I was disappointed and extremely saddened after reading "In the heart of the New West, the sheep win one" (HCN, 10/16/95). Disappointed that with so many other environmental problems facing this country, the Sierra Club Foundation has chosen to pick on a small rural cooperative to the tune of $2.5 million.
It seems to me that such a large sum of money (the amount the Sierra Club Foundation spent fighting Ganados del Valle's claim) could have been more prudently spent. And saddened that the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy either do not see or refuse to acknowledge their role in aiding the demise of the old and unique Hispanic culture that can only be found in northern New Mexico. If there was ever a situation where these environmental organizations could demonstrate that humanity and environmentalism can co-exist by extending a friendly hand, this is it.
Twenty percent of New Mexico's population lives in poverty, fourth highest in the nation. The average per capita income in Rio Arriba County, the county in which Ganados del Valle is located, is approximately $9,000 annually, one of the lowest in the state. The cooperative is providing employment and income to an area that sorely needs it.
What was referred to as "the heart of the New West" is in fact the old West, a very old West that existed long before there ever was a United States. And it was not the sheep who won one, but a struggling community that is much more than "a grazing cooperative."
Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy: Look for another opponent to fight; there certainly is no shortage of them. But then again, if you can't beat the poor and disenfranchised, who can you beat?
Robert V. Urias