March 15, 2019

NM Environment Review: Defender of the Gila passes on, Abq developer digs in + NM students get ready to protest

Laura Paskus

On March 9, 2019, Elephant Butte Reservoir was about nine percent full

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here.

Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

This week, New Mexico lost one of its most enthusiastic, and fierce, outdoorsmen. Dutch Salmon passed away earlier this week, and many of us will miss the former New Mexico Game Commissioner and former Interstate Stream Commissioner. Dutch was also a writer, book publisher and committed defender of the Gila River. Some three decades ago, he even took his canoe for a 200-mile long spin on the Gila—with his dog and a black-and-white cat on board—to draw attention to the pending plight of the river.

Dutch fought against earlier versions of a dam on the Gila, and he dug his heels in when the ISC started planning its current diversion. I’ll always remember talking with Dutch after a public meeting in Cliff during the summer of 2014. He was already slowing down from the effects of Parkinson’s, but continued pushing back against state officials advocating around the region for the diversion. He’d show up to all the meetings and raise his voice from the audience. On this particular night, we were walking out into an approaching rainstorm. There was no doubt in Dutch’s mind this project would be defeated, like those in the past: “…don’t worry,” he said as we left the auditorium. “We’ll get ‘em.”

•  Santa Fe and Albuquerque students (and I’m guessing plenty of others around New Mexico) are planning to protest inaction on climate change on Friday. Olivia Harlow has the story for the Santa Fe New Mexican. Students are skipping school on Friday, and the march in Santa Fe will begin at the Plaza at 11 a.m.

• In case you missed it at our site, this week we wrote about the Eagle Picher Carefree Battery Superfund Site in Socorro, in partnership with New Mexico In Focus.

• Austin Fisher at the Rio Grande Sun has a really important story about unsafe drinking water in Española, and the fact that city officials failed to notify people until three months after they knew the city’s water was unsafe for pregnant women and infants to drink. Read that story here.

Jessica Dyer covered a spat between a developer pouring more homes onto a bluff above the Rio Grande and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. The mayor’s office contacted the current owner of the property to talk about “possible preservation options.” Gamma Development is currently under contract to buy the 23 acres and build 76 single-family homes there, according to Dyer’s story, and was not happy about Keller’s outreach. In a response back to Keller, Gamma Development’s Brian McCarthy said the land isn’t for sale and called the mayor’s effort to exchange those lands for others currently within the city’s Open Space Division “misplaced, inappropriate, cowardly.”

• The Silver City Daily Press wrote about retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Susan Beck answering questions from locals concerned about flyovers. The paper also has a very short announcement about a contract worker who was killed at the Tyrone Mine. The death of Tim Rivers is under investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

• The New Mexico Environment Department released its draft plan for continued cleanup at Kirtland Air Force Base. Susan Montoya Bryan with the Associated Press covered the story. And here’s a link to the plan and information on how to comment. We’ll also have a story on the issue coming up in the next few weeks.

• Later this month, the Santa Fe National Forest is looking for volunteers to hike to Window Rock and pick up trash along the way. The eight-mile roundtrip hike, which is about ten miles north of Española on Highway 84,  is part of the Forest Your Health initiative in partnership with El Centro Family Health Clinics. For more information on the March 31 hike, contact Jennifer Sublett at or 505.753.7331.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly email, so you can read all the news. Just click here.