National monument comment period closes today

Today is the final day to share your thoughts about national monuments as part of a review by the federal government. Earlier this spring, the U.S. Department of the Interior solicited public comment on Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review of monuments larger than 100,000 acres that were designated from 1996 onward. This includes two monuments in New Mexico, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in the southern part of the state. The review was spurred by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s opposition to national monuments, including President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of Bears Ears and President Bill Clinton’s 1996 designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. “We’re now getting something done that people thought would never get done, and I’m doing it in honor of you guys,” President Donald Trump said in April during the signing ceremony for the order directing Zinke to review the monuments.

In new wolf plan, feds give states power on releases

Just a week after the announcement that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle would be reassigned, the agency issued a notice saying it will give states the authority to decide where and when Mexican gray wolves can be released. Related story: Interior Department reorganization will hit New Mexico’s landscapes, communities

On Thursday, the agency released a draft revision to its Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, which guides plans to remove the wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Under the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, New Mexico has opposed wolf reintroductions, and in 2011, the Game Commission ended the state’s participation in the program. The commission also voted to stop the federal government from releasing any new captive-raised wolves in the state and sued. A federal judge then blocked any new releases.

DOI asks for comment on monuments, Rio Grande riding high & EPA boots scientists and ‘sidelines’ student info

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its official list of national monuments under review, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the designations previous presidents had made under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Two New Mexico monuments are on that list: near Taos and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in the southern part of the state. Related story: Trump review of national monuments includes two in NM

The Interior Department is soliciting public comment on the review, which was spurred by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s opposition to national monuments, including President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of Bears Ears and President Bill Clinton’s 1996 designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. To submit comments on the review requires more than a Facebook click. You’re going to have to navigate a bit, but here are the details on how to do it:
Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

NMED seeks public comment on plan for KAFB fuel leak

The New Mexico Environment Department and its partners released their 2017 strategic plan for the Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak in January. Over the course of decades, an estimated 24 million gallons of jet fuel leaked from storage tanks at the base. The leak was first detected in 1999. The strategic plan is only a “reference and planning document” and is not enforceable under any regulatory agencies. But it does include information that the public could find helpful, including conceptual diagrams of the leak, a map showing the locations of monitoring wells and drinking water wells and a timeline for cleanup.

Feds say bat species thriving, no longer needs ESA protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says efforts to help a rare bat species were so successful the bat no longer needs federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA. The lesser long-nosed bat is migratory, spending summers in southern Arizona and New Mexico and winters in central and southern Mexico. The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bat for federal protection in 1988. At the time, scientists knew of only 1,000 individual bats and 14 roosts across their entire range in both the U.S. and Mexico. Today, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest study, there are about 200,000 bats and 75 roosts.