Archive for Ecology/Environment

Happy About Keystone? Have A Look At What Makes You Happy

by John Weckerle

President Trump’s revival of the Keystone pipeline has been celebrated by a wide variety of people, largely on the bases of the supposed jobs that it would somehow magically create, and the benefits that it would somehow mystically bestow on – well, the good, hard-working people who get those jobs. The claims of job creation have been debated ad-infinitum and, for all intents and purposes, it’s fairly apparent that the jobs in question would be short-term construction jobs associated with installing the pipeline, and a small number of pipeline maintenance positions. Given that the oil transferred from Canada would be processed using existing refinery capacity in the southern U.S., job growth in the U.S. as a result of the pipeline would appear relatively small and relatively short-term.  Of course, jobs associated with extraction would be located at the tar sands deposit that would feed the pipeline, and those tar sands are located in Alberta, Canada.

According to this MSN photojournalistic article  (and we very strongly suggest that our readers read the article and go through all the stunning images), Canada’s little operation is likely to consume up to 54,000 square miles of pristine wilderness, and the photography in the article gives a very good depiction of what the area will be turned into. For perspective, 54,000 square miles equates roughly to the size of the States of New York and North Carolina. Not only would the scar left behind by this profit-inspired effort be visible from space, it would likely be visible from the moon, Mars, Krypton, and Vulcan.

We will leave our readers the space to consider their support (or the opposite) for this pipeline, but we will say this: the idea of leaving a large-state-sized hole in Nature for the purpose of lining a relatively small number of people’s pockets seems repugnant to us. Congratulations to all those who have supported the Keystone Pipeline – at least now you have had a good look at what you supported.

Tractor Supply Company Reaches Settlement In Emissions Case

by John Weckerle

On September 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release announcing a settlement with Tractor Supply Company Inc. and Tractor Supply Company of Texas L.P. (“Tractor Supply Company”) regarding the import and sale of more than 28,000 all terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and engines that “did not comply with federal Clean Air Act certification and emission labeling requirements.”  These requirements specify that all vehicles and engines sold in the United States must be covered by a valid certificate of conformity issued by EPA.  The vehicles and engines, sold by Tractor Supply Company between 2006 and 2009, were imported from China (suggesting that they were not manufactured by Volkswagen) and allegedly “varied from the certificates of conformity that had been submitted to EPA.” EPA estimated that the noncompliance resulted in excess emissions of up to 23.5 tons of excess hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions and 12.2 tons of excess carbon monoxide emissions.

Tractor Supply Company will pay $775,000 in civil penalties and be required to “implement a rigorous compliance plan that requires regular vehicle and engine inspections, emissions and catalyst testing, staff training and reporting for five years.  Tractor Supply Company will also mitigate potential adverse environmental effects of equipment already sold to consumers.”

Press Release: EPA and USDA Join Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Goals to Reduce Wasted Food

Editor’s note: This is a few days old but we found it interesting enough to pass on.

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 — Today, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the United States’ first-ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. As part of the effort, the federal government will lead a new partnership with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources. The announcement occurs just one week before world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address sustainable development practices, including sustainable production and consumption. As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for food waste reduction.

“Let’s feed people, not landfills. By reducing wasted food in landfills, we cut harmful methane emissions that fuel climate change, conserve our natural resources, and protect our planet for future generations” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Today’s announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the U.S., and we’re proud to be part of a national effort to reduce the food that goes into landfills.”

“The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This announcement demonstrates America’s leadership on a global level in getting wholesome food to people who need it, efficient use of natural resources, cutting environmental pollution and promoting innovative approaches for reducing food loss and waste.”

Food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change. Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions, which fuel climate change. This large volume of wasted food is a main contributor to the roughly 18 percent of total U.S. methane emissions that come from landfills. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States.

Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions. It is estimated that at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, food loss and waste totals $161 billion dollars.

Ongoing federal initiatives are already building momentum for long-term success. In 2013, USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, creating a platform for leaders and organizations across the food chain to share best practices on ways to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste. By the end of 2014, the U.S. Food Waste Challenge had over 4,000 active participants, well surpassing its initial goal of reaching 1,000 participants by 2020. EPA is working with nearly 800 grocers, restaurants, venues, stadiums, and other organizations to reduce wasted food through prevention, donation, and composting. In 2014, participants in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge diverted nearly 606,000 tons of wasted food, which included over 88,500 tons donated to people in need.

USDA and EPA will also continue to encourage the private sector—food service companies, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, and more—to set their own aggressive goals for reducing food loss and waste in the months ahead. Organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, which recently approved a new resolution to halve food waste within the operations of its 400 retailer and manufacturers members by 2025, are helping to lead the way.

The United States is leading global efforts to address the threat of climate change. The first-ever national food waste goal is just one part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting our environment for future generations. Since President Obama took office in 2009, the United States has increased solar generation by more than ten-fold, tripled electricity production from wind power, and reduced greenhouse gas pollution in the United States to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. By setting achievable environmental goals, this Administration is making strides to help boost the economy and protect the health of American families for the long-term.

Energy, Such As It Is

by John Weckerle

In a recent article re-posted by Sandia Tea Party Official Internet Spokesman Chuck Ring…

Okay, we’re ribbing Chuck here a bit; as we recall that he wasn’t crazy about the implication that he is the “official internet spokesman.” Still, as essentially the editor of the site, the mantle falls upon his shoulders and we’re sticking with it, while acknowledging that Chuck is a good person and a dedicated member of the community.  We would like our readers to understand that our reference to Chuck as “the official internet spokesman” carries a specific recognition that may not have been apparent: We may agree or disagree on a variety of issues, but Chuck is willing to put his name where his mouth is, where the entire planet can see it, and that takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.*

We are, however, a bit concerned to see that the Sandia Tea Party site, apart from a few cartoons, seems to be dedicated to reposting articles by Marita Noon on the subject of – well – energy.  We will begin with some disclosures, beginning with Ms. Noon’s relationship with the conventional energy industry:

SourceWatch article: Marita Noon
SourcWatch Article: Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy

We will also disclose your editor’s occasional commercial involvement with the energy industry, which includes consulting to the oil and gas industry in the early 1990s and to some small solar enterprises in the early to mid-2000s.

Ms. Noon’s article opens up with what has become a bit of a tired argument – the idea that including solar and wind energy in the total energy portfolio would result in a situation in which coal-fired power plants would be turned off during peak hours and have to be restarted from cold state on a daily basis.  We do not dispute Ms. Noon’s proposal that natural gas-fired plants would restart more effectively.  However, we do find the idea that conventional power plants would have to undergo a shutdown-and-restart process based on some perceived peak productivity on the part of renewable energy rather questionable; given the state of the industry, we see no reason to assume that renewable energy resources, as currently projected, would be expected to entirely satisfy peak demands in the short- or medium-term.  We challenge Ms. Noon and her compatriots – given that she and they are making the case – to provide convincing economic analyses to make their case -and if they cannot, we challenge the Sandia Tea Party to do so.

* Guts.

Annual Permaculture & Rainwater Harvesting Gathering – Saturday, October 4, 2014

Editor’s note: As Autumn approaches and we delight in an unusual bounty of rainfall, let us not forget that it is unusual, and there are strategies that can bring us great benefit during normal times.  This is an excellent event and we encourage everyone to attend, learn, socialize, and enjoy one of the tastiest and most interesting potlucks of the year!

by Christian Meuli

Saturday, October 4, 2014

 12:00 PM         Site Tour                         Visiting culverts, raintanks, and woodchip berms this year

2:00 PM             Potluck                            Great food every year!

3:00 PM             Climate Scenarios       Dr. Dave DuBois, New Mexico State Climatologist

4:00 PM             One Minute Announcements

4:05 PM             The Peregrine Falcon  Tom Smiley

Dr. Dave DuBois is the New Mexico State Climatologist. His interests include applying tree ring dating to large climate cycles. Rather than “forecasting” what the climate will do in our future, he is trying to anticipate various climate scenarios and how they might play out in real time.

Tom Smylie shares with us for the third time his lifelong learning of raptors. He is the retired Assistant Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He played an integral role in the peregrine falcon’s recovery from near extinction in North America and continues to be actively involved with the Peregrine Fund.

This free gathering will include a site tour and discussion of culverts, raintanks, and woodchip berms. Please bring friends and children, your favorite dish to share and your finest sunhat. Please car pool and leave pets at home.

Take I-40 to exit #187 (25 miles east of Albuquerque and 8 miles west of Moriarty). At the end of the off-ramp, go south two blocks to the stoplight at the intersection with H #333 (Smith’s Grocery will be on your left). Go straight up the hill on Edgewood Road #7 and turn right in ½ mile onto Moriarty Road (now paved). Go ¼ mile to #24 and turn right into my driveway or go straight ahead down the hill and park on your left.

I look forward to seeing everyone and meeting new friends! If you need a map or a timely update, please e-mail me or call me at (505) 331-0245.

Christian Meuli

Public Service Announcement: Public Presentation with Brad Lancaster: Rainwater Harvesting

Provided by Christian Meuli

Event: Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance
Date: Friday, June 7
Time: 6 – 8 pm
Place:  George Pearl Hall, UNM School of Architecture and Planning, Central Ave. NE and UNM Cornell Mall, Albuquerque
Sponsors:ErdaGardens and LearningCenter, Kalyx Studio, Querencia Green, and UNM Sustainability Studies Program

Brad Lancaster will present his work on Rainwater Harvesting on Friday, June 7, in George Pearl Hall on the UNM campus at 6 pm, at no cost to the public. The presentation, Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance, will be followed by a book-signing party for Lancaster’s Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.Event sponsors include ErdaGardens and LearningCenter, Kalyx Studio, Querencia Green, and UNM Sustainability Studies Program. Refreshments will be provided by La Montanita Coop during the book-signing session.

Brad Lancaster is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant, the author of the award-winning booksRainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” Volumes 1 and 2, and co-founder of Desert Harvesters. Brad harvests an average of 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year from his property near downtown Tucson, Arizona, where rainfall is twelve inches on average annually. Brad and his brother Rodd have created an oasis in the desert by incorporating rainwater into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape that includes habitat for wildlife.

Brad has inspired thousands of citizens and numerous businesses in Tucson and across the nation to harvest water and sustainably grow local resources. Joanne McEntire of Querencia Green, a community organization, observes that “Rainwater harvesting from rooftops is encouraged in Tucson, along with stormwater capture from paved areas. In Albuquerque our annual average precipitation is less than ten inches. As we acknowledge long-term drought and fluctuating rainstorm patterns, we’ve begun to practice water harvesting. As more neighbors capture rainwater to support gardens, trees and wildlife, more benefits would result.”

On Sunday, June 9, Brad Lancaster will lead a hands-on workshop at KalyxStudioLearningCenter in BernalilloCounty’s SouthValley. Participants will learn and practice earthwork techniques used in water harvesting systems. The workshop will focus specifically on earthworks that can be implemented to improve the efficiency of acequia irrigation for the home garden. Workshop organizer Leslie Buerk comments: “Although we will be constructing a system that combines traditional desert gardening practices with water harvesting techniques as applied to acequia irrigation, all of the techniques relate directly to working with rainwater and greywater systems.” Additional information is available by e-mail directed to

Agenda 21 Is Coming To Kill Your Local Tea Party

by John Weckerle

Okay, maybe not.  However, having seen just about enough of the associated silliness and paranoia on the Sandia Tea Party web site, and having had just about enough of special interests and political ideologues misrepresenting sustainability for their own ends, we decided to do a little looking around and gather some information that perhaps represents something just a little closer to reality than what has been presented there and in other far-right venues.  We found a few FAQ sites and others associated with organizations officially associated with Agenda 21.  Predictably, what we found was substantially different from the interpretations provided by the Sandia Tea Party, and we’ll get to that presently.

We also decided to see what the other local Tea Party chapter, the East Mountain Tea Party, had to say about the issue, and were surprised to find evidence that the organization may be defunct.  The domain now resolves to the Albuquerque Tea Party site, and there have been no posts to the EMTP’s Facebook page since October.  With no other explanation, we must assume that the proponents of Agenda 21 are responsible for the demise.  Less clear is the reason that the Chavez County Tea Party Patriots web site, as linked from the Albuquerque Tea Party site, is now presented in either Chinese or Japanese (we’re not sure which); perhaps they’ve outsourced themselves to Asia.

Now, on to Agenda 21.  We will not provide an exhaustive description here but will highlight a few points and provide links for the perusal of our readers, who we believe to be just a little more fact-conscious than some.  We’ll begin by providing a link to the text of Agenda 21, provided by the Institute for Global Communications (alternatively, you can download it in PDF format from the UN website).  It’s a big document – 351 pages – but what we’ve read of it does not seem to support an impression of a socialist/environmental extremist conspiracy.  A bit of “myth debunking” can be found in the article “Agenda 21: Just the Facts” presented by the Better World Campaign.  Of critical importance: Agenda 21 is not a treaty, is not binding in any way, and does not afford the United Nations any particular authority for implementation.  The article “What Is Agenda 21?” by the UN Dispatch explores the “controversies” surrounding the initiative, including the conspiracy theories being presented by various special interest and political groups opposed to what they describe as “sustainability” – which is, of course, not sustainability at all.  The Wikipedia article on Agenda 21 similarly points out the initiatives voluntary and non-binding status.

A non-UN organization composed of local governments – ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability (formerly the International Council for Local Initiatives) describes itself here, stating in part: ” ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.  ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.”  In its article “FAQ: ICLEI, the United Nations, and Agenda 21: Setting the Record Straight About ICLEI,” ICLEI-Local Governments USA states (among other things): “ICLEI is a champion of local governments. Working with elected officials, ICLEI’s World Secretariat helps voice local government needs and priorities during international negotiations and agreements that will effect local governments, such as the U.N. climate negotiations and the upcoming Rio+20 summit.”

Sustainability is not an international socialist-environmental extremist conspiracy.  It is not out to take anyone’s land away, prevent anyone from having children, or force anyone into indentured service as the only means to get drinking water.  We encourage our readers to follow the links provided in this article and learn more about Agenda 21 and sustainability initiatives in general.

East Mountain Transfer Station To Accept E-Waste

by John Weckerle

We have received a press release from Cathy Lopez at the Bernalillo County Public Information Department that the East Mountain Transfer Station is now accepting e-waste for recycling.  The “E” in “e-waste” stands for electronics.  Such wastes can contain a variety of metals, some harmful and some valuable, and recycling is a great way to avoid potential problems and reapply useful resources.  As an added benefit, we can all now recycle electronic devices – computers, cell phones, gaming systems, etc. – without driving into Albuquerque.

We provide directions correcting those issued by Bernalillo County, which appear to assume that only residents living west of the Zuzax exit dispose of such materials (grin):

  • From the Zuzax exit, regardless of which direction from which you arrive, go approximately 2 miles west on Old Route 66 (also known as NM 333).
  • From the NM-14 and Old Route 66 (also known as NM 333), go approximately 2.25 miles east on Route 66.

The press release indicates that the transfer station is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.  Hats off to Bernalillo County for providing this service!



An Ornithological Curiosity

by John Weckerle

Dozens of doves!

It’s been an interesting autumn bird-wise this year, primarily due to an unanticipated and unexplained shift in the bird population.  In all our previous years at this location, Fall has brought numerous robins with a healthy mix of flickers and other migrants to our neighborhood.  At any given time, the number of white-winged doves topped out at three or four.  For several weeks this year, however, we were visited by much greater numbers of doves, but have no idea why. These doves are clearly travelling together as a flock; they do not break up and fly off into pairs or smaller groups.  We counted at least fifty of them in the photo above, taken October 11, 2011.

A Wolf Adventure: Bringing Lobos Home to Wildlife West Nature Park

by John Weckerle

The Ladder Ranch, New Mexico

Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch embodies the spirit of southern New Mexico, with breathtaking scenery around every bend in the road.

On November 17, three Mexican Gray Wolves made the move from the Ladder Ranch in southern New Mexico to Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood.  Our journey began early, with the van leaving the Park at 5 a.m., carrying eight of us (Park founder Roger Alink; volunteers Christi Boyer and Pat Button; filmmaker Elke Duerr; East Mountain High School teacher Bradd Schulke [who also manages Wildlife West’s summer education program] and two of his students; and your editor) to the Ladder Ranch southwest of Truth or Consequences.  The mood was a lot cheery and a little bleary, with some folks chatting and some napping, gathering their strength for the day’s activities.  Your editor sat next to Ms. Duerr, who is in the process of creating a documentary on the Mexican Gray Wolf, or lobo.  We discussed the lobos and they myths surrounding them, as well as the wolf’s place in the ecosystem and ecosystem management in general.  Of course, policy, politics, and special interests had a prominent place in the discussion, but we’ll save those issues for a future article.

»» A Wolf Adventure: Bringing Lobos Home to Wildlife West Nature Park

Woodchip Berms

by Dr. Christian Meuli, La Resolana

Berms of wood chips slow rainwater, allowing it to infiltrate.

Wood chip berm at La Resolana

Woodchip berms are the easiest and most useful rainwater harvesting practice I use. The evolution of this method began in 2002 when the risk of wildfire in New Mexico became extreme and the pine-bark beetle became epidemic in our pinon-juniper forests.

At La Resolana in Edgewood, thirty miles east of Albuquerque, the forest had grown so thick that little snow and only some rain could reach the ground due to the extremely dense tree cover. These trees also shielded the ground from the sun so that few grasses and shrubs could grow beneath them.

»» Woodchip Berms

Wildlife West Seeks Volunteers for Wolf Roundup

by John Weckerle

Next Monday (November 1), Nieta, one of the Mexican gray wolves at Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood is scheduled to move to a new home at Wolf Haven International in Washington State, where she will go to live with some older males.  Because the habitat is large and Nieta is shy of human contact, numerous volunteers are needed to help herd Nieta into her transport carrier.  There will be a brief orientation for new volunteers prior to the roundup, which is currently scheduled to start at about 6:30 a.m.

From Wildlife West, Nieta will travel to Truth or Consequences, where she will be joined by another wolf from the El Paso Zoo.  Both wolves will be flown to Washington by LightHawk, an organization of volunteer pilots who have been “flying for the environment” for 31 years.  Volunteers who would like to assist in the roundup should contact Park founder Roger Alink at (505) 263-9453.

Mountainair Ranger District Press Release: Fall Prescribed Burning To Begin on the Mountainair Ranger District

Mountainair, NM – October 25, 2010: As fall colors come to an end and temperatures drop, it’s time for the Mountainair Ranger District to continue its prescribed burning program.  According to District Fire Management Officer, Mark Bernal, the district currently has two burns planned.

Currently there are 2 burns planned on the district.  The first burn is the East Thunderbird Prescribed Burn.  The East Thunderbird burn began last winter, but due to early winter precipitation was not completed.  The fall conditions have given us the opportunity to reenter the 190 acre area and attempt to complete the burn.

The burn will be in a forest area locally known as the Thunderbird area.  This area was thinned within the Thunderbird Ecosystem Management area, along both sides of Forest Road #275.  There are no set dates for the burn but district fire personnel will be watching weather patterns closely during the next few weeks to determine when it is safe and advantageous to conduct this burn.  The burn will be conducted only if and when weather patterns and available fire personnel are conducive to burning.

The second burn planned is the Barranco Prescribed Burn.  This burn is also within the Thunderbird Ecosystem Management area and is located South of Forest Road #275.  This burn will also be conducted as weather conditions and personnel allow.

If you have questions regarding the planned prescribed burn or any other Mountainair Ranger District questions, please call 505-847-2990 or email Adrian Padilla at or Arlene Perea at

Press Release: USDA Forest Service Builds on Recovery Act Investments to Create More Jobs in FY 2011

Editor’s note: FY 2011 began October 1, 2011

Forwarded by Arlene T. Perea, Mountainair Ranger District

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2010 – USDA Forest Service Officials announced today that the agency will build on job creation efforts through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments during the upcoming fiscal year by continuing to emphasize job creation and new partnerships with the private sector to create sustainable, green jobs.

“The Forest Service has been making investments in communities around the country and creating great new jobs in rural America,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.  “By focusing on new jobs and private sector partnerships, the Forest Service will continue to build a forest restoration economy to achieve Secretary Vilsack’s and the Forest Service’s forest and rangeland restoration goals.”

Recovery Act funds expire at the end of fiscal year 2010, but Tidwell explained that the Forest Service will retain its “Recovery Act focus” as part of its regular program of work in FY2011.  This will be accomplished using unobligated balances from FY 2010, along with FY 2011 appropriations, allowing the Forest Service to continue to restore forest resources while meeting the needs of rural economies.

»» Press Release: USDA Forest Service Builds on Recovery Act Investments to Create More Jobs in FY 2011

Politics, “Media” Accuracy And Global Climate Change

by John Weckerle

Your editor is participating in a bit of a disagreement on media accuracy (in this case, associated with EPA carbon dioxide regulations) with Edgewood Town Councilor Chuck Ring here.