Taos County's climate commitment

Taos County Commissioner Candyce O'Donnell wants the county to affirm its local support of the Paris Agreement, the global commitment to tackle climate change that was signed by almost every country in the world in 2016. President Donald Trump has requested the United States withdraw from the agreement although doing so will officially take until 2020. Many major cities have waved off the federal government's stance (as they have done with efforts to deport undocumented immigrants) and affirmed their commitment to the agreement. O'Donnell suggested Taos County do the same.

The affirmation did not come up for a vote during the Oct. 9 meeting of the board of commissioners as O'Donnell was seeking feedback from other commissioner on ways to enhance the language of a possible resolution, such as adding provisions about forest thinning and investments in training for the solar industry. But commissioner Tom Blankenhorn balked at the resolution, saying the agreement is "history" and that "we're moving forward."

Abeyta Settlement wells

As part of the $2.8 million grant agreement between the town of Taos and the Bureau of Reclamation, the town will get $80,000 for land acquisition needed in the ongoing relocation of municipal wells. But town manager Rick Bellis said, "It has not yet been determined if that will be necessary as we will be trying to use the footprint of our existing wells or the test wells that were already drilled years ago." The rest of the money will be used for data collection and various surveys and consultations as well as chemical analysis, preparation of bid documentation, permitting and drilling and testing exploratory wells. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for conducting a federal NEPA analysis for the project.

Slow burn

For the past month, The Taos News has run updates on prescribed burns planned in the Carson National Forest. Fire managers plan the burns for a wide window of time, usually a month, so firefighters can take advantage of ideal weather conditions on the days they exist. But many of the burns have either not started or not been completed due to weather, meaning thousands of acres could be treated in the next few weeks if the weather cooperates.

The Alamosa burn consisted of two units, for a total of about 2,800 acres, and was completed the week of Sept. 24, according to Carson National Forest fire officer Brent Davidson. This fire was located west of Vallecitos and contributed to a smoky day over Taos when the plume combined with that of another fire on the Santa Fe National Forest.

One burn has been partially completed. About 200 acres out of 820 acres of State Road 84 prescribed burn have been finished. That activity happened last week (Oct. 2). The burn is located south of Cebolla and additional burning is scheduled for the next few weeks.

Two burns were planned for this week but delayed due to weather, Davidson said. The La Jara burn is approximately 800 acres and is located north of Angel Fire on the east end of Taos Canyon. The Tio Gordito fire is about 1,800 acres and is located about 3 miles south of Tres Piedras. Fire managers "will look for opportunities (to conduct the operation) as early as next week and through the next month," Davidson said. Additionally, the Borrego Mesa burn is located 3 miles north of Peñasco; the 456-acre burn has not been completed.

Finally, another prescribed burn has been announced, this one involving an extra level of coordination. The Bighorn/Stateline prescribed burn is scheduled to happen sometime between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15. The burn area is located on the New Mexico-Colorado border and requires Carson fire managers to work with their counterparts in the Río Grande National Forest. The burn is smaller than some of the others planned for the autumn, at only 1,628 acres. And only 408 acres is located on this side of the border.

Let's try this again: BLM reopens citizen council apps

Despite a holdup in previous applications at the topmost level of the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management is again seeking nominations to the citizen's committee for the Farmington District.

According to a press release from the BLM, the district is opening nominations for five open positions on the Resource Advisory Council, also called a RAC. There are 38 RACs across the county, and much like the one that governs the Taos area, some have been delayed in doing business because of delays around membership or committee charters.

The BLM opened nominations earlier this year but had no applicants.

An individual may self-nominate or nominate others to serve on the council. Nominees must be residents of New Mexico. A letter of reference must accompany all nominations from any represented interests or organizations. The five positions open on the Farmington District RAC are in the following categories:

Category one (one vacancy) - Public land ranchers and representatives of organizations associated with energy and mineral development, the commercial timber industry, transportation or rights-of-way, off-highway vehicle use and commercial recreation.

Category two (two vacancies) - Representatives of nationally or regionally recognized environmental organizations, archaeological and historical organizations, dispersed recreation activities, and wild horse and burro organizations.

Category three (two vacancies) - Representatives of state, county, or local elected office; representatives and employees of a state agency responsible for the management of natural resources; representatives of Indian tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the RAC is organized, Alaska Natives as appropriate to the state of Alaska; representatives and employees of academic institutions who are involved in natural sciences; and the public-at-large.

The BLM will consider nominations until Oct. 31. For more information, please contact Heather Perry at (505) 564-7620 or hperry@blm.gov.

-- Cody Hooks

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