Lesser prairie chicken in New Mexico receives endangered species protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the population of lesser prairie chicken within New Mexico as endangered. The lesser prairie chicken—which despite its name is not a chicken, but a grouse—is divided into two distinct population groups. The southern group includes birds living in parts of Texas and New Mexico in the Permian Basin area. “Lesser prairie chickens, known for their loud and showy mating rituals, are one of America’s most unique grassland birds,” Amy Leuders, the southwest regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said during a press conference on Thursday. “For generations, people have marveled at the strutting, dancing and booming sounds displayed each spring on their leks.”

She said the birds are synonymous with healthy prairies because they need “large unfragmented parcels of intact native grasslands to support self-sustaining populations.”

In total, there are about 32,000 birds in both population groups, though there were once hundreds of thousands of lesser prairie chickens in the United States.

Federal legislation aims to permanently withdraw lands around Chaco from mineral leasing

Democratic members of the New Mexico congressional delegation once again introduced legislation today that would permanently remove areas surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from the federal mineral leasing program. This would prevent new oil and gas leases as well as coal and uranium mining on federal lands in the 10-mile buffer zone around the park. The proposal comes as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office is accepting comments on a 20-year moratorium on leasing in that area. Unlike Luján’s proposal, the withdrawal of federal lands around Chaco from the mineral leasing program is a temporary measure. In a press release, U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján said that protecting Chaco Canyon has been one of his top priorities.

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FEMA seeks public comment on Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking public comment on the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act interim final rule. The public comment period runs until January 13, 2023. The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act provides compensation for victims of the fire that the U.S. Forest Service began as a prescribed burn in the Sante Fe National Forest in San Miguel County. This compensation may cover eligible losses, including personal injury, property loss,  business loss or financial loss. “FEMA’s Interim Final Rule guides the claims process and describes necessary documentation, evaluation criteria and compensation available for those impacted by the fire and subsequent flooding,” A FEMA news release states.

NMAG and SOS issue warning amid election misinformation campaigns

As New Mexico’s counties begin certifying vote totals in the 2022 Midterm election, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a joint statement on Nov. 15 that warned of possible disruptions to the election certification process during county commission meetings. “This week, New Mexico’s county commissions are playing their vital role in the administration of our elections by performing their legal duties as the county canvassing boards in their respective counties,” the statement said. “The ‘canvass’ is the process of reconciling and confirming the accuracy of the election results and reporting those results to the county and then to the state. Under the law, these county boards support the county clerk in the canvass of the election and are mainly responsible for ensuring the timely certification of the county clerk’s report of canvass.

Amid international climate conference, EPA announces proposal for cutting methane emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released new draft rules to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas sector on Friday during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27. The draft rule released Friday builds upon a previous draft rule released last year. Environmental advocates say that the proposal is strong, but could be stronger. Many groups said further restrictions or elimination of routine flaring are needed. Full text of the draft rule can be found here. 

“Ozone pollution and climate impacts from methane emissions pose a serious threat to our people.

Deputy Otero County Clerk Denise Guerra and a poll worker do election night work on November 8, 2022 at the Otero County Clerk's Office in Alamogordo.

Two recounts coming in state House races, congressional race outside recount threshold

The 2nd Congressional District race between Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell and Democratic challenger Gabe Vasquez is still too close to call with both candidates having 50 percent of the vote. Two state House seats, meanwhile, appear poised to trigger automatic recounts. Vasquez has 96,253 votes in his favor and Herrell has 95,238 votes in her favor, a margin of 1,025 votes for Vasquez, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office election results page. 

“These are unofficial results- that’s important to know- they don’t become official until the state canvassing board meets and certifies them on Nov. 29,” New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Alex Curtas said. “Only then will we know whether or not the result is within the margin to trigger an automatic recount.”

The margin to activate an automatic recount is one quarter of one percent of the vote total.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at a Democratic Party rally in Albuquerque on November 3, 2022.

Michelle Lujan Grisham wins a second-term after bruising campaign

Tuesday night ended with incumbent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham winning reelection to the governor’s office. “Tonight, New Mexico said yes – yes to hope, yes to growth, yes to fighting for our neighbors, not against them,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release. “Tonight New Mexico said yes to equal justice under the law, New Mexico said yes to economic opportunity for all, New Mexico said yes to more health care for families, better education for kids and more economic freedom for workers and students.” The expensive campaign featured millions of dollars of ads on each side, with attack ads blanketing airwaves and mailers filling inboxes for weeks. Lujan Grisham spoke about protecting abortion access, while Ronchetti campaigned on crime, saying it was out of control in the state.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Democrats win state treasurer, auditor and commissioner of public lands

Democrats swept the down-ballot statewide races, with candidates winning treasurer, auditor and commissioner of public lands. The closest race was for state treasurer, with Democratic candidate Laura Montoya thanking supporters and giving a short victory speech shortly after 9:30 p.m.

As of 10 p.m., unofficial results showed her leading with 53 percent of the votes. Montoya was running against Republican Harry Montoya, who is a former Democrat, in the open race for state treasurer. The most distance was in the race for state auditor, which was also an open race without an incumbent. The Republican Party did not nominate a candidate, but that didn’t mean Democratic nominee Joseph Maestas could sail to victory without any opposition.

Stansbury defeats Garcia Holmes in 1st Congressional District race

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, won a full term after defeating Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes. 

The Associated Press called the race for Stansbury shortly before 9:30 p.m. Unofficial results from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website had her leading with 59 percent of the votes as of 9:40 p.m.

Bernalillo County voters handed Stansbury a large lead over Garcia Holmes, who in 2018 ran for lieutenant governor. Garcia Holmes received strong support from conservative parts of the district including Otero, Chaves and De Baca counties. These areas were all added to the district during the most recent round of redistricting. Stansbury won a special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2021 following former Rep. Deb Haaland’s appointment as Secretary of the Interior. Prior to serving as a congresswoman, Stansbury was a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

Leger Fernández said her to-do list includes addressing inflation and increasing manufacturing not only in the United States but also in New Mexico.

In a rematch of the 2020 election, U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández once again defeated Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson to represent New Mexico’s Third Congressional District. Leger Fernández took the stage around 9:10 p.m. for her victory speech. The Associated Press called the race at 8:51 p.m.

In 2020, Leger Fernández won 59 percent of the votes compared to Martinez Johnson’s 41 percent. However, redistricting brought more conservative areas into the district, including parts of Eddy, Lea and Chaves counties. At about 9:30 p.m., unofficial results showed Leger Fernández leading with 55 percent of the votes.