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Put La Bajada Mesa before development, profit

A proposal to mine gravel on La Bajada Mesa has drawn criticism from a number of area residents who want to preserve the area’s landscape and watershed. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

A proposal to mine gravel on La Bajada Mesa has drawn criticism from a number of area residents who want to preserve the area’s landscape and watershed. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Rockology Gravel Mining Proposal for La Bajada Mesa (by Waldo Canyon exit off I-25) should be rejected. With better alternatives elsewhere for mining, the community/state/national treasure that is La Bajada Mesa, being considered for national monument designation, should be exempted from any mining projects. Some major reasons are as follows:

  • The Galisteo Basin, to which La Bajada Mesa is the gateway, is a watershed. Our local residents have been attending workshops on the nature of the watershed, and how to benefit from it through catchment and drainage projects of various sorts. Three development projects are proposed at a time well before a coherent plan for the Galisteo Basin can be worked out. The three endangering projects within the watershed are: using Lamy as an oil transportation hub; gravel mining at La Bajada Mesa; and gold mining in the Ortiz area along Highway 14.
  • There is no way that any gravel operation lasting 25 years (the period proposed) and needing a steady supply of water can be helpful to a drought-ridden region, also given the fact that the drought is likely, with increased global warming, to be open ended.
  • The prevailing cultural pressures for development are based on an outdated and dangerous assumption that the right of a few to make money outweighs the right of people and animals to a healthy environment. The rights of nature is a concept embraced by aborigines in many places, but only a handful of modern jurisdictions. That makes it incumbent on the community to plead and bargain for rights that should be uncontestable.
  • If business as usual is based on the notion that growth must be unlimited, then business as usual is a destructive and unsustainable paradigm that must be examined.
  • The amount of money the county could gain from the project is outweighed by its implied costs to the county. These costs include (but are not limited to) road degradation, water misallocation, air pollution, health costs, property value decline, etc. There would also be the economic costs of despoiling a potentially enhanced cultural asset known as the Galisteo Basin.
  • This project is perhaps universally opposed in our community, and its approval would rob the community of its sense of place, its cultural and economic potential, and, broadly speaking, its quality of life.
  • While this project should not be allowed for any number of reasons, it needs, at the very least, to be put on hold pending a comprehensive community plan for the basin being completed.
  • Burrowes.


    Rather than constant rearguard action to stave off unwelcome developments, the community now sees the need for proactive planning for the Galisteo Basin, focusing on its assets, requiring asset mapping and coordination. Severe energy shortage (which, barring very harmful last-ditch fossil fuel excavation like fracking, is the situation we actually face today) will require a higher level of conservation for the region, and groups like the Madrid Cultural Project and others are well poised to plan and promote implementation of such needed changes.

The Galisteo Watershed Initiative provides a proactive tool for guiding sustainable future development in the Galisteo Basin, a critical point for connecting green infrastructure within the state of New Mexico and beyond. I hope La Bajada Mesa is where we turn from reactive development that is not sustainable to a proactive development that is.

Trevor Burrowes is a resident of Cerrillos.


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