year-old stood 20 yards from an Aspen wolf as it attacked and killed her hound dog. The pack later returned to their Catron County home to kill her horse. . That summer we……

Silver Fire Steadily Expands

Silver Fire

With smoke from the Silver Fire blanketing Sierra County on nearly a daily basis for the past several weeks, area residents are quite aware of the conflagration’s unrelenting push through the nearby Gila Wilderness. As of Thursday morning, June 27, officials reports noted that the fire is now located approximately 3 miles southwest of Hermosa and approximately 16 miles southwest of Winston. While authorities have effected structure protection in Hermosa and other areas being threatened by the blaze, they emphasize that no evacuation orders are currently in place and no structure…….

Kingston Evacuation Lifted

Smoke at Kingston

“We are pleased to announce that the evacuation order for the community of Kingston is lifted at noon today (Thursday, June 20),” said Silver Fire Incident Commander Matt Reidy. “This (restriction) is lifted for residents of Kingston only.”
“The residents have been very understanding, and their cooperation was appreciated during this trying time period,” he said. “We understand residents have been away from their homes and are very anxious to return.”
Special entry permits are being issued at the Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department to Kingston residents only. The area will remain closed to everyone except residents until further notice.
Meanwhile, a persistent hot and dry weather pattern over the last week remains over the Silver Fire. Firefighters, however, have managed to hold the 36,500-acre fire within containment lines, but the blaze continues to grow each day.
The fire will exhibit the same smoke pattern as the past several days. The most active part of the fire is in the north, and moved as much as two miles on Wednesday.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and key staff members were briefed on firefighting efforts at the Silver Fire Incident Command Post on Thursday morning.
Firefighters continue mop up operations, indirect line construction, and are aggressively engaging the fire where appropriate and gathering intelligence on both the east and west flanks.
Silver Fire resources as of Thursday afternoon include five helicopters, five 20-person hotshot crews, four 20-person hand crews, 15 engines, one dozer and eight water tenders for 511 personnel.
Helping to coordinate traffic control and other duties……

Fire Threatens Kingston

Smoke at Kingston

As of noon Thursday, June 13, official reports showed that the Silver Fire had engulfed more than 18,800 acres of the nearby Gila National Forest, and remained zero-percent contained. A press release issued at 8 a.m. Thursday morning said while higher humidity levels and cooler temperatures from passing storms helped to decrease fire behavior over the previous night, the potential of additional storms, accompanying winds and possible dry lighting Thursday afternoon were assuring that the fire would remain active. The decrease in fire behavior prior to dawn on Thursday did allow firefighters to make some headway in identifying fire line locations, but the blaze’s concentration in some of the state’s most rugged and remote wilderness continues to hamper ground forces’ attempts to mount an effective suppression effort. The overnight lull also provided a bit of good news for the residents of Kingston, as it aided firefighters in keeping flames away from the small community. At last report, the flames had moved to within a quarter mile of Kingston, which remains under a mandatory evacuation order. Fire officials said that anticipated winds Thursday afternoon were expected to move smoke into the Mimbres Valley, including areas surrounding the Royal John Mine, and would likely further the Silver Fire’s overall active status. During a special meeting held at the Hillsboro Com-munity Center Monday even-ing, June 10, area resident…..

Area Hosts Several Events This Weekend

entertainment

In celebration of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico’s history as a hot springs haven, the town is hosting a free, family friendly Hot Springs Festival from 4 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 8. Before it became Truth or Consequences, T or C was better known as Hot Springs, NM – lauded as the “health capital of the Southwest” for its numerous, healing hot springs. Along with the festival, several other events are scheduled in Sierra County on June 8 including: T or C Art Hop; WCC&D (Winston, Chloride, Chiz, and Dusty) Fiesta; and the dedication of the Healing Waters Trail. “Over the course of the 20th century, the town’s name was changed first to Hot Springs, then famously to Truth or Consequences which, some say, caused the mineral baths to be forgotten,” said Adriana Wolf, Executive Director of MainStreet T-or-C. “But today, the hot springs seem to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity for their relaxation and healing benefits,” she said. “Our spas and healing hot springs are often less expensive than those in other parts of the state. It’s also a great excuse to see Sierra County’s historic Old West ghost towns, enjoy a float trip down the river, or even take an out-of-this-world preview tour of the futuristic Spaceport America site.” The Hot Springs Festival will be held behind the Lee Belle Johnson Senior Recreation Center and will feature live music throughout the day by the Hard Knocks Blues Band and the Hard Road Duo. There will be a Spa Tour Poker Run, arts and food vendors, tours of the historic Hot Springs District, a kids area, and other family-friendly activities. Visit hotspringsfestival.com for more information. The hot thermal waters in T-or-C flow out of a rift along the Rio Grande that appeared more than 50 million years ago which allow deep groundwater to flow freely to the surface producing pristine waters with temperatures ranging from 98 to 115 degrees. Located in the downtown Hot Springs Bathhouse Historic and Commercial District, the spas and bathhouses of T-or-C gained recognition as a health center at the turn of the century, and in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s when motorists flocked to area resorts. The Hot Springs Festival is sponsored by MainStreet T-or-C; City of T-or-C; Sierra County Tourism Board; T-or-C/Sierra Co. Chamber; Sierra County Arts Council; and the New Mexico State Parks. At 2 p.m. on June 8, Geronimo Springs Museum will be the site of a special dedication ceremony for the Healing Waters Trail. This is a 3-mile scenic trail that begins at the museum, continues through the historic T-or-C Bathhouse District, to the Rio Grande onto the Veterans’ Memorial Park, and looping back to the museum. More information is available at torcnm.org/Healing_Waters_Trail/. Art collectors will have an opportunity to purchase handmade local art at the T-or-C Second Saturday Art Hop, also on June 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. when a number of downtown galleries, restaurants and shops stay open later. Visit torcmainstreet.org/events/monthly-events/art-hop for details or email promotions@torcmainstreet.org. Coinciding with the Hot Springs Festival and Art Hop, the historic Old West towns of Winston, Chloride, Chiz, and Dusty (WCC&D) in Sierra County are celebrating their 30th annual WCC&D Fiesta beginning at 9 a.m. The event is held at the WCC&D Community Center in Winston, NM, just 35 miles west of T-or-C. The fiesta gives visitors a sense of what like life may have been like in mining towns at the turn of the century. Activities include Cow Chip Poker, barbecue dinner, a Western Dance, themed raffle, craft/flea market, games for the kids, entertainment on the patio and a parade. The Western Dance is only $5; otherwise the event is free. The parade starts at 9 a.m. and the festival continues throughout the day. Call Renee or Jerry Large for details at 575-743-2081 or email rclarge2@gmail.com or visit sierracountynewmexico.info/ While in T-or-C, cool off with a float trip ride down the Rio Grande. Pedal and paddle specials are available as well, which include bike rental and float tube. Advance reservations are recommended, especially during busy weekends. For more information about Sierra County, including information about T-or-C’s hot springs, visit www.sierracountynewmexico.info or call 800-831-9487.

Commission Urges Workable Trash Plan

County Focus on Solid Waste

Conflicting reports about Sierra County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board’s ongoing effort to deliver a cost-effective solid waste plan were addressed during the county commission’s regular session Tuesday, May 14.
After hearing a report from advisory board member Dean Williams, which indicated disagreements still existed and that a recommendation on how the county should proceed was still being finalized, commissioners shared their desire for the group to render a workable solution as soon as possible.
Commissioner Bobby Allen said that from preliminary information he was concerned that the pending proposal would still require financial support from the county’s budget. Allen added that the advisory board was tasked with developing a plan that would render a self-sufficient system, which would adequately address solid waste concerns.
Commission Vice-Chair Frances Luna said…

Wolf Captured

Gray-Wolf

Mexican wolf M1133 was captured by members of the Interagency Field Team (IFT) on Saturday, May 11, just east of the San Mateo Mountains in New Mexico, outside of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The wolf was taken to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wolf Management Facility at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.
M1133 is the male wolf recently released by the IFT, along with female Mexican wolf F1108, into the Gila Wilderness.
M1133 was selected for release based on several factors, in particular to improve the genetics of the wild population through the production of pups. He was originally released into Arizona on January 8, 2013, so that he would pair with the Bluestem pack’s alpha female (F1042) and produce pups in 2013. M1133 was captured and returned to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in late January because he did not successfully pair with F1042 and had moved away from the pack into an area where he was unlikely to encounter other wolves.
After being returned to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility, M1133 was paired with F1108. Tests in April confirmed F1108 was pregnant. On April 27, the pair was moved into a temporary enclosure at McKenna Park…..

Wolf Spotted In Area

Gray-Wolf

Sierra County residents have voiced many concerns over the years about the reintroduction of wolves into the neighboring Gila National Forest. Those voices will likely becomes shouts again as this collared wolf was seen Wednesday evening, May 8 on the Questa in the Monticello area. Just a short distance from school bus stops, folks in the area are justifiably concerned about their safety. Residents that live in the area are encouraged to be alert and report any possible livestock losses that may be attributed to a wolf predation.

FS Preferred Plan Includes Closure Of More Miles

Lock Out

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials recently announced the long-awaited Gila Travel Management Plan Preferred Alternative will be released to the public this spring, and have told county officials in Southwest New Mexico it would be Plan G, which involves closure of more than 1,000 miles of roads in the forest.
In addition to the elimination of all cross-country travel, Preferred Alternative G would limit dispersed camping to only 25 percent of the forest’s existing roads, and limit the public’s access for motorized big game to a narrow 600-foot corridor on only about 1,300 miles of road. All other motorized big game retrieval would be banned completely.
The Gila Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and associated Record of Decision (ROD) has been delayed for two years while USFS officials deal with record wildfires. Last February, agency officials revealed to the Grant County Commission that Alternative G would be the preferred plan.
It comes as no surprise to those opposed to the plan, including hunters, campers, off-road…

Farm Bureau Nominates ‘Diamond In The Rough’

April Romero

The Sierra County Farm and Livestock Bureau proudly selected April Romero of Cuchillo, NM as their “Diamond in the Rough” award nominee.
The “Diamond in the Rough” award was created to recognize an outstanding woman in New Mexico agriculture and highlight her efforts and contributions. Initiated by the Women in Agriculture Leadership Conference (WALC) and its various sponsors, the award has been given at each of the previous conferences during a special awards ceremony. This award recognizes a special woman that strives to make New Mexico’s agricultural industry a prosperous, viable component of the Land of Enchantment.
“Today’s agricultural women are integral parts of their families’ agricultural operations, in addition to their traditional roles,” said Caren Cowan, co-chairperson of the Women in Agriculture Leadership Conference.
April, and her husband, Ray, own and operate a ranch and small farm outside of Cuchillo. She is an active member of the community, and is involved in most agricultural organizations within the county.
In addition to serving as an officer for Sierra County Farm Bureau, April dedicated over 20 years serving as an elected supervisor on the Sierra Soil and Water Conservation District board. During her service, April was instrumental in initiating the district’s Ag cost share program,…

MAPS, MAPS, MAPS

Fire Association Chief

Sierra County Fire Chief’s Association President Tom Schalkofski outlined a few of his organization’s present concerns to members of the Sierra County Commission Tuesday, February 19. Among the most pressing issues was a need to assure the area’s firefighters and emergency responders were provided with accurate maps of rural county roads. He agreed that the county authority’s initial effort in this regard was helpful, but said more detailed maps would greatly aid in future responses throughout the county’s rural communities.

This in addition to information on how the county commission accepts Lakeshore Highlands Roads and looks at the solid waste shortfall can be found in this week’s Sierra County Sentinel.

 

County Stands Firm On Spaceport Road

Spaceport America

While their December 4 regular meeting agenda did not include any formal action regarding the matter, Sierra County Commissioners clearly emphasized their position on the proposed construction of a southern access to Spaceport America.
In a brief report to the board, county manager Janet Carrejo explained that Doña Ana County officials were overseeing design and construction of the project, which extends southward from the spaceport’s main entrance along County Road A013.
Carrejo also noted that provisions in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Doña Ana County and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) call for Sierra County to assume responsibility for future maintenance of the planned roadway, where it extends through southern areas of the county.
Carrejo told commissioners that recent discussions with officials involved in the project show that Doña Ana County authorities are considering significant changes in the effort’s original scope. She said in their own words, project authorities were looking to “construct a road to be in use for two years.” Carrejo also stated that there were further indications the project would not include installation of culverts, construction to address potential drainage issues and other aspects of development one might expect.
As for a reason behind the proposed action, Carrejo relayed a somewhat vague explanation from NMSA authorities regarding a lack of funding, which essentially confirmed that funding would not be sufficient to fully develop the southern access.
The county manager said she was unwilling to accept the proposed changes in the road development project and did not feel it was proper to place the burden of future maintenance costs of a substandard roadway on Sierra County’s …

County Adopts Trash Ordinance

County Focus on Solid Waste

After months of community discussion, study and planning, Sierra County Commissioners formally adopted a new Solid Waste Management Ordinance (11-012) at their regular meeting Tuesday morning, November 20. Commissioners noted that provisions in the ordinance would become effective in 30 days.
Prior to the morning’s regular session, commissioners convened for a workshop focusing on the proposed solid waste measure and then went into a public hearing to accept any further comments before formally addressing the ordinance.
A number of community members shared their support for the proposed ordinance, and had high praise for those citizens involved in the development process. A number of speakers also said the new measure should be viewed as an “interim plan,” which commissioners and community advisors would be looking to amend as future situations might warrant.
Community Task Force Chairman Don Edmund and several other speakers stressed that one of the primary difficulties in the development process was a lack of historical data regarding the amount of solid waste generated in Sierra County. It was noted that adoption of the proposed ordinance would provide county authorities with an opportunity to acquire firm details regarding all aspects of the solid waste management plan. As information begins to accumulate, citizens suggested that county officials and commissioners should be able to define…

Residents Upset About Caballo Fire Dept. Issues

Fire--Dept-No-More

As they opened their regular meeting for public comments on Friday morning, November 9, Sierra County Commissioners were immediately met with an outpouring of concern about the recent dismissal of Caballo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mary Bates, as well as the status of the Caballo Fire Department as a whole.
Commissioners were first presented with a formal statement and petition from residents of Caballo and surrounding communities. This effort called for the immediate reinstatement of Fire Chief Mary Bates until a formal replacement could be appointed and further accused county manager Jan Carrejo of gross negligence in her decision to “close” the Caballo Fire Department.
Subsequent comments noted how Bates had served the Caballo community in the role of fire chief for many years. Acknowledging that she was experiencing administrative problems, some individuals shared a desire for county authorities to have opted for a less callous approach and to have….

Officers Recognized

Sheriff-Citations

Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca formally recognized the actions of three of his department’s officers during the Sierra County Commission’s regular meeting November 9. In succession, Sheriff Baca presented Deputy Levi Wrye, Sergeant Clayton Reed and Deputy Clay Cheney with certificates of commendation for their efforts in removing propane tanks from harms way at a residential fire in Caballo on October 30. Although he was not present, Baca offered a Certificate of Appreciation for local resident Ken LeBree, who aided officers in the important action, which likely prevented a bad situation from becoming much worse.

Workshop Fosters Compromise On Solid Waste Plan

Solid Waste Ord approved

Approaching the end of a 45-day deadline imposed upon the task force to provide valid options to the administration’s proposed Solid Waste Management ordinance, commissioners were looking to review the group’s proposals and assemble a revised plan that might prove acceptable to the community as a whole.
Opening with a summary of the administration’s proposal, County Development Coordinator Sandy Jones first emphasized that a major problem with organizing any effective solid waste management plan was Sierra County’s lack of accurate data regarding the amount of solid waste historically managed through its facilities.
He explained how this dearth of information left current planners in a position of settling for only general estimates of actual costs, while also seeking methods to ensure future solid waste management would be a financially self-sufficient process.
Jones outlined how some estimates indicated the annual solid waste generated by Sierra County residents could be as much as 1,000 tons. However, he also noted how other estimates (such as the average age of county residents) pointed to lesser than average trash generation and led to his utilization of 500-tons as the annual amount of solid waste in the calculation of the potentially sufficient customer fees.
In reviewing the initial customer fee structure suggested by the administration, Jones said that the county would likely to realize some amount of surplus revenue. He added that setting fees in this manner would ensure basic services were maintained, while also allowing county authorities to begin building a dedicated solid waste account, which in turn would free up available Environmental Gross Receipt Tax revenues to address a number of other pressing concerns.
Aside from implementing a comprehensive solid waste management plan, Jones reported that county authorities were exploring options toward development of a new Construction and Demolition (C&D) landfill, as well as a household waste facility. He reminded commissioners that the required permits for such facilities alone could cost the county as much as a million dollars. He also pointed out a looming need for construction of new liquid waste drying beds and estimated the cost of this off-the-radar project would likely tap the county’s budget for an additional $250,000.
Jones concluded his review by stressing that if Sierra County chose to wholly privatize its solid waste management, area residents could expect to pay between $40 and $60 per month for service, or approximately $2.17 per day. He then said that the county’s proposal would provide essentially the same solid waste services for residents at a per day cost of approximately 66-cents.
Responding to Jones’ statements, the Citizen’s Task Force Administrative Liaison Sue Abare-Gritter first agreed that the county’s lack of historical solid waste data was a major stumbling block to both the administration’s and the task force’s planning efforts. She added that while the intent of the county’s plan to acquire surplus revenue was no doubt good, a true picture of solid waste management costs would not be revealed until a plan is implemented and expenses properly tracked.
Abare-Gritter stated that the task force’s plan would instead seek to lessen immediate costs to county residents during an established evaluation period and then determine if adjustments to the fee structure might be warranted.
Task Force Chairman Don Edmund briefly reviewed the primary goals that the citizen’s group hoped to achieve with their proposed revisions. He said their plan would eliminate annual customer fees, establish “pay as you throw” procedures, and would provide effective program monitoring. Edmund further acknowledged that the plan recommended by the task force would eliminate the need of waivers for private solid waste disposal by relying upon relevant state statutes.
Acknowledging the mounting expenses Sierra County is presently realizing through the absence of a formal solid waste management plan, and the need to begin operations that would more clearly define the initiative’s true costs, Commission Chairman Walter Armijo said it was important for the board to make a prompt decision.
Armijo, Commission Vice-Chair Alvin Campbell and Commissioner Bobby Allen all expressed their appreciation for the task force’s efforts, and after discussing a number of details about the group’s proposals, said they would be willing to accept their recommended revisions to the county’s original plan.
Although no formal decisions were rendered during the workshop session, commissioners agreed that the initiation of a functional solid waste management plan was of primary importance and that future fee adjustments would likely be considered—whichever plan was selected.
Commissioners also realized the task force’s call for the establishment of a dedicated Solid Waste Advisory Board to oversee the new plan. After agreeing to the value of having such a board in place, the board indicated they would consider seeking out task force participants as potential members of the future advisory group…..

County Trash Workshop Set

County Focus on Solid Waste

Sierra County Commissioners will convene for a special workshop Monday morning, October 22 to consider recent community input before taking action on a controversial Solid Waste Management ordinance.
Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the workshop in the county commission chambers, 855 Van Patten and is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
Further details about the workshop and the proposed solid waste ordinance are available through Sierra County’s administrative offices, 855 Van Patten, or by phoning (575) 894-6215.

County Nears Solid Waste Decision

Denise-Addie-Villagomez

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL
Members of the Community Task Force, which was convened to review the Sierra County Administration’s recently proposed Solid Waste Management ordinance, presented a revised plan to Sierra County Commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday, October 9.
Following the presentation and subsequent discussion, commissioners expressed their appreciation of the group’s efforts and agreed to further consider the proposed options before rendering any final decisions on the future solid waste ordinance.
Commissioners recognized that the established 45-day period, set aside for the task force review, would return the solid waste ordinance issue before the board for their October 23 regular meeting. Members first considered gathering for a short workshop prior to that session, but realized more time would likely be needed to fully discuss how the task force recommendations might be effectively incorporated….

Governor Takes Stand On Wolf Predation

Gray-Wolf

By Etta Pettijohn | For The SENTINEL
A Mexican gray wolf that had been evading capture for 64 days was caught Wednesday, a week after Governor Susana Martinez formerly asked the federal government to follow its own rules and remove an entire Mexican gray wolf pack from private land near Luna.
In a letter dated Oct. 2, Gov. Martinez wrote, “Recent developments with the Fox Mountain Mexican Wolf Pack in Catron County have created significant concerns regarding livestock depredation and the overall wolf reintroduction program led by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).”
The letter requested the FWS abide by its own rules and use its flexible authority to “mitigate negative impacts.”
The governor’s request specifically cited the (10j) (50 CFR Part 17) Final Rule that gives repeated emphasis to management flexibility and addresses livestock-related issues.
“The management flexibilities the rule provides for are of critical importance, especially in rural New Mexico where livestock producers are struggling to make a living, but they are only relevant and valuable if they are applied. The Fox Mountain pack has established a pattern of routinely killing livestock that requires immediate and meaningful action by the FWS.”
The wolf pack in question has been responsible for the depredation of several cattle belonging to Luna rancher Corwin Hulsey. The FWS is currently attempting to trap and relocate one female Alpha from the pack that was identified as one responsible for killing several cows on private land belonging to Hulsey. After unsuccessful attempts to change the wolf’s diet preferences, using a range rider, discretionary (supplemental) feeding, and relocating the cattle, the agency announced it’s decision to shoot it.
Following public outcry from wolf advocates like the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a wolf sanctuary in Arizona agreed to take the female if federal officials could capture it alive. Since August these attempts have been unsuccessful, according to FWS officials.
Shortly after federal officials placed leg-hold traps to capture the animal, at least one trap was disabled when an environmental activist with the CBD allegedly stepped on it.
Another trap was also disabled when it was hit by a vehicle, according to Jess Carey, Catron County wolf interaction investigator. FWS spokesman Tom Buckley said the incident is under investigation and no charges or penalties have been filed.
Michael Robinson, CBD spokesman, acknowledged he and volunteers with the organization were at the site at the time the trap was sprung.
“I was up there, but didn’t intentionally damage anything,” he told the Sentinel, while admitting he “accidentally” stepped on a trap.
“I was walking along a Forest Service road and didn’t realize there was a trap, it was concealed and I accidentally stepped on it,” he said.
Robinson claimed no knowledge of another trap damaged when a vehicle drove over it in the same vicinity.
The traps are specially designed to live-capture the animal, which is part of a pack of at least one adult male and four pups belonging to the Alpha.
The CBD in 2011 filed suit against the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in an attempt to halt all furbearer trapping in the Gila National Forest, and is opposed to all public-land trapping.
Corwin Hulsey said the wolf killed several head of cattle, the last three or four on a private ranch …..Gray-Wolf

County Fair Next Week

Gettting ready for county fair

With livestock and horse entries completed late last month, officials with the Sierra County Fair Association are now in the home stretch and gearing up for the 72nd Annual Sierra County Fair.  Formal activities begin in earnest on Thursday afternoon, October 11 and will include scheduled events running through Sunday afternoon, October 14.
In keeping with tradition, almost all of this year’s events and exhibits will center at the Sierra County Fairgrounds and the Sierra County Events Center, located at 2953 South Broadway In Truth or Consequences.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday, October 9, the fair barn and Events Center will be opened for booth construction and staging activities. Preparations will continue Wednesday morning, October 10, with officials planning to begin accepting livestock and horse entries later that afternoon at 3 p.m…..
See this week’s issue of the SENTINEL for a detailed listing of events scheduled.

Fair Deadlines Approaching: Sat. Livestock Entries

Gettting ready for county fair

This includes any open animal entries. Since September 15 is on a Saturday this year, we will accept regular entries through Monday, September 17. Late entries will be accepted through Septem-ber 25; late fees will be $25 per entry. For those that would like to show their favorite rabbit or duck at the fair, stop by the county extension office at 2101 S. Broadway and pick up an entry form.
INDOOR EXHIBITS…

County Hits Pause On Solid Waste Plan

County Focus on Solid Waste

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL
Anticipating a large turnout, commissioners shifted the meeting’s venue to the Sierra County Events Center on South Broadway, where direct pleas from at least 37 individuals called upon the board to delay their vote, set for later consideration during the regular session.
After initiating the hearing with a request of speakers to share their comments without the use of derogatory statements, commission chairman Walter Armijo began reading off names from the session’s sign in sheet in order to assure everyone in attendance was given an opportunity to address the board.
During the ensuing process commissioners were presented with a series of clear and calmly delivered statements, which….

Landfill Closure Delayed/Ordinance Published

County Focus on Solid Waste

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL
With a strong contingent of community residents again on hand to voice their concerns, Sierra County Commissioners approved a motion to proceed with publication of a proposed solid waste ordinance during their Tuesday, July 24 session.
Commissioners listened to a number of public comments prior to formally addressing the solid waste ordinance, which primarily expressed a continued opposition to various aspects of the county’s proposal. While some community residents acknowledged that an obviously unpopular decision on the matter would be necessary, commissioners were urged to strongly consider citizens’ statements and concerns before final action is taken.
After attending to a few items on the morning’s agenda, the board moved to address publication of the controversial measure, which would formally set the clock ticking toward a decision about whether or not to implement the proposed ordinance.
Commission members welcomed the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Solid Waste Bureau Chief Auralie Ashley-Marx to the morning’s session and invited her to outline the NMED’s position regarding the county’s solid waste management concerns.
Ashley-Marx first noted she has been working closely with officials from Sierra County and the City of T-or-C in this regard for the past three years and emphasized that the proposed ordinance should not be considered a result of “fly by night” decisions.
She then explained…….

County Postpones Action On Trash

Walter Armijo

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL
Sierra County Commission Chairman Walter Armijo expressed his understanding of community concerns about a proposed solid waste rate schedule at the conclusion of a special workshop June 26. Saying it was the board’s duty to render what will undoubtedly be an unpopular decision, Armijo nonetheless sided with fellow commissioners and postponed consideration of the controversial measure.
With an imposed August 30 deadline for closure of the T-or-C municipal landfill looming, and a pressing need to define how to address solid waste management for unincorporated areas of Sierra County, members of the county commission postponed consideration of a proposed rate schedule during their regular meeting Tuesday, June 26.
The rate schedule in question is the administration’s response to what many see as a pending crisis, which will require the collection and transfer of all of Sierra County’s solid waste to operating landfills a minimum of 70-miles away. After conducting numerous public meetings and assessing available options, county authorities have proposed a plan that involves the use of standardized trash bags and monthly customer charges, which many residents feel leaves much to be desired.
During a special workshop held prior to their regular session, commissioners heard comments from more than 30 individuals. A majority of comments expressed firm objection to the county’s proposed rate schedule and solid waste collection plan. Among the concerns shared were that the rates were excessive and did not effectively assess the number of individuals residing (and generating trash) in a given household. Commissioners were told this situation would likely increase incidents of illegal dumping and burning of trash, posing further enforcement and environmental issues.
A number of other considerations and questions about the solid waste issue were expressed. Among these were why incorporated municipalities have not been included to mitigate potential fees; why the proposed schedule sets fees apparently far in excess of those imposed by numerous neighboring counties; and a concern about potential property liens for non-payment of solid waste fees.
Aside from direct objections, commissioners also heard suggestions about the need of improving recycling options, the possibility of contracting a commercial vendor to address….

Alleged ‘Manipulation’ In Reintroduction of Wolves

Gray-Wolf

By Etta Pettijohn | For The SENTINEL

Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) conjures up images of noble government workers risking their livelihoods to uncover misconduct and mistreatment by big government.
On June 7 the activist organization filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Interior alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has permitted “political manipulation” to drive the decisions and actions in the  Reintroduction Program in New Mexico and Arizona, “severely compromising” the program.
A PEER news release alleges the FWS has allowed the number of wolves (estimated at 58) in the Blue Range Recovery Area, which includes portions of the Gila National Forest, to “threaten the population with failure.”
The group bases its allegations on the findings of a special Science and Planning Subgroup for the Wolf Recovery Team in 2010, which unanimously concluded that the, “Mexican wolf recovery required three populations of 200-350 wolves connected by corridors,” and “the best suitable habitat for reintroduction included southern Colorado and Utah.”
Along with several other environmental organizations, PEER is lobbying heavily to force the FWS to add more wolves to the recovery area, and to generally expand reintroduction efforts in the….

County To Talk Trash

County Focus on Solid Waste

Sierra County Commissioners gather for a workshop, followed by a regular meeting Tuesday, June 26.

The workshop will focus on a discussion concerning solid waste management and is scheduled to begin 8:30 a.m. The regular meeting will follow at 10:00.

The public is invited to attend both sessions in the Sierra County Commission Chambers, 855 Van Patten.
Further details about the June 26 sessions, including copies of the agenda, are available through the county’s administrative offices, 855 Van Patten, or by phoning 894-6215.

County Focuses On Solid Waste

County Focus on Solid Waste

By Chuck Wentworth | SENTINEL
With a standing-room only crowd in attendance, Sierra County Commissioners began their June 7 regular meeting by hearing a series of public comments, a majority of which were focused on proposed plans and concerns about future solid waste management and associated fees.
In succession, 15 individual speakers expressed their views, which primarily raised questions and confirmed a strong opposition to the flat-rate solid waste fee structure previously proposed by county authorities. Commissioners heard concerns about how such fees might be implemented, and several speakers emphasized the potential detrimental effects such measures would have upon area businesses, RV parks and properties with multiple dwellings.
Commission members also heard recommendations to more vigorously pursue recycling opportunities,……..