Russia/Ukraine war puts pressure on governments for more wind, solar

In recent years, New Mexico has tried to move away from its historical role as an oil and gas hub, and the crisis in Ukraine could have major implications. Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country has caused oil prices to surge. Reilly White, associate professor of finance at the University of New Mexico, said depending on the length of the conflict, it also could put pressure on U.S. producers to ramp up crude-oil production. “The United States right now is the largest oil producer,” White explained. “We have about 20 percent or so of the world’s production.

Pressure mounts to protect Mexican Gray Wolves

Last year, advocates for the Mexican gray wolf cheered when a judge ruled the problem of poaching was not adequately addressed in a management plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those same groups now want the agency to address sustainability goals. Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said there is currently only one population of 186 Mexican gray wolves or “lobos” living in areas of New Mexico and Arizona. “Currently they’re listed as being non-essential, which means that the Service believes the wolf population — if it were to completely disappear — that’s the definition in the Endangered Species Act — that it could be replaced,” Ray explained. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated Interstate 40 as the northern limit of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Area, meaning wolves can be removed or killed if they travel beyond the boundary.

Two New Mexicans die treating COVID-19 with ivermectin

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A veterinary drug doctors call unsafe for treating COVID-19 has caused the deaths of two people in New Mexico, according to the state’s Department of Health. “Ivermectin toxicity” is being blamed for the deaths, with doctors reminding those desperate for a cure that drugs to treat animals are not approved for use in humans. Elaine Blythe, New Mexico veterinary pharmacist and member of the American Pharmacists Association, said despite warnings, people have gone to the hospital after feeling ill from taking the drug. “What we’re seeing now is that when people do make that choice, physicians are saying, ‘I don’t know how to treat this patient who took a veterinary medication. We don’t have any data on that.

Undoing of Trump-era clean-water rule creates optimism, uncertainty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Opponents of rollbacks to the Trump-era Clean Water Act say 90% of New Mexico’s waters were left unprotected and hope a recent court decision will be a turning point. A federal judge ruled the Trump administration’s 2020 “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” was too flawed to keep in place. That means for now, instead of falling under federal jurisdiction, the status of ephemeral or intermittent streams will be subject to case-by-case determinations. Rachel Conn, deputy director of the water advocacy group Amigos Bravos in Taos, said arid states such as New Mexico need their own rules. “We are a very dry state, as we all know, and we have many waters that don’t flow year-round, and it is all of those waters that had been left unprotected,” Conn observed.

NMSU/UNM classes resume, COVID protocols announced

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Administrators at New Mexico State University know they’re headed into a fall semester this week facing a spike in COVID-19 cases, but they still hope to make campus life as normal as possible. NMSU Vice Chancellor and Chief COVID-19 Officer Ruth Johnston said they’ve tightened protocols, meaning students and system employees at all five campuses will need to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis, beginning September 30. “And the reason for that was not because we wanted to delay things or make our community less safe,” said Johnston. “In fact, we wanted to give people the opportunity to be able to get the vaccine if they hadn’t already.” The University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College have both issued similar policies, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Border wall map reveals damage to landscape, migration routes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A newly-released map identifies portions of the U.S.-Mexico border wall built by the Trump administration, and for conservation groups and wildlife advocates, it is alarming. The Biden administration halted construction, and said it will use federal funds to assess damage caused by the new, higher walls. Myles Traphagen, borderlands program coordinator for the Wildlands Network who created the map, said in addition to environmental damage, the project identified several areas in border states where restoration to benefit wildlife is needed. “There’s very high biodiversity in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico,” Traphagen explained. “It’s a meeting ground of the neotropics and the temperate zones.

New Mexico’s fight to escape the grasp of Big Oil and Gas

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez quickly learned the harsh reality of New Mexico politics after she was appointed to fill an empty seat in the state senate two years ago. One of the first bills she pushed sought a four-year pause on new fracking permits on state lands, taking that time to study the environmental, health and safety impacts of the controversial oil and gas drilling technique. Sedillo Lopez believed it was a sensible piece of legislation, one that was tempered and looked out for New Mexicans. But almost right away, the bill died,never getting out of committee. The same thing happened to a similar measure she pushed earlier this year, with support from dozens of environmental and Indigenous organizations.

BLM boss still on the job despite judge’s ruling

ALBUQUERQUE — The Bureau of Land Management says it will challenge a judge’s ruling that ousted William Perry Pendley as director of the agency last week. In the meantime, Pendley is still at the agency, and influencing BLM policies. For the past few years, the Trump administration has avoided confirmation hearings by putting acting officials in charge of top agencies and departments. The judge found Pendley had been on the job illegally for more than 400 days without a Senate confirmation. Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the administration has used shortcuts to advance controversial policies.

With meat plant closures and meat shortages on horizon, can cattle ranchers survive?

Aubrey Dunn and his wife Robin run a cattle operation north of Carrizozo, NM, and the couple, now grandparents, own roughly 250 head of cattle. Like other cattle ranchers, Dunn, who was formerly the New Mexico State Land Commissioner, is part of an industry that faces high prices for cattle upkeep and low sale prices per head of cattle at market. 

Because it costs an average of $300 to $400 annually to maintain a cow and cattle prices have been trending downward, Dunn said the cattle business has not been profitable in recent years. In the past, drought or finding affordable feed or space to accommodate livestock were typical problems for a cattle rancher—but that was before the COVID-19 coronavirus forced the shutdown of meat processing facilities across the country. Dunn said this could create long-term hardships ahead for New Mexico cattle producers. Hardships ahead for New Mexico cattle ranchers

Sid Gordon, New Mexico State University Extension Office agent in Otero County, said some producers have part-time businesses or jobs because it can take hundreds of head of cattle for a single family to be successful at cattle production alone, Gordon said.

Tribes receive partial COVID-19 funds: Too little, too late?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tribal communities now will begin receiving federal coronavirus relief funding, a week after the government missed a congressional deadline for distribution, and only after being sued over who is eligible for the money. In a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., noted that the Navajo Nation — located in portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah — is reporting one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country. “Yet the $8 billion Tribal Relief Fund we fought was stuck in the Trump Treasury Department for six weeks,” he said, “but this announcement comes weeks too late and billions of dollars short.” On reservations, the rate of COVID-19 infections per 1,000 people is four times higher than in other parts of the country. Based on population, payments totaling about $5 billion will go out to tribes over the next several days.