With climate change fueling wildfires, changes are needed to prevent worse scenarios

Climate change is contributing to the large wildfires that western states like New Mexico are experiencing, and scientists say humans need to make changes to prevent worse fire risks. New Mexico’s largest wildfire in recorded history surpassed 300,000 acres this week and it is not the only large fire burning as the state experiences hot, dry conditions and very low humidity. A study published this month in the journal Ecology Letters found that wildfire risks are going to increase in states like New Mexico. By the end of the century, the study states that “high levels of fire risk, which were historically confined to pockets in California and the intermountain western US, are projected to expand across the entire western US.”

William Anderegg, a University of Utah associate professor, is one of the co-authors who led the study. As he was studying climate stress and risks, Anderegg said it was a bit surprising, and also depressing, how much the fire risk increased in high climate change scenarios.

In light of drought, NM congresswomen introduce bills focused on water and science

As New Mexico water users face ongoing shortages, the three congresswomen representing the state introduced two pieces of legislation intended to help communities—the Rio Grande Water Security Act and the Water Data Act. “We know that our farmers and our communities are struggling to meet their water needs,” U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat representing the state’s 1st Congressional District, said during a press conference on Thursday. “And the pieces of legislation that we introduced this week will be game changers to help address those needs, put resources into the hands of our communities, and to address the long term water security of our communities.”

The Water Data Act is based on legislation that the New Mexico Legislature passed in 2019. It calls for development and implementation of a framework for integrating, sharing and using water data. The bill has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich, both New Mexico Democrats.

U.S. Supreme Court Samuel Alito’s history of abortion differs from historians and Indigenous reproductive leaders 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito provided a history of abortion rights in the U.S. in his draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. His narrative, aimed at why the medical procedure should no longer have federal protection, focused on states making the medical practice illegal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But both Indigenous people and historians have a more nuanced narrative. Alito noted when each state in the U.S. codified laws regulating abortion. New Mexico outlawed the procedure in 1919.

Uninsured homes leave New Mexicans vulnerable in areas hit by wildfires

Outside of the Glorieta Adventure Camp dining hall, 56-year-old Lisa Blackburde was having an emotion-filled conversation with a couple of other evacuees. 

Nearly three weeks ago, as the fast-moving Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire made a run toward her home near Ledoux, Blackburde heeded a mandatory evacuation order that had already been in place for days. Her boyfriend, Michael Pacheco, remained behind to save what he could. “He was a seasonal firefighter for the state,” she said, “so he knows what he’s doing.” They have a horse, a dog, 13 cows and three new calves. “And four of the cows are still expecting.” 

This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is republished with permission. If Pacheco hadn’t stayed to put out spot fires, she was sure it would have all gone up in flames.

Some NM cannabis producers may face higher than expected tax bill

New Mexico recreational-use cannabis companies, for the first time, are required to file their gross receipts and cannabis excise taxes in one week. It’s unclear exactly how much the state is set to collect, but cannabis regulators reported more than $20 million in recreational-use sales for the month of April. 

Since an announcement from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department earlier this month, though, it seems that most if not all recreational-use cannabis companies may have under-collected taxes from customers compared to what those companies will owe. For some companies that could mean cutting costs on things like packaging and raising prices. For at least one company, it will mean a formal appeal with the state. 

On May 5, the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department issued a press release with specifications on how the newly established cannabis excise tax will be calculated with state gross receipts taxes. The guidance from the department was to apply the 12 percent cannabis excise tax to total sales before figuring in the roughly 7 to 8 percent gross receipts tax.