The Associated Press

Mike Gillespie via Flickr

UPDATE 7p: A furious wildfire torching through the mountains of southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest has grown to 127 square miles.

Fire officials say the Silver Fire continued to burn Tuesday to the north and west as crews battled the blaze amid dry and breezy conditions.

The fire is still about 5 miles west of the nearest community, but the flames have already burned through entire grazing areas and some ranches. That has left ranchers in this drought-stricken corner of the state nowhere to turn to find feed for their cattle.

Avelino Maestas via Flickr

With each dry thunderstorm that moves across New Mexico, the chance of another wildfire breaking out goes up.

Crews are battling a handful of blazes in the Santa Fe National Forest, on private land near Whites Peak and in rugged territory in southern New Mexico.

The flames are being fueled by overcrowded forests, the terrain and dry conditions.

However, New Mexico State University wildland fire management specialist Doug Cram says the wind hasn't been as big of a factor. In 2011 and 2012, the state broke records with three massive wind-driven wildfires.

Governor Susana Martinez has appointed former Republican state legislator James Hall of Los Alamos to a commission that oversees state planning of computer systems.

Hall was named to the 15-member Information Technology Commission, which reviews and approves information technology plans and initiatives for the state.

Law enforcement officials in eastern New Mexico are teaming up this week to search for more than 100 fugitives.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler says dozens of state and local law enforcement officers will be working on the sweep for felony absconders in Roosevelt and Curry counties over the next several days.

He says officials will be looking for people who over the past decade have been arrested, indicted and released from jail, but then failed to come back to court as ordered.

Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff and 84th anniversary of Carlsbad Caverns' summer bat watching program.

Park rangers have presented summertime bat flight programs since 1929, making Carlsbad Caverns National Park one of the best-known bat colonies in the world.

During the nightly programs, rangers dispel myths and extol the virtues of bats as the nocturnal creatures spiral out of the cavern on their nightly forage for insects.

The nightly number of bats fluctuates depending on weather and temperature.

New Mexico Department of Health officials want to help any victims of an unlicensed tooth doctor who was operating as a "mobile dentist" out of a sedan around Santa Fe.

State health officials are offering counseling and testing services for any victims of a man known as "El Dentista."

The services include no-cost confidential blood tests and referrals for additional services if needed.

Santa Fe police are trying to build a strong case against 36-year-old Eliver Kestler, also known as Eliver Lopez.

The League of United Latin American Citizens says two recent cases of Spanish being banned at New Mexico high school games are examples of a "disturbing" pattern.

Ralph Arellanes, New Mexico LULAC state director, said Monday that the group has heard of a least five cases of high school players being ordered this school year not to speaking Spanish. Arellanes says LULAC will begin an aggressive effort to monitor future cases, and if necessary, will file lawsuits.

The University of New Mexico says it has reached an agreement in principal with former men's basketball coach Steve Alford over his buyout.

Alford said in April he was willing to pay a $200,000 buyout for leaving the Albuquerque school to take a job at UCLA, but he wouldn't pay the $1 million payment that New Mexico wanted.

The dispute stemmed from the timing of his announcement and a term sheet he had signed just weeks before agreeing to a new 10-year contract with New Mexico that included a $1 million buyout.

New Mexico's highest court is allowing the state's top water manager to decide proposed water rights transfers to increase flows in the drought-stricken Pecos River.

The state Supreme Court ruled Monday the state engineer's office can move ahead with an administrative hearing on a proposal to transfer water rights to allow more pumping of groundwater near Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico. The water will go by pipeline into a reservoir to boost river flows.

Leasepics via Flickr

A gun-rights group has won a preliminary injunction that will keep New Mexico from enforcing part of its concealed handgun carry law.

The Second Amendment Foundation sought the injunction on behalf of Rio Rancho resident John Jackson, a legal immigrant who was denied a concealed carry permit. Under New Mexico law, permits are granted only to U.S. citizens.

The ruling handed down late last week by Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo blocks the state from enforcing the citizenship provision when it comes to qualified applicants who are legal residents.

Monday marks the beginning of daytime watering restrictions in Bernalillo County.

Those who use sprinkler irrigation systems between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. will be subject to fines.

Katherine Yuhas of the Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority says only about half of the water reaches the ground when residents water during the hottest and windiest part of the day. The other half evaporates.

Outdoor irrigation accounts for 40 percent of the water authority's overall use.

Santa Fe, Roswell and Hobbs could lose their airport control towers because of federal budget cuts.

Officials with American and United airlines, which service the small airports, have declined to comment on whether such cuts would impact service.

Towers at the three small airports, as well as the general aviation Double Eagle Airport in west Albuquerque, are on a list of nearly 200 being eyed for possible closure if across-the-board federal budgets cuts that took effect Friday stay in place. The FAA is expected to announce the final cut next week.

Barron Jones

(UPDATED 1/24/13) -  A private service will be held for the Griego family Friday.

15 year old Nehemiah Griego apparently gave a gruesome and very detailed confession to detectives after his arrest for shooting and killing five immediate family members.

Read latest details on confession from KOAT-TV

(UPDATED 1/23/13am)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A group of Santa Fe-area homeowners is appealing Santa Fe County's decision to allow construction of a church where members drink a hallucinogenic tea as a sacrament.

The six Arroyo Hondo homeowners object to the county spending about $400,000 to extend a waterline and build a sewage-treatment system there.

The notice of appeal filed in state court Wednesday argues using taxpayer money violates New Mexico's anti-donation clause and the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

State officials have awarded a contract to begin safeguarding more than two dozen abandoned mines near Deming.

The Mining and Minerals Division says the $475,000 contract with Duran Bokich Enterprises represents the first of a multiple-phase project involving old mines in the Florida and Little Florida Mountains. The mines are on private property and land managed by the federal government.

Before 1918, the ores recovered from mines in the area were mostly lead, zinc, silver, copper and some gold. After that, manganese and fluorite were produced in large quantities.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Sheriff's deputies in San Juan County have seized four emaciated horses from a property outside Aztec they say were at risk of dying as a winter storm moved in.

Sheriff's officials say they took the horses to a local veterinarian for treatment until they're healthy enough to be released.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A former Santa Fe hospital executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges but will avoid jail time as part of a plea agreement with the state Attorney General's office.

Richard Crabtree also agreed to repay St. Vincent Hospital, now known as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, for losses it suffered in a scheme he allegedly ran with a former girlfriend to receive kickbacks from her brothers in a computer upgrade contract.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Detectives are investigating allegations of steroid use among Albuquerque police officers.

Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz confirmed the probe at a news conference Wednesday but said he did not know how many officers may be involved. Schultz also said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is "monitoring" the department's investigation amid the FBI's own probe into Albuquerque police over excessive force claims.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A health clinic in Las Cruces is getting a half-million-dollar grant to expand into the border community of Santa Teresa.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced Wednesday that La Clinica de Familia will receive a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build a new health center next to Santa Teresa High School and strengthen its existing school-based health services. The funding comes from capital project outlays under the Affordable Care Act.

  U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman has bid his farewell to Washington.

In his speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the retiring Democrat said it was an honor and a privilege to have represented the people of New Mexico in the Senate for the last 30 years. And he thanked New Mexicans for their confidence in his representation.

Bingaman will be replaced by Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich, who defeated Republican Heather Wilson for the coveted seat.

An Albuquerque organization will receive more than $820,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its Early Head Start program.

Native American Professional Parent Resources serves more than 70 families, including expectant moms and families with infants and toddlers. The funds will be used to expand its services.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced the funding this week. The New Mexico Democrat says most families living in poverty have difficulty accessing resources to support their children's development.

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed former Alamogordo mayor Ron Griggs to a vacancy in the state Senate.

Griggs was elected to the southern New Mexico Senate seat in the general election and succeeds Republican Vernon Asbill, who did not seek re-election and resigned at the end of October.

By serving the remainder of Asbill's term through the end of the year, Griggs gains an advantage in seniority, which will help him in landing committee assignments

A statewide off-highway vehicle user group is suing the Santa Fe National Forest over its travel management plan.

The New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance filed the lawsuit in federal court Tuesday.

The group's president, Jim Tyldesley, says the complaint is being filed on behalf of all forest users. He contends the plan closes more than 70 percent of existing roads and trails on the northern New Mexico forest, significantly reduces camping options and makes it difficult for hunters to retrieve game.


Environmentalists have filed another lawsuit as they push for reforms of the federal government's troubled effort to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in the American Southwest.

The latest lawsuit centers on a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reject a petition that sought the classification of Mexican wolves as an endangered subspecies or separate population of gray wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity says specific protection is needed for wolves living in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King may ask the Legislature to clarify registration requirements for out-of-state sex offenders who move to New Mexico.

Sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement for certain New Mexico crimes or the equivalents of those crimes in other states.

Legislative auditors say New Mexico's colleges of education should toughen their admission standards to provide more qualified teachers and potentially improve student performance.

A Legislative Finance Committee audit on Wednesday said none of the colleges with teacher preparation programs require minimum ACT scores by students for admission.

Auditors recommended the Public Education Department increase the passing scores on competency tests required for a teaching license.

Two members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are pushing for a House vote on legislation that would free up federal funding to clean up abandoned uranium mines.

U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., say House approval is needed to get the bill to the president's desk. Pearce and Lujan spelled out their request in a letter to House leaders on Wednesday.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. The Senate has already voted unanimously in favor of the bill.

The Albuquerque Police Department

Prosecutors say two of three Albuquerque police officers who were investigated for their conduct during a May arrest at a park will not be criminally charged in the incident.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Officers Ronald Surran and Shad Solis will not be charged in the May 31 incident, but misdemeanor battery and aggravated battery charges are pending in state District Court against officer Connor Rice.

The officers were responding to reports about suspected drug activity.

New Mexico's securities regulator says in a new report the New Mexico Finance Authority's former controller was able to forge a financial audit because of management and oversight failures at the agency.

The Securities Division said Monday those problems were aggravated by a "culture of complacency" at the authority that played down the importance of the audit to investors and placed too much of an emphasis on obtaining high credit ratings for agency bonds.

Former authority CEO Rick May disputed the report's conclusions.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists say the survival of two six-month old Mexican gray wolf pups is in question now that the animals have become separated from what's left of their troubled pack.

Tracking shows members of the Fox Mountain pack have separated since the alpha female, the pups' mother, was captured and removed from the wild.

Federal wildlife managers ordered her removal following a string of cattle kills in southwestern New Mexico.