Dec 03 2019

Now we know why they want more wilderness…

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director, New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

Cemeteries aren’t green enough according to the current “green movement.” According to a piece in Route Fifty by Alex Brown that first ran in the PEW Foundation’s Stateline.

More people want a green burial but cemetery law hasn’t caught up, the story reads. Cemeteries bury 64,000 tons of steel annually along with four million gallons of embalming fluid and 1.6 million tons of concrete. So what’s the solution?

Wilderness of course! Not sure if we are talking federally designated wilderness or just anything that doesn’t have a neighborhood on it. It is amazing how much of New Mexico thought to be “wilderness” is privately owned and managed, or is managed by federal agencies with multiple use characteristics.

In Washington state 20 acres of the wilderness is set aside as a cemetery called White Eagle Memorial Preserve. Bodies are placed in shallow graves among the trees, often wrapped in biodegradable shrouds, surrounded with leaves and pine needle mulch, and allowed to decompose naturally, returning nutrients to the soil. Grave markers are natural stones, said Jodie Buller, the cemetery’s manager — “rocks that look like rocks.”

“People drive their loved one out themselves, in the back of a Subaru,” Buller said, summing up White Eagle’s granola ethos.

Green burial, the catchall term for these efforts, takes many forms, from no-frills burials in conventional cemeteries to sprawling wilderness conservation operations. Cemetery operators say they’re seeing increasing interest in these less conventional end-of-life options.

While no state laws explicitly prevent green burial — generally defined as burials that happen in eco-friendly containers and without embalming — cemetery operators all over the country say outdated state and local laws have made it difficult for green burial to gain a foothold.

And what’s wrong with cremation? According to the story cremation used for nearly half the dead in the United States. That figure is up from just four percent since the 1960s. However, that’s at least partially due to cost savings.

Good heavens, we can’t do something that economical… it’s not “green.” After all a cremation involves heating a furnace to close to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two hours and the production of about the same emissions as driving a car for 500 miles.

The vagueness of this statement bothers me. Is the science of cremation no more exact than heating close to 2,000 degrees for up to two hours? Don’t we know the exact emissions of driving a car for 500 miles? Of course not.

Burial also is a land-use issue, as cemeteries must claim ever-increasing acres to accommodate new arrivals. Conservation cemeteries, on the other hand, are designed to preserve and expand existing wilderness areas while using the burials as a funding mechanism for the environmental work.

Ahhh… there is dreaded economics involved after all. White Eagle, which must be private land and not federally designated wilderness, has buried about 85 people so far and has reserved another 130 sites, charges a little more than $3,000 for a burial, which helps with continued land acquisition, invasive-species monitoring and forest management to reduce wildfire danger, according to Stateline.

Pristine wilderness preservation is not what is at work here. Where in the Wilderness Act forest management used to reduce fire danger?

Speaking of Fire…

It is continually aggravating to hear the increases in catastrophic forest fires cited as a symptom of climate change. These fires are the result of mismanagement, not climate change. Period.

We initially learned at the Western States Coalition in 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah that the fires we have seen across the West in the last several years were completely predictable and thus preventable. I am sure this wasn’t the first time or the last that Dr. Wally Covington, Northern Arizona University told the story

Dr. Covington, forestry professor and restoration ecologist has spent nearly 45 years in the woods, has seen trees compete for water and sunlight, struggle with insects and disease, and turn to ash in wildfires. He has also seen the future in the past—what a forest should look like through what it used to look like.

More than 100 years ago forests of the Southwest were open and park-like, dominated by groups of large, towering ponderosa pines and filled with a diversity of grasses and wildflowers. Today, they are dense and dark, overcrowded with dog-hair thickets of small-diameter trees. They are plagued by wildfires and a lack of plant and animal diversity.

On that day in 1995 some of us in the room were completely stunned by his graphics demonstrating that fuel load in pine forests was comparable to parking 30 diesel tankers on an acre… then setting them on fire. Others knew the story all too well.

Instead of focusing on the obvious problem and solving it with management, which would also have generated tremendous economic activity in the West’s rural communities, “society” (whoever that is) made the decision to focus on a theory of global warming then climate change and embark on human behavior modification regardless of cost in economics and lost resources.

Dr. Covington has been optimist about “large-scale restoration projects using the best available science to ensure resilient, healthy forest ecosystems for future generations.”

It is incomprehensible that on the word of a single man sitting in Tucson could put a halt to forest restoration that protects the forest, the land, its animals and the families that depend upon it. There is thanks that the court ruling was backed up to allow firewood collection and Christmas tree cutting, including this year’s National Christmas Tree.

However the families and businesses dependent on the forest for livelihood will not celebrate a merry Christmas.

What’s the Difference?

For well over a decade there has been a roaring debate in New Mexico over the need for more national monuments and national parks. With recent statements by the state’s federal senators and a measure to change a monument designation to a national park designation, it is time for some study on the subject.

According the National Park Service (NPS) website, the two classes of reservations comprising the national-park and national-monument system differ primarily in the reasons for which they are established.

National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena. Although many years ago several small parks were established, under present policies national parks must be sufficiently large to yield to effective administration and broad use. The principal qualities considered in studying areas for park purposes are their inspirational, educational, and recreational values.

National monuments, on the other hand, are areas reserved by the National Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Ordinarily established by presidential proclamation under authority of Congress, occasionally these areas also are established by direct action of Congress. Size is unimportant in the case of the national monuments.

A few of the national monuments are under the supervision of the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture because they are located within national forests, and several others are administered by the War Department because of their military significance. The majority of them, however, are administered by the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior.

Senator Martin Heinrich’s new legislation on Bandelier National Monument seeks to protect in statute a strong relationship between the NPS and pueblos whose history and culture lies in Bandelier. The bill would establish a tribal commission, which would provide guidance for park management that reflects traditional and historical knowledge and values. In a historic precedent for a national park, traditional knowledge will be required by statute to be considered in land management planning. Additionally, the bill would permanently safeguard tribes’ religious rights and practices in Bandelier.

Hey Burger King Cowboy!

You ARE a darned fool. You are a drug-store cowboy, not a real cowboy. Somebody bought that hat and snap-button shirt for you and paid you for being dumb.

Stating the obvious, real cowboys do not curse at the dinner table even if it is at a cheap fast food restaurant. For the head cover challenged, you do not wear your hat at the dinner table and it’s winter… you don’t wear straw after Labor Day.

Burger King, you should have saved your money for the lawsuit and retooling all your locations with dual grills to keep from “tainting” your fake meat with REAL meat. Sure wish we had been smart enough to sue to keep fake meat from tainting real meat… but we do have better things to do with our time and money.

Jaguar Reintroduction?

Tucson’s zoo just got a new jaguar. What does that mean?

Hopefully nothing. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Jaguar Recovery Plan would commit more than $605 million to the species survival over the next 50 years, but leave much of the effort to Mexico.

Among the reasons for much of the recovery work depending on Mexican wildlife officials is because few – if any – of the jaguars live on this side of the border, according to the FWS recovery plan.

According to the plan, seven or possibly eight jaguars have been documented in the U.S. between 1996 to 2017. Male jaguars have been sighted in the Peloncillo Mountains and in the northern part of the San Luis Mountains in New Mexico’s Hidalgo County.

“Currently in the U.S., we are aware of one male jaguar,” USFWS public affairs specialist Aislinn Maestas said.

“Given that the jaguar is an international species with the vast majority of its range outside of the U.S., primary actions to recover the jaguar will occur outside of the U.S. In the Northwestern Recovery Unit Mexico will be the primary contributor to recovery for the jaguar because over 95 percent of the species’ suitable habitat in the NRU (Northern Recovery Unit) exists within the borders of Mexico,” the recovery plan states.

But here lies the rub.

“Without reintroduction in the Southwest and cross-border connectivity, isolation and genetic problems may doom the jaguars in northern Mexico,” the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said.

Meanwhile down in Iberia, Argentina, there is a jaguar reintroduction project underway since 2019. After evaluating the existence of a large extension of continuous habitat that could hold around 100 jaguars and a social survey that shows great support for the reintroduction of jaguars throughout the province of Corrientes, the construction of the Jaguar Reintroduction Center was carried out in 2015.

With the help of Paraguay and Brazil donations, the Argentina project had its first births in 2018. Additionally breeding age females and males are being added to the project to eventually have a population that can be released.

Energy Transition. Who will it cost the most?

The 2019 New Mexico Legislature passed the Energy Transaction Act that was signed by the Governor. Now it is time to start figuring out what this Act will cost New Mexicans.

It is well-established that the lower a family’s income, the more that family will pay for lighting and heating the house, running appliances, and keeping the Wi-Fi on. Such outcomes would suggest that this is a class problem or a function of rational markets. But according to a new study, all low-income households are not equally yoked: Residents of poorer, predominately white neighborhoods are less energy-cost burdened than people in predominately minority neighborhoods of similar economic status.

Race matters. In New Mexico’s multi-cultural populations this is a huge statement.

Residents of minority neighborhoods who make less than 50 percent of area median income (AMI) are 27 percent more energy-cost burdened than residents from the same wage bracket who live in white neighborhoods. This is one of the findings from the study, “Energy Cost Burdens for Low-Income & Minority Households,” recently published in the Journal of the American Planning Association. More on this important topic next month.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, December 2019