Pajarito Conservation Alliance Interviews Dawn Voss

Dawn Trujillo Voss. Courtesy/
Pajarito Conservation Alliance interview of Dawn Trujillo Voss (R), candidate for Los Alamos County Council:
PCA: What do you believe makes Los Alamos County special?
Trujillo Voss: I think what makes us special is that we weren’t meant to be a town, but we’re still a town. We’re growing, and the diversity of people here from different backgrounds, different cultures that come together. It’s small, unique.
I just went to an iris exchange over at the Unitarian Church. I think there’s a lot of different little pockets of different little interests.
Another thing that makes us great, that I think we can improve on, is we have a lot of independent little groups doing great things, but if we can come together and work smarter, not harder, and independent, I think that that’s awesome. We have a lot of people who care in our community.
PCA: How should we grow while keeping Los Alamos County special?
Trujillo Voss: The way we should grow, and it’s important to grow, is to really focus on the small businesses. If we bring in large corporations, chain corporations, we’re going to lose our personality and our local flavor and our diversity. Like Española — all the small businesses have been pushed out. You go down there and it’s just big chains. Wienerschnitzel and all of this stuff. I even heard they’re going to put a Target in there.
Do we want to be unique or do we want to be like everyone else? Do we want to be like Durango and Pagosa, those small little businesses that are individual?
Crested Butte I think put a moratorium on bringing big businesses in.
It’s not how I want to grow. It’s I think how the community wants to grow, and I hear that the community wants to stay unique.
PCA: How should we balance making Los Alamos County appeal to tourists versus serving the outdoor recreation interests of local citizens?
Trujillo Voss: We’re the gateway to the three national parks: the historical park, the Valles Caldera, and Bandelier. I think that’s an opportunity that a lot of other communities do not have.
We also have the ski hill, and we have a lot of open space. How do we balance all of it? I’ve been trying to study recreation towns like Red River, and Angel Fire, and Durango, and Pagosa. How do they keep that balance?
I don’t know the exact steps, but I think it’s possible and with planning and bringing in the right people. Like I said, we have all these little groups that have interests. They have expertise. They have knowledge. We should tap into that knowledge instead of blindly going forward without getting any expert opinion and lessons learned.
These people have lived other places. What did they see that worked and didn’t work? I don’t know all the answers, but I think there are people in our community who do have experiences to share. We can tap into that and take the best out of that.
PCA: What is the appropriate level of public spending on restoration and conservation of county natural areas and open space? How should this money be spent?
Trujillo Voss: I read an article about Oak Ridge, which is a sister city to Los Alamos. They received a lot of grant money to preserve that and to revamp their town, so to speak. I think that’s important. We have Bandelier, so there should be money coming in from there.
Now our open spaces out on the trails, I think it’s unfortunate when I heard that parks & rec open space only has one person to maintain all of these trails.
These trails are being vandalized. The sign posts are being vandalized. Glass is being put down on trails to try to stop people from using the open space.
We need to maybe not — I’m trying to say this nicely — not hire more people into the department to work on things like codes. Maybe help another department that only has one person working on maintaining our open space and picking up the trash. We can use resources to help there and tap into resources that other national parks get.
PCA: Are you familiar with the open space plan that was approved in 2015?
Trujillo Voss: Yes.
PCA: We have observed little to no progress on implementing the conservation parts of this plan. Could you comment on that situation and say what you plan to do?
Trujillo Voss: I find that the county says a lot of things and hasn’t been able to do those things. Maybe their idea is that they’re laying the ground work, the idea and identifying what needs to be done. If we have groups like your organization or other organizations that are trying to identify specifically what needs to be done, then we need to reach across that…
Part of No Labels, their thing is we have groups on each side. How do we move forward instead of staying stagnant and sticking to our guns? How do we reach
across and bridge the communication to move forward?
If we had an idea of what your group feels that is important and other groups feel that is important, we can make a list. This needs to be identified. This needs to be addressed. This needs to be protected. We have open space. We have a lot of open space. Let’s go out and work together to move forward. It’s a win-win. The county gets to move forward on their plan. You get to identify what you feel is important and needs to be addressed on a list.
I think that’s the way to move forward. I can’t say what I feel needs to be identified. It’s our community. It’s people who are involved. I’m here to be that
voice, that bridge into the county government and to the people.
PCA: In addition to our open space, Los Alamos County also has various urban greenery within the town sites. For example, we have Ashley Pond. We have trees right here [on Fuller Lodge lawn]. There’s trees planted along Central Avenue and also private yards. How should we promote and manage these resources?
Trujillo Voss: It’s kind of difficult. This is where we’ve run into a lot of controversy where you see a lot of money being spent on one particular area of town, but it’s not spread out. How do we balance that?
Everyone loves Ashley Pond. Fuller Lodge is great. But how do we address White Rock? How do we do open green space in White Rock? Why is it all concentrated here? I think that bothers a lot of people and provides energy to not being supportive of the green and open space.
We have so much science here and technology here, people within the laboratory.
We talk about sustainability. A lot of people are for and against water collection systems or solar gain, but if we were able to collect the water — and this has been studied in, I looked this up for other communities and cities — if they collect the water they can divert it to where it needs to go. It still goes into the ground. It still supplies the groundwater system, but we have a little bit more control over where it goes. Instead of tapping into our clean water to water green spaces, let’s provide opportunity for not only businesses and open space but residents to collect water and water their yards and not have to pay outrageous water bills to have a nice space.
PCA: Sometimes when the county is doing construction projects, it damages or removes trees. What should the county do when this happens?
Trujillo Voss: I think if we put energy and effort into researching what we can do to maybe move a tree, maybe it might be expensive, but at least let’s look into it and provide the information to everyone out in the community instead of going and cutting down a tree. If it’s outrageously expensive, say $50,000 to transplant a tree and it actually lives, or I recognize, yes, we’re going to cut down this tree, it’s unfortunate, but we’re going to spend $5,000 and buy a bunch of seedlings and go and put them in areas that they’re going to thrive and it’s not going to be in the way.
I think that’s the balance. I don’t want to see a tree taken down, but I see that we also need to move forward and grow. Maybe let’s have control over where we can put our trees, or our grass, or our shrubs, or our bushes, and not disturb bee life, bee habitat, and flowers, and stuff like that.
So let’s move forward, but let’s take care of the environment. How many trees could you get for $5,000? How many seedlings? Or $50,000 to remove a tree and transplant it and it might not thrive.
PCA: How should we manage wildfire danger while maximizing access to local outdoor recreation opportunities?
Trujillo Voss: Again, my big thing is balance. How do you balance this? I did an internship one summer for the Forest Service. I was in this huge seminar in a hotel conference room. They were talking about forest fire prevention and mitigation and what we can and can’t do. My question was, if we have all this dead wood and all this brush collecting in the forest and the pine needles, and it’s natural for Mother Nature to come in and burn everything, then it’s a clean start and then seeds are able to grow and all this.
Why can’t we help Mother Nature, not on windy fire days or anything like that, but to come in and take care of the forest, not just let it take care of itself?
I think it was Australia or New Zealand or something where they allowed sheep to come in and clean up the forest, eat everything that was on the ground. I talked to this with my daughter. She’s an environmental science student down at NMSU.
She said, “Yeah, but you don’t want to just leave the sheep there and they eat everything, because then they’re going to destroy everything. You don’t want to let the farmers of the sheep just maximize the money to let their sheep be there because then they’re always going to want to be there. Then you don’t want to have too much government input on this, because then there’s just too much control.”
I think there’s solutions that are workable, but we need to plan for unintended consequences. We don’t want to give farmers too much power, we don’t want to give government too much power, but we’ve got to balance our forests so they don’t burn down because Mother Nature’s going to take care of it for us.
PCA: How should we balance the water needs of local citizens with the water needs of wildlife and ecosystems?
Trujillo Voss: We’re in a drought. We don’t always have water. It’s our natural cycle. I remember it being really dry when I was…. I grew up here, and then I remember that winter where we had four feet of snow and it was amazing. I think naturally we go through this. It might be the natural evolution of things, but now we’re here and we see these animals.
We also don’t want to put water or feeders in our backyards because we not only invite the cute, fuzzy animals, we invite predators. We don’t want to hurt our citizens. We don’t want to have mountain lions in our backyards, and bears, and etc. What do ranchers do? They’re out there and they put out water troughs.
They have the windmills to get the water up and going. If we’re in a drought and we see that our wildlife is suffering, maybe we can come up with a solution to take care of the water needs out away from our community, out far, far away where we’re not going to be inviting danger in but we still keep our animals alive.
PCA: The next one is a yes or no question, and then I will have a couple of follow-ups. Do you believe that climate change is real?
Trujillo Voss: Yes, I believe climate change is real.
PCA: What is the cause of climate change?
Trujillo Voss: It’s our natural evolution of everything. The climate’s always changing. Whether it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, there’s always change.
I think we, as inhabitants of Earth, can address our practices of how we live to manage ourselves. If everyone has that attitude, then maybe we can prolong our life. I think the Earth is still going to be here, but we’re going to hurt our life, our animals’ life. Life’s going to be the one that suffers.
PCA: How should we respond to climate change at the local level?
Trujillo Voss: I think when you try to force something on someone, they don’t like it. Whether they agree with it or not, if I’m going to tell you, “you’re going to do this,” we as America, because we believe in our freedoms and our choices, we’re going to say no. Even if we agree or not, because somebody’s telling us to do something.
I did this 30-day challenge at work. I created a little card. You can do this for anything, but my challenge…. I was a chair for two worker safety and security teams. One of the goals for the laboratory is sustainability. I created a challenge card for every day. You tried to change a habit, or what you lived, or how you lived.
How about a day going out without a straw? How about today you bring in a plate instead of using paper plates? How about tomorrow you bring in a fork and spoon?
Just try awareness. Like, “Oh, there’s this card. I’m doing this challenge. I’m going to do one thing a day to try and change my habits.” Eventually, over time, we change it. We break a habit and we create a lifestyle. I think if we ask and present it as an opportunity rather than a dictation to do something, people respond a little bit better.
PCA: What distinguishes you from the other candidates on conservation issues and natural resource management?
Trujillo Voss: I haven’t quite heard everyone else’s standpoint on that.
I’m just going to make a blanket statement here. I think all of us, we see the natural resources around us and the beauty here. I mean, we’re living in a mountain town. We’re not living in a city. I think that there’s important there and recognizing that all of us have an interest in conserving our community.
I don’t think anyone’s come out and said, “I want to do drill, and fracking, and all of this stuff here.” No one has said that. I think we all have good intentions to conserve with the environment.
Pajarito Conservation Alliance is a 501(c)4 non-profit community organization focusing on information, advocacy, and volunteer work to protect the ecosystems and outdoor experience of the Pajarito Plateau. We take action now and plan ahead for seven generations. Visit us online at