Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Land Out Of Step With Time: Mora County--The Sierran

A Land Out of Step With Time: Mora County

Kathleen Dudley


A land of beauty, clean air and water. A rare gem when “Nature today is considered a subsystem of the economy” yet “we cannot function without our ecosystems,” says Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef.

Unspoiled, Mora County sits at the brink of change; it is a land still possessing clean ecosystems few other lands hold intact.

Mora County sits atop a basin of extractable gases, according to the Ronald Broadhead Report, that at best supposes 3 percent total organic carbons (TOC) and on average less than 1 percent TOC. No doubt the low prices and small reserve protect both San Miguel and Mora Counties (they share this Las Vegas Basin) from natural-gas drilling today, yet as we have seen, industry raises prices at will, and we speculate do not halt their extraction until all their resources are withdrawn from beneath our feet, come hell or high water.

Unless … there is a change in direction.

Mora County has a new commission this year, and if its meetings are any indication of change in direction, this new leadership will pave the way for a refreshing model of possibilities in this land-based county rich in fertile land, clean water, air and abundant wildlife. Protecting these vital resources upon which the citizens depend for livelihood and a culture that predates corporate interests, commission chair Paula Garcia told a packed room at the March meeting “to not forget that while an economic development plan for Mora County is necessary, it must include holistic development, ‘whole measures,’ as indicators of health and wellbeing—the economic, human, spiritual and social wellbeing of the community,” she said. “Mora County has demonstrated that people live well here, in part, due to our culture.”

At a time when state and federal budgets are running in the red, there is little money to support counties such as Mora, whose needs far outweigh the tax revenue generated. But today is also not a time to tax the citizens further, the commission agreed. In spite of the shortfall from government agencies, citizens continue to move forward in innovative ways. A local nonprofit group, Collaborative Visions, has been working to develop the agricultural and sustainable living possibilities in the county, from organic agriculture to biomass fuels for heating the Mora County Courthouse complex.

Drilling Mora County, an educational and proactive citizen group, has provided Mora County citizens with defensible documents and test results reflecting recent baseline water-well testing for hydraulic fracturing chemicals should the oil industry begin fracking here.

Excitement over Community Rights Ordinances has become part of the local discussion in the county over the past few months based upon the courageous action taken by the Pittsburgh City Council in December 2010 to adopt a “Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance” that prohibits industry from harming the citizens’ water or interfering with their right to making governing decisions on a local level.

The work by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund out of Pennsylvania is behind this ordinance and more than 120 such ordinances for communities across the United States that desire to protect their rights to clean air, land, water, and health from the ongoing egregious corporate activities that destroy ecosystems.

While battle is being waged elsewhere, Mora County citizens are weighing the consequences as seen in other communities. It is truly a time of preparedness, and Mora County is thoughtfully moving ahead as it always has, in time and pace with its knowing of Nature, and the heart and soul of the people. .