Trial Starts Regarding NM Public Land Access, NM Film Union Leader Resigns

Mar 19, 2018

Trial Focuses On Public Land Access In Northern New Mexico The Associated Press

A trial over public access to prime hunting territory in northeast New Mexico is underway in Taos.

White Peak has been the source of legal and administrative fights for decades, and at issue in state district court is whether roads used to access the area are considered historic roads open to the public or private ranching roads.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office on Monday described the area as a checkerboard that includes state trust land and property owned by rancher David Stanley.

Stanley has argued that hunters and other members of the public have trespassed on private property for years to reach trust lands.

Prosecutors say federal statute more than 150 years old allows for rights of way.

New Mexico Film Union Leader Resigns Amid Misconduct ClaimsAssociated Press

A prominent figure in New Mexico's film industry facing allegations of sexual misconduct has resigned as a business agent at one of the state's largest unions.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 announced Sunday that Jon Hendry stepped down.

The move comes after two women said in a lawsuit filed this month that Hendry harassed and discriminated against them when they were union employees.

It also comes after Richard Ellenberg, the chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, was forced to resign following comments defending Hendry.

Hendry referred all questions to the union's attorney, who declined to comment.

Hendry also had served as president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor. The union says Hendry is no longer its president.

Ex-Chief Of Troubled Northern New Mexico Agency Won't ReturnLos Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

The former executive director of a troubled agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory says she won't return to lead the coalition.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports Andrea Romero, the former paid leader of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, said last week she won't seek to renew her contract amid charges that she used public money for fancy dinners and baseball tickets.

But Romero says she's still running as a Democrat for a House seat around Santa Fe.

For weeks, Romero has faced criticism for recent spending that included expensive gatherings where alcohol was purchased. She has apologized.

New Mexico State Auditor Wayne Johnson said this month he has designated the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities for a special audit following the spending

Zinke Meets With Tribes In Multi-Day Visit To ArizonaAssociated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plans to meet with tribal leaders Monday in the Phoenix area.

The Salt River-Pima Maricopa Indian Community is hosting Zinke at its new youth facility in Scottsdale. A spokeswoman for Salt River says a handful of other tribes have been invited to talk to Zinke about their priorities and self-governance.

Interior officials say Zinke later will hold a press briefing on the national opioid epidemic in American Indian communities.

The Indian Health Service says the impact is immense.

The agency's chief medical officer told a congressional panel last week that American Indians and Alaska Natives saw a fivefold increase in overdose deaths between 1999 and 2015.

But Dr. Michael Toedt says the statistics might be more staggering because death certificates often list the wrong race.

New Mexico Congressman Missing Votes During Governor's RaceSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce reportedly has missed more roll call votes in the House than any other member of New Mexico's congressional delegation so far this year as he campaigns for governor.

According to the nonpartisan project GovTrack, Pearce has missed 41 votes after missing only seven votes in 2017.

The Santa Fe New Mexican checked those numbers against the congressional record.

The newspaper says only four other members of the U.S. House have missed that many votes this year and two have medical issues.

A spokeswoman for Pearce notes he has taken part in 8,975 votes out of 9,270 from 2003 to 2008 and from 2011 to the present.

Pearce, a Republican from Hobbs, is running unopposed in the June primary election for New Mexico governor.

Environmentalists Seek To Halt New Mexico Mine's ReturnGallup Independent, Associated Press

Environmentalists are seeking to keep an idle uranium mine in western New Mexico from becoming active again.

The Gallup Independent reports that the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and Amigos Bravos contend a recent decision to activate the Mount Taylor Mine will allow it to avoid cleanup. They're asking the New Mexico Mining Commission to review the decision.

New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division Director Fernando Martinez recently decided to allow Mount Taylor Mine to return to "active," or operational, status.

But environmentalists say there is no realistic likelihood that mining will take place for the foreseeable future.

The mine has been on standby status for more than 20 years. Its owner, Rio Grande Resources, announced in 2014 that it planned to ask regulators to change the status to active.

Albuquerque Police Have Hush-Hush Cellphone-Tracking DevicesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department is among numerous U.S. law enforcement agencies using highly secretive technology that can track the whereabouts of crime suspects by using signals emitted by their cellphones.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico following a lawsuit against the city indicate Albuquerque police have had at least two of the tracking devices for the last six years.

Former Mayor Richard Berry's administration withheld information about the trackers but Mayor Tim Keller's administration recently released the documents to the ACLU, which agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.

Purchasing agreements with the FBI restrict information that police can release about the devices and their use.

Other cities where police use cellphone trackers include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.

New Mexico Nuke Repository Studied For Plutonium StorageCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy has commissioned a national group of scientists to study the viability of diluting surplus weapons-grade plutonium and storing it permanently at the federal government's underground repository in southern New Mexico.

A committee of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has been tasked with evaluating the storage potential at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the group's first meeting was held in November in Washington, D.C. The scientists met again Tuesday in Carlsbad, where officials gave presentations and fielded questions on the feasibility of bringing plutonium to the repository.

Critics are unconvinced the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant can safely hold the plutonium. They're also skeptical that the facility's mission can be expanded through federal law in an appropriate amount of time.

Santa Fe Chef Is A James Beard Award FinalistSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe chef is a finalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Martin Rios is a finalist for Best Chef of the Southwest, and he is the only New Mexico chef up for the award.

The owner of Restaurant Martin on Galisteo Street, he's been up for a James Beard award in the past.

He has been a Best Chef semifinalist eight times for what is called by some as the Oscars of the food world.

He describes his restaurant as serving progressive American cuisine.

The awards will be announced May 7 at a gala in Chicago.

BLM Postpones Meeting On Wild Horses Over Notice DisputeAssociated Press

The federal Bureau of Land Management is postponing an advisory panel's scheduled March 27-28 meeting to make recommendations on wild horses and burros because of a dispute over public notice.

A BLM statement Friday says a board member threatened to sue the agency because it didn't provide 30 days' notice of the meeting scheduled in Salt Lake City.

The agency says 30 days of public notice are generally required for National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meetings but that the agency gave 15 days of notice as allowed for urgent matters.

Three board members' terms expire March 31 and the BLM says the board wouldn't have the quorum necessary to provide recommendations to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke without those members.

The BLM says the meeting will be rescheduled when new members are seated.

EPA Wants Mine Company To Help Pay For Superfund StudyAssociated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency wants a mining company to pay for a potentially costly investigation of underground water flows at a southwestern Colorado Superfund site to help the agency devise a cleanup plan.

The EPA on Thursday ordered Sunnyside Gold Corp. to study part of the Bonita Peak Mining District. The district includes the Gold King Mine, where agency workers inadvertently triggered a massive spill in 2015.

Sunnyside doesn't own Gold King but has other mining property within the federal cleanup site.

The EPA has said previous work at one of Sunnyside's mines may be contributing to wastewater flowing into the Animas River.

Sunnyside says it has already spent $30 million on reclamation work in the area and maintains it is not the cause of the water quality problems.

New Mexico DWI Fatalities In 2016 Drop 16 Percent From 2016Associated Press

New Mexico's DWI fatalities dropped 16 percent in 2017 from the previous year.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the decrease of alcohol-related fatalities from 173 in 2016 to 145 in 2017 on Friday as she said law enforcement agencies across the state will be out in force over the weekend to crack down on drunken driving during St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

The number of alcohol-involved crashes decreased from 2,073 in 2016 to 1,805 in 2017, according to preliminary data.

The state Department of Transportation has just issued a new television ad campaign called "Life of the Party." It encourages New Mexicans to stop others from getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking.