Rita Daniels


Rita Daniels is an award winning reporter and radio producer who was raised off the grid in the Wild West by a pack of hippies and Pueblo Indians. She's pretty sure these unique circumstances have something to do with her love of the oral tradition as well as her unyielding obsession when it comes to to capturing stories about the human experience. Upon graduating from Emerson College in the Media Arts, Rita began recording and producing radio stories while roaming the planet. In 2010 she was invited to join NPR's Snap Judgment Team as a founding producer. Building on her previous work with The National Radio Project, Rita is now reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

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Night Owl City via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico’s new teacher evaluation system relies heavily on student test scores and classroom observations. It’s divided educators over how to determine whether a teacher is effective. Testimony continued Tuesday in a case that could decide the future of the teacher evaluation system in New Mexico.

Mike_tn via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The volume of reported spills from the oil industry in New Mexico jumped by 61 percent in one year. The increase was disproportionate to the increase in what was actually pumped out of the ground. That data is raising questions for environmental groups.

The state Oil Conservation Division said that producers are using new technology that brings more oil and waste to the surface, which could explain the surge in the number of spills.

Rita Daniels

Ranchers and farmers gathered in Albuquerque this week, in part to raise awareness about claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to discriminate against them.

In the past the USDA has settled discrimination claims with women, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, in some cases for denying grazing permits.

Rita Daniels

The future of the endangered Mexican gray wolf remains precarious in New Mexico. The state game commission denied a federal appeal to release wolves in New Mexico on Tuesday.

Courtesy Josh Stephenson, Durango Herald

The state’s top environmental regulator testified at a joint congressional hearing recently, criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for withholding information about the Gold King Mine spill. 

Rita Daniels

Mild temperatures and the turning of the leaves are reminders that summer is officially over. In the coming months New Mexico is well positioned to trap significant amounts of moisture from the third strongest El Niño on record

Courtesy of New Mexico Water Collaborative

In an effort to reduce water consumption, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is partnering with the New Mexico Water Collaborative to study rain harvesting systems that can store up to 100 times more water then the average rain barrel. 

Rita Daniels

During the summer months, southern New Mexico hosts one of the largest bat populations in North America. The Jornada Bat Caves, just west of White Sands Missile Range, are now becoming more accessible to the public.

Rita Daniels

People living on Pajarito Mesa may have an easier time getting help in the case of an emergency. That’s because Bernalillo County has a new system set up to serve the settlement west of Albuquerque.

Dave LaFontaine via Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing stricter limits on ground-level ozone, which the agency says is harmful to human health. That has some manufacturers in New Mexico concerned that the new rule will increase the cost of doing business.

Rita Daniels / KUNM

First responders who work on the front lines are worried that their collective bargaining rights may be on the line because of a pending case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rita Daniels

Members of the board tasked with overseeing policy changes for the Albuquerque Police Department are concerned that public trust in the department is eroding.

Cowgirl Jules via Flickr / Creative Commons License

UPDATED 8/28: The state Game Commission has voted unanimously to approve the expansion of cougar and bear hunting in New Mexico.

The vote came Thursday during a meeting in Santa Fe that was attended by dozens of wildlife advocates who voiced concerns about the proposal.

The new rules will allow for more black bear hunting in all but two of the state's game management districts as well as the doubling of cougar hunting limits. The trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and state trust land will also be allowed without special permits.

The Game and Fish Department says new population data warranted an update of the hunting limits.

Critics argued that the department's plan wasn't based on science and that more hunting will have negative long-term effects on animal populations.


The State Game Commission is considering several controversial new rules, including one that would allow hunters to kill 25 percent more bears in New Mexico. Wildlife conservation advocates are planning to protest at the commission meeting on Thursday in Santa Fe. At issue is how to interpret the state’s bear density study.  

Rita Daniels

New Mexico could get more money for schools and roads if the U.S. increases royalty rates for coal mined on federal land. The feds held the last of a series of nationwide listening sessions in Farmington on Thursday.

Rita Daniels

Farmers and livestock owners are free to draw water from the San Juan and Animas rivers again after 3 million gallons of mine waste spilled into the watershed. No one knows what the long-term effects of the contamination will be on wildlife in the rivers, but biologists are tracking the spill’s impact.

Rita Daniels

New Mexico lifted water restrictions on the Animas and San Juan Rivers over the weekend in the wake of a toxic mine spill in Colorado.

Water samples showed spikes in heavy metals, but state and federal officials say contaminants have been diluted and dispersed downstream.

That brought relief to farmers in San Juan County who are not on the Navajo Nation. They were given the go-ahead on Saturday to irrigate and use the water for watering livestock after the San Juan and Animas Rivers had been closed for more than a week.

Rita Daniels/KUNM

Water managers in Northwestern New Mexico are trying to figure out how much contamination from the Gold King Mine spill has seeped into ditch irrigation systems. 

Rita Daniels/KUNM

Trucks delivered 200,000 gallons of water Thursday for irrigating crops in San Juan County after the Animas and San Juan rivers were closed due to contamination from the Gold King Mine spill. 

Rita Daniels/KUNM

People with domestic wells in the floodplain of the Animas and San Juan rivers are free to use their water today as of midday Friday, August 15, 2015. New Mexico lifted a ban on water use from these wells after initial tests showed no contamination from the Gold King Mine spill.

Peter Nathanson with the state’s Drinking Water Bureau said they inspected wells within 500 feet of the river where the groundwater level is higher than the river water. 

Clyde Frogg via Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons License

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered agency offices nationwide to stop field investigation work for mine cleanups while they reassess the work to ensure there's no potential for spills similar to the one in Colorado.

Rita Daniels/KUNM

Communities along the Animas and San Juan rivers are still waiting on test results from the Gold King Mine spill. The first round of test results from the toxic plume’s impact on the rivers near Farmington aren't expected until Wednesday.

Rita Daniels/KUNM

The first results from tests of the water in northwestern New Mexico contaminated by the Gold King Mine spill are expected on Wednesday. 

Environmental Protection Agency

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has declared an emergency that frees up state funds to address a massive spill of wastewater from a Colorado mine into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

La Plata County

Mine wastewater is still flowing into a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado after an accident on Wednesday. Environmental Protection Agency officials say they’re working to stop the contamination and now have a better idea of what exactly is in the toxic sludge.

Jonathan Thompson / High Country News

Farmington has shut off drinking water pumps from the San Juan River after about a million gallons of contaminated water from a mine spilled into the watershed upstream.

Rita Daniels

The Obama Administration released details this week on the Clean Power Plan which calls for power plants across the country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Screenshot of KOAT-TV livestream of Monday's hearing.

A judge heard testimony Monday in a preliminary hearing for a case against two Albuquerque police officers who fatally shot homeless camper James Boyd last year. The judge will determine whether or not the officers, who face murder charges, will go to trial.

Rita Daniels


This week the superintendent for the Taos school district announced her final decision to relocate the alternative high school. The shakeup has caused teachers to quit, and some students said they’re being left in the lurch.

Rita Daniels

CUBA, N.M.—Kids from Sandoval County have been raising animals in anticipation of the annual fair this weekend. 

Rita Daniels

SHIPROCK, N.M.—Navajo youth are walking hundreds of miles across their reservation for what they call a Journey for Existence. They will be summiting one of their sacred mountains near Cortez, Colorado, this weekend to offer prayers for the planet.