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Hundreds Gather for Congreso de las Acequias in Taos

Mentees honor their acequia mentors. Congreso atendees were also invited to take a blue ribbon to give to someone important who has passed down acequia and farming traditions to them. Photo via NMAA

By Paula Garcia, NMAA Executive Director

The coffee was ready by 7:30am. Farmers and ranchers, who are inclined to be early birds, started arriving before 8:00am for on-site registration for the Congreso de las Acequias, the annual membership meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association. Soon after, the conference room started to come to life with Las Mañanitas, the traditional mexican ballad that welcomes the day. On an early Saturday morning in Taos, nearly 400 acequia parciantes and supporters from across the state gathered for the Congreso de las Acequias, which was also the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the New Mexico Acequia Association. The previous day, Friday afternoon, the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a tour of local acequia projects that would contribute to the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture in the Taos Valley. 

As is customary, the official start of the Congreso was Canción de las Acequias, a song written by David García, Roger Montoya, and Cipriano Vigil, which has become the anthem of the New Mexico Acequia Association. A collective of musicians, led by David García and Jeremías Martínez, and which included former Lt. Governor Roberto Mondragon, performed music throughout the day. In the Bendición de las Aguas, waters from acequias and rivers throughout the state were shared and mixed together with a prayer for the well-being of families and communities and for protection of waters that are believed to be a don divino or divine gift. 

The Congreso de las Acequias is the gathering and governing body of the New Mexico Acequia Association. As a federational body of regional delegations, one of the important moments in the annual convening is the roll call of regions which illustrates the statewide scope of the acequia community in New Mexico. While the gathering is infused with culture from the very beginning, the Congreso is very much a meeting of governance, where leaders come together and affirm their core values and to make collective decisions that form the basis for the policy positions and strategic directions. 

The day included a moving tribute to the late Senator Carlos Cisneros including testimonials from important leaders in his district who spoke of his commitment, work ethic, and the wit that so many of his friends and colleagues had grown fond of over the years. Esther García, former mayor of Questa and former commissioner on Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch, and Mary Mascareñas, long-time school board member for the Peñasco Independent Schools and former commissioner on Acequia del Llano de San Juan Nepumoceno, shared their memories of the Senator as a friend and as an advocate for rural communities. Musicians ended the tribute with a despedida, a traditional farewell ballad. 

Harold Trujillo, NMAA President, and Paula García, Executive Director, provided a retrospective of the NMAA’s 30 years of advocacy and contributions to the acequia movement in New Mexico. Special thanks was given to the Taos Valley Acequia Association as the first regional association to help form the Congreso de las Acequias as a statewide governing body. A timeline included some of the major milestones in acequia advocacy over the past thirty years, including important pieces of legislation and the founding dates of some of NMAA’s education and youth programs. Attendees were invited to add to the timeline with important dates from their own acequias.

A highlight of the day was a segment entitled, “Sharing Querencia Across Generations.” It was a time of recognition of both mentees and their mentors who have made a conscious effort to keep traditional knowledge alive across generations. The recognitions were an expression of gratitude by mentees for their mentors and an affirmation that the acequia tradition would continue for another generation. Chavela Trujillo of Abiquiu recognized her mom Isabel Trujillo, Juanita Revak from Jemez Springs recognized her father Gilbert Sandoval, Marcos Valdez recognized his mentor Kenny Salazar from La Mesilla, Zia Martinez recognized her mentor Lorenzo Candelaria, Nicanor Ortega recognized his mentor Miguel Santistevan, and Donne Gonzales recognized her mom Juliet Garcia-Gonzales. The heartfelt recognition illustrated the intergenerational nature of the acequia movement.

Other topics on the agenda included a youth mapping project with the Carson National Forest and presentations by participants in NMAA’s Sembrando Semillas youth project and Los Sembradores Farmer Training project. For some of the youth participants, the Congreso is one of the most important public speaking experiences of their young lives. It is part of NMAA’s leadership development work to include youth as speakers at the Congreso.

Another highlight of the day was a performance by renowned poet Olivia Romo, who shared a poem entitled “Fighting the Tragedy of the Commons” in which she critiques the privatization of communal waters of the acequias and pays homage to the elders who dedicate decades of their lives to defend water rights in the adjudication process. Her poem recognizes the work of the acequia leaders of the Rio de las Gallinas Acequia Association in the Las Vegas area who fought for fifty years to overturn a doctrine for the city to have an expanding water right and who continue to fight the fragmentation of their acequias.

Vibrant and spirited conversations took place during the lunch hour which was followed by an awards ceremony honoring two individuals who have likely spend the most years of their life directly involved with NMAA’s grassroots organizing and advocacy work. Harold Trujillo was honored as a co-founder of NMAA in 1989 and David Benavides was honored for his nearly 30 years of service as an attorney dedicated primarily to acequia water law. In the midst of the festivities, volunteers Martha Trujillo, Patrick Blumm, Olivia Romo, and Priscilla Romo worked the silent auction as an NMAA fundraiser.

The day concluded with the adoption of a series of resolutions that were proposed by NMAA’s regional delegates, leadership caucuses, and policy working group. Generally, NMAA’s resolutions express a policy statement or a proposal for a new programmatic direction. There were four policy resolutions addressing a range of issues including opposition to proposed exploratory mining in the upper Pecos watershed, support for expanding the use of a fund for acequia legal expenses, and details regarding the guidelines for the newly created Acequia Infrastructure Fund. Another resolution generated by caucuses involving youth and young adults urged NMAA to implement a project to document storytelling by community members and elders. All resolutions passed unanimously in large part due to the extensive participation in writing the resolutions well in advance of the Congreso.

The 30th Anniversary Celebration was a day to celebrate history and the passing of the torch to new generations. The event was a success with the teamwork of the NMAA staff and our much-appreciated volunteers. It will long live in the memories of those who were there. Que Vivan las Acequias!

Additional Photos:

Acequia roll call. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Bendición del Agua. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Concilio Member introductions. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Bendición del Agua. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Ofrenda. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire Times
Despedida to Carlos Cisneros. Photo via Seth Roffman/Green Fire times
Teatro Acequiero. Photo via NMAA
NMAA Sembrando Semillas youth program shares their visions for the future of their acequias. Photo via NMAA
NMAA 2019 Los Sembradores Farm Apprentices, and NMAA staff, share about their year. Photo via NMAA
Olivia Romo shares her poem ‘Fighting the Tragedy of the Commons’. Photo via NMAA
David Benavides (left) and Harold Trujillo (right) receive awards for their outstanding service to acequia communities. Photos via NMAA

Acequias and Climate Change: Learning Together and Adapting for the Future

Acequias and Climate Change

Learning Together and Adapting for the Future

Thursday, June 27, 2019

9:00am – 3:30pm

Juan I. Gonzales Agricultural Center

202 Chamisa Road, Taos, NM

Join acequias for a day of learning and dialogue about a future shaped by climate change. The day will include an overview of the impacts of climate change on New Mexico’s watersheds and rivers from Dr. David Gutzler, UNM professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, followed by interactive discussions about repartimiento traditions (old and new), water harvesting, infrastructure improvements, building healthy soils, and other adaptations.

REGISTER: https://form.jotform.com/91636531656159


Sponsored by the New Mexico Acequia Association, Embudo Valley Regional Acequia Association, Taos Valley Acequia Association, Rio Chama Acequia Association, and La Asociación de las Acequias del Valle de Mora.




Acequia Infrastructure Fund Created

The Randall Reservoir and Acequia Association recently completed a major rehabilitation project -Photo taken by Bill Adkison

The most significant piece of legislation for acequias passed in the 2019 session was the passage of SB 438 creating the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund. The sponsors of the bill (and the House companion bill HB 517) were Senator Carlos Cisneros, Senator Pete Campos, Senator Richard Martinez, Representative Andrea Romero, and Representative Bobby Gonzales. Strong supporters included Representatives Susan Herrera and Joseph Sanchez who also helped move the bill through the legislative process.

The Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund will be administered by the Interstate Stream Commission. The funding would be appropriated from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund and would be used for planning, design, and construction of acequia infrastructure projects.

The new fund builds on the existing acequia program at the ISC. The bill seeks to institutionalize recurring annual funding for the acequia projects through the Interstate Stream Commission. For more than 25 years, HB 2 has included a year-to-year appropriation for the ISC acequia program from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund, which according to Section 72-14-23, NMSA 1978 is intended for irrigation infrastructure. The annual appropriation has usually been $1.9 million but there have been some years when the NMAA has had to protect that appropriation from budget cuts. The rationale for the creation of the new fund is to ensure that the funding for the ISC acequia program is stable and recurring at a predictable amount.

The existing ISC acequia program has a long track record of successful completion of projects. Since the late 1980s, the ISC has administered acequia projects by ensuring that such projects have an engineering design, where needed, or design specifications prior to approving a project to proceed with construction. Currently, the program is staffed by two engineers who have the qualifications to review engineering designs and to assist acequias in managing their projects. The ISC also assists with inspections of construction during and after construction.

The ISC acequia program is a good complement to federal funding that is available as a cost share. It is also a good alternative or complement to Capital Outlay funding because it provides a more reliable stream of funding that is available for acequia projects.

Currently, the ISC program is part of several partnerships to leverage state and federal funding as well as technical assistance resources. The ISC partners with the NM Association of Conservation Districts and the New Mexico Acequia Association to conduct outreach to acequias and to assist acequias with infrastructure planning, applying for funding, and completing projects.

Having a statutory fund that provides reliable, recurring revenue to the acequia program at the ISC will contribute to positive outcomes for acequias who are working to improve irrigation efficiency.  The new fund will not be in effect until FY21 because the FY20 budget already had a $1.9 appropriation for the ISC acequia program. Also, the bill requires that the ISC develop guidelines for the program based on input from the New Mexico Acequia Commission and the New Mexico Acequia Association.


Hemp Basics: What Acequia Farmers Should Know about the Hemp Renaissance in New Mexico

Farm bill paves way for hemp growers -Photographer unknown

By Enrique Romero, Staff Attorney

There aren’t many things Washington politicians agree on these days.  The “legalization” of hemp, however, is one issue that both sides of the aisle agreed will benefit farmers across the country.  The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed into law in December declassified hemp as a controlled substance thereby opening up a market to farmers across the country.  The production of hemp, a plant known for its ability to thrive in a wide range of temperature and soil types, may especially benefit farmers in the arid Southwest.  New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture (NMDA), New Mexico State University (NMSU), and numerous entrepreneur-farmers are already looking to 2019 as a breakthrough year for hemp production in New Mexico.  In fact, at least two bills are pending in our state legislature that aim to facilitate hemp production.  Hemp has the potential to transform the agricultural landscape in New Mexico by offering small and large farmers a profitable alternative or supplement to crops like alfalfa, corn and chile.  Hemp production is not a fad; rather, it could be a key component to an agricultural renaissance in New Mexico, hopefully putting fallow acequia-served land back into production.

There is a long history behind the prohibition, but the short answer is guilt by association.  For decades, hemp was classified as a controlled substance because of its infamous cousin, marijuana.  Fortunately for the farmer, the law now provides a clear, bright line between hemp and marijuana that should help to dispel myths and destigmatize hemp production.  The NMDA’s Hemp Cultivation Rule released last December defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than three-tenths percent (.3%) on a dry weight basis.”  Clear and bright?  Well, let’s break the definition down a bit.

You probably recognize the word cannabis and associate it with marijuana.  You also probably recognize the chemical compound referenced in the definition as THC.  Hemp, like marijuana, is the cannabis plant, but with one key difference: hemp has very little of the chemical compound, THC, that is associated with a “high”.  In fact, to get the gold standard classification of hemp, your cannabis plant cannot have more than 0.3% THC.  Anything above that percentage and your cannabis plant is marijuana, a controlled substance prohibited under federal law.  And just to state the obvious, there are a lot of “cannabis” laws on the books currently dealing with medical and recreational cannabis.  Those laws are not hemp laws because those laws deal with marijuana – cannabis plants with a concentration of more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp production, though legal, is regulated in ways that an alfalfa farmer, for example, might find burdensome.  First, you need to have a license to grow and harvest hemp.  Farmers apply to the NMDA for the license and can expect to pay at a minimum of $800 for an “annual production” license fee and $6.00 per acre.  In addition to the fees, licensees are required to have their hemp crop tested to ensure that THC levels stay at or below 0.3%.  According to the Rules, licensees are financially responsible for costs associated with delivery and testing of samples.  If the samples test above 0.3%, and the NMDA determines that the crop needs to be destroyed, the cost of destruction is borne by the licensee.  In addition to these costs, farmers who are interested in entering the market need to do their research in order to make a number of important decisions, for one, whether to start crops from seed or clones.

The NMAA recently hosted a hemp workshop that attracted a diverse group of people: acequia farmers, hemp experts, and the Secretary of the NMDA.  The bottom line is that people are excited about hemp. They see hemp production as not only a burgeoning industry in New Mexico, but as a way to protect dormant acequia water rights.  If you’re interested in growing hemp, you’ll want to do your homework – a quick internet search will provide you with tons of information on the variety of hemp products, from fiber to CBD oils used for pain management, and on the profitability of the crop.  But, of course, the devil is in the details, and if you’re serious about producing hemp, you’ll want to contact local experts.

For a list of workshop presenters and other industry professionals that attended our workshop, call the NMAA at (505) 995-9644.

Legislature Passes Acequia Priority Bills

Acequia leaders attending the legislative committee hearing for the SB 12 and HB 379. Both passed becasue of local efforts -Photo taken by Toribio Garcia, NMAA Staff






Acequias succeeded in passing four critical pieces of legislation that affirm acequia governance, improve transparency and due process at the Office of the State Engineer, and establish a stable revenue stream for acequia infrastructure. Acequia leaders from around the state attended hearings and gave testimony about the importance of these important policy changes. Several other partners also showed their support for the legislation, thereby helping to gain the support of legislators from across the state. The following four bills each passed both the House and Senate and are on the Governor’s desk.

Please call Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and ask that she sign the acequia and water bills! Call 505-476-2200.

  • SB 438/HB 517 (Cisneros, Campos, Romero, Gonzales) Acequia and Community Ditch Irrigation Fund – This legislation would create a fund of $2.5 million per year for the ISC Acequia Program. For years, the ISC has received an annual appropriation for the acequia program, which has been typically $1.9 million but it has been lower in some years. The purpose of this year’s legislation is to ensure that there is recurring revenue from the Irrigation Works Construction Fund for acequia projects with an increase from $1.9 to $2.5 million. This will stabilize the funding for future years.
  • SB 12 (Cisneros-Salazar) Water Notifications Online –This legislation will require that the Office of the State Engineer post notices of water applications on the agency website in addition to the current requirement of publishing in the newspaper. This will contribute to the protection of due process rights of those whose water rights might be affected by a water right decision by the State Engineer. This applies to new appropriations and water transfers.
  • HB 17 (Chandler-Wirth) Water Leases and Water Uses – This legislation, in its original form, would have clarified that the State Engineer cannot approve a permit for a water lease until all requirements for public hearings have been met. This bill is in response to what NMAA has determined is an unlawful practice of approving leases without due process protections for water right owners potentially impaired. The bill was narrowed down substantially with language that clarifies that any water leases into or out of acequia require acequia approval, provided the acequia has the authorizing language in their bylaws.
  • HB 379 (Chandler) Acequia Liens – This legislation would clarify that an acequia can obtain a money judgement from a Magistrate Court that can serve as a lien on property that has delinquencies. It simplifies the process of obtaining a lien so that it would no longer be necessary to go through District Court. It also has protections for the parciante by requiring notice and that the acequia release the lien when the delinquencies are paid.

The 2019 session will be remembered for sweeping legislation on education, tax policy, renewable energy, criminal justice reform, and public safety. Among all the legislation introduced, water, agriculture, and natural resource issues were included among the nearly 1,300 pieces of legislation introduced. Most of the bills were versions of legislation introduced from past years while there were also a few new initiatives that gained traction. The following is a summary of bills that passed:

  • SB 5 Interstate Stream Commission Membership. This would change the composition of the ISC by specifying which sectors of water stakeholders and experts will have seats on the commission. The bill includes one seat out for an acequia representative. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 37 No LEDA Funds for Water Rights Purchases. This legislation would prohibit the use of funds from the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) from being used to purchase water rights. NMAA supported this bill because LEDA funds should be to strengthen local economies, not to take from an existing agricultural economy to lure an outside industry to the community. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 651 Water Data Act. This legislation creates a water data council with agencies and higher education institutions to standardize the management of water data in the state. The bill directs the council to develop consistent water data standards and best practices for data collection. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 204 Healthy Soils Act – This legislation would create a new program at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt practices that support healthy soils. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 581 Hemp Manufacturing Act. This legislation would expand commercial use of hemp and create a structure to regulate the production, testing, and manufacturing of hemp. The legislation would enable the growth of hemp as a potentially lucrative industry in New Mexico. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 266 Forest Restoration Fund. This legislation will support watershed health and forest restoration with funds to support on the ground projects. NMAA supported the concept of the bill but was unable to prevent the use the Irrigation Works Construction Fund. However, a compromise led to language in the budget bill that solvency issues of the Irrigation Works Construction Fund would be addressed in the next five years. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HB 315 Agricultural Workforce Development Act. Appropriates $250,000 to NMSU to administer an internship program for new and beginning farmers to get paid to work with existing farmers and ranchers. Passed and on the Governor’s desk.
  • HM 81 Rural Heritage Act Process – This memorial is intended to convene stakeholders who were involved in HB 332 Rural Heritage act. This legislation would have addressed the issues of rising property tax values in areas with historic agricultural lands by creating another category of taxation (unimproved lands). Lands in this category would be eligible for a special method that values the land at 25% of residential value. The bill faced some technical issues and a memorial HM 81 was introduced to bring stakeholder together to continue work on the concept.


Sponsor the 19th Annual Congreso de las Acequias

Sponsor the 19th Annual Congreso de las Acequias

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North, Albuquerque, NM

9am – 3:30pm (Registration begins at 8am)

The Congreso de las Acequias is the annual state-wide membership meeting of the NM Acequia Association, comprised of regional delegates from communities across the state. It is the ONLY statewide gathering of acequia leaders where we share knowledge and create strategies for protecting our acequias, the water that flows through them, and the healthy food that is grown with them.

We need your Support!

We have raised $3,200 out of $10,000!

Thank you to current Sponsors!

American Friends Service Committee

Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District

Tewa Women United

Guadalupe Credit Union

Santa Cruz Irrigation District

Gregory Swift, Acequia Commissioner

Con Alma Health Foundation

Waterwise Gardening, LLC

Del Norte Credit Union


And you can Sponsor the Congreso too!!!

Maíz — $1000

·        REGISTRATION waived for EIGHT (8) individuals

·        DISPLAY BOOTH in Exhibit Area

·        COLOR HALF (1/2) Page Advertisement in Program

·        ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website

Chile — $500

·        REGISTRATION waived for Four (4) individuals

·        DISPLAY BOOTH in Exhibit Area

·        COLOR QUARTER (1/4) Page Advertisement in Program

·        ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website

Hava — $250

·        REGISTRATION waived for TWO (2) individuals

·        DISPLAY BOOTH  in Exhibit Area

·        COLOR Business Card Advertisement in Program

·        ACKNOWLEDGMENT in our Print Newsletter, Electronic Newsletter,  and on our Website

Alverjon — $100

·        REGISTRATION waived for One (1) individual

·        NAME Listed in Program

·        ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our Print Newsletter , Electronic Newsletter, and on our Website


Please call or email Lori Spillman, 505-995-9644 or lori@lasacequias.org



2018 Acequia Photo/Art Contest

Lorenzo Candelaria leaping over the ditch -Photo taken by Brooks McQuade
















Acequia Art Contest

Adults: 19 and up

Youth: 18 years and under

“What does acequia culture mean to you?

“Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”

*Submit poems, videos, paintings, sketches, mixed media, models, and MORE!

Art participants are limited to one entry.


Acequia Photo Contest

Photo Categories:

Acequieros Working the Land


  Digitally Altered Imagery       




  Food and Seed Traditions



*Photo participants are limited to one entry per category.

You could win the following prizes:

1st Place: $60.00 & NMAA T-Shirt | 2nd Place: $40.00 & NMAA T-Shirt | 3rd Place: $20.00 & NMAA T-shirt *Winners will be recognized at the 2018 Congreso de las Acequias!


Art must be submitted by October 31, 2018
Submissions must be sent either by snail mail or electronically, in high resolution jpeg format. Please mail to NM Acequia Association 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505 or email to olivia@lasacequias.org along with the following information:


Name of Artist Town
Acequia Name County
Art/photo description or title(s)

Terms and conditions:  Upon photo submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.

Historic Lobato v. Taylor Land Grant Ruling Heading Back to Court

San Luis Valley right outside of Alamosa Colorado.

SAN LUIS, CO (August 28, 2018). In 2002, in a historic ruling in the Lobato v. Taylor land rights case, the Colorado Supreme Court settled a decades-long legal struggle by the heirs of the 1844 Sangre de Cristo Land Grant. The 80,000-acre parcel is known locally as La Sierra (the Mountain Tract). It is vital to the Culebra River acequia villages in Costilla County which rely on these access rights to sustain a robust and sustainable local agricultural economy. The ruling restored to the heirs and successors of the land grant rights to gather firewood and construction materials and to graze livestock. In 2005, more than 350 families received keys for access to the land grant and the exercise of these rights.

On Sept. 5, 2018, the San Luis Land Rights Council (LRC) and its supporters will have to return to the courts to defend these rights yet again. Shirley M. Romero Otero, the President of the LRC, expressed the view that the ability of the heirs to use La Sierra remains a vital part of the economic stability and cultural survival of a unique farming community that is the living heart of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The scheduled September 5 hearing is before the Colorado Court of Appeals in Denver.

The latest legal round was triggered by the new private owner of La Sierra (a.k.a. Cielo Vista Ranch), William Bruce Harrison, the scion of a wealthy Texas family with billions in oil wealth. Harrison is the fourth owner of the grant since the 2002 ruling. Prior owners included the disgraced head of the now defunct Enron Energy Services, Lou Pai. In the mid 1990s, then Colorado Governor Roy Romer established the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant Commission to try and resolve the dispute through a buy-out that would have converted the land into a state park and wildlife management area. The deal collapsed when Zachary Taylor, Jr. rejected an offer for $21 million in 1997. Harrison acquired ownership in February 2018 for a reported $105 million. The LRC has always opposed state ownership and emphasizes litigation to restore historic land use rights.

Established in 1978, the LRC was inspired by a legacy of local resistance led by the late Apolinar Rael during the 1960s land grant movement. In 1981, the LRC filed a class-action lawsuit against Jack T. Taylor, the North Carolina timber baron who acquired the grant in 1960. Taylor eventually lost because in 1960 he had promptly sued to keep the locals out but violated due process and equal protection standards when filing a quiet title action. Taylor and the lower courts failed to inform the majority of the land grant heirs, denying them their day in court to challenge Taylor’s quiet title action. The LRC sought to re-establish long-held community use rights to La Sierra, which the people were legally entitled to as confirmed under Mexican and U.S. law. The grant was patented by an act of Congress on June 21, 1860. After more than 37 years of court battles, the Culebra acequia village communities regained access rights when the Colorado Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Lobato v. Taylor [71 P.3d 938 (2002)] on June 24, 2002.

The pursuit of land speculation by wealthy outsiders has led to the sale and re-sale of the land grant over the years. In this environment, it has proved difficult for the heirs to develop and implement a co-management plan to protect these rights and sustain a healthy ecosystem that makes exercise of these rights possible. Ms. Romero observes: “There have been four different owners over the past sixteen years since our rights were restored. How can we develop a plan when the private speculative parties keep changing? We now have an owner who wants to strip us of our rights. It is hard to negotiate a management plan with a hostile party. The fact that the land grant is constantly subject to speculation has made it difficult for the community to adopt and implement a co-management plan.”

Ms. Romero further noted: “Instead of trying to undermine established law and precedent, Mr. Harrison should work with us to take care of the mountain and restore the forests from damage caused by excessive logging operations by the Taylor family. We’ve taken care of that mountain for more than 150 years and that is why the wealthy speculators are drawn here. Our knowledge of the ecology of La Sierra is the only thing that has sustained this watershed. Mr. Harrison should work with us to protect the source of our heritage and livelihoods instead of attacking legally established rights.” Ms. Romero describes a recent meeting with the thirty-year old Harrison: “He claims that he is a conservationist but told us during a recent meeting [with the LRC] that he purchased the mountain because he ‘needs a place to play.’”

Dr. Devon G. Peña, a local farmer and President of The Acequia Institute and former officer with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, observes: “For the local acequia farmers who are land grant heirs, some of the most important rights tied to La Sierra are the oldest water rights in the state of Colorado. That mountain is our watershed and protecting the forest is vital to the survival of the oldest family farms in the state, especially in a time of climate change. It is astounding that we have a newcomer speculator who ignores legal precedent and the rights of the local people to continue sustainable use. The community has been a good protector of the land grant despite abuses by an ever-shifting cast of rich men seeking a prestigious playground. We advocate for a co-management plan that focuses on creating jobs for local people to work restoring the ecosystem of La Sierra that was so badly damaged by decades of excessive logging by private land speculators with no ties to the community.”

For more information contact: Shirley M. Romero, President, Land Rights Council. Email: shirleymromero@yahoo.com. Phone: 970-640-8014







6th Annual Statewide Commissioner/Mayordomo Conference

En Dias de Menos Statewide Commissioner/Mayordomo Conference begin with a procession and prayer to San Ysidro -Photo taken by Paula Garcia

The New Mexico Acequia Association is pleased to announce another successful statewide acequia conference on June 21th 2018 at Los Luceros Historic Ranch in Alcalde. This year, we focused on the struggle of drought and highlighting innovative ways that acequia leaders are managing water, enhancing soil health, and more effectively communicating with our neighbors to overcome dry times. The morning began with a procession to the orchard where the Hermanos Penitentes lead with a prayer for San Ysidro, setting the tone for a day in deep meditation for rain, water and one another.

There was a dynamic and very heartfelt conversation that carried on throughout the day. Acequia farmers shared their experience in sharing water but also what is not working within their communities that makes farming in New Mexico one of the most difficult. In unity, the larger acequia community leans on one another, lending out knowledge, seeds, and wisdom to help one another continue to farm and preserve our cultural heritage in times of uncertainty.

Break Out Groups Strategiez on Drought -Photo taken by NMAA Staff

We want to personally thank and celebrate all of you for making the time and effort to be there and for bringing the knowledge back to your communities. Special thanks to Norma Naranjo who prepared a delicious meal for lunch, Donne and Edward Gonzales who facilitated an educational drip irrigation demonstration, and all of our presenters who shared knowledge about farming methods that are feasible with little water.

Please look for a full summary of the conference in our electronic newsletter in July!


Que vivan las acequias!