Laura Paskus

Freelance Reporter

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Local News
9:23 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Signs of life in the Gila National Forest

Sprouting seeds between two downed trees.
USDA, Gila National Forest

Even after the flames have died down, the impacts of a wildfire persist. Without tree and grass roots to absorb rainfall and hold soil in place, flooding can be a big problem.

In the wake of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire—which burned almost 300,000 acres in southwestern New Mexico—officials in the Gila National Forest have been working to get ahead of the summer rains and next year’s snowmelt.

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Local News
10:23 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Hot springs transferred to Pueblo of Taos

At the hot springs signing ceremony, from the left: Laureano B. Romero, Governor of Taos Pueblo; Christopher Smith, President of the Taos Land Trust Board of Directors; and Benito M. Sandoval, Warchief of Taos Pueblo.
Taos Land Trust

In northern New Mexico, a sacred site has been returned to its indigenous community.

On  July 14, the Taos Land Trust officially transferred the Ponce de León Hot Springs to the Pueblo of Taos.

Now, the springs will be protected from any future development and also remain open to the general public. “This kind of partnership is very rare in the conservation community,” says Patricia Quintana, executive director of Taos Land Trust.

The land trust had purchased the 44-acre parcel in 1997 to save the springs from private development and create a public park.

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Local News
9:55 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Santa Fe National Forest plans to release travel map

Overlooking the Rio Chama located in Northern New Mexico within the Coyote Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest.
USFS

The Santa Fe National Forest is expected to come out with a map this fall that tells visitors where they can and cannot travel with motorized vehicles such as trucks and all terrain vehicles.

All national forests are required to create what are called "travel management plans" to control the impacts of motorized vehicles on natural resources.

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Local News
8:33 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Cibola County added to list of drought disaster areas

Drought and climate change are causing extensive forest dieback in the U.S. West as well as worldwide. This photo shows dead ponderosa pines in the Jemez Mountains killed by a combination of drought stress and attacks by bark beetles on weakened trees.
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.

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Local News
3:48 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Saving fish from a drying river

Biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers seine a pool, then sort through the fish for endangered silvery minnows.
Laura Paskus/KUNM

The monsoon rains arrived this month, but it’s still hot and dry in New Mexico.

The ongoing drought is placing stress on the state’s rivers and streams, including the Rio Grande. And while cities and farmers still receive their shares of water, each summer, one user gets left out—the Rio Grande itself. Like it has every summer for the past decade, the Rio Grande downstream of Albuquerque is drying.

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Local News
3:19 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Mexican Gray Wolf found dead in Arizona

A member of the Hawks Nest Pack in the wild
US Fish and Wildlife Service

On July 6, law enforcement officials from Arizona Game and Fish Department recovered the body of Mexican Gray Wolf. The carcass was found near Big Lake in the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests.

The carcass is that of AM806, an adult male wolf that was released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in 2006. The recovery area includes 4.4 million acres in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and Arizona’s Apache National Forest.

This is the third wolf death documented within the recovery area this year.

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Local News
4:26 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Partners plan for Jemez forest restoration

In 2011, the Las Conchas fire burned 156,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains.
US Forest Service

About an hour north of Albuquerque, the Jemez  Mountains are popular with hikers, fly fishermen, and pretty much anyone else looking for a mountain escape. The mountains have also been grazed, logged, and recently, hit hard by wildfire—Cerro Grande in 2000 and Las Conchas in 2011.

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Local News
4:55 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

New Mexico’s “Fracking” Legacy

Salt build-up and torn liner on pit in New Mexico
Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project

As the natural gas boom has spread to the eastern United States, the term “fracking” has become common in news reports coming out of Pennsylvania and New York.  But fracking has been a part of New Mexico’s history for decades.

After all, fracking is not a new technology. Halliburton pioneered hydraulic fracturing, as it’s officially known, in the 1940s. And it has been used around New Mexico for decades.

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Local News
8:28 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Corrales, Sandia bosque fire blamed on fake cigarette

A Corrales village employee mistakenly sparked the June 20 blaze in the bosque north of Albuquerque.
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.

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Local News
7:32 am
Tue July 3, 2012

EPA grants stay in NM emissions case

San Juan Generating Station and San Juan Mine, Photo by San Juan Citizens Alliance/EcoFlight
San Juan Citizens Alliance/EcoFlight

On Monday, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez that an alternative to dealing with haze-causing pollution at a New Mexico power plant should be worked out among stakeholders.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter sent to the governor that such an alternative would be in the environmental and economic best interests of the state.

Jackson signed a 90-day stay so the parties can evaluate alternatives for the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico.

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Local News
5:18 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Air Force Grounds C-130 Fire Fighting Fleet After Fatal Crash

A MAFFS C-130 drops its payload over the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado.
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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Local News
12:40 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Industry plans for uranium deconversion plant near Hobbs

On Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will be hosting a public meeting about a proposed uranium deconversion plant near Hobbs, N.M.

In 2009, International Isotopes submitted an application to the NRC, which oversees the nation’s nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities. At the proposed Fluorine Extraction Process and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant, depleted uranium hexafluoride will be “deconverted” into fluorine products for commercial sale.

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The Conservation Beat
7:35 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Romero Fire over 360 acres in bosque north of Albuquerque

Seen from Corrales, the Romero Fire began at about 3:30 Wednesday afternoon on the west side of the Rio Grande.
Laura Paskus KUNM

UPDATE 6/22 6:00AM: 

A wildfire in a wooded area along the Rio Grande on the northern edge of New Mexico's largest city has charred about 360 acres. Authorities say the fire continues to burn on both the east and west sides of the river but is a combined 50 percent contained.

State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said Thursday that the Romero fire hasn't burned any structures since it began Wednesday afternoon. Its cause remains under investigation.

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