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House Passed Bill Giving Wolves Oversight To States, Griego Gets New Arraignment Date

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Mexican Gray Wolves

Mexican Gray Wolf Management Measure Passes US House – Associated Press

Two Western Republican congressmen have succeeded in getting legislation through the U.S. House that would shift management of the endangered Mexican gray wolf from the federal government to states.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Steve Pearce of New Mexico was included as an amendment to a $32 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that passed Thursday.

The congressmen say efforts to reintroduce the wolves in the Southwest have failed. They cited the lack of an updated recovery plan, a struggling population and livestock losses.

They also pointed to a recent federal investigation that concluded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mishandled the program.

But environmentalists are worried the wolf could go extinct if the legislation gets through Congress.

Ex-Senator Gets New Arraignment Date In Corruption Case – The Associated Press 

Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego is being called back to court on newly confirmed charges of fraud, bribery and perjury as the criminal corruption case moves toward trial.

New Mexico District Court Judge Brett Loveless has scheduled the arraignment for July 22 at a courthouse in Albuquerque.

State prosecutors allege Griego used his position as a senator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe by pushing approval of the transaction through the Legislature without proper disclosure.

Griego has pleaded not guilty to 10 original charges. Loveless says evidence is sufficient to move forward with nine of those counts after hearing testimony from prominent state officials, lawmakers and others.

Griego resigned from the Senate last year amid a Senate ethics investigation.

New Mexico Wildfire At 16 Percent Of ContainmentThe Associated Press

Authorities say a wildfire in the southern New Mexico mountain village of Timberon has destroyed 67 structures and numerous vehicles and is now 16 percent contained.

The containment figure means firefighters have secured that percentage of the fire's perimeter to keep the fire from growing.

An update provided Friday by fire incident commanders says approximately 30 vehicles were destroyed or damaged, including 14 recreational vehicles.

Homes account for at least 30 of the destroyed or damaged homes

Crews are constructing and improving fire lines and removing debris and dangerous trees in the burn area.

The fire started Wednesday and has burned nearly a half square-mile. Cause is under investigation.

One minor injury — a sprained ankle — has been reported.

Timberon is 25 miles southeast of Alamogordo.

Federal Funding Approved For New Mexico WildfireAssociated Press, KOB-TV, KRQE-TV

Gov. Susana Martinez says federal funding will help cover the costs associated with fighting a blaze that has destroyed homes and burned nearly a half square mile in southern New Mexico.

Martinez was briefed Thursday by fire officials on efforts to corral the blaze, which forced the evacuations the night before of dozens of residents who live in and around the community of Timberon.

KRQE-TV reports more than 60 structures have been destroyed, including 31 homes. The fire remains zero percent contained. KOB-TV reports fire crews set up a perimeter around the fire and it was holding Thursday night.

Martinez also activated the state emergency operations center to help coordinate the response to the fire in Otero County. The entire Timberon community was evacuated and a shelter set up at Cloudcroft High School.

Plan For Federal Wolf Delisting Clears US HouseAssociated Press

Oregon's lone Republican Congressman Greg Walden helped convince the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to approve a plan to remove all protections for the species at the federal level.

The proposal cleared the chamber Wednesday in a 223-201 vote and now heads to the Senate. It was introduced Monday by Walden and Washington state Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse as an amendment to a large federal appropriations funding package.

The plan would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move forward with its proposal three years ago to delist the gray wolf the under the federal Endangered Species Act by 2017. Population management would instead be at the discretion of the lower 48 states.

Feds Push Back Lease Sale Over Transparency ConcernsAssociated Press

The Bureau of Land Management is delaying next week's lease sale in the heart of New Mexico oil and gas country after activists raised concerns about transparency.

Environmentalists who have been protesting lease sales across the West consider the decision a small victory as they push for the agency to do large-scale assessments of the effects of drilling on federal land.

The sale was initially planned for July 20 in Santa Fe, home of the BLM's main office for the region. The agency said in late June it was moving the auction to Roswell, about 200 miles away.

Activists suggest the move was intended to stifle ongoing criticism of oil and gas development.

BLM spokeswoman Lisa Morrison says management opted for Roswell given that all of the parcels up for bid are in southeastern New Mexico.

NMSU Won't Be Funding Its Equestrian Team After Next SeasonThe Associated Press 

New Mexico State University plans to phase out funding of the school's equestrian team after the 2016-2017 season.

Supporters of the equestrian program are seeking private funding to make the program self-sustaining.

University officials say NMSU still will fully honor the scholarships of its current equestrian student-athletes for the remainder of their eligibility.

NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said in a statement Friday that the university continues to be under pressure to trim its budget by more than $12 million.

The school has made recent cuts to its budget due to declining state funding and declining enrollment.

Other cuts include eliminating vacant and filled positions around the university, eliminating the on-campus employee health center and beginning the process to eliminate the engineering surveying program.

Teachers Union Says It will Fight Evaluation SystemAlbuquerque Journal

A teachers union said it will fight an updated evaluation model because standardized test results remain a big part of assessing instructors.

The Albuquerque Journal reports an online petition by the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico called “Stop Bullying our Educators” has 2,000 signatures so far.

The Public Education Department partially revamped the evaluation system, but standardized test results are still about half the score teachers get.

AFT and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation called the changes superficial and contend the system is unfair. They sued and won a partial injunction last December. PED said the evaluation model holds teachers accountable.

New Mexico DA: Some 'Pokemon' Stops Near Sex Offender Homes Associated Press

A New Mexico district attorney is warning parents about the hit game "Pokemon Go," saying some of the app's key stops and destinations are located near registered sex offenders.

District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, of Doña Ana County, urged parents Thursday to practice the same amount of caution with the app as they do with the Internet in monitoring when and where children play the game.

He also says sex offenders could find a way to use the app to target children. The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office tracks 350 registered sex offenders in a nearly 4,000-square-mile area that includes Las Cruces.

The "Pokemon Go" craze sweeping the U.S. pairs GPS and smartphone camera technology to send players to real-world sites in pursuit of animated monsters that appear on their screens.

Hispanic Governor Promotes Her Own Agenda At GOP Convention - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A testy and guarded relationship between Donald Trump and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez shows little sign of change as she and other GOP delegates make their way to the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland.

As of Friday, Martinez was withholding her endorsement of Trump even as she leads her state's 24-member delegation to the convention to cast their first-round ballots for the New York businessman.

In declining to endorse Trump, Martinez will stay clear of the speaker's podium and public spotlight. Instead, she will work the isles and backrooms to promote her work as a second-term governor and chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, a major fundraising arm of the GOP dedicated to the election of Republican governors across the country.

Roswell Tax Preparer Gets Prison Term For Fraudulent ReturnsAssociated Press

A Roswell tax preparer has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for fraudulently preparing tax returns over a three-year period.

Prosecutors say 46-year-old Sylvia Franco received a suspended 18-year prison sentence with the stipulation that she pay more than $38,000 in restitution to her victims.

She also was ordered to serve five years of supervised probation and not to prepare income tax returns anymore.

Franco owned and operated Sylvia Tax Service.

Prosecutors say she prepared tax returns with fraudulent, inflated tax deductions for 28 clients from 2011 to 2014 to ensure they would receive larger refunds.

They say the state lost nearly $121,000 in taxes owed.

Route 66 Becoming Green With Charging Stations, Solar Panels By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Route 66, a highway made famous for attracting gas-guzzling Chevrolet Bel Airs traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, is turning green.

The Mother Road is seeing a growing number of electric car charging stations along the 2,500-mile path, and some states even are pushing for solar panels and electric buses.

Illinois is installing a network of electric vehicle charging station from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

And earlier this year, Missouri's highway department announced it was eying a project to cover a portion of its Route 66 with road-ready solar panels.

Route 66-area motel owners also are getting in on the action.

Bella Roma Bed & Breakfast innkeeper Laura Ferrary says she installed a Tesla supercharger at her Albuquerque spot because she anticipates more environmentally-conscience travelers in the future.