Inside the Capitol

Monday, August 01, 2005

8-03 Tree Project Appears Better Organized

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The Capitol Holiday Tree effort appears to be much better organized and communicated than back in 1991, the previous time New Mexico provided a tree.
That's not meant in any way to diminish the effort by the people of Taos, 14 years ago. They created an almost impossible task for themselves without nearly as much help from the state and federal government than exists this year.
Taosenos decided they would send the first live tree to the Capitol that any state had provided. It turned out to be a bit of a nightmare, but the tree got to Washington and was planted. Later it was transplanted at the National Arboretum.
Along the way, Taos ran into more than its share of difficulties. It found a Houston company willing to truck the tree to Washington as a donation. But the company said the only safe way to transport it that far would be by air.
The Air Force and air express companies demurred. So truck it they did, through bad weather, detours and delays to obtain permits at every state line. This was after weather delayed getting the tree out of the ground for a week, onto a truck and down treacherous mountain roads.
The Taos effort, led by the Chamber of Commerce had to fund all the costs of the operation. At the time, U.S. Forest Service personnel were only allowed to work on the project after hours.
This, despite it being the Forest Service that sponsored the Capitol Holiday Tree program and that chose the Carson National Forest to donate the 1991 tree. Taos could have paid to have the tree shipped by air, but there were too many other costs tied to the entire operation.
Nevertheless, all went well at the nation's capitol. The tree was lit on December 11, it's intended date. Indian and Spanish dancers were there to provide a taste of New Mexico culture.
And the Taos Chefs Association prepared a New Mexico feast at a reception afterward, sponsored by the New Mexico Society, a group of displaced New Mexicans in Washington.
This year, the entire operation can be expected to go much more smoothly. The idea using a living tree was abandoned. It had never happened before and it hasn't been tried since. Forest Service personnel are now allowed work time to help organize the project.
The state is taking a role, with First Lady Barbara Richardson leading the effort to make thousands of decorations for the tree and state agencies taking care of the permits necessary to get the truck past state lines without delay.
And this year, most of the work will be done by an organization called Tree New Mexico. As you might guess, they dig trees, er, more accurately they plant trees. It was Taos that did the digging as a way of encouraging the use of live trees at Christmas.
Tree New Mexico has asked scientists from across the nation to help determine how much greenhouse gas will be produced throughout this project.
It will then calculate how many trees will need to be planted to absorb that carbon dioxide, making the Capitol Holiday Tree 2005 a carbon-neutral event. Those trees will be planted in communities and forests throughout New Mexico in 2006. The organization anticipates that more than 5,000 trees will be planted.
Tree New Mexico is also taking care of the fundraising for the project. Since it is a non-profit, donations are tax deductible. Checks should be made to Capitol Holiday Tree 2005 and be sent to Tree New Mexico at P.O. Box 81827, Albuquerque, NM 87198.
National Van Lines will provide the vehicles, trailers and drivers to transport the big tree and 60-80 smaller companion trees to Washington. New Mexico Tree Growers will donate those companion trees.
It appears that all parties have learned much from past experience and that New Mexico will have a truly enchanting gift for the nation.
WED, 8-3-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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