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Taos Ski Valley Expansion Sample Scoping Comment Letter

PLEASE COPY AND PASTE THE SAMPLE LETTER BELOW TO MAKE A COMMENT ON THE TAOS SKI VALLEY EXPANSION PROJECT. LETTERS ARE DUE BY MAY 6TH.

FOR MORE DETAILS AND INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER, SEE OUR NEWS POST HERE: https://conta.cc/3vEdUhb


James Duran, Forest Supervisor

c/o Paul Schilke, Winter Sports Coordinator

P.O. Box 110 Questa, NM 87556

Re: Taos Ski Valley Gondola and Other Improvements Project

Dear Supervisor Duran:

My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] and I am a [INSERT YOUR ROLE – COMMISSIONER/PARCIANTE/MEMBER OF…] the [INSERT ACEQUIA OR COMMUNITY NAME]

[IF DESIRED – ADD A SENTENCE ABOUT WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, OR DELETE THIS LINE] 

I strongly urge the Carson National Forest to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) to meaningfully address the many negative ecological and environmental justice impacts, including cultural and socioeconomic impacts, the “Taos Ski Valley Gondola and Other Improvements Project” (Project) will have on my acequia, community, the Rio Hondo Watershed, and Taos valley. 

The following concerns demonstrate the reasonably foreseeable, harmful and significant negative impacts this Project will have on my acequia, community, the Rio Hondo Watershed and Taos valley, which must be addressed in an environmental impact statement rather than through a brief and insufficient environmental assessment. The Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative adverse effects will disproportionately impact historically marginalized communities including Pueblos, acequias and land grants, therefore triggering numerous environmental justice requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), its implementing regulations, and several executive orders. CNF has the responsibility of ensuring that all of the Project’s adverse effects are meaningfully and equitably addressed. Most importantly, the EIS must include a No Action Alternative analysis.

 

Environmental Justice Concerns, Including Cultural and Socioeconomic Impacts, that Must Be Addressed in an EIS:

 

  • The EIS must take a hard look at whether Tribes, Pueblos, acequia, land grant and other environmental justice communities have been sufficiently involved in the decision-making process. This includes whether CNF has engaged in tribal consultation prior or during this scoping phase, consultation with impacted acequias and land grants, and with other environmental justice communities. This also includes whether CNF has invited Tribes, Pueblos, acequias and/or land grants with political subdivision of the state status to serve as cooperating agencies in the NEPA process, and whether traditional ecological knowledge is being centered in the NEPA process.

 

  • The EIS must also take a hard look at how traditional land-based communities including Tribes, Pueblos, acequias, and land grants currently suffer and have historically suffered, from environmental and health risks or hazards, and from large-scale development projects such as the Proposed Action.

 

  • With respect to natural resources such as water, land and wildlife, the EIS must include Tribal, Pueblo, acequia, and land grant dependence on natural resources for their economic base, as well as the cultural values that the Tribe, Pueblo, acequia, or land grant community places on water, land and wildlife at risk by the Proposed Action.

 

  • The EIS must also include an analysis of the socioeconomic impacts to environmental justice communities, specifically addressing the Proposed Action’s contribution to low-wage seasonal employment, skyrocketing demand for short-term housing rentals, unsustainable population growth, increased stress to public services, and overall decreased quality of life.

 

 

Water Resource Concerns that Must Be Addressed in an EIS:

 

 

  • Generally, the EIS must take a hard look at the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the Proposed Action on all surface water and groundwater resources. This includes analyzing the potential impacts to water quality, groundwater supplies, surface water supplies including drinking water, and aquatic wildlife. Special consideration must be given to project elements that threaten traditional agricultural water supplies for impacted acequias. Baseline data is also needed to meaningfully analyze these impacts.

 

  • Specifically, the Proposed Action seeks to install a septic system or sanitary sewer line based on engineering recommendations, with water supplies coming from an onsite well to support the on-mountain guest service facility at the top of Lift 7 and the new Whistle Stop Cafe building. These developments would not only require significant quantities of water, but they would also likely impact water quality in the project area, as well as the greater Rio Hondo Watershed. For example, disturbance of soils along the Lake Fork of the Rio Hondo for installation of the gondola and all its towers would result in impacts to surface waters, therefore requiring diligent analysis and collection of baseline data. The EIS must therefore take a hard look at the Proposed Action’s impacts to water resources, mitigation measures, long-term monitoring of water quality and volume, and a No Action Alternative. Any mitigation measures identified in the EIS must include detailed measures to protect the integrity of the Rio Hondo headwaters through all phases of the project.

 

  • Also specifically, the Proposed Action seeks to utilize a 65.2 million gallon water tank (annually storing a diversionary right of 200 acre-feet)  and booster station near Lift #2. The EIS must take a hard look at whether this action will result in over-appropriation of the Taos Ski Valley’s 200 acre-feet water right and conditions of approval associated with the Taos Ski Valley’s water rights permit. For example, while Taos Ski Valley, Inc. holds a diversionary right of 200 acre-feet, this water right is severely constrained by the permit condition limiting consumption to only 21.42 acre feet, and a hard cap of only 0.11 acre feet of daily consumptive use between April 11th and October 25th of each year. The EIS must analyze whether the Taos Ski Valley, Inc.  has sufficient water rights to implement the proposed project actions, must clearly identify the source and usage of water to be pumped up the mountain, and must analyze effects of removing water from the Rio Hondo Watershed, including the water needed to replenish the tank on a regular basis.

Thank you for considering my comments. This NEPA scoping process is an opportunity for CNF to equitably engage with traditional, land-based communities that have been historically marginalized by CNF project permits and associated water and land management decisions. Inclusion of environmental justice stakeholder concerns will ensure compliance with NEPA and other applicable laws, and will result in a meaningful, equitable analysis of the Proposed Action’s impacts.

Respectfully,

[INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]

NMAA is Hiring!

The NMAA is hiring a Community Organizing and Communications Coordinator to conduct outreach, base building, training, education, and leadership development with the statewide acequia community, which includes support local and statewide campaigns to protect water from commodification and contamination. This position will also be responsible for coordinating overall communications with members, the media, and the general public. 
 
The NMAA is also hiring an Executive Assistant to provide administrative and programmatic support to the NMAA team. This position will play a vital role in the organization by assisting with scheduling, tracking inquiries and requests for assistance, implementing a membership program, assisting with community outreach activities, and assisting with office management. 
 
For both positions, experience in a non-profit, community-based work setting is required. The ideal candidate must be friendly, outgoing, and willing to take on complex tasks. Both positions require excellent communication and writing skills, experience relevant to the position, extensive in person work, the ability to travel statewide, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse team and community. Both require periods of rigorous activity and irregular work hours during key issue campaigns and the state legislative session and both positions will work directly with the Executive Director.
 
NMAA is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more information, see the full job descriptions in the links above. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to Juliet Garcia at juliet@lasacequias.org. 

Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact: Paula Garcia

lamorena@lasacequias.org

505-231-7752

 

Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact

 

(Santa Fe) – As the session drew to a close, it became clear that SB 100, the Cannabis bill, would not pass. A House committee scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday never met while the full House met for a marathon floor session to try to get other bills across the finish line. 

“We were calling upon the House Judiciary Committee to restore water protections in SB 100 as amended by the Senate.” said Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), Executive Director. “Our goal was to maintain the requirement that water rights be verified at the front end of the cannabis licensing process.”

The NMAA was working alongside several other organizations (see attached letter) to remove what was being called the “Pirtle amendments,” which removed the up front water rights check. “We believe that the House Judiciary Committee would have restored the water protections to SB 100,” continued Garcia. “The sponsors had prepared an amendment to remove the Pirtle amendments and we thank them for that.”

Garcia notes that the difficulty some producers face with their water rights has to do with the basic tenets of water law and not the Cannabis Regulation Act. “It can take months to get a State Engineer permit if you don’t already have water rights in place. These are water laws that have been in place for over a century. It is also important to remember there is no cap on the number of licenses to be issued, so there is still time for entry into this emerging market.” 

Moving forward, the water rights verification that is in the Cannabis Regulation Act will remain intact. “We believe the CRA has a reasonable up front verification that enables good water management and accountability,” said Harold Trujillo, President of NMAA. “We are interested in working to ensure that the Office of the State Engineer and Regulation and Licensing Department have the resources needed to implement these provisions.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Paula Garcia
lamorena@lasacequias.org
505-231-7752

Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact

(Santa Fe) – As the session drew to a close, it became clear that SB 100, the Cannabis bill, would not pass. A House committee scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday never met while the full House met for a marathon floor session to try to get other bills across the finish line. 

“We were calling upon the House Judiciary Committee to restore water protections in SB 100 as amended by the Senate.” said Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), Executive Director. “Our goal was to maintain the requirement that water rights be verified at the front end of the cannabis licensing process.”

The NMAA was working alongside several other organizations (see attached letter) to remove what was being called the “Pirtle amendments,” which removed the up front water rights check. “We believe that the House Judiciary Committee would have restored the water protections to SB 100,” continued Garcia. “The sponsors had prepared an amendment to remove the Pirtle amendments and we thank them for that.”

Garcia notes that the difficulty some producers face with their water rights has to do with the basic tenets of water law and not the Cannabis Regulation Act. “It can take months to get a State Engineer permit if you don’t already have water rights in place. These are water laws that have been in place for over a century.”

Moving forward, the water rights verification that is in the Cannabis Regulation Act will remain intact. “We believe the CRA has a reasonable up front verification that enables good water management and accountability,” said Harold Trujillo, President of NMAA. “We are interested in working to ensure that the Office of the State Engineer and Regulation and Licensing Department have the resources needed to implement these provisions.”

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CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

This is a letter from a broad coalition to the NM House of Representatives. For a PDF of the letter click here:  Cannabis coalition Letter to House 2.15.22

 

CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

Dear House Members,

We, the undersigned, are calling upon the House of Representatives to restore water protections to the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA). SB 100 (Lopez-Romero) was originally intended to increase plant counts and other “technical” changes. However, a hostile amendment by Senator Pirtle in the Senate Judiciary Committee stripped essential water protections requiring that an applicant have valid water rights as a condition of being granted a license to grow cannabis. We are asking the House to remove the Pirtle amendment and restore existing water protection requirements of the CRA.

We know that these protections are necessary because other states with legal cannabis (California, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) are struggling with illegal water uses. In New Mexico, many new producers mistakenly believe they can:

1) use domestic wells for commercial production,

2) pump surface water from acequias or rivers without a valid water right,

3) use residential water from mutual domestics for commercial production.

OSE Director of Water Resources Allocation Program has recently stated that the CRA’s water validation requirement is working to prevent water theft by cannabis producers and results in less agency resources being expended in the long term:         

  • 85-90% of applicants “have presented invalid water rights, need to reconfigure the water rights or plan to use a domestic well, which is not allowed for agriculture,” Romero advised.
  • OSE also advised that removal of the existing water protection requirement is “going to make it that much more difficult on the agency when we’re already resource-strapped.”

*Source: https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2022/02/15/senate-passes-cannabis-law-changes-adds-new-water-rights-language/

Moreover, the water protection requirements ensure water equity. Tribal and Senior water rights holders in NM are from historically underserved and marginalized communities which will now be put at greater risk of unlawful uses of surface and groundwater impairing their senior water rights. This is an issue of water equity. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural and tribal communities such as acequias and water providers such as mutual domestics.

Finally, the Legislature has required OSE water rights validation and use oversight for other industries: NM Subdivision Act, specifically Sections 47-6-11, 47-6-11.2, and 47-6-11.4 NMSA 1978; Section 72-12-5 NMSA 1978 pertaining to use of non potable deep aquifers in multiple sectors; and the Mine Dewatering Act, Section 2-12A-5 NMSA 1978.

New Mexico is now in an era of long term aridification, where we need more careful stewardship of our limited water resources and cultural integrity. By removing the water protections, rural entities, such as mutual domestics and acequias, who are entrusted with managing water at the local level, will bear the burden of enforcement. This would put our precious water resources at risk. We are urging you to remove the Pirtle amendment, restore existing water protection requirements, and allow time for a meaningful analysis during the legislative interim.

NM Cannabis Justice Project                                                 Shiprock Traditional Farmers Cooperative

Pueblo Action Alliance                                                            El Chante

National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Ass.-NM   Southwest Organizing Project

National Young Farmers                                                         American Friends Service Committee

New Mexico Acequia Association                                        Tewa Women United

Western Landowners Alliance                                               Yucca

Trout Unlimited                                                                        Los Jardines

Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network                                      Earth Care

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union                                           Black Farmers and Ranchers NM

N.M. Association of Conservation Districts                        Bueno Para Todos Farm

NM League of United Latin American Citizens

CALL TO ACTION: Contact Senators to Oppose Removal of Water Protections in Cannabis Bill

Please contact the Senate NOW to remove the Senate Judiciary Committee amendment to SB 100 Cannabis Regulation!! There will like be a vote on the Senate Floor MONDAY.  When the original Cannabis Regulation Act was passed in 2021, NMAA advocated for water protections as a condition of obtaining a cannabis producer license. The protections are to prevent illegal uses of water.  IT IS URGENT that we contact the full Senate to remove the SJC amendment, which was made in the Senate Judiciary Committee WITHOUT ANY TRANSPARENCY or opportunity for PUBLIC COMMENT.

Cut and Paste Subject: Keep Water Protections in Cannabis Regulation Act
 
Cut and paste to all the Senators:

greg.baca@nmlegis.gov, craig.brandt@nmlegis.gov, bill.burt@nmlegis.gov, “Campos, Pete” <pete.campos@nmlegis.gov>, “Candelaria, Jacob” <jacob.candelaria@nmlegis.gov>, joseph.cervantes@nmlegis.gov, crystal.diamond@nmlegis.gov, katy.duhigg@nmlegis.gov, “David Gallegos (david.rsi@hotmail.com)” <david.rsi@hotmail.com>, roberto.gonzales@nmlegis.gov, ron.griggs@nmlegis.gov, carrie.hamblen@nmlegis.gov, siah.hemphill@nmlegis.gov, martin.hickey@nmlegis.gov, stuart.ingle@nmlegis.gov, daniel.ivey-soto@nmlegis.gov, “Jaramillo, Leo” <leo.jaramillo@nmlegis.gov>, gay.kernan@nmlegis.gov, linda.lopez@nmlegis.gov, brenda.mckenna@nmlegis.gov, mark.moores@nmlegis.gov, george.munoz@nmlegis.gov, steven.neville@nmlegis.gov, oneillsd13@billoneillfornm.com, “Ortiz y Pino, Jerry” <jortizyp@msn.com>, michael.padilla@nmlegis.gov, shannon.pinto@nmlegis.gov, cliff.pirtle@nmlegis.gov, harold.popejr@nmlegis.gov, nancy.rodriguez@nmlegis.gov, Joshua Sanchez <jas4nm@gmail.com>, gregg.schmedes@nmlegis.gov, a.sedillolopez@nmlegis.gov, bill@williamsharer.com, “Shendo, Benny” <benny.shendo@nmlegis.gov>, bill.soules@nmlegis.gov, Liz Stefanics <lstefanics@msn.com>, jeff.steinborn@nmlegis.gov, bill.tallman@nmlegis.gov, Peter Wirth <peter.wirth@nmlegis.gov>, pat.woods@nmlegis.gov, mimi.stewart@nmlegis.gov, leojaramillo76@gmail.com, lopez4148@msn.com, asedillolopez@gmail.com

Cut and Paste Sample message:
Dear Senators,
We stand in firm opposition to the amendment made to SB 100 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The amendment was made with no public notice and no opportunity for public comment. It is an amendment that removes critical water protections from the Cannabis Regulation Act, which was passed in 2021. The purpose of the water protections was to ensure that license applicants have valid water rights and are in compliance with local water provider rules. We ask that the Senate remove this amendment in a SENATE FLOOR AMENDMENT and that the issue of water rights be addressed during the legislative interim.
We know that these protections are necessary because other states with legal cannabis (California, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) are struggling with illegal water uses. In New Mexico, many new producers mistakenly believe they can:
1) use domestic wells for commercial production,
2) pump surface water from acequias or rivers without a valid water right,
3) use residential water from mutual domestics for commercial production.
New Mexico is in a historic drought when we need more careful stewardship of our limited water resources. By removing the water protections, the State Legislature will be unleashing an industry in rural New Mexico where local institutions such as mutual domestics, acequias, and small towns need guardrails at the state level to avoid exploitation of limited water resources, especially finite groundwater. We are urging you to remove this amendment and allow time for more analysis during the legislative interim.
(your name and acequia/water institution/organization)

Acequias Cry Foul on Cannabis Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact: Paula Garcia 

505-231-7752

paula@lasacequias.org

 

Acequias Cry Foul on Cannabis Legislation

(Santa Fe, NM). Acequias are denouncing a last-minute gutting of water protections in the Cannabis Regulation Act. On Sunday morning, a Senate committee met to consider a bill dealing with cannabis plant count limits. Without notice or opportunity for public comment, the committee adopted an amendment eliminating existing requirements aimed at preventing illegal uses of water.

“We worked very hard with the legislature in 2021 to enact safeguards for water resources from the negative impacts of the cannabis industry,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “In a few minutes, with no opportunity for public comment, all that hard work was erased.” 

Senator Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, introduced an amendment to SB 100 to remove language in the Cannabis Regulation Act requiring cannabis producers have valid water rights. The only dissenting vote was Senator Linda Lopez, the bill sponsor who called the amendment “not friendly.” Three of the committee members who are attorneys practicing cannabis law cited their own experience and argued that the water rights requirements were burdensome.

“We are calling upon the full Senate to remove the amendment that gutted the water protections,” Garcia remarked. “If the Legislature was planning to remove the water protections, stakeholders including the acequias should have been consulted.” 

Harold Trujillo, President of the NMAA and a member of the Cannabis Advisory Committee, countered remarks by the committee that the removal of water protections would benefit smaller producers. “We are concerned that the cause of equity is being misrepresented,” said Trujillo. “The root cause of inequity is the lack of capital for micro-producers. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural communities such as mutual domestics and acequias.”

In a public meeting in November 2021, the OSE reported that they had received approximately twenty requests for water rights validation and that the majority did not meet validity checks. “We have learned from other states as well as specific examples of medical producers in New Mexico that the cannabis industry is unique in its apparent problem of illegal water use,” remarked Garcia. “As one of the most water-scarce states in the nation, New Mexico needs extra safeguards for our precious water.”

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NMAA 2022 Legislative Tracker

The New Mexico Acequia Association will be engaged in the upcoming 2022 legislative session. This year, the legislature will convene for a 30-day session, which is focused on passing budget legislation as well as key priorities of the Governor.
NMAA is working on a list of budget priorities as follows:

• $400,000 increase in recurring funding for the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund (ACDF) the purpose of which is to ensure equitable engagement in the water right adjudication process

• $4.5 million to the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) for a 3 year project to conduct a statewide acequia infrastructure assessment including analysis of climate resilient designs for acequia irrigation systems.

• $2.5 million to the ISC for shovel-ready projects and $5 million to the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (ACDIF) to plan, design, and construct acequia projects over a 3 year timeframe.

• Create an Acequia Bureau at the ISC and add 2.0 FTE for implementation of the ACDIF.

• Create a Policy Analyst Position, 1.0 FTE to the New Mexico Acequia Commission.
Additionally, NMAA will be monitoring all legislation with a focus on water, agriculture, conservation, and infrastructure. We update our 2022 Acequia Legislative Tracker daily during the 30 day session.

Click here to view the tracker

Land Grants and Acequias – Statement on House Committee Structure

Statement from the NM Acequia Association:

“Land grants and acequias have sustained our communities for centuries. We remain devoted to the well-being of our families by sustaining our culture and protecting land and water for future generations. We are encouraged that House Leadership is listening to our needs and concerns and that there is a commitment to work with us now and in the future. We are prepared to advocate for investments in our communities and policies consistent with our core values. We have much work ahead and look forward to having a stronger voice in the updated committee structure.” – Paula Garcia, Executive Director

Full text of the press release from Speaker Brian Egolf:

House Democrats and Community Leaders Give Voice to Land Grants and Acequias

Santa Fe, NM. – After meeting with land grant and acequia community leaders today, House Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) announced important changes to House standing committees to elevate the voices and concerns of these communities. The new Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs Committee will be established in the coming session, and will be chaired by Representative Susan Herrera (D-Embudo).

Two other standing committees will also be newly titled: the Agriculture, Acequias, and Water Resources Committee and the Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee. Together, these committees will respond effectively to the needs of land grant and acequia communities within the Legislature.

Majority Leader Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces), and Majority Caucus Chair D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock) joined with colleagues in the House today to meet with land grant and acequia community leaders and receive input on policies to strengthen and protect these institutions into the future.

Statement of Speaker Brian Egolf:

“Land grants, acequias, and their contributions to our state have been critically important to me since the first day I was elected to the Legislature. I am grateful for the advice and input that we received today from land grant and acequia leaders. I am glad that we have charted a path forward which will result in a new committee structure that will both elevate land grant and acequia issues and bring positive change for every land grant heir and acequia parciante.”

New Mexico Land Grant-Merced Consejo:
“The New Mexico Land Grant-Merced Consejo and land grant leaders throughout the state are pleased that the Majority Leadership in the House of Representatives has committed to working with and consulting our communities on issues relating to land and water, which we expect will result in better overall policies for our State. That land grants and acequias are included in standing committees of the legislature is an important first step to ensure that the needs of our communities are addressed.”

Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association:
“Land grants and acequias have sustained our communities for centuries. We remain devoted to the well-being of our families by sustaining our culture and protecting land and water for future generations. We are encouraged that House Leadership is listening to our needs and concerns and that there is a commitment to work with us now and in the future. We are prepared to advocate for investments in our communities and policies consistent with our core values. We have much work ahead and look forward to having a stronger voice in the updated committee structure.”

Ralph Vigil, Chair of the New Mexico Acequia Commission:

“Today we had a good meeting with House Leadership regarding the future of the land grants, acequias, and our traditional communities. This is hopefully the beginning of building long term relationships with legislative leaders to address the long standing issues for our traditional communities and the citizens of New Mexico. We look forward to working closely with our legislative allies to move our communities forward.”

Steve Polaco, President of Merced de Los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla:

“I am pleased that Representative Susan Herrera has been appointed to Chair the new Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs Committee. She has been working with our land grant since she was elected. Everything we have asked for, she has always sent us in the right direction and I think she will lead us in a way that will help us accomplish everything that we want to achieve. She has been very responsive in the past and I have confidence that she will continue to do that.”

House Majority Leader Javier Martínez:

“These treasured multigenerational entities are foundational to the identity and livelihoods of many New Mexicans. The land grant and acequia communities have to know they can count on elected leaders to have their backs and ensure they have a strong voice within state government.”

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Corazon y Querencia Declaration

Corazón y Querencia: Acequias Respond to the Water and Climate Crisis

Adopted at the 2021 Congreso de las Acequias, December 4, 2021

Our theme for 2021, Corazón y Querencia, is rooted in love, which is the most potent force for survival and resilience for our families and communities in the years to come. Drought, climate change, and the global pandemic have reminded us of our interconnectedness both locally and globally. We believe in the power of building stronger communities through cooperation, sharing, and mutual understanding.

Acequias have been caretakers of water for centuries in New Mexico. For nearly four decades, acequias have mobilized to protect water from commodification through protests of water transfers and by strengthening acequia governance. Our communities are confronting an urgent existential crisis that must be addressed on multiple levels:

  • the water crisis has been underway for decades prompted in part by climate change and drought but also by water policy decisions. For more than two generations, acequias have sounded the alarm about an impending water crisis resulting from overappropriation of water, unsustainable and inequitable management of our water resources based on water markets, water transfers out of agriculture to other uses, and irreversible depletion of finite groundwater.
  • the climate crisis has increased the urgency to be exemplary caretakers of our watersheds, rivers, acequias, and farmland, to reaffirm customs and traditions of water sharing, i.e. the repartimiento, as well as to re-localize our food systems with native and landrace seeds, healthy soils, resilient and dynamic herds of livestock, and regenerative agricultural practices.
  • the economic crisis, driven by unprecedented wealth inequality, manifests in our communities as gentrification, development patterns that cannot be sustained in an arid environment, underinvestment in rural community development and infrastructure, and food and agriculture policy that undermines small-scale farmers. The most immediate impact for acequias is the commodification of water driving the movement of water out of agriculture to extractive industries, water speculation, land development speculation, as well as luxury resorts and hunting lodges for the extremely wealthy.

Core Values

Guided by our core values, acequia parciantes, families, and neighbors will strive to work together to not only survive multiple levels of crisis but to strengthen our communities. We resolve to build and sustain relationships based on respeto (respect) in which we treat each other with dignity. As acequias, water sharing customs and traditions, known as the repartimiento, are central to our culture and our identity. Likewise, mutualismo, characterized by relationships of mutual aid, democratic decisions, and collective management of resources, is a core value deeply rooted in acequia history and culture.  The core value of solidarity compels us to work with multiple movements for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Acequias and the Way Forward: Actions for 2022

Water Sharing Agreements: The repartimiento tradition, as we define it for our present time, is the practice of sharing water within acequias and between acequias. As long-term megadrought and climate change intensify, communities have to prepare for less snowpack, less runoff, and less predictable precipitation. In 2022, the NMAA invites acequias to engage in a local dialogue to affirm values and customs of water sharing and to update and reinvent customary practices during this era of climate change when adaptations are necessary.

Water as a Community Resource vs. Commodification: Acequias have been on the front line of challenging the commodification of water for over a century in New Mexico. In 2022, NMAA will continue to support acequias in filing protests of water transfers, to build capacity to exert decisions over proposed water transfers out of acequias, and to organize a base in communities to defend water as a community resource.

Infrastructure and Disaster Preparedness: Generations of acequia parciantes have built and maintained acequia infrastructure. NMAA remains committed to supporting local acequias securing resources for improvements to infrastructure and to advocating for climate-resilience in planning and design of irrigation works. Acequias must remain vigilant to disasters such as fires and floods and will need support to prepare for disasters and to navigate emergency management and disaster recovery.

Care for our Watersheds and Aquifers: Our watersheds, rivers, and aquifers are interconnected. Efforts to improve the health of our watersheds must be increased by an order of magnitude to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Acequia leaders can be valuable partners in planning watershed restoration projects with soil and water conservation districts and other partners. Likewise, acequias have a role in protecting aquifers from groundwater depletion. It is vital that stronger conjunctive management be implemented in New Mexico to ensure that aquifers can be sustained for future generations. The acequia landscape, our waterways and farmland, which contribute to aquifer recharge, must be protected through various regulatory and legal tools.

Clean Water for Drinking, Growing Food, Wildlife, and Ceremonies: Climate-change induced water scarcity will likely exacerbate water quality problems in our streams and rivers. Pollution from industries, municipalities, weapons laboratories, and ski areas continues to be a concern because of detriment to water supplies, including surface waters used for irrigation. NMAA will continue to partner with advocates and community leaders in defending water from contamination and will work toward a regulatory framework that is effective in achieving clean water for our communities and future generations.

Food and Seed Sovereignty: Growing food and raising livestock are central to acequia continuity for centuries past and future. Re-localizing our food systems includes all the necessary work of protecting land and water as well as saving, protecting, and propagating native and landrace seeds. Our communities need a more robust support system for acequia-scale farming and ranching that includes paid training and apprenticeship opportunities, assistance with purchasing and using equipment, food system infrastructure for aggregation, storage, and distribution, and community support in providing a vibrant local market. We can build upon programs that incentivize making fresh, locally grown food affordable and available to the most vulnerable in our communities.

Land: In New Mexico, a tiny fraction of land is arable and these irrigated lands hold the promise of food sovereignty. Irrigated lands used for farmland and pasture are vulnerable to economic forces driving subdivision and development. All lands, including rangelands, are vulnerable to soil erosion, which will be exacerbated by climate change. Major investment of resources from the state and federal level for conservation programs is needed to restore the health of our landscape and to build healthy soils that support food systems and sequester carbon. It is imperative to people who wish to farm with people willing to lease or lend their land to be used for growing food. Acequias will continue to work with land grants to gain more recognition and protection for traditional land uses.

Youth Education and Leadership. Younger generations are inheriting a land vastly different from that known by our parents and grandparents. We are in a time of reckoning when we will be assessing our efforts to protect our land and water, gleaning our lessons learned, and supporting youth in taking on leadership roles in our movement. In 2022, NMAA will support existing youth projects, encourage networking between youth leaders, and incorporate youth leaders into NMAA projects, programs, and governance. Additionally, NMAA will collaborate with partners to develop curriculum inclusive of acequias and land grants for use by schools and organizations.

Organizing and Popular Education: For over three decades, the NMAA has been engaged as a grassroots organization to protect water and strengthen acequia agriculture. NMAA includes elders with deep roots in social justice and the civil rights movement. The dual climate and economic crises that we confront require us to learn from our past work to organize in our communities and to strengthen our efforts to build a grassroots base so that we can act in our collective interests. Our methods will be to embrace popular education methods and to involve youth in key roles in community organizing.

 

APPROVED BY THE CONGRESO DE LAS ACEQUIAS ON the 4th of DECEMBER, 2021.