Bloom into Spring: Flower Essences

By Ulonda Faye Mills, Santa Fe Co-op

Do you know that our Co-op sells flower essences from Flower Essence Services (FES) and Siddha Flower Essences in California, as well as Healing Herbs Ltd. and Bach Flower Remedies Ltd. of the UK? Many of you might already be familiar with the Bach Rescue Remedy for stress relief in all of its many forms; however, are you aware of all the other flower essence products our Co-op offers?

What are flower essences and exactly what can they do to support our health and well-being? Here’s a quick overview to assist us in better understanding exactly how these amazing flowers, found in various products and forms, can help us all bloom into our full potential this spring!

What are flower essences?
Flower essences contain the high vibrational healing energy of plants. While creating them, our trusted formulators place the specific flowers in a base of either pure spring water or local water acquired from a flowing stream near where the plant has been growing. This allows for the complete energetic imprint of the flower to fully and deeply penetrate all of the water molecules. During this process, the flowers are placed directly in sunlight, the source of all life, while the energetic imprint of the plant is completely encapsulated into the water.

These essences are used to address emotional and mental imbalances that can manifest in the physical body. Why is this important to address? Imbalances and blockages in our bodies may lead to disease and illness. This is because there is a direct link from our emotions and mental state to the way we feel. When supporting our emotional and mental well-being, we ultimately support our physical health.

The Siddha Flowers Essences website offers a more in-depth description:
“These remedies work by making an individual’s nervous system aware of blockages or discrepancies in a person’s overall electromagnetic field. These blockages, having been brought to the attention of the central nervous system, are then subjected to the natural and balancing forces of the body.”

How to incorporate the essences of flowers into your life.
In selecting a flower essence or a specific flower essence formula, it is important for us to reflect upon lifestyle and environment as well as emotional and mental states of mind we need to address. Flower essences can help us get unstuck from feelings of inadequacy, anger, resentment, jealousy, and anxiety, which are a few among a long list of emotions that can create mental states that lock in our energy, preventing a free-flowing self. When we are free-flowing and allowing, we are at our full potential in so many ways!

Once the right essence is found, how are they taken?
There are individual flower essences in dropper bottles that you can begin by taking individually. You can start by placing 4 drops in a glass of water or under the tongue 4 times a day. Some of these essences can be applied directly onto the skin at the pulse points and anywhere there is fast absorption into the skin. If choosing a formula in a spray bottle, simply spray either directly into the mouth, around the body, or on pulse points.

Can we benefit from flower essences in conjunction with other supplements?
Absolutely! Since flower essences function and operate at a vibrational level addressing the electromagnetic fields of the central nervous system, they can be taken in conjunction with other supplements operating at the biochemical level of the physical body.

Who benefits?
Not only do humans, adults, and children alike benefit from incorporating flower essences into a wellness routine, but our pets can also greatly benefit from the remedies. For example, do you have a cat or dog that undergoes separation anxiety when left alone or is terrified of thunderstorms? Try flower essences. Our pets have feelings too, and often need assistance in accepting boundaries as well as other temperament challenges.

Nearly all of the flower essence companies have specific formulas for our pets (e.g. Animal Relief Formula from FES). To love up your pet, simply mist a specific formula around its body or on their favorite area for nap time. When using a dropper bottle, just put drops of it in the water bowl and fill it with water, allowing the flower essences to penetrate all the water molecules. As with us humans, you can also put drops or sprays directly on areas of their body that will provide maximum absorbency.

You could begin with these:
SELF-HEAL: FES – Assists us in recognizing areas in need of attention for optimal health.
FIVE-FLOWER-FORMULA: HEALING HERBS – For transitional and high-stress times in life.
EMOTIONAL DETOX: SIDDHA – Lets us breath, release, and let go of non-beneficial emotions.
BACH RESCUE REMEDY: BACH FLOWER REMEDIES – for adults, kids, and pets – stress relief.

My personal favorites:
Flower Essence Services and Healing Herbs are both Demeter certified, which is a method of organic farming based on Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic farming principles. A true imprint of the flower, our earth, sun, moon and sky are put into the tincture with these intentional practices while hand-harvesting flowers for essence creation.

“Now a farm comes closest to its own essence when it can be conceived of as a kind of independent individuality, a self-contained entity. In reality, every farm ought to aspire to this state of being a self-contained individuality.” -Rudolf Steiner

Please see the following links for more information, and stop into our Co-op’s Wellness Department for more information. Personally, I am forever grateful for all the support flower essences have provided me in my growth and spiritual blossoming. Happy spring flowering and harvesting to come!

Flower Essence Services (FES):
Healing Herbs Ltd.:
Siddha Flower Essences:
Bach Flower Remedies Ltd.:

Dealing with the New, Normal Future

By JR Riegel

California’s new water rules have made quite a splash in the news recently, and though they have been hailed by many as a great change, they only impact a portion of California’s water usage. Roughly 80% of water used in the state goes to the agriculture industry. Cutting only the urban portion of California’s water usage by 25% is a laudable step, but the mandate may have come too late for some species in the state.

The delta smelt is a small fish endemic only to California, and the most recent survey of their population size suggests that they might be very near extinct in the wild. In previous years, intensive spring surveys of the delta smelt found hundreds of the fish in their native Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Last month, the survey found only six.

Your Water Footprint

These days, almonds invariably come up when discussing the agricultural use of limited water resources in the Southwest’s ongoing drought. They’ve become a whipping boy for the criticism of agricultural water use, and though they deserve their reputation, it’s important not to get too fixated on one crop in particular. By weight, roasted coffee beans, chocolate, and sesame oil each use up even more water than almonds. It takes about a gallon of water to make an almond, but a head of broccoli requires more than five gallons.

The place a food is grown makes a large difference in its relative environmental impact; it’s important to educate one’s self on both the water demands and the origins of your food. California farmers grow so much of the food we consume that it’s nearly impossible to avoid using some of their limited water every time we sit down to eat, but being mindful of the impact of what we choose to eat can make a big difference. If you’re interested in water footprints or would like to see how thirsty your favorite foods are, you can learn more at

Though almonds use up about as much water as beef, meat is the larger problem because of the sheer amount the average American eats. California’s alfalfa crop uses more water than any other single plant in the state, and unfortunately a large portion of that water-hungry alfalfa is being shipped out of the country. Due to cheap shipping costs stemming from our trade deficit with China, it’s often more profitable to ship alfalfa across the Pacific Ocean than it is to sell it to a rancher in the state. In today’s complex world economy, everything is interconnected so that something as simple as buying a locally-made mug rather than an imported one can be related to water resources and the near-extinct delta smelt.

The Albuquerque–Santa Fe stretch of the Rio Grande is very sensitive. Due to human activity along the river, the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow is now endangered and occupies only about five percent of its historic range. They used to be common in our stretch of the Rio Grande, but now they are at such risk here that efforts to restore their numbers have largely moved out of state to Texas. We can make the Rio Grande more hospitable to all the species it’s historically been a home to if we all do our part and reduce our water consumption as much as possible.

The Personal and the Political

Educating oneself and adopting more environmentally responsible buying habits is only one part of the solution. Encouraging action at a governmental level is very important as well. Thanks to quick citizen action back in February, we were able to halt the premature bulldozing and development along the bosque. The bosque is very important for the well-being of native species such as the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, so your continued participation in local government is more important than ever. A perfect example you can get involved with today is the community action against the ill-conceived Santolina development plan.

Yet another way we can help improve our personal water footprints is by managing our yards in harmony with the local ecosystem. Utilizing xeriscape or permaculture principles can dramatically cut your water requirements. There are extensive resources available to help anyone interested; the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has published a complete regional guide to xeriscaping that you can access at and has rebates available to defray the costs. Their xeriscaping rebate is detailed at, and you can find out about their other money-saving programs there as well.

Conserve, Conserve, CONSERVE!

No matter what, we will eventually have no choice but to dramatically cut our water use. By getting actively involved and self-educating on the issues now, we can make the transition much easier and more enjoyable. In addition to reading up on the foods you eat, getting involved in local policymaking, and re-designing your yard, you can become a member of one of many local organizations that deal with water issues in our area. Agua es Vida Action Team, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, Transition Albuquerque, the New Mexico Acequia Assocation, and so many more organizations are all actively trying to help improve water issues in the state, and they can always use more help.

Native New Mexico species are being pushed to the brink by our current water practices. We don’t have time to wait for something to change—if we can all make even a little change in our own lives, we’ll be well on the way to a water wise future and a sustainable new normal for New Mexico!

If you’d like any help finding or connecting with a local organization, or if you’d like to see more information on this topic, I’m here to help! You can reach me at Next month, I’ll be getting into native pollinators and invasive species.

Protecting Organic Integrity

La Montañita Joins National Action to Challenge USDA Change to Organic Rule

By Paige Tomaselli, Center for Food Safety, and Robin Seydel

On April 8, organic stakeholders, including La Montañita Co-op, filed a lawsuit in federal court protesting a USDA change to the sunset of allowed synthetics in the organic rule, bypassing the public input process. The lawsuit maintains that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the federal rulemaking process when it changed established procedures for reviewing the potential hazards and need for allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances used in producing organic food. La Montañita was honored to be one of only two co-ops nationally invited to join a coalition of 15 organic food producers and farmer, consumer, environmental, and certification groups asking the court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and to reinstitute the agency’s customary public hearing and comment process.

Organic consumers and producers expect a high level of scrutiny and are willing to pay a premium with the knowledge that a third-party certifier is evaluating compliance with organic health and safety food production standards. The burgeoning thirty-five plus billion dollar organic market relies heavily on a system of public review and input regarding decisions that affect organic production systems and the organic label.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a 15-member multistakeholder board comprised of farmers, consumers, environmentalists, retailers, certifiers, and food producers who advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the National Organic Program on all matters related to organic food and agriculture policy. Board members, appointed to a 5-year term by the Secretary of Agriculture, hold semi-annual meetings to solicit public input and to write recommendations to the Secretary on organic policy matters, including the allowance of synthetic and non-organic agricultural materials and ingredients.

Maintain Public Process

The organic label is built on a history and solid foundation of holding public hearings and soliciting extensive public participation. Many of us remember when the originally proposed rule—which would have allowed GMOs, sewage sludge, and irradiation—resulted in a large outpouring of public input. It was important that the public had an opportunity to be heard before the rule was adopted. This opportunity created the public belief that the process behind the organic label was something that could be trusted. Ever since then, whether there was agreement on a decision or not, we could believe in the decision-making process and the integrity of the organic label.

We, the plaintiffs in this case, maintain that the USDA organic rule establishes a public process that creates public trust in the USDA organic label, which has resulted in exponential growth in organic sales over the last two decades. We believe the UDSA’s action to adopt a major policy change without a public process violates one of the foundational principles and practices of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), that of public participation in organic policy-making.

Sunset the Sunset Rule?

In adopting the OFPA, Congress created standards for organic certification and established the NOSB to oversee the allowance of synthetic materials, given a lack of alternatives, based on a determination that they do not cause harm to human health and the environment, and are necessary in organic food production and processing.

At issue is a rule that implements the organic law’s “sunset provision,” which since its origins has been interpreted to require all listed materials to cycle off the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances every five years unless the NOSB votes by a two-thirds majority to relist them. In making its decision, the NOSB is charged with considering public input, new science, and new information on available alternatives.

In September, 2014, without any public input, and in a complete reversal of accepted process, USDA announced a definitive change in the rule it had been operating under since the inception of the organic program. Now, a material can remain on the National List in perpetuity unless the NOSB takes initiative to vote it OFF the List.

The failure of USDA to comply with public hearing and comment procedures on the sunset rule change serves to usurp a process and label that the organic community began building long before the agency even recognized the legitimacy of organic systems as a viable and productive form of agriculture. It is our hope that the filing of our lawsuit will help maintain respect for the process as the organic sector faces important questions of practices and synthetic material use in the future.

Public Voice, Public Trust

We believe in the value of the public voice in the process, as we seek to grow the organic sector through public trust in the organic label. Consumers and farmers working together have helped to grow organic from the beginning. We are at a critical and historic moment when stakeholders must lead in ensuring that our government respects what we have built and remains true to the public process and the legal framework that gives organic its integrity.

In a joint statement, we the plaintiffs, who represent a broad cross section of interests in organic food, said: “We are filing this lawsuit today because we are deeply concerned that the organic decision making process is being undermined by USDA. The complaint challenges the unilateral agency action on the sunset procedure for synthetic materials review, which represents a dramatic departure from the organic community’s commitment to an open and fair decision making process, subject to public input. Legally, the agency’s decision represents a rule change and therefore must be subject to public comment. But equally important, it is a departure from the public process that we have built as a community. This process has created a unique opportunity within government for a community of stakeholders to come together, hear all points of view, and chart a course for the future of organic. It is a process that continually strengthens organic, supports its rapid growth, and builds the integrity of the USDA certified label in the marketplace.”

La Montañita Co-op is honored to be included in the coalition of plaintiffs and be represented by counsel from Center for Food Safety. The organizations filing the suit include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Equal Exchange, Food and Water Watch, Frey Vineyards, La Montañita Co-op, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, New Natives, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farmers Association Massachusetts, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PCC Natural Markets, and The Cornucopia Institute.

Taking a Stand

We must stand together, and in true democratic fashion, hold USDA accountable to the public process that helped establish and grow the organic food industry. If we do not hold the line on public process, we are concerned that in decision after decision, organic will lose its meaning. In taking this collaborative legal action we seek to prevent USDA activities from possibly causing the demise of this treasured sector, built by farmers, food producers, and the public at large, with a vision that embodies the values and principles that have made the organic label trusted and strong.

For more information, to see the lawsuit filing and to make a donation to keep organic strong, go to

Donate-a-Dime Organization of the Month: Many Mothers

Every month, La Montañita sponsors a local community-based organization through our Donate-a-Dime bag program.

Many Mothers (MM) is an all-volunteer organization that works to contribute to a healthy and vital community by providing free, in-home care and support to any Santa Fe family with a newborn. Helping families from the very start is preventative and reducing the need for future intervention with its higher societal costs. The degree of a mother’s post-partum depression is inversely related to the amount of support she receives. A new baby thrives on love and attention. So does a new mother.

Providing support for families with newborns is hardly a new idea; it has been a way of life for many millennia. However, in the last twenty-five years the support provided by extended families has changed as more and more women must work away from the home, and families in our mobile society often live far from each another.

Today families with new born babies often do not get the help they need. MM knows how exhausted and overwhelmed mothers and families can feel after the birth of a baby. New mothers usually leave the hospital 24-48 hours after giving birth. Extended families are often no longer available to offer consistent and needed support.

New research on women and stress, such as the study by Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D, demonstrates the effectiveness of woman-to-woman interaction. The natural stress reliever, oxytocin, is released when women are together. When acts of service are incorporated, stress is further reduced, providing the mother the opportunity for healthy bonding with the baby. The Many Mothers program of women-to-women care is designed to ensure that new mothers are afforded every opportunity to appropriately attach to their infants.

Bonding and attachment are essential for a baby’s development. Mothering the mother ensures she is more available to mother her infant. With all the joy and excitement that accompanies the birth of a baby, there can also be isolation, a sense of being overwhelmed, exhaustion, and, sometimes, postpartum depression.

MM has served approximately 600 moms, nearly 700 newborns including 43 sets of twins and 2 sets of triplets, and 2 older adopted children in the 18 years they have served the Santa Fe community. MM works with Anglo, Latino, Native American, Asian, and African American families and many mothers seeking MM support are single moms (28%) raising their children alone. Half of the families MM works with have annual incomes below $30,000. All of MM services are completely free and your bag credit donations this month will help keep it that way.

Its Hoop House Program is a collaboration with Ken Kuhne of Grow Y’Own. It has been providing fresh produce, education, and community connections to its recipients since 2010. Families participating in this program receive a 4×8-foot, raised bed garden with soil, covers, water system, heating system, set-up, and starter seeds and plants. Hoop houses are offered currently to eight families per year.

The “Many Mothers Circle” is a free monthly gathering for moms to learn from educational presentations and to network for peer support and self-empowerment. Home visiting programs are proven to improve children’s ability to form healthy relationships, succeed at school and earn higher paying jobs, and to increase life expectancy while reducing juvenile delinquency and substance abuse.

If you’d like to volunteer, make a donation, or are a family with a newborn that would like to request a volunteer, contact Many Mothers at 505-983-5984,, or visit to learn more.

“Nearly all of us receive our first lessons in peaceful living from our mothers.”
~The Dalai Lama

Santa Fe’s Cinco de Mayo Menu

Our Santa Fe location has a special menu lined up in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! You can check out our hot bar, counter special, and soup options for this special day here, or you can head to the Co-op and see the delicious options in person.


Mediterranean-Style Cashew-Cucumber Dip

From Isa Chandra Moskowitz

For a lovely spring luncheon or picnic, this thick and fresh tasting dip is a dairy-free variation on the classic Greek cucumber yogurt dip, tzatziki. Cool and zippy, it is great paired with fresh raw veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, and carrots as well as with blanched ones like green beans and asparagus. It’s wonderful alongside Greek-Style Tomato-Zucchini Fritters (recipe coming soon!)

Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 pound seedless cucumber, peeled and grated (about 1 2/3 cups, loosely packed)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • A few Kalamata olives for garnish



Squeeze handfuls grated cucumber over medium-size bowl to remove as much juice as possible. Or, wrap grated cucumber in cheesecloth or white terry kitchen towel. Set aside juice and place squeezed cucumber in large bowl.

Combine cashews, garlic, olive oil, oregano, lemon juice, half grated cucumber, salt and pepper in food processor. Blend until creamy, frequently scraping down sides. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons reserved cucumber juice, only if necessary. The final consistency should resemble a not-too-thick hummus. Scrape into medium-size bowl and stir in remaining grated cucumber and chopped dill.

Cover and chill until ready to use. To serve, drizzle small amount olive oil on top and add a few Kalamata olives.

Mandatory Not Voluntary GMO Labeling: The Fight Continues

By Eleanor Bravo, Food and Water Watch

Rep. Mike Pompeo is expected to re-introduce HR 4432, or what we call the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” any day now (edit: re-introduced since the time of writing; also see last year’s summary for the previous description). If the DARK Act passes, the fight for mandatory GMO labeling is over.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act sponsored by Representative Pompeo (R-KS) will make the labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods voluntary, which would then become the national standard. This bill would enshrine in federal law a failed policy that has kept consumers in the dark about what they are eating for two decades. The bill would also allow GMOs to be misleadingly labeled as “natural.” But most importantly, this bill would strip away consumers’ right to know by preempting state efforts to require the labeling of GMO foods.

Pompeo’s act rests on the false tenet that there is a broad scientific consensus that GMO foods are safe. This is not the case, since the approval process relies on studies conducted by the companies seeking to sell new GMO crops, rather than on any independent review. Simply making the current voluntary review system mandatory, as the DARK Act would, does nothing to address the inadequacy of the pre-market review system. For over a decade, the FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label GMO foods and none have chosen to do so.

Americans want mandatory labeling of GMO foods. A 2013 New York Times poll found that 93 percent of respondents were in favor of a mandatory label for genetically engineered food. Since the Food and Drug Administration has failed to respond to the more than a million Americans who have asked the agency to label GMOs, the momentum on this issue has shifted to the states. Since 2013, over 25 states have introduced legislation to label GMO foods, and these bills have passed in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont.

Mandatory labeling of GMOs is not a novel idea. Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Saudi Arabia are among at least 60 countries that require some labeling on GMO foods. Nor is mandatory labeling an expensive proposition for the United States. A study commissioned by Consumers Union reviewed research on mandatory GMO labeling and estimated that the median cost of labeling per person per year is $2.30, less than a penny a day.

We oppose the Pompeo bill and we urge you to support HR 913, introduced by Representative DeFazio (D-OR) or S 511, introduced by Senator Boxer (D-CA)], which would balance the needs of companies for a single labeling standard with the overwhelming demand by consumers for the mandatory labeling of GMOs in food.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Your Representative: Don’t Support Big Food’s Bill to Kill GMO Labeling Laws:

Soltero de Queso Vegan

From Adrienne Weiss

Soltero de Queso, a specialty of the Andean city of Arequipa, is loosely translated as “Bachelor’s Salad,” but would indeed be a healthy, one-dish meal for Mother’s Day, Graduation or any warm, springtime picnic.

Serves: 8
Time: One hour (not including chilling queso)


For Quick and Easy Tofu Queso Fresco (or substitute any vegan feta or mozzarella-type cheese):

  • 6 ounces extra-firm silken tofu (half a 12.3 ounce tetrapack box such as Mori Nu)
  • 6 ounces firm regular tofu
  • 2 teaspoons agar powder (not flakes)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

For Spicy Vinaigrette:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce or hot sauce of choice
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

For Salad:

  • 2 cups thin green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups cooked or canned green shelled fava beans, large lima beans or cooked/shelled edamames (my personal favorite; I use eda-zen, available at the Co-op.)
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh red tomato or halved red grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup pitted black Peruvian Alfonso olives or Kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 recipe prepared Tofu Queso Fresco, cut into small squares and crumbled a bit
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 medium thin-skinned yellow potatoes, steamed, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • Large romaine lettuce leaves for garnish/lining serving platter or bowl



For Tofu Queso Fresco: Start a few hours before serving salad.

In food processor, combine tofu, agar powder, water, oil, sugar and salt and blend until very smooth. On stove-top, scoop mixture into 1-quart heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbles and thickens. Whisk lemon juice into cooked mixture last. (Whisking it in sooner interferes with agar jelling process.) Pour mixture into flat storage container, about 6″ square, cover and refrigerate until firms up.

If there’s extra cheese, store cut up in squares, covered with neutral-tasting oil and tightly covered in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

For vinaigrette, blend, whisk or shake ingredients together well and set aside.

To assemble salad, cook green beans and corn in boiling water about 3 to 4 minutes, or until just tender. Shock in ice water for minute or two. Drain well.

In a large bowl, mix cooked green beans and corn with remaining ingredients, being gentle with tomatoes. Pour in 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add cheese, additional vinaigrette to liking and toss gently.

Serve salad heaped on platter or in bowl lined with large romaine lettuce leaves.

Remaining dressing, if any, can be used on many different kinds of salads or vegetables.

If prefer not to make Tofu Queso Fresco, simply substitute any vegan feta or mozzarella-type cheese.

A Path Forward: Bosque Restoration

By Michael Jensen

On February 9th, work began on a wide crusher-fines trail in the Bosque from the Central Avenue bridge north to the I-40 bridge.

The trail is one of two components of what originally was called the Rio Grande Vision, part of Mayor Berry’s “ABQ The Plan”, and then became the Rio Grande Valley State Park Improvements Project. The other component is made up of a number of targeted Bosque restoration projects in the same area.

The onset of activity in the Bosque immediately polarized what appeared to be an evolving and improving relationship between City Open Space and Parks & Recreation and those in the community who had come together in 2013 to propose alternatives to some of the more extreme proposals in the original Rio Grande Vision. These included suggestions or “concepts” that indicated possible restaurants in or cantilevered out over the Bosque, large truck and trailer access to fully equipped boat launching facilities at numerous points along the river, and vague suggestions that the Bosque and river would be opened up to more general private sector development.

Many of the suggestions coming from community members were put into motion by the City. The City scaled back its proposed near-term activity to the east side of the river from Central to Montaño (although generally speaking of Central to I-40). There were four Bosque Educational Forums held in the Summer of 2014 that were well-attended and that received high marks from the public for how informative they were regarding the history, culture, and ecology of the Bosque. The City hired a consulting firm to carry out baseline environmental monitoring of the proposed project area and opened the report to public comment; the final report is expected soon.

The Open Space Division also led a couple of small walks through the project area with trail and restoration experts. It also held two public walks through the entire project area to discuss possible trail alignments, the pros and cons of wide multi-user trails, the nature of proposed restoration work, and the constant need to balance the complicated relationship between conservation and public access. The goal of the project – trail alignment and restoration work – was to use the two components in concert with each other. Some trail consolidation and a likely multi-user trail would be done with projected restoration work in mind so the two would promote both more focused access and better ecosystem function.

Unfinished Process

When the work began, the public process was not quite complete. The baseline monitoring report’s final version was still being worked on to incorporate responses to public comments and perhaps including some adjusted conclusions as well.

The first public awareness that work would start soon came in a front-page editorial in the Albuquerque Journal on the Friday before work began. This editorial, as well as one the following Monday on the inside editorial page, sought to both telescope the impending work and criticize before-hand the expected protests from those in the community who would object to work commencing before the public process was complete.

The sad irony is that those members of the community who had been most focused on creating and carrying out the public process had met on the evening before (February 8th) to look at maps of the two alternatives presented to the Mayor’s Office earlier in February, and first revealed in the Journal, and to come up with a response.

The response was to propose a hybrid plan to the Mayor on Tuesday. The hybrid would use “Option 1” for the trail in the northern project area and “Option 2” in the southern section. This hybrid would keep the trail away from the sensitive riverbank area for more of its alignment and provide more separation between the wide multi-user trail – mostly bicyclists, but also horses – and the narrower main “pedestrian” trail that already exists.

So, instead of being able to announce a compromise solution that would meet the goals of both sides – more access, more restoration and conservation, and a more integrated implementation of these two needs – the whole project descended into renewed mistrust and politicization. A year’s worth of slowly building consensus evaporated.

Beyond the short-circuiting of the public process, the Mayor’s office also bypassed long-established and, in some cases, legally required processes with a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, including its own Open Space Advisory Board review. Most of the agencies involved would have asked for nothing more than consultation beforehand in order to know what was being done. However, any entity doing work in the Bosque has an obligation to inform the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the US Bureau of Reclamation and see if they need a permit (generally issued by the Conservancy District).

In addition, given the scope of the work, the City’s contractor was under an obligation to submit an online “Notice of Intent” with the Environmental Protection Agency (Dallas office) that they would be disturbing more than an acre of land.   This is something that any contractor would have to do at a subdivision, for example.

A Path Forward

As a result of community and agency protests over the City’s actions, a path forward is taking shape.

Community members have been in discussions with the Mayor’s office in order to develop a clear public process that the City will commit to following for any additional work on the current trail and restoration project between Central and I-40, as well as any future work on the wider Vision.

There is also work being done by some community members and agency representatives to develop a permanent public process for sharing information about all work being planned for the Bosque and river. The process would bring together all of the local, state, and federal agencies that do work in the Bosque or on the river, or that have any regulatory or consultative role in such work, on a regular basis to discuss their planned work and the timeline for relevant public and agency process that the work will go through prior to commencement.

When the modern environmental movement started back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, marked by the passage of landmark Clean Air and Clean Water legislation and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the goals of environmentalism were mostly met through litigation, legislation, and protest. Those are all still necessary tools in dealing with threats to the environment and public health.

But it has also become clear over the years that another tool is equally important: open, transparent processes that engage the community in decision-making.

That process was started over plans for the Bosque – because the community protested enough to get it – but then cut short. We now have a chance to not just restart that process but build a better and more transparent one that engages the whole community.

Creamy Avocado-Tomato Salsa

From Adrienne Weiss

This juicy salsa hails from Venezuela, where it’s known as “Guasacaca” and is used as a condiment. It’s not as much a guacamole as it is a cool, tangy sauce with a hint of extra richness from the olive oil. It’s great with empanadas, but it’s also stellar heaped alongside beans and rice or chips. In Venezuela, it’s typically served with grilled foods. Try it with grilled tofu or tempeh.

Time: 15 Minutes
Serves: 4

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 to 2 large ripe tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 cup white onion, finely minced
  • 6 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  •  A few dashes of bottled red hot sauce for a little heat (optional)



Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash ingredients just enough to create a creamy texture, but still leaving some small chunks of avocado. Taste and adjust flavor with salt, lime juice, cilantro and/or hot sauce, if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!