The Associated Press

VADITO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will be kicking off the start of the ski season Saturday with the opening of the Sipapu resort.

Snowmaking has started at some ski areas around New Mexico, but Sipapu will be the first to open. The resort is reporting an 18-inch base.

Ski resorts in New Mexico and around the West had an unusual season last year. Early on, the snow was relatively good in New Mexico, but resorts in other Western states were forced to close early thanks to lackluster snow.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — One year after being granted reservation status in New Mexico, the Fort Sill Apache Friday raised their flag on their 30-acre plot of land in the Akela Flats of southern New Mexico. But tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous says it will likely take generations to re-establish a true presence on the tribe's homelands.

Key to the plans is resolution of the tribe's long-standing battle to build a casino on the reservation, an area where the tribe has made little progress in the last year.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales to a federal district court judgeship in New Mexico.

Gonzales' nomination was among seven announced by the White House on Wednesday. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gonzales will replace retiring federal Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe.

Gonzales was one of five candidates recommended to the president in September by New Mexico's two U.S. senators.

Gonzales has served as U.S. attorney since 2010. Before that, he spent 11 years working as an assistant U.S. attorney.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Only 20 percent of Albuquerque officers approved of the job by the city's police chief, and close to a fifth believe bringing in the U.S. Justice Department will improve the department.

Those were the finds from a survey of 450 officers — around half the department's workforce — released Tuesday by the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

The husband of Governor Susana Martinez, who turned in his sheriff's badge when his wife was elected governor of New Mexico, has gone back to work.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a Martinez spokesman confirmed First Gentleman Chuck Franco started a new job last week as a security officer at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Santa Fe.

Franco, former Dona County undersheriff, is working roughly 20 hours a week for a private security company that is under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Work on a new security system at a nuclear weapons manufacturing site at Los Alamos National Laboratory is being delayed after cost overruns and construction problems.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Rntens ) a preliminary lab estimate contained in a National Nuclear Security Administration issue summary puts cost overruns at up to $25 million. The lab has spent seven years and $213 million on the project.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico's Attorney General's office has created a new unit aimed at addressing challenges to homicide and sexual assault convictions.

The office said Tuesday that the new Just Conviction & Exoneration Unit was created last month and will look at cases where DNA evidence could possibly overturn convictions like 1st degree murder.

Margaret McLean, who heads the new unit, says Attorney General Gary King has received a number of inquiries about DNA testing in connection to appeals of some convictions.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are accusing federal wildlife managers of keeping secret details about management of a Mexican gray wolf pack in southwestern New Mexico.

The criticism comes after a public records request netted hundreds of pages of blacked-out documents.

The group WildEarth Guardians says nearly 80 percent of the 870 pages released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services were redacted.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New voter registration figures show the number of New Mexicans eligible to vote has increased about 5 percent since the last presidential election and independent voters grew the fastest.

The secretary of state's office reported Monday that nearly 1.3 million people are registered to vote in the Nov. 6 general election.

The numbers of voters who are unaffiliated with a political party — so-called independents — increased by 22 percent since Oct. 31, 2008.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's highest court has reinstated the convictions of religious group leader Wayne Bent for sexual misconduct with teenage followers. The state Supreme Court today reversed the Court of Appeals, which had tossed out Bent's convictions because the term of a grand jury had expired before it indicted Bent. The case goes back to the appeals court to deal with other pending legal questions in the 71-year-old Bent's case.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (Farmington Daily Times) — Sandia National Laboratories extended an agreement with the Navajo Nation to provide technical assistance as the tribe develops its energy resources.

The Farmington Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/RgxftQ) that the agreement announced Friday extends the cooperative relationship between the federal lab and the tribe another five years.

The agreement comes as the tribe is forging an energy policy to take advantage of the coal, natural gas, wind and solar resources on Navajo land.

The tribe has rich energy resources.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An environmental group is pressing federal officials to set aside millions of acres in Arizona and New Mexico for jaguars.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity recently told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that jaguars need more than the 1,300 square miles the agency proposed in August. Robinson says a jaguar reintroduction program, similar to the one for Mexican gray wolves, also is needed.

 A Clovis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to "enhancing the lives of people with disabilities" is facing a lawsuit from clients for neglect and exploitation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Rfhrrq) that a recently filed lawsuit alleges that the organization Eastern New Mexico Rehabilitative Services for the Handicapped unfairly forced five clients with developmentally disabilities to fend for their medical themselves while the agency amassed more than $13 million in assets in recent years.

State health officials say a 5-year-old girl from Roosevelt County has been identified as the 36th victim of a salmonella outbreak in peanut butter and other nut products from eastern New Mexico.

The girl is from Roosevelt County, the area where the tainted products were processed. Health officials say the girl was never hospitalized and has recovered.

She is the first person in the state linked to the outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control says has sickened 35 other people in 19 states.

s_falkow

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled in favor of two oil companies in a multi-million dollar dispute over royalties owed for oil and natural gas production on state land.

At issue in Friday's ruling was how royalty payments should be calculated under decades-old lease provisions.

The high court upheld a district court decision in favor of ConocoPhillips Co. and Burlington Resources Oil and Gas Co.

Truth or Consequences/Sierra Co. Chamber of Commerce

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) — City commissioners in the southeastern New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences have approved a year-long moratorium on well drilling while experts study whether an increase in wells is causing the town's famed hot springs to dry up.

Craig D. Allen , USGS

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added a New Mexico county to its list of primary natural disaster areas due to drought and excessive heat.

Cibola County joins 39 counties in eight states in the latest designation Wednesday.

In all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared nearly 1,300 counties in 29 states as disaster areas during the current crop year. Much of New Mexico and the Southwest is already on the list.

Jim Rorabaugh/USFWS

The public has two months to weigh in on a proposal to revise critical habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher in six states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified more than 2,100 stream miles in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico as part of the habitat proposal.

The agency says about 900 miles are currently being considered for exclusion from the final designation, while two more locations in Arizona could be added.

KUNM

More than 150 Chiricahua leopard frogs have been released into the Galiuros Mountains by Arizona officials.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently announced that the threatened adult and juvenile frogs were released at the new location where they haven't been seen since the 1990s.

Until the 1970s, Chiricahua leopard frogs lived in ponds and creeks across central and southeastern Arizona, but populations have declined significantly due to drought, disease, habitat loss and threats from other species.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is lifting all fire restrictions in New Mexico.

The lifting of restrictions slated for Tuesday comes after more areas in the state recently received rainfall or saw increased humidity levels.

This summer has been a busy season for firefighters in New Mexico who have battled the state's largest fire in its history in the Gila Wilderness and another massive blaze near Ruidoso.

BLM spokesman Stephen Baker says even though restrictions have been lifted residents should still be cautious on BLM land since the region is still dry.

Courtesy of Sen. Tom Udall

The recent rains brought some relief to New Mexico’s parched forests, but they also brought a rash of lightning-caused fires.

Firefighters are responding to several smoke reports in the Questa Ranger District, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. They expect no problems. However, more smoke reports are anticipated as temperatures increase and humidity decreases.

Laura Paskus

Corrales officials say a fire that burned more than 350 acres of the wooded area along the Rio Grande last month was most likely sparked by an electronic cigarette.

Village Administrator John Avila says an employee apparently dropped the device while patrolling on June 20. The employee realized the device was gone after ducking under a tree limb. The fire started soon after.

Credit The National Guard / Flickr - Creative Commons

AP UPDATE 7/3/12, 11:46 AM:

The military says six Air Force tankers are resuming firefighting flights after a deadly crash of one tanker over the weekend.

U.S. Northern Command says the flights will resume Tuesday.

The entire fleet of eight planes was grounded after a C-130 crashed Sunday while fighting a wildfire in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The C-130 was from an Air National Guard wing based in Charlotte, N.C., and was carrying a crew of six. The crash killed at least two crew members and injured others.

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The majority of roads in the Santa Fe National Forest will now be closed to motorized travel, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But two environmental groups say the plan still leaves too much of the forest open to vehicle traffic.

The Record of Decision came after nearly six years of analysis and public comment. The Forest Service evaluated more than 7,000 miles of roads and trails and designated about 2,400 miles where motorized travel will be allowed. It also prohibited off-road motorized travel.

A wildfire burning on the western border of Carlsbad Caverns National Park has grown to 5,000 acres.

Fire officials said Sunday that the blaze was sparked Friday by lightning in the Lincoln National Forest around the New Mexico-Texas state line.

A helicopter battling the declining Little Bear Fire was diverted Saturday to the new fire, which is at 15 percent containment.

The Horse Canyon Fire is near the area burned in the Last Chance Fire in spring in 2011.

A New Mexico wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is now 95 percent contained as crews finish mopping up around the fire's perimeter.

Crews demobilized some equipment Friday as they restored containment lines around the 69-square-mile Little Bear fire to a more natural state. Firefighters were also able to take advantage of rain on the blaze's southern end.

The lightning-caused fire is burning near Ruidoso and started June 4.

Businesses in Ruidoso are open despite some road closures due to fire operations.

A state board led by Gov. Susana Martinez is being asked for emergency funding to help in wildfire recovery in southern New Mexico and prepare for expected flooding in fire-scarred areas.

The Board of Finance is scheduled Thursday to consider loan requests from the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the village of Ruidoso and Lincoln County.

The department wants $452,000 for a flood warning network, machines for filling sandbags and equipment for rescuing people caught in flood waters.

City commissioners in the southern New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences are proposing a moratorium on well drilling in the city.

Officials took the unusual step Tuesday night to enable a study of whether the number of wells tapping into the town's famed hot springs is harming the resource, considered by some to be sacred and medicinal. The thermal springs are the lifeblood of the town and its eclectic mix of inns and spas.

Rooth Dragon via Flickr

High fire danger has prompted officials to close the wooded area along the Rio Grande in Sandoval, Valencia and Socorro counties.

The closure will take effect Friday morning. The area will remain closed until further notice.

With a full closure, all paths and ditch roads near the bosque will be off limits.

Officials with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District say law enforcement and fire agencies in the three counties will be working to enforce the closure order.

Conservationists are accusing state wildlife managers of trying to eliminate the black bear population in the mountains that border Albuquerque.

Sandia Mountain BearWatch contends state Game and Fish Department logs show the agency has trapped and either removed or killed 49 bears between 2010 and 2011.

The group accuses the agency of trying to remove the animals to reduce the number of nuisance calls.

The agency disputes the accusations, saying the number of bears removed or killed by vehicles stands at less than 20 for the two years.

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