Conservation Beat

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
10:03 am
Mon July 23, 2012

More New Mexicans to rely on Colorado River water

Lower Colorado River
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

A study by the federal government shows that New Mexico is expected to see its population that uses the Colorado River Basin for water grow from nearly 1.5 million people today to between 2 million and 3 million by 2060.

That's according to the latest data from a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/OhHnQI) that New Mexico and the other states that depend on the Colorado River Basin for water face a growing gap between how much water nature provides and how much people want to use.

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
3:19 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
6:39 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Oversight board questions radiation risk at LANL

A federal oversight board says Los Alamos National Laboratory has significantly underestimated how much radiation could leak from its main plutonium lab in the event of a major earthquake and fire.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says it has "identified a number of deficiencies" in calculations that concluded any release would be below the threshold deemed safe to the public.

Board staff say their calculations indicate the potential for a radiation release from a seismically induced fire could instead be more than four times that level.

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Local News
6:37 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Feds seek comments on flycatcher habitat proposal

Southwestern willow flycatcher
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.

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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
9:15 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Chiricahua frogs released into Ariz. mountains

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.

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Local News
12:53 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Officials track fires and prepare for floods

Catron County forests are still recovering from the Wallow Fire
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.

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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
4:17 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Navajo lawmakers reject water rights settlement

Indigenous Action Media

Navajo lawmakers have rejected a settlement that recognizes the tribe's rights to water from the Little Colorado River basin.

The Tribal Council voted 15-6 against the settlement Thursday during a special session in Window Rock.

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl had introduced legislation to approve the settlement, but it needed the blessing of the Navajo and Hopi tribes to move forward. Kyl has said the settlement would address water needs on the reservations and provide certainty of the water supply for off-reservation communities.

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Local News
9:25 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Utility inadvertently diverted irrigation water

On Tuesday, the Rio Grande was dry in San Antonio, just south of Socorro, NM.
Jesse Shuck

The water utility in Albuquerque inadvertently diverted farmers' irrigation water from the Rio Grande for more than a week in late June and used it for the city's drinking water supplies.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/MXVOs1) that John Stomp, chief operating officer of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility, acknowledged the improper diversions and agreed to pay back the farmers.

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Local News
1:34 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Report argues projects threaten Western water supplies

Los Angeles Aquaduct.
US Bureau of Reclamation

Large scale water projects are a growing phenomenon in the West. But a new study argues they could lead to water shortages and increased costs.

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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
6:47 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Officials to close bosque in three counties

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.

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Local News
6:00 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Gila Fire Damage Not As Severe As Las Conchas Fire of 2011

A Silver City Hotshot uses a drip torch during a burnout operation. Credit US Forest Service Gila National Forest
Kari Greer US Forest Service Gila National Forest

UPDATE 6/6 (6:00 PM)

 

Fire-crews continue to make progress with the Whitewater Baldy Complex fire- it has burned over 263,000 acres and is 22% contained. 

Fire Information Officer Linda Torgersen Gonzales says, so far, the damage assessment team hasn't seen severe destruction like that caused last year by the Las Conchas.

"There weren't very many areas where the fire was so hot that it scorched the ground like you see with some of the raging fires," Gonzales says, "This one has been much more moderate."

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The Endangered Art of Compromise
12:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Rio Grande Silvery Minnow: The Art of Compromise

All this week we're considering the Endangered Species Act and its affect on the wildlife, and people, of New Mexico.

It’s a conversation that can really only start in one place: with a little fish so, well, basic, that even its most dedicated caretakers are a little short on thrilling descriptors.

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The Endangered Art of Compromise
12:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Mexican Gray Wolf: A Story About People

Jöshua Barnett

All this week we're considering the Endangered Species Act and its affect on the wildlife, and people, of New Mexico.

The Mexican Gray Wolf is a species that, perhaps more than any other, has highlighted the political obstacles involved in recovery, or in this case, reintroduction.

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The Endangered Art of Compromise
12:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Chiricahua Leopard Frog: Messing with Nature

All this week we're considering the Endangered Species Act in New Mexico.  Today, KUNM’s Sidsel Overgaard brings you: The Case of the Disappearing Frogs...

The plight of the Chiricahua Leopard frog begins long ago, in a medical lab when researchers devise a way to use frogs as pregnancy tests.  The African Clawed frogs used for this purpose were soon shipped all around the world, carrying with them a deadly fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd for short (at least, that's the current favorite theory). 

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The Endangered Art of Compromise
12:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Lesser Prairie Chicken: Conservation Agreements

So far in our series, we’ve looked at some of the difficulties in recovering a species. But one of the emerging strengths of the Endangered Species Act is in its ability to spark compromise before a species ever makes it onto the list. And in the case of the Lesser Prairie Chicken and Dunes Sagebrush lizard, just the threat of a listing has been enough to make for some unlikely allies in Southeastern New Mexico.

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The Endangered Art of Compromise
12:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse: A Sign of What's to Come

As part of our series on endangered species in New Mexico, Carrie and Sidsel took a field trip with WildEarth Guardians Executive Director, John Horning, to look for the elusive New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse (you really should listen to this one...it's a radio geek's dream, but not so translate-able to print...).

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The Conservation Beat
4:41 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Rio Rancho Explores Possibility of Adding Open Space

Rio Rancho's Cherry Open Space

In a newly released ranking of city park systems, Albuquerque came in 11th, just below major metropolises like Seattle and Philadelphia.  Meanwhile,  environmental advocates in Rio Rancho say its time their city starting trying to catch up.

In terms of developed parkland-- that is, space including amenities like basketball courts and swing sets-- Rio Rancho isn’t doing that badly.   The city boasts 3.5 acres of developed parkland per thousand residents, compared to Albuquerque's 5.5.

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The Conservation Beat
12:01 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Albuquerque Gets High Score for Park Space

A new scorecard for park systems in the nation’s largest 40 cities places Albuquerque near the top of the heap.

The rating system, developed by the Trust for Public Land, considers three factors: total park acreage, public access to those parks and spending on parks.  Albuquerque missed the top ten by just one.  But TPL’s Greg Hiner says that score places it within a stone’s throw of cities like New York, Seattle and Philadelphia. 

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The Conservation Beat
2:05 pm
Sat May 19, 2012

PNM Finds Vindication in San Juan Bids

Public Service Company of New Mexico says it has received four bids to install EPA-mandated pollution controls at its San Juan Generating Station...all of them just as costly as the company had predicted.

According to the Albuquerque Journal:

PNM says the lowest bid is more than double the federal agency’s estimate of $345 million to equip the coal-fired plant with selective catalytic reduction, or SCR, technology to cut pollutants that cause regional haze.   

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The Conservation Beat
5:55 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Nearly 60 NM Firefighters to Battle Gila Blaze

Whitewater fire in the Gila National Forest
photo: US Forest Service

Firefighters from around New Mexico continue to battle a 410 acre blaze caused by lightning in the Gila National Forest.

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The Conservation Beat
5:22 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Pit Rule Hearing to Continue in June

A week-long hearing on New Mexico’s pit rule has drawn to a close…for now.

The pit rule, adopted in 2008, governs the disposal of waste from oil and gas drilling, and has been called one of the strictest regulations in the country.

This week the Oil Conservation Commission heard testimony from experts and the public about the oil and gas industry’s push to revise the regulations.  But with time running out and several people yet to testify, the OCC decided to continue the hearing June 20-22.

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The Conservation Beat
6:00 am
Fri May 18, 2012

Information on Sunday's Eclipse

Photo: sancho_panza/Creative Commons

On Sunday, Albuquerque residents and visitors will be treated to the rare sight of an annular solar eclipse.  The eclipse starts at 6:28 PM and continues until the sun sets.   KUNM’s Conservation Beat reporter Sidsel Overgaard spoke with Barry Spletzer with the Albuquerque Astronomical Society to learn more.

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The Conservation Beat
5:35 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Federal Protected Lands Play Role in New Mexico's Economic Recovery

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Photo: margaretkilljoy via Flickr

The economy took a serious hit with the last recession. And while it will take time to recover, New Mexico is faring much better than the rest of the United States. That’s according to a recent Headwaters Economics report.  The independent research group says New Mexico is creating jobs faster and has higher per capita income than the U.S as a whole.  Headwaters Policy Director Chris Mehl says public lands have been a significant factor in New Mexico's economic recovery.

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