On a dry and dusty afternoon in August, a white hot bolt of lightning zipped down from a thunderhead to the parched land below, sparking the dry grass of the Caja del Rio plateau. A few hours later, acres of land on the plateau were aflame and thick black smoke was billowing up from the landscape as the wildfire grew.
At the time, the Forest Service was already battling the Medio Fire, a larger wildfire burning northwest of Santa Fe in the Santa Fe National Forest. Early reports based on aerial surveillance estimated the Caja del Rio fire had burned 600 acres of land, but the Forest Service later revised the fire’s footprint down to 158 acres. One week later, the Caja del Rio fire was considered contained, while the Medio Fire still raged some 30 miles north. It would take another three weeks before that fire was fully contained.
The Medio Fire, which burned some 4,000 acres, returned attention to the impacts of climate change on New Mexico’s landscape, and the role of wildfire in forest management.
On Black Friday, you can line up outside a big box store hours before sunrise, shove your way through the crowd and perhaps, victoriously snap a selfie with the discounted flat screen television you scored. But if you’re lucky enough to have the day off on Friday and want to disentangle from the stress of bills, work, school, social media and politics, you have other options. There’s a movement afoot to wrest the day after Thanksgiving from the clutches of consumerism. And New Mexico is the perfect place to join the revolution. Even though the #OptOutside campaign itself emerged from the retail world—REI decided not to open its stores on the post-Thanksgiving retail day and instead give employees the day off—it’s entirely possible to have fun outside without buying any recreational equipment at all.
Smatterings of conversations in English, Arabic, Caldean and Dari punctuate the calls of Steller’s jays and Bewick’s wrens on a trail in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Six kids, ranging in age from seven to 16, hike up the Crest Trail with three young women from the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Catholic Charities’ Refugee Mentoring Program. The childrens’ families have relocated to Albuquerque after being forced to leave their home countries, and the kids are here as part of the Refugee Wilderness Explorers Summer Camp. Rather than introducing themselves by their country of origin, the children name the languages they speak: Arabic, Caldean, Urdu and Dari are the predominant languages, and some of the kids also know Spanish or French in addition to English. Sixteen-year-old Ghulam-Ali speaks five languages, and he takes a takes a crack at reading the field guide entry for “banana yucca.” The pokey plant grows on rocky slopes, blooming in June and July.
One of the key races that will decide the political control of the state House of Representatives pits an upstart against a Roundhouse veteran in southern New Mexico. The incumbent, Republican Andy Nuñez, has represented the district for most of the past decade and a half. He faces former Nathan Small, a Democrat who recently served two terms on the Las Cruces city council. NM Political Report will profile some key legislative races from now until election day. Nuñez, 80, is perhaps best known for switching his political affiliation multiple times over in the past few years, from Democrat to independent to Republican.