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Three Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation Board races on ballot


Incumbents and challengers will face off for three seats on the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) Board of Supervisors in the 2019 combined local election ballot.

On the Nov. 5, 2019 ballot are:

  • Position/Zone 1: north of Interstate 10 and north of U.S. Highway 70, excluding the city of Las Cruces.

The candidates:

Incumbent Jerry G. Schickedanz, DASWCD Board president. Schickedanz is dean emeritus NMSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics, where he worked for 30 years. BS in zoology and wildlife from Oklahoma State University, MS in range management from NMSU, PhD in range science from the University of Arizona. Member of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council and Vintage Iron (a group dedicated to restoring antique machinery); chair, Western Heritage Alliance

As an NMSU Cooperative Extension Service professional educator, Schickedanz said he has “promoted sustainable practices for livestock ranching and farming,” including proper grazing and farming practices like the use of cover crops to reduce water and wind erosion, low tillage practices in dryland cropland and protection of the watershed.

“Approaches to watershed protection in the early days was to build large structures at the mouth of the watershed which now is seen as not viable and sustainable,” Schickedanz said. “The practices now involve working from the top of the watershed to the mouth. This includes smaller structures to slow the water down in the channel, vegetative manipulation of ground cover, brush control, planting of native species. This is hampered by the establishment of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and newly designated wilderness areas that limits entry, new road construction and changes to the watershed.”

Challenger Kurt SJ Anderson is a retired NMSU professor with a strong interest in sustainable water use, with service on the boards of local water associations and on the Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Committee. A long-time Sierra Club member, he is particularly interested in water supply, water conservation and watershed protection, as well as rangeland conservation and restoration in times of drought. Anderson is a native of Rockford, Illinois, and has lived in Doña Ana County since 1974. has a BS and a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from Cal Tech. He did postdoctoral work at Lick Observatory (U.C. Santa Cruz), Harvard College Observatory (Cambridge), and Kitt Peak National Observatory. Anderson Joined the NMSU Department of Astronomy in 1974, retiring in 2010. He is past president of the New Mexico Academy of Science and editor of the New Mexico Journal of Science and does occasional environmental and energy consulting as New Mexico Geothermal, LLC. Anderson is a member of the Doña Ana Search and Rescue team and the Organ Mountain Technical Rescue Squad. He is a member of the steering committee for the Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Plan, Paseo del Norte Watershed Council, Doña Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association and chair of the Domestic Water Providers Working Group.

“The principal environmental challenges (facing DASWCD) are those resulting from global warming, climate change and drought,” Anderson said. “Irrigators will continue to face low flows in the Rio Grande, largely a consequence of reduced snowpack in the mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. Increasing temperatures will further stress crops and increase evaporative loss of water. Both domestic and agricultural users of groundwater from the Mesilla Bolson, which receives most of its recharge from irrigation flows, face dropping groundwater levels. Higher elevation rangelands, which rely principally on rainfall for recharge, will see changes in rainfall patterns if not in the total amount of rainfall – but with increased plant and grass stress and evaporative loss due to higher temperatures.

The principal goals must be the prevention of desertification of lands which must include water conservation, watershed protection and restoration of some of our grasslands. The latter might involve the removal of some of the more water-thirsty invasive species.

“The traditional ‘constituents’ of soil and water conservation districts have been farmers and ranchers, and this will probably remain so in Doña Ana County. Funds for such things as rangeland restoration, removal of invasive flora and water conservation and control are available from several state and federal agencies such as the USDA. The problem is that these ‘grants’ now almost always come with a required matching and/or loan component. The DASWCD does not now have access to significant ‘matching’ funds. A well-planned and carefully specified (purposeful) mil-levy proposal might have a better chance of passing now than it did five years ago.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that global climates are warming as a direct consequence of human injection of greenhouse gasses, principally carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. Agriculture in Doña Ana County is suffering the consequences of both drought and global warming and will have to respond with conservation measures and probably a transition to less water-demanding crops.”

  • Position/Zone 2 is south of Interstate 10 to the Texas state line and the U.S.-Mexico border, from the western district boundary (at the county line) east to New Mexico Highway 478, excluding the City of Las Cruces and the City of Anthony.

The candidates:

Incumbent D.J. Martinez. “I come from a long generation of farmers from the Rio Grande Valley. My experience in agriculture is deeply rooted in my DNA. My family has farmed and operated a successful business in La Mesa for over 100 years. I know our region’s natural resources like the back of my hand. I work hard every day to help feed America and am honored to serve on the DASWCD board. During my six years with DASWCD, I have worked diligently to address many issues that affect our quality of life, such as: flooding issues in the Rocky Acres and La Union communities, invasive weed management programs, funding to address problematic rodents and predators, flood control management, grant funding for the installation of early warning systems for potential overflow of flood control dams, installation and management of range improvements for livestock and wildlife habitat.”

Challenger Fernando Clemente is a wildlife biologist and owner of New Mexico Specialized Wildlife Services based in Sunland Park, where he works with public and private landowners to foster wise and responsible land stewardship, with a special emphasis on shared interests like agriculture, wildlife and natural resources. An active sportsman and conservationist, he is a board member of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and board president of the Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Clemente is also a master taxidermist, according to his company website.

  • Position 5, at large.

The candidates:

Incumbent Joshua Smith was raised on the Hatchet Ranch in the New Mexico bootheel before moving to Deming. He has a BS in agricultural economics and agricultural business from NMSU and a juris doctorate from Texas Tech University School of Law, where he studied water and natural resource law. Smith returned to Las Cruces to work for the law firm of Hubert and Hernandez, representing clients on water rights issues. He worked primarily in insurance defense and water law for Miller Stratvert, P.A. 2010-13 and has been in private practice for the past five years at Watson Smith, where he practices water, real estate and business law, representing mutual domestic water consumers associations, municipal water providers, farmers and businesses.

“My entire practice I have represented the agricultural community and I am familiar with the issues that they face,” Smith said, “especially when it comes to water.” Smith raised the issue of the flood control structures up and down the Lower Rio Grande and their potential impact on the community about 10 years ago, he said, and “it is still a major issue today.”

Smith taught agricultural and natural resource law at NMSU 2016-18 and is an associate real estate broker with Century 21 Haggerty Co. focusing on farm and ranch and commercial transaction.

Smith was appointed to the DASWCD board in October 2018. He has participated in the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts’ Conservation Officers Leadership Training program to benefit producers in Doña Ana County.

Soil and water conservation districts put conservation practices into effect faster and more efficiently because of partnerships with producers, NMDA, BLM, USDA and other agencies, Smith said.

“Water is a precious resource and we need to do all we can to protect it,” he said. “Water quality, availability and quantity are all issues we address. This means protecting our source and improving efficiency by lining ditches or putting in pipelines. The removal of invasive plants and high water-use vegetation along the river is a necessity. It also means controlling runoff of stormwater and protecting the infrastructure and tax base in the county.

DASWCD obtained funding for an urban ag garden and demonstration plot in Las Cruces, Smith said, and supports the Healthy Soils Act that passed the legislature last year and provides funding for improving soil quality and carbon sequestration.

Challenger Christopher K.P. Cardenas was born and raised in Las Cruces and has lived here most of his life.

“I graduated from Las Cruces High School in 2002 and from NMSU in 2006 with a degree in philosophy. I went on to attend law school at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, where I graduated in 2010. After graduating from law school, I returned to Las Cruces, where I have lived ever since. I have two kids and one Great Dane. I own and operate Cardenas Law Firm LLC, which is a general practice law firm. I regularly volunteer my time to serve the community’s legal needs, including volunteering monthly for the Community of Hope Legal Clinic and the Third Judicial District Court’s Family Law Clinic. My hobbies include hiking, writing, reading and finding the best local coffee shops or breweries in town.

“I decided to run because I feel that I can bring a new perspective to DASWCD. I believe DASWCD has a significant amount of potential and the current board is under-utilizing the resources which could be made available to the community through conservation policy advocacy, community involvement and educational programs. I believe through good stewardship and innovation Doña Ana County could be a leader in the future of conservation.

“DASWCD's mission is to increase the well-being of the community through conservation. Using the untapped potential of DASWCD, my goal, if elected, would be to create programs which educate the public on how we can best preserve our public lands while also enjoying the beauty of nature, facilitate cooperation with local/county/state entities and community leaders to implement solutions to local ecological problems, and establish community-wide good stewardship programs which would incentivize and sponsor self-sustaining and environmentally-friendly lifestyles.”

Cardenas is the owner of a small pecan orchard in Mesilla. He is interested in implementing policies that support community projects like urban gardens and that provide ongoing education and land stewardship opportunities for both rural and urban residents. Cardenas said he wants to make sure our natural resources will be available for use and enjoyment for generations to come.