Helpful emergency planning meeting
Recently, Rancho Viejo held an emergency planning meeting. I looked forward to this with about as much enthusiasm as a visit to the dentist. I’ve participated in some county task force and commissioners’ meetings and have not always been impressed with outcomes.
To my great surprise and pleasure, Martin Vigil, Santa Fe County’s assistant chief emergency response manager, led a highly informative session on emergency planning — and when it was over, I couldn’t wait to hear more. This time, Santa Fe County got it right. This supremely skilled and humorous person is perfect for his job, and exudes a calm demeanor that makes everyone feel safe. I especially liked his analogy of a real threat: “when all the holes in the Swiss cheese line up.” Besides Martin’s federal and state emergency contacts, he is a firefighter, EMT and Native American, which provides him with a highly diverse group of community resources and huge groups of volunteers.
At the meeting, there was plenty of emergency equipment to check out. But, the best part of the evening were the pearls of wisdom Martin shared: Be self reliant and prepared — don’t wait for county authorities to save your bacon or shelter you and your pets; keep an emergency kit stocked and ready to go in case you need to evacuate quickly — our greatest threat is wild fire — and you may have only minutes to leave; cell phone systems often go down during disasters, so buy a special weather-alert radio to keep in contact with directions from authorities; look at a map with your loved ones and choose primary and secondary meeting points in case you get separated; choose an out-of-state person that you and all your loved ones can call when phones are working again to help coordinate finding each other — and resources you may need; visit the county website for an evacuation planning guide .
One final note that county residents should think about: Santa Fe Community College is not, nor does it plan to be, a community shelter in case of disaster. The community college benefits from our tax dollars and enrollment fees and yet, in the event of a major disaster, is either unwilling or unable to reciprocate a portion of our community’s goodwill. I find this very disappointing and plan on speaking to Cha Guzman, SFCC’s president, and my commissioner about it. Whether SFCC likes it or not, it’s a logical place for people to congregate — and they will. The college needs to be part of our overall community preparedness, even if all they do is serve as an information and emergency contact center.
Columbine-Hondo worth preserving
It is fitting that Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich along with Congressman Ben Ray Lujan chose the week we celebrate Earth Day to introduce legislation to permanently protect the pristine Columbine-Hondo area as wilderness. This backyard treasure in our community has long been the place to take our children to scramble up their first mountain, enjoy a family picnic at Middle Fork Lake, or experience a field of wildflowers. As a mother and now grandmother, I appreciate that this bill will ensure that Columbine Hondo will stay forever as it is for future generations to experience and enjoy. As a public official, I commend the bill’s sponsors for recognizing that preserving this special place will attract visitors, who will stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores — boosting our local economy.
Sens. Udall and Heinrich and Congressman Lujan deserve special thanks for working with varied stakeholders to find common ground that will allow access to an amazing high mountain trail for mountain bikers who want to explore these steep rugged mountains. Safeguarding Columbine-Hondo will also help keep our air clear, our water clean, and add to the quality of life in our community. Protecting a piece of our precious Earth just makes good sense, and I hope to see it become law very soon.
Mayor, Red River
Get rid of Wildlife Services division
The recent killing of a Mexican grey wolf exposed a fatal flaw in the Mexican wolf recovery program. The program, which puts zoo wolves onto public land open to ranching, has had numerous flaws from the outset. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the wolves “experimental and nonessential,” denying them the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. The fatal flaw in the experiment has proved to be the decision to include “depredation specialists” from the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the agency responsible for the recent killing, as an integral part of the interagency field team responsible for implementing the Mexican wolf program.
Long known as Predator and Rodent Control, later renamed Animal Damage Control, the agency now known as Wildlife Services has always been dedicated to killing wolves, coyotes and other predators, along with such dangerous creatures as prairie dogs, on behalf of the livestock industry. The recent wolf killing at the hands of Wildlife Services should be viewed not as an isolated act of a poorly trained employee, but an action consistent with the purpose and practice of this rogue agency. The agency should have been abolished long ago.
Faced with the combined threat of public lands ranchers and government wildlife killers, the wolves stand little chance of survival. The Fish and Wildlife Service should immediately and permanently remove Wildlife Services from the Mexican wolf program.