Around NM: Election results, abandoned campfires, more Gila diversion changes and more

The election results are in from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and progressive candidates continued a trend that began in 2009. In Bernalillo County, Karen Dunning won with three times the votes of Pat McCraw. The Pueblo of Sandia’s Derrick Lente, now also a state representative, soundly defeated Orlando Lucero. And Bernalillo County’s Joaquín Baca ran unopposed. The closest race in the district occurred in Socorro County, where Valeria Moore beat out James Lee Martin by just ten votes.

Director of Interstate Stream Commission gone from agency

New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission employees are flooding out of the agency. The latest was Director Deborah Dixon. Wednesday was her final day. “We appreciate the work Director Dixon did for the agency and we wish her the best in her future endeavors,” the ISC’s public information officer, Melissa Dosher-Smith, wrote in an email to NM Political Report. Neither the agency nor the Office of the Governor have responded to questions if Dixon was let go by Gov. Susana Martinez.

U.S. steps off international stage, ‘getting out’ of climate accord

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he was taking the United States out of the international agreement on combating climate change. Globally, the average temperature has risen by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Last year was the third consecutive year to break global temperature records, and nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” Trump said during his announcement in the White House Rose Garden. He added that his administration might re-enter the agreement later or negotiate an “entirely new transaction with terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

Trump continued, “So we’re getting out.”

The new negotiations, he said, would be toward a deal that’s “fair” to the United States.

Around NM: Life, liberty and the pursuit of comments, revenues and beer

Earlier this year, we covered a lawsuit against the federal government from a group of young people who allege their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property were violated by taking actions that cause climate change and increase its dangers. The plaintiffs, including Albuquerque-born Aji Piper, want the government to align carbon emissions reductions with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic and irreversible warming. Piper came to Albuquerque in April and talked about the case: “Going to rallies is great, speaking up is great,” the 16-year old said at that time of climate activism. “But we need to get our government in on this.”

In 2016, the court allowed three industry trade groups to join as defendants. Together, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufactures, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufactures represent thousands of companies, including Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, BHP Billiton, BP and ConocoPhillips.

The numbers are in: Campers have abandoned 49 fires on the Jemez in 2017

As we wrote earlier today, fire protection officers were busy keeping an eye on New Mexico’s national forests over the three-day weekend. Related story: Fire protection officers strain to keep up with holiday crowds

This morning, the numbers came in: In the Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest, officers found 19 abandoned campfires. They found 13 on Monday alone. That brings the total this year to 49. Across the entire Santa Fe National Forest, officers found 41 abandoned or unattended campfires over Memorial Day weekend.

Fire protection officers strain to keep up with holiday crowds

While thousands of people poured into the mountains to enjoy the three-day weekend, federal employees hustled around the forests, trying to keep visitors safe, protect special areas and prevent wildfires. It’s not an easy job. Like many public lands, national forests in New Mexico and across the country have experienced a jump in visitors in recent years. Fire Protection Officer Ron Gallegos has worked full-time for the U.S Forest Service for 37 years. Just shy of 60 years old, he grew up spending time in the area where he now works, the Jemez District of the Santa Fe National Forest, and fishing the Rio Cebolla.

VeneKlasen announces State Land Office run

Garrett VeneKlasen announced plans to run for New Mexico Commissioner for State Lands on Friday morning. “We are in a state of crisis in New Mexico, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that,” said VeneKlasen. He is currently executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which represents sportsmen and women across the state and is focused on the conservation of water, lands and wildlife. “I was tired of wringing my hands and complaining about how things are run in that office, and I have some really good and visionary new ideas.”

The State Land Office administers 9 million acres of surface lands and 13 million acres of subsurface mineral rights. Those lands are managed for beneficiaries of the state land trust, which include schools, universities and hospitals. Aubrey Dunn, a Republican, is the incumbent and can run for a second term next year.

See the EPA photos documenting American life in the 70s

If you saw this week’s wrap up of New Mexico’s most important environment news (which you definitely should read) you’ll have noticed a picture of the Four Corners Power Plant from the 1970s. That photo and thousands more are from the Documerica Project. In the 1970s, the brand-new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hired freelance photographers to document pollution, everyday life and the agency’s activities. The U.S. National Archives digitized more than 15,000 photographs from the series and included them in their online catalog. Many of the images show how air pollution was affecting cities and illustrate the unhealthy environmental conditions that low-income and communities of color live with on a daily basis. There are photos of coal miners and a discouragingly-contaminated Baltimore Harbor in 1973 and from Louisville in 1972, when thousands of people had to be evacuated after a barge carrying liquid chlorine threatened to spill.

A discussion on the environment: Our second News and Brews Summer Series event

We’re excited to announce our second News and Brews Summer Series panel. This time, NM Political Report will speak to three experts about the environment on June 8. Like our last event, tickets are free which you can get from here. Readers who are subscribed to our daily emails are first to hear about these events. NM Political Report’s Laura Paskus will again moderate the discussion. Paskus leads our environmental project, which includes in-depth stories on water, regulatory agencies, public lands, climate change and wildlife that no one else in the state is covering.

Around NM: How national policies land here, plus the other Nixon connection

National policies always affect New Mexico’s lands and natural resources, especially during times of uncertainty. In the 1940s, for example, military and nuclear interests honed in on the state’s lands and natural resources. The U.S. government established what became Los Alamos National Laboratory on Pajarito Plateau in 1943, and detonated the first atomic bomb two years later near Alamogordo. White Sands Missile Range, which encompasses 3,200 square miles, was created in the 1940s, as were the military bases in Albuquerque and Clovis, now called Kirtland and Cannon. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the news right now.