As firefighters bring Cajete Fire under control, temps, fire danger climb

As of this morning, the 1,400-acre Cajete Fire in the Jemez Mountains was 80 percent contained, and all of the evacuees have been allowed to return home. The wildfire ignited after visitors to the Santa Fe National Forest abandoned a campfire about a mile northeast of the community of Sierra de los Pinos. The site remains under investigation. The Jemez Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest has experienced a rash of abandoned and unattended campfires so far this spring. And even with a wildfire burning through the forest—and more than 400 people fighting it—fire officials still found three more abandoned campfires during their weekend patrols.

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As the feds yank methane regulations, NM’s methane hotspot isn’t going away

With all the big oil and gas news over the last few weeks, it might be hard to keep track of the different rules, agencies, court rulings and studies—and what they mean for New Mexico. Last week, U.S. District Judge James “Jeb” Boasberg ruled that the federal government’s environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was insufficient. The ruling came after the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes sued the federal government, arguing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hadn’t complied with the National Environmental Policy Act when it greenlighted plans to build the oil pipeline under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River. In his opinion, Boasberg wrote that the court agrees that the federal government didn’t adequately consider how an oil spill would affect fishing rights, hunting rights or environmental justice issues. It’s not clear, however, if the company must cease operations while the Corps of Engineers reconsiders certain sections of its environmental analysis.

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Wildfire ignites in Jemez Mountains

According to the Santa Fe National Forest, a wildfire ignited in the Jemez Ranger District Thursday. Smoke was first reported at 10:47 a.m.

The fire is dubbed the El Cajete Fire. As of 1 p.m., the fire is estimated to be 100 acres in size and spreading. Engines, air tankers, a helicopter and ground crews are working to control the fire. Additional teams of fire fighters are expected to arrive tonight and tomorrow.

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As NM reaches fire season, forest conditions are drying out and heating up

After a snowy winter and a relatively wet spring, some of New Mexico’s forests are starting to dry out. And quickly. During their Wednesday morning fire call, officials with the Santa Fe National Forest heard the bad news: The National Weather Service forecast calls for increasingly hot temperatures with the possibility for thunderstorms on Sunday and Monday. After that, conditions will be hot and dry for the foreseeable future. “Leadership is looking at the possibility of fire restrictions,” said Julie Anne Overton, acting public affairs officer at the Santa Fe National Forest.

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Into the wilderness: Summer camp connects refugee children with NM’s wild places

Smatterings of conversations in English, Arabic, Caldean and Dari punctuate the calls of Steller’s jays and Bewick’s wrens on a trail in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Six kids, ranging in age from seven to 16, hike up the Crest Trail with three young women from the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Catholic Charities’ Refugee Mentoring Program. The childrens’ families have relocated to Albuquerque after being forced to leave their home countries, and the kids are here as part of the Refugee Wilderness Explorers Summer Camp. Rather than introducing themselves by their country of origin, the children name the languages they speak: Arabic, Caldean, Urdu and Dari are the predominant languages, and some of the kids also know Spanish or French in addition to English. Sixteen-year-old Ghulam-Ali speaks five languages, and he takes a takes a crack at reading the field guide entry for “banana yucca.” The pokey plant grows on rocky slopes, blooming in June and July.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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