Emails show exchanges between plaintiffs, employees and RLD that helped lead to whistleblower suit

Next week, a New Mexico state district judge is slated to hear arguments for and against a group of state employees adding a Whistleblower Protection Act claim to an already pending lawsuit against the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department. 

The initial suit, filed by four Cannabis Control Division employees, claims that the department and the Cannabis Control Division violated a state personnel code by moving their work location from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Included in the four employees’ new complaint are claims of retaliation and alleged inaction by the department when the employees reported what they said was an illegal cannabis grow operation. 

The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1. Now, after reviewing documents obtained through a public records request, NM Political Report has learned which company RLD and its Cannabis Control Division deemed the company to be in compliance after being accused of having too many plants. On July 12, 2021, RLD received a tip, via email, that medical cannabis producer Budding Hope was growing “over 6,000 plants illegally.” The person who sent the email, whose name was redacted by the department, followed up twice within a week with more specifics.

Study: Emergency managers should plan for volcanic eruptions in the southwest

The southwest United States has thousands of volcanoes that were only active for a very short period of time and, a new analysis published in the journal Geosphere urges emergency managers to be aware of the potential for further volcanic activity. The authors of the study counted 2,229 volcanoes in 37 volcanic fields located in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. While it is dotted with volcanic fields, the region has not received the same amount of attention for its volcanism as some other areas of the country such as the Pacific Northwest, which is home to volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier. Greg Valentine, a lead author on the paper and a geology professor at the University of Buffalo, said one reason that the volcanoes in the southwest have not received as much attention is that no eruptions have occurred since geology became an official science in the 1700s. Meanwhile, the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest has had modern explosions, such as Mount Saint Helens.

A small seabird found far from home in New Mexico

Mikal Deese has rehabbed more than a hundred species of birds at her non-profit rehabilitation center in Corrales, but last week she received a bird that she’d never seen before. The small black and white bird was found unable to fly on the side of a trail in Placitas and was brought to her On a Wing and A Prayer rehab center in a box. Upon opening the box, Deese knew the bird was far from where it belonged. 

She identified the bird as a murre–a seabird that rarely comes to shore. And, based on its size, she knew it was a murrelet, a small species of murre. The plumage and markings matched the ancient murrelet, a seabird that lives in the Pacific northwest and north into the arctic.

Haaland visits Chaco Culture National Historical Park

As the U.S. Department of the Interior begins the process of placing a 20-year moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands near Chaco Canyon, some nearby Indian allottees say that such an action would limit their ability to make a living off of their land. Meanwhile, proponents of the moratorium say it is needed to protect the sacred sites, lands and waters. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland drove by signs protesting the moratorium as she headed to Chaco Culture National Historical Park to celebrate President Joe Biden’s announcement of the moratorium impacting federal lands within a ten mile buffer of the park. While at the park, Haaland met with Indigenous and state leaders before addressing the crowd that had gathered for, what she described as, a celebration that was decades in the making. Haaland said Chaco Canyon is a living landscape.

2021 a challenging year for New Mexico animal shelters

The year 2021 has proved to be even more challenging than 2020 for Rover and Whiskers, animal shelters across New Mexico report. The problem all three animal shelters in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces were primarily dogged by in 2021 was a pet population explosion. At least two animal shelter representatives, in speaking with NM Political Report, said that while there were likely several ancillary reasons for the pet population numbers rising this year, the main issue could have been an unintended consequence of the state’s need to slow the spread of disease and preserve in-short supply personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state restricted services to essential business and healthcare in the first three months of the pandemic, shelters and veterinarian clinics stopped spaying and neutering pets during March, April and May of 2020. Dylan Moore, director of shelter operations for Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, said the shelter had an influx this year of one-year to 16-month-old unclaimed pets.