Ilse Bleck: Goodbye and good luck

By Jody Benson Pajarito Group newsletter editor

For 14 years, Ilse Bleck served the Pajarito Group on both the Executive Committee (ExCom) and as chair of several issues committees.

For 11 of those years, she was repeatedly elected ExCom chair. During that time, she taught the local leadership and members how to adhere to the principles of the Sierra Club, energetically maintained those principles, and consistently directed the group’s efforts to “Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.”

Ilse came to Los Alamos from Florida, a state with all the environmental issues that New Mexico has, from drought, sprawl, water and agriculture, to land use, habitat and endangered species; but in Florida, with the nation’s fourth-largest population, the struggle to protect the survival of the nonhuman environment requires nine times the diligence and dedication. Ilse brought this diligence and dedication to the brand-new Pajarito Group and inspired members of the group to study issues, take on
tasks, and follow through from information to action.

Among just a few of the high-impact battles for which Ilse was not only Commander in Chief, but often the one testifying at hearings, were:

• Supporting efforts to ensure the sustainability of Valles Caldera National Preserve and to open it up for more public access while still protecting all its magnificent nonhuman assets, and finally, along with
other environmental organizations, to move VCNP toward becoming a National Park Preserve managed by National Park Service.

• With Mining Chair David Torney, the multiyear project of shutting down then reclaiming the Copar pumice mine in the Jemez.

• Sending ExCom members to be among the first Sierrans trained in the Sierra Club national leadership’s Leadership Development Training led by Marshall Ganz.

• Helping to stop the redesign of the West Jemez Road Bypass.

• Developing relationships with state and local representatives to lobby for Sierra Club values.

• Studying issues, then submitting formal comments or testifying at hearings on: Oil and gas pit-lining for protecting groundwater from oil and gas waste, the U.S. Forest Service Roads and Trails Management Plan, grazing issues, protection of endangered species and other wildlife issues (cougar management, cattle in Bandelier, bighorns in White Rock Canyon — an issue that will return to the docket for 2014), pit roduction at LANL, water use, a carbon-free Los Alamos, public space and sprawl.

• Attending many scoping sessions and working with other environmental groups to advance Green Standards for development in Los Alamos, Robert Gibson’s Energy-Independent Los Alamos, walkable Los Alamos, and protection of open space to limit sprawl.

• Submitting formal Pajarito Group written comments on numerous NEPA, Environmental Impact Statements, and Environmental Impact Assessments to the appropriate agencies on multiple issues.

• Judging science fairs, doing joint projects with other N.M. Sierra Club groups, hiking, potlucking and picnicking.

• Maintaining our monthly meeting schedule with talks on topics ranging from “Spirituality and the Environment” to “Radionuclides and the Cerro Grande Fire.”

• Annually representing the Group with a booth at PEEC’s Earth Day, one of Ilse’s personal favorite efforts.

As you have read in our Pajarito Page, our current effort is a coal-free Los Alamos. It was Ilse who led us in an issues study then encouraged us to focus on getting Los Alamos off coal as our issue for the near term, a goal we believe will not only be possible but probable.

The Pajarito group will continue to pour our intelligence and energy into being effective volunteers on behalf of our values. Although Ilse trained her activists from fledglings to flight, we will miss her as she soars off to her new endeavors in Boulder.

Thank you, Ilse, for your work and your passion for the Earth.

Pajarito Group seeks leaders and active volunteers

Ilse is moving to Boulder and will pass on duties as Pajarito Group chair to Mark Jones.