Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wild Horses in New Mexico

Wild horses in Tonque Arroyo - San Felipe Pueblo

Last week I took a visitor from Indiana to see the wild horses that range near my home. We sometimes see these beautiful wild creatures grazing near the San Pedro Creek on the Campbell Ranch alongside the Turquoise Trail (NM 14 North) .

Views of San Pedro Creek area east of NM 14 North

I take the Puertecito Road (a dirt road that is drivable by a 2WD vehicle, but impassable in bad weather even for many 4WD's) through the Diamond Tail Ranch, ending at the San Felipe Pueblo at I-25 (Exit 252), about 16 miles north of Placitas

You will drive over high desert mesas here with fantastic panoramic views as far as the eye can see.  The Sandia Mountains are to the south, the Ortiz Mountains are to the north, the San Pedro Mountains are to the east, and the Jemez Mountains are to the west.

You reach the village of Puertecito about 4 miles west of NM 14 North.  Just before you get to Puertecitio,  you will go down into a deep arroyo, there will be a side road called Camino Ruidoso to the the right up a steep canyon to a number of houses.  This arroyo has beautiful layered rock walls of mudstone and sandstone and are part of a geological feature called the Diamond Tail Formation in the coal rich Hagan Basin. 
Puertecito Rd.

The houses here range from ramshackle cabins to pricey, custom "off-the-grid" homes. 

Diamond Tail Formation of mudstone and sandstone layers have layers of coal and lignite below the formation

Ortiz Mountains

Juniper-studded mesas
Keep on the main road until you come to the junction of La Madera Rd.  Keep right and enter the Diamond Tail Ranch where truly beautiful arroyos and rock formations await you.  Learn more about the geology of this area here.

Striking views of "hogback" outcroppings of basal lava flow appear along the road

Hagan Rd. is well maintained and very scenic. The land on both sides is private so do not go "off road" here.

Looking west toward the Jemez Mountains, we could see the smoke from the massive Las Conchas Fire
The road proceeding west is called the Hagan Rd. A few miles to the west, after you enter the Diamond Tail Ranch, you come upon the ruins of Hagan, a former coal mining town, now a ghost town. The ruins are just to the north of the road where you cross a large wash. The ruins are located on private land and there is no trespassing allowed.  Here is a topographical map of the area.  After passing Hagan, in a few more miles you will see the ruins of rock buildings on the northside of the road that are the remnants of another ghost town, Coyote.

Coyote ruins

Although you may see wild horses anywhere along this road, they favor the tree-lined arroyos and large washes along the road.  Look closely below to see a brown mare with her foal walking along the wash below.

Mare and foal bring up the rear of this band led by a white stallion

They may also be seen in the rolling hills to the south toward Placitas.  Although we didn't encounter any wild horses on this July day, here are more pictures I have taken of wild horse encounters in previous years in the Arroyo Tonque:

Gray Stallion and one of its mares

Many organizations advocate for a Wild Horse Sanctuary in this area.  Some Placitas residents regularly feed the horses, especially during winter, causing some ire from neighbors who have no fences to keep them out of their gardens.  After many citizens lobbied for a Horse Sanctuary, former Governor Bill Richardson proposed a Wild Horse Preserve adjacent to the Ortiz Mountains, using federal stimulus funds. However, due to the politics of 2010, the Plan died.  The Wild Horses of Placitas organization wants the corridor between NM 14 North and I-25 designated a Wild Horse State Park (see a proposed map below).  They are coming up against the developers of high-end communities along the Turquoise Highway who want a developed road linking them to I-25. Other detractors of a wild horse preserve make an argument that these horses are not "wild" but feral escapees from ranches and Pueblos.
For more information about the wild horses of New Mexico and the federal law protecting wild horses, please look at these links:

Great recent photos and narrative of visits by the Placitas wild horses at: The Mustang Blog 

More than a hundred of photos of Placitas wildhorses at: The Shutter from the Sun Photography

Please see the beautiful photos of Wild Horses by Placitas photographer David Cramer (1951-2010) at:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Political Strategy of the Right: Counting on Voters Who Don't Pay Attention to Politics but Have Strong Opinions Anyway

So what is behind all the gridlock in Congress about raising the National Debt ceiling?  Why can't the men and women we elected and are paying quite handsomely come to an agreement to prevent the United States of America from defaulting on it's debt?  It might be related to the fact that Americans have stopped paying attention to politics for sometime now.  But they vote anyway because of strong opinions they have despite their ignorance of the political process and issues of the day. This year, the Republican Party is taking full advantage of that ignorance and betting that the worsening of our economy will be blamed on President Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Do you think they are going to win the Presidency in 2012 based on such a strategy?  NPR had an interesting story on this in their review of a 2007 book called The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.  In part, here is what NPR had to say about the author's theory:

As politically informed American citizens go, Bryan Caplan, an author and professor of economics at George Mason University, probably knows more about the issues than most people. He doesn't vote.
"For me, it's all too depressing," Caplan says. He's spent years studying the way voters are (or aren't) well informed about their government. He's also written a book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.
"If Republicans care about their party getting the presidency next year, it might be better for them if things don't improve," he says.
That's because, Caplan says, voters perform pretty poorly when it comes to assigning blame for political problems. Caplan's research has shown, for instance, that voters often blame the president and Congress for problems with education — not local and state governments, which actually control the schools. They also assign more blame for budget issues to the Federal Reserve than to the White House or Congress.
The problem, Caplan argues, isn't just that voters aren't paying attention to politics.
"If people who didn't know what they were talking about didn't pay attention, politicians could just focus on winning over people who actually know what the facts are," he says. "One of the main problems with democracy is that people who don't know what they're talking about still have opinions — very strong opinions. And they vote on them."
That means a bad economy — no matter who could be blamed for it — usually benefits the party out of power. Democrats learned that firsthand in 2008, Caplan says.
"John McCain, according to betting markets, was ahead in August — then everything tanked," he says. "It seems pretty clear that was good for Democrats."

If author Caplan is correct about the American voters being so disengaged in actually understanding the politics behind the budget gridlock, then the angry condemnations of President Obama in Right Wing Talk Radio, Fox News and negative Political Ads that we are daily immersed in will be the most important factor in voter motivation. It would seem the moral of this story is that if the Republicans want to win the White House in 2012, they should do nothing to help our economy get better.  Indeed, insuring the collapse of the nascient economic recovery from 8 years of Bush economic policies is what is most important to the Republican Party and their Tea Party backers in 2011 Debt Ceiling negotiations. 

No matter how much compromise is made by President Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Democrats will find that they cannot win over the Republican law makers if this political strategy is the prevailing meme.  Not everyone in the economic recovery life boat is rowing, indeed, there are quite a few dragging an anchor to stop economic recovery.  I can only hope that the American people are smarter and more engaged than Mr. Caplan postulates.  If the majority of American voters mentally sit this election out and either fail to vote -- or vote against their own interests -- our democracy is doomed.