Associated Press

Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode are blips in the presidential race, but even that might make them a big deal.

Democratic President Barack Obama's campaign quietly has been keeping track of the two former Republican officeholders who could prove pivotal in key states where he and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are in a tight race.

Johnson is a former New Mexico governor running as the Libertarian Party nominee. Goode is a conservative ex-congressman from Virginia competing as the Constitution Party candidate.

Joe Burgess

Forest officials plan to round up cattle that have been roaming freely for years in the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico.

The Wilderness Ranger District announced its impoundment order this week. It stems from reports of cattle roaming along the Gila River near Turkey Creek, Johnson Canyon and Miller Springs.

Forest officials say the cattle are leftover from a 2006 impoundment effort.

Bill Ebbesen

Four government agencies in southeastern New Mexico are getting together to try to convince the federal government to put a high-level nuclear waste site in their region.

Eddy and Lea counties and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs say they've partnered with French nuclear conglomerate Areva to promote a storage site for waste from nuclear power plants.

The site they have in mind is midway between the two cities. It would be used as an interim storage site for nearly 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste now mainly stored at nuclear power plants.

Nineleven

Developers of a $350 million project in northern New Mexico have been cleared to start selling transmission rights and services to energy developers on what would be 93 miles of beefed-up power lines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has signed off on Colorado-based Lucky Corridor's request to sell up to 70 percent of the proposed project's capacity.

The project would be able to funnel 1,100 megawatts of electricity to existing customers and hubs that connect other western markets.

Renato Mitra

The Federal Communications Commission has awarded about $18 million to telecommunications companies to expand access to high-speed cellular phone and wireless Internet service in central and southeastern New Mexico.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced on Wednesday that about $9.5 million will go to Plateau Telecommunications in Clovis, $6.7 million to Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative in Dexter and $1.8 million to T-Mobile West.

The companies were selected by the FCC after submitting bids for building new mobile telecommunications infrastructure.

Governor Susana Martinez's administration has agreed to settle a lawsuit and not revive a plan to cancel the driver's licenses of immigrants who fail to verify whether they still live in the state.

The administration announced the program last year but it was suspended by a state district court in Santa Fe after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a lawsuit.

Governor Susana Martinez is hosting a meeting of border governors in Albuquerque this week.

Martinez, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and governors from three Mexican states are expected at the gathering, which opened with a private reception Wednesday night. Texas Governor Rick Perry and governors from the other three Mexican border states were expected to send representatives for two days of private workshops.

Topics on the agenda include agriculture and livestock, competitiveness, education, border crossing, health, security and sustainable development.

The state Court of Appeals has ruled against a group of current and former Hobbs residents who sued an oil company because of illnesses and other damages allegedly from environmental contamination from oil and natural gas production in an area that became a housing subdivision in the southeastern New Mexico community.

The court on Tuesday upheld a Lea County district court decision not to grant a new trial in the case against Shell Oil Co. and Shell Western Exploration and Production Inc.

Hephaestos

Some ranchers have started cutting neighbors' fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures amid an extreme drought that has caused a spike in hay prices.

Ranchers from Missouri to Texas and west into New Mexico have sold off huge portions of their herds this year because the worst drought in decades dried up their pastures and they couldn't afford to buy food for their animals.

Jack Dykinga

The Game and Fish Department is seeking public comments on proposed licensing changes for antelope hunting in New Mexico.

The State Game Commission is expected to consider the issue at a meeting Nov. 1 in Raton.

The department is holding meetings across the state to hear from sportsmen on establishing a licensing system for antelope hunting in parts of the state similar to that for deer hunting.

A drawing would be held for public land hunts. Licenses could be purchased over-the-counter to hunt on private lands and hunters would arrange access from the landowner.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says there's no hope a judge will allow him to participate in Wednesday night's presidential debate.

Johnson is running as the Libertarian Party candidate for president. He sued the Commission on Presidential Debates last month in federal court to try to force them to admit him to the debates.

AllenS

Departing New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture will be paid nearly $454,000 when she leaves her post in January.

That's on top of the salary she'll earn while on paid administrative from now until she officially leaves at the end of the year. At an annual salary of $392,700, she'll earn about $100,000 for the next three months leave.

The state Board of Regents accepted Couture's resignation in what board Chairman Mike Cheney described as a mutually agreeable separation on Monday.

A woman walking along the railroad tracks south of Santa Fe has been struck and killed by a Rail Runner Express train.

Rail Runner spokeswoman Augusta Meyers says the woman was walking along the tracks about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and apparently decided to cross the tracks just ahead of the train.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the woman was then struck by a southbound train. She has not been identified.

Rail traffic has resumed but the incident stalled trains in both directions for a couple of hours.

Some ranchers have started cutting neighbors' fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures amid an extreme drought that has caused a spike in hay prices.

Ranchers from Missouri to Texas and west into New Mexico have sold off huge portions of their herds this year because the worst drought in decades dried up their pastures and they couldn't afford to buy food for their animals.

US Department of the Interior, BLM

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department is considering a proposed agreement with private landowners that would expand public hunting opportunities for deer and Barbary sheep.

The department says the agreement would open some private lands to hunting in southeastern New Mexico in exchange for closing areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The department has had these types of agreements involving state trust lands for more than 20 years. It's now proposing expanding the agreements to include BLM lands.

Two national forests in New Mexico are planning prescribed fires this week that are designed to clear out hazardous fuels from hundreds of acres.

Officials with the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico plan to treat more than 200 acres east of Santa Fe as long as the weather cooperates.

The treatment is focused on improving the health of Santa Fe's watershed.

Smoke will likely be visible from Santa Fe, Pecos, Los Alamos and as far south as Albuquerque.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has spent about $425 million on designs for its proposed new plutonium facility without reaching the level of confidence needed to prepare a reliable budget or begin building.

The proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear has been delayed at least five years under President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Monday. The budget cut funding for the program.

Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

An emerging push to ban plastic grocery bags in Santa Fe will get its first public airing this week.

A city advisory committee is considering an ordinance calling for a prohibition on plastic carryout bags at stores in the city. The new law also would impose a fee stores must collect if they provide paper bags.

The idea is already facing lobbying against it from the plastics industry representatives and large-scale retail operators.

A northern New Mexico public school district has been awarded a federal grant to bolster guidance and counseling programs for students.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Education will go toward addressing high rates of behavioral referrals, violence, suspension and drops outs at El Rito and Ojo Caliente elementary schools.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan announced the funding. The New Mexico Democrat says getting students on the right track at a young age is critical to helping them avoid negative conduct in school.

AllenS

Monday's meeting of the New Mexico Board of Regents may end a week of speculation as to why the president of one of the state's major universities is on leave.

New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture has been on leave since early last week. Couture's unexpected absence and the silence it has brought from the Regents stoked speculation on the Las Cruces campus and criticism about an apparent lack of transparency.

Board members have told the media that they will discuss Couture at a public meeting on Monday.

The private fundraising foundations of colleges and universities are bankrolling a general election campaign for voter approval of bond financing for $120 million in higher education construction projects.

Campaign finance reports show a political committee backing the bonds has raised about $283,000. Most of the money comes from foundations for the colleges, universities and other schools with projects to be funded by the general obligation bonds.

University of New Mexico has seen a nearly 50-percent increase over last year in the number of credit hours that its students are taking in online courses.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/PFGQsH) that university leaders say the spike is a sign that the school is becoming more accessible.

Students at the university this fall are taking 30,728 credit hours of online courses.

Online course registrations have more than quintupled in the past decade, and the university expects they will keep growing.

Catherine Torres is resigning as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health after serving in the position for the last 18 months.

Her resignation was announced Monday and is effective Oct. 15.

Gov. Susana Martinez named the Las Cruces pediatrician as secretary of the Health Department in January 2011.

Torres says in a written statement that she is proud of her work with the health department but decided it was time to move on after the death of her mother.

She says also she wants to spend more time with her family.

U.S. Dept. of Interior-BLM

Federal officials say they will round up thousands of wild horses and burros across six Western states starting Monday.

The roundups will take place through February on drought-stricken range lands in Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

Contractors for the Bureau of Land Management will use helicopters plus bait- and water-trapping methods to corral a total of 3,500 wild horses and burros.

Other horses will be given birth control injections and returned to the range lands.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has spent about $425 million on designs for its proposed new plutonium facility without reaching the level of confidence needed to prepare a reliable budget or begin building.

The proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear has been delayed at least five years under President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Monday. The budget cut funding for the program.

A group of Rio Grande valley farmers who say the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District illegally cut their water supplies during dry years are suing the district.

The group says the district is failing to follow the state Constitution's mandate that water rights are allocated from oldest to newest in lean times. They argue that means during dry years those with the earliest rights gets first crack at the water.

Salazar in NM to dedicate 2 national refuges

Sep 27, 2012

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says New Mexico is making some history.

He made two stops in the state Thursday to dedicate a pair of new national wildlife refuges, including the first urban refuge in the Southwest. Salazar says this marks the first time two refuges have been dedicated in one state on the same day.

The public helped choose the name of the urban refuge — Valle de Oro, which is Spanish for Valley of Gold. It's located along the Rio Grande on the southern edge of Albuquerque.

A former top New Mexico environmental official has been appointed head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency region that includes some of the nation's biggest oil- and gas-producing states.

Ron Curry will assume his post Monday. He succeeds Al Armendariz, who resigned in April after Republicans lambasted him for using the word "crucify" to describe how he would go after companies that violated environmental laws.

Three areas of the Navajo Nation that are contaminated with uranium mining waste are being cleaned up.

The work starts in Cove, where uranium ore was stockpiled before trucks took it to a nearby mill for processing. The so-called transfer stations still contain some waste, which will be consolidated and sealed until a permanent disposal site is found.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will put up fencing and monitor air quality to make sure residents in the area are protected from dust.

The state Department of Transportation plans to sell surplus equipment ranging from bulldozers and snowplows to cars, mini-vans and four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles.

An auction is scheduled September 29th from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the department's District 5 office, which is on the south side of Santa Fe.

The agency says more than 1,000 items will be sold, including dump trucks, pickup trucks, road graders, trailers, mowers as well as office furniture and electronics.

Money from the auction will go into a state fund that pays for the department's operations.

Pages