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Rio Grande Vision should be 20/20

The wise carpenter knows to measure twice and cut once.

In the case of Mayor Richard Berry’s proposed development of the Rio Grande bosque, the mayor has not taken the time to measure what we have in the bosque nor what we stand to lose by cutting into it. Nor has the mayor taken the measure of what Albuquerque’s citizens want done with the bosque.

For some reason, the mayor seems compelled to rush the job with a schedule that calls for the design drawings being 95 percent complete in early 2014 – only a few months from now.

We appreciate Berry’s efforts to think long term about the place we want Albuquerque to be 50 years from now. But we urge him to postpone the planning process on his Rio Grande Vision until the comments and suggestions of his constituents are seriously considered and acted upon, and until we fully understand the environmental consequences of any proposed development in the bosque. Conservation science should inform the design and planning process – before that process begins – not afterwards.

Specifically, we urge Berry to consider the following outline of what we are for:

1. We are for helping Albuquerque residents enjoy nature in the bosque. The city could provide improved low-impact parking at appropriate entry points, along with signage, maps and interpretive exhibits, to make the bosque a welcoming place. This includes providing handicap accessibility.

2. We are for protecting wildlife habitat in the bosque. In order to do this, we need to leave the area between the levees mostly undeveloped to minimize habitat destruction and fragmentation. This means no wide, engineered gravel roads running through the bosque and no more boardwalks or viewing platforms. This development is an unnecessary expenditure of tax dollars.

3. We are for introducing kids to the bosque. We should fund field trips to the bosque for all Albuquerque Public Schools fifth-grade students and fund other programs that utilize the bosque as an educational resource.

4. We are for building Albuquerque’s regional and national reputation as a city with a unique sense of place based on “wild” places. The bosque, like the Sandias to the east, and the volcanoes and petroglyphs to the west, is a big part of what makes Albuquerque a special place to live and to visit.

5. We are for creating an independent technical advisory group to ensure that the Rio Grande Vision is compatible with conservation science. The deadline for completing 95 percent of the design drawings in early 2014 should be postponed until this is done so that the plans are consistent with a scientific evaluation of what is environmentally appropriate.

6. We are for improving the usability of the Paseo del Bosque trail for pedestrians, bicyclists and other users. One option could be to create a parallel path so that slower traffic is separated from faster traffic. Improve visibility and remove potential hazards.

7. We are for maintaining what we have. Many facilities and services we value are seriously underfunded, including libraries, the Biopark and the zoo. We should focus on maintaining existing facilities rather than creating new obligations.

Aldo Leopold, the first secretary of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, recognized the economic and ecologic importance of the Rio Grande bosque as a natural amenity within Albuquerque. His wisdom can again guide our efforts to protect the bosque.

Leopold’s philosophical search for how man could live on the land without spoiling it culminated in his Land Ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

It is by this measure that we are for making the Rio Grande Vision right.

Also signed by Gail Garber of Hawks Aloft, Michael Jensen of Amigos Bravos and Andrea Serrano of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment.