Rural Conservation Alliance News, July 24, 2015

Proposed La Bajada Mesa Strip-Mining Application on Hold

Pending Adoption of New Gravel Mining Regulations

PUSH to Save La Bajada Mesa: Upcoming Vote on Mining Regulation

      Last Fall, after massive public outcry over a proposed gravel mine on La Bajada mesa, the county placed a one-year moratorium on certain kinds of "developments of county-wide impact" (DCIs), including sand & gravel operations requiring blasting.
      Since then, the county has drafted new regulations to manage future high-impact development. We sincerely appreciate the hard work and good intentions that have gone into this effort. But the draft regulations still fall short and all our work to save La Bajada mesa depends on strong DCI regulations.
      The moratorium expires mid-September, so the hearings are on an accelerated time line. The first hearing will be this coming Tuesday, July 28 in the Santa Fe County Commission chambers, 102 Grant Ave. The final hearing (and expected vote to adopt the regulations) will be on Tuesday, August 11 in the same place. There's more detailed information about the regulations and how you can help HERE. You can read about the history of the struggle below.



 Actions To Take:
--Thank the Commissioners for the Moratorium.
--Read the Moratorium
-- (Adopted as drafted here, first item in this BCC Packet, Part 5, 7 pp, 8 MB pdf).
--Listen to Public reaction to BCC Postponement of decision, August 12, 2014--Joe Day interview.
--See video of testimony from June hearing!
--Write an email letter to the County & newspapers
--Watch a wonderful video overview of the threat to the Mesa
--Sign our petition   
--Consider a donation to pay for experts and signs
--Please tell friends about &
supporting & the RCA!




News & Information:
--Download Index of Documentation
related to the Commissioners' questions at the June 11th special hearing & provided to the county by the RCA
--Read: "The Ranch", Santa Fe Reporter, May 18, 1978, a 'round-robin' sales between La Bajada Mesa speculators, "From $300 to $1200 per Acre in One Day". (27 MB pdf)
--Read RCA's detailed response for the BCC and
Read RCA's "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law"
June 3: KSFR's Radio Café discussion on La Bajada Mesa with Mary-Charlotte
--Watch KOB News coverage March 15
--Listen "Living on the Edge" with David Bacon discussing La Bajada Strip Mine, Lamy Oil, and Santa Fe Gold. Click the podcast icon. (2/6/14)



      --The ordinance places a 12-month moratorium on DEVELOPMENTS OF COUNTYWIDE IMPACTS (DCI) that include "sand and gravel extraction activity requiring blasting". This description covers La Bajada strip-mining proposal. The "DCI Moratorium Ordinance" (short title) will "allow for the creation of legally and scientifically sound plans, policies and regulations."

      --Will the new regulations reinforce a County Commission's discretionary authority to deny applications for mining zones on such cultural landscapes as La Bajada mesa?

      --All hinges on the development of strong DCI regulations that will clearly allow for a denial so that "No mining use activity will be permitted if it is determined that the use will have a significant adverse affect on health, safety, morals or general welfare of the County or its residents." (Article XI, 1996 Code) For more views & current news follow Facebook.

      --The County Staff has indicated that they may hire someone to draft the language and perhaps hire experts on what to include and how to write the Code requirement.  The RCA has expressed interest in seeing who they are considering, and understanding his/her background and prior project recommendations. Staff further is contemplating that there would be a "study group" where public input on the details will be requested.

      --During the writing of the new regulations, again citizen's input will be essential to make sure that La Bajada mesa and "places of the heart" in Santa Fe County, remain protected. We must emerge with strong and unequivocal laws.    

Strengthen, don't weaken!

RECENT BACKGROUND: At the August 12 hearing the BCC again postponed any decision on strip-mining this NM cultural landscape, La Bajada Mesa. Before an overflowing chamber and after having heard testimony from the public for 3 hours, the County Commission retired into a closed session with the county attorney. When they reemerged 90 minutes later, the result was not a long awaited vote. Instead they announced that they are taking Rockology's & Buena Vista's mining application "under advisement" intending to issue a "written order" sometime in the future.  Instead of such a written order, the Commission opted to call for a moratorium that would postpone any decision on Buena Vista & Rockology's application to strip La Bajada Mesa of its primordial basalt layer. 


La Bajada Mesa is the stunning tabletop, 15 miles south of Santa Fe on I-25. Mining here would destroy this historic, iconic landscape and the sustainable economies that depend on it.

"Significance: La Bajada represents a key landscape demarcation between what the Spanish colonial world termed the Rio Abajo and Rio Arriba regions of New Mexico--the lower and upper lands with their distinct ecologies and climates. It also represented the greatest single obstacle for movement across the land...." --NMHPA, 2003.

Reducing [La Bajada Mesa] to crushed basalt for road base would be a travesty in its own right. Overdrawing the regional water budget - which is already over-committed - for such a destructive purpose would be a double travesty. --RCA Protest witness, Kim Sorvig, Professor, UNM School of Architecture and Planning

More Information:
La Bajada is one of New Mexico's "Most Endangered Places"

Rural Conservation Alliance
Contact RCA:
Questions, thoughts? Email:
and put "La Bajada Mesa Threatened" in the Subject.

An application
(pdf, satellite pdf, site sheets pdf) to mine a 50 acre section of La Bajada Mesa was submitted to Santa Fe County near the end of 2013. La Bajada Mesa is a historic landmark that the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance (NMHPA) has recognized as one of New Mexico's "Most Endangered Places".  

The application aims to strip the basalt cap--according to their figures--to a depth of 61 feet, and crush it for gravel for a proposed 25 year period using blasting, multiple crushers, hauling trucks. ["Concerning years of operations" along with location maps of past mining proposals, click here.] This application comes under the jurisdiction of the 1996 Land Development Code, Article XI, not the new Sustainable Land Development Code. 

The County Development Review Committee (CDRC) voted (3/20/14) to deny Rockology & Buena Vista's application. The case automatically is forwarded to the 5-member Board of County Commissioners (BCC) who are expected to vote for or against the mining of the Mesa.

The water source for dust suppression has been modified. Rather than the County supplying hauled potable water, Rockology has obtained an additional permit for effluent water from City facilities on 599. The route would be 599 to I-25 to Waldo Canyon Road. Both the County and City possess water policy shortsightedness.

Has the City, like the County before it, unwittingly committed to years of providing water for the destruction of La Bajada Mesa? They have apparently done so in times of pending drought when water shortages could demand that scarce water resources might be needed more directly for the public welfare rather than for such industrial development.

The new County Code would classify such a mine as a Development of Countywide Impact . Using water, City or County, to enable the degradation of this historic NM cultural landscape would not benefit the public welfare.

Meanwhile, to our knowledge, Buena Vista has not withdrawn their water rights transfer application for mining on over 5,000 acres from the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) that the RCA and others are protesting. For information on the water protest see the September 2013 update.

The proposed mine site is identical as diagramed in their 2008 application as shown here along with other past siting proposals. The 2008 application, along with theirs of 2005, had been withdrawn because of uncertain water sources and perhaps because County Staff was then recommending (as reported in the New Mexican March 25, '08) "denial of the permit based on a 'cadre' of issues . . . ." These included impacts upon historical and archeological resources.

There are shortcomings in the application that have also been noticed by county staff, but the staff Case Manager is recommending approval of the permit. The County Development Review Committee wisely did NOT follow staff's recommendations in this case, but it's the County Commission that will make the decision.

A final rejection of a permit will happen only through citizen's continued and unequivocal input and attendance of the hearing to reject the travesty of reducing La Bajada Mesa to base course. Santa Fe County has an excess of such aggregate already.

The amount of water needed is not clear. (The application claims a total of 710,000 gallons a year or 2.19 acre feet, which we think would be woefully insufficient to accomplish the suppression of dust.)

The submittal does not address water for reclamation. A letter from the Office of the State Engineer notes that since certain documents were not provided, a technical analysis was not performed. And the OSE appears to toss the issue back to the discretion of the county. 

It is most important to attend the Board of County Commission (BCC) hearing on this to show your opposition. The great public showing of concerned citizens mattered in the just decision of the CDRC to deny Buena Vista and such a showing will again matter dearly before the BCC on Wednesday June 11 at the Santa Fe Convention Center.

We must keep sending letters to the Case Manager and county officials so that with your help we can once-and-for-all press the county to deny the siting of such an irreversible, ruinous use of this vital, historic New Mexico cultural landscape. The state, the county, the city of Santa Fe and citizens all need to work together to find a way to preserve La Bajada Mesa & Escarpment, which is worthy of being part of a National Monument.

Spread the word to individuals and organizations, gear up and write letters to the county and newspapers, and resolved to help save the Mesa from a speculative travesty. 

Send an EMAIL to All of the County Commissioners

ACTION RATIONALE: Hearing from the public definitely made a difference with the County Development Review Committee (CDRC) and is making an impact on the Board of County Commissioners (BCC).

Write to your County Commissioners (best in your own words) thanking them in supporting the moratorium on Developments of Countywide Impact and for their encouragements that proceedings be held before the public. (Treat them with respect.)

1) Put in SUBJECT:
Re: Thanks for supporting a moratorium on DCIs and gravel mining

2) Send to these: Robert A. Anaya <>, Daniel "Danny" Mayfield <>, Miguel M. Chavez <>, Kathy Holian <>, Liz Stefanics <>,

3) Cc:,,,



*The RCA is an all volunteer organization. Please give tax-deductible donations on line HERE or write check to:
    Concerned Citizens of Cerrillos, & put "For RCA Fund" in the memo. And send to: CCC, P.O. Box 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010. 




--La Bajada Mesa, listed by the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance as a Most Endangered Place, is the gateway to the city of Santa Fe and needs to be a protected cultural landscape. The arts, including paintings, drawings, pottery, photographs and films attest to the profound significance of La Bajada Mesa to New Mexico's culture and economy.

--The current owners have no protected rights to demand a rezoning as they purchased the property with the current agricultural/residential zoning in place. The County has no obligation to enhance the value of the property (which is also for sale) to the detriment of the County and State as a whole.

--Mining the Mesa would ruin the geological integrity--the grandeur of this oceanic Gateway along I-25 into Santa Fe & Waldo Canyon Road, the road leads into the Galisteo basin park lands, a sustainable and growing economic resource.

--Mining in this site would result in environmental and cultural degradation of a landscape that has been historically, culturally and environmentally significant to New Mexico for hundreds of years.

--Development of such an industry poorly sited on an otherwise open landscape would result in impacts including increased pollution from carbon emissions and fugitive dust from multiple crushers, conveyors and heavy industrial traffic, along with blasting and night lighting.

--Mining in this location would not only negatively impact the Gateway vista from I-25 and Waldo Canyon Road--the western access to the Cerrillos Hills State Park--but would be a blight from the higher elevations of the trails that lead from the Cerrillos Hills State Park on BLM lands up Grand Central Mt. and from other recognized scenic vistas from the south and east.

--No visual impact report has been done for views from I-25, Waldo Canyon Road, the higher trails above the Cerrillos Hills State park, NM 14, and residential areas.

--The New Mexico State Parks, through the "Cerrillos Hills/Galisteo Basin State Park Feasibility Study" in 2006 concluded that the best access to the future state park would be from the I-25 corridor. An intensive expanding mine in this location along Waldo Canyon Road would have a discouraging impact upon a significant number of park visitors encountering unanticipated industrial activities, including the trucks on the road and the visual impacts of the mine itself.

--There is no need for another basalt gravel mine in the County or another gravel mining operation off of I-25 as there are several existing gravel mines within reasonable proximity that can provide these materials to Rockology itself, an Albuquerque based company.

--Reclamation would be next to impossible after stripping some 20 feet of basalt. There is little surface topsoil to set aside for reclamation. There are no strong standards to insure that reclamation would be a success and there is the likelihood that what would be left behind would be an endless source of dust.

--Hauled water should not be considered adequate for long term mining operations. Santa Fe County should develop a policy that does not by default provide water to all Developments of Countywide Impact including oil and gas, mining, CAFO's etc. and not allow them to evade needed acquisition of commercial / industrial water rights. When a proposed mine is sited well (which the Buena Vista / Rockology isn't) it should have its own long-term water supply on site so as to eliminate the impacts of water hauling that includes traffic hazards as well as additional carbonization and infrastructure impacts from heavy trucks.

--Precedence? With a precedent was set for mining any portion of the Mesa, and then a mining company were to buy any or all of the remaining thousands of acres that are for sale on the international market, with such a precedence, what would become the county's ability to halt further mining applications from new corporate owners?

--Because hauling water for needed dust control is expensive, and because the company may be underestimating the amount needed, it may be they simply will not keep the dust contained, and especially if state air quality enforcement resources prove inadequate in providing oversight.

--Can Buena Vista / Rockology be trusted to spend money on sufficient dust control? Contrary to Rockology's application of 2008 which claimed that the mined materials were needed for the Railrunner construction project, it was revealed by the press that NMDOT already had secured all the materials they would need. Their true intention appeared to be to start a 50 acre operation until at least 2020. Why should we trust them now in 2014 to go to the extra expense needed to haul sufficient water for dust control?

--The acre feet of water suggested by Buena Vista (2.19) is woefully insufficient to accomplish the intended uses, which in their application does not include reclamation.

--The amount of water needed is not clear. The application claims a total of 710,000 gallons a year or 2.19 acre feet, which we think would be woefully insufficient to accomplish the suppression of dust. Even this amount would generate thousands of heavy water haul truck passes a year and contribute to deterioration of our roads, the repair of which the taxpayer would have to subsidize.

--In keeping with the county strategy to allow growth only where it is wanted and timely, this is also not a good location.

--It is not in the public welfare to use valuable water to open up an unsustainable relatively short-term operation that would permanently degrade a long recognized historic and cultural landscape--a landscape that can otherwise contribute sustainably to the county's economic welfare through the tourist industry.

--The current owners have no protected rights to demand a rezoning for the extractive industry as they purchased the property with the current agricultural/residential zoning in place. The County has no obligation to enhance the value of the property by shifting its economic worth from the value of an acre to the cubic yard.

--The property is for sale on the international market. Buena Vista is marketing the entire property of approximately 5217 acres and is including in the purpose the mining of basalt and other minerals.

--The applicant is seeking to rezone a portion of La Bajada Mesa from agriculture/residential to mining for its narrowly focused economic interests. Any such mining zone would likely be subject to expansion. The whole mesa is capped by basalt. Example: in 2002 JR Hale Contracting proposed a 500 acre strip-mine there that overlaps the current 50 acres as diagramed.

--County staff in the past (2005 & 2008) recommend denial of the permit based on a "cadre" of reasons including the threat to historical and archeological resources and because they did not want to create a new mining zone. Has anything changed since 2008 that would make gravel mining in this location any more or less suitable? Less, YES! Since then, a State Park has become a reality offering a sustainable resource just east and down wind from the proposed mine site which is incompatible.


DONATE PLEASE!!: The RCA is an all volunteer organization. Please give tax-deductible donations on line HERE or write check to:
    Concerned Citizens of Cerrillos, & put "For RCA Fund" in the memo. And send to: CCC, P.O. Box 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010. 

Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Concerned Citizens Of Cerrillos
whenever you shop on
amazonSmile. Click Here!



Water Rights Protest Dodged by an Agreement Between Buena Vista / Rockology and
Santa Fe County Water Utility

See also: Buena Vista Water Protest September 2013 update

Rural Conservation Alliance Archives

To: New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance, Most Endangered--La Bajada Mesa and Escarpment

Posted for the public by the Rural Conservation Alliance, an alliance of community organizations and individuals
dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural resources and rural character
of the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County, New Mexico.

--This page: Comments, opinions of the RCA, c/o POB 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010--

Site managed by RIII for the RCA

Page Updated July 24, 2015