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Native Artists Disagree With New Jewelry Sales Rule, Congressman Seeks To Recover Legal Fees

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Native American Artists Disagree With New Jewelry Sales RuleThe Associated Press

Native American artists are attacking a plan that would impose more regulations to sell their jewelry at New Mexico's historic Palace of the Governors portal in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Native American artists say proposed changes are burdensome and disruptive to rules already in place.

Proposed changes by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs address a variety of topics, from day-to-day vendor oversight to which artists can sell their goods in front of the historic building on the Plaza.

The portal is reserved for the sale of Native American crafts to preserve the culture of New Mexico's pueblo and tribal cultures.

The museum board of regents is expected to vote on the proposed changes in May.

Congressman Seeks To Recover Legal FeesThe Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce's campaign for governor of New Mexico is seeking to recover $160,000 in legal costs in a dispute with state election regulators over the transfer of federal campaign cash to the state race.

Pearce campaign spokesman Kevin Sheridan said Wednesday that it is appropriate for the state to pay those legal costs based a decision by the Secretary of State's Office to block the transfer of federal campaign funds. He says that decision ran contrary to a prior ruling allowing Bill Richardson to access federal campaign dollars in a successful 2002 run for governor, citing a judge's recent opinion.

The Secretary of State's Office initially said that only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce, based on a New Mexico law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election.

A proposed settlement agreement in the case would ensure Pearce can continue to use more than $900,000 that he raised while in Congress on his campaign for governor.

Mexican Wolf Program Still Mired By FrustrationsThe Associated Press

It was in a blizzard in a remote area near the Arizona-New Mexico border that a team of biologists opened the gates to three pens, letting loose 11 Mexican gray wolves that had the distinction of being the first of their kind to roam the wild in decades.

Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of that initial release of the endangered predators.

In the months following the 1998 release, five wolves were poached and the remaining animals had to be captured and paired with new mates before being released again.

The population has fluctuated over the last two decades, only recently reaching a high of 114 wolves.

The tortured and costly effort to return Mexican wolves to the American Southwest and Mexico has been fraught with much frustration fueled by a flurry of lawsuits, poaching and livestock deaths.

Official Seeks Cheaper Expansion For University HospitalThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The head of the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center says officials should consider less costly alternatives to expanding its Albuquerque hospital.

The Albuquerque Journal reports university regents last year decided to proceed with architectural planning of a new 120-bed medical facility that has been estimated to cost up to $250 million.

Dr. Paul Roth told regents last week that they should look into less expensive options to address the current hospital's bed shortage.

Roth says he's not convinced of the reliability of financial projections for the next five to 10 years. He says the university needs a clearer revenue picture.

University officials say the request for hospital architectural and planning proposals was issued last fall and a firm should be selected in the next 60 days.

New Mexico Officials Say Be Prepared For A Severe Fire SeasonAssociated Press

New Mexico is dry and the spring winds are already in full force, resulting in what authorities say is the perfect recipe for a potentially severe fire season.

Dozens of state and federal land managers along with officials from New Mexico's largest city and surrounding communities gathered Tuesday in Albuquerque to issue a warning to residents around the state.

Crews have responded to more than 140 fires that have charred roughly 50 square miles of state and private land since January. That's nearly more than was burned all of last year.

State forestry officials say 80 of the fires were reported in March alone.

In the cottonwood forest along Albuquerque's stretch of the Rio Grande, crews have been working to clear out overgrown and dead vegetation to reduce the risk.

New Mexico Outlines Future Limits On Federal Campaign Cash Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico election regulators are providing guidance for future political candidates who seek to transfer money from a federal campaign account to run for state office.

New Mexico Secretary of State's Office spokesman Joey Keefe said Monday that the guidance responds to a judge's request in a dispute about Republican Congressman Steve Pearce's access to a years-old stockpile of campaign cash as he runs for governor.

Detailed conclusions of law were submitted to the judge on Friday by attorneys for Pearce and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. They aim to prevent federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico campaign finance law.

A federal district court judge is considering a proposed settlement that allows Pearce to use nearly $1 million in campaign cash he stockpiled while in Congress.

Navajo-Owned Company To Fix Road To Access Abandoned MinesAssociated Press

A small Navajo-owned company has been awarded a contract to upgrade a road needed to clean up abandoned uranium mine sites on the reservation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the nearly $920,000 contract this week to Clawson Excavating Inc. The company will improve a road in Cove that leads to 32 former mining sites.

The improvements include modifying the road slope, stabilizing the surface and controlling erosion. The work is expected to take 60 days.

The contract is funded through a roughly $1 billion settlement with the successor of a company that extensively mined the area. Mining companies extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium on and around the reservation for Cold War weaponry.

Testing has revealed high concentrations of uranium in the soil and groundwater.

Judge Restores $7.3M For Navajo Nation's Head Start Program Associated Press

A federal court has restored $7.3 million to the Navajo Nation for its Head Start program.

The ruling Tuesday came in a lawsuit the tribe filed alleging it was denied an opportunity to appeal a cut in federal grant funding.

The tribe has received about $23 million annually in recent years for its Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

But the U.S. Health and Human Services Department cut the amount to under $16 million because of chronic under-enrollment.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled Tuesday that the agency cannot reduce funding without giving the tribe a chance to appeal and a full hearing. She restored the funding that had been cut.

Messages left late Tuesday with the Health and Human Services Department weren't immediately returned.

Carlsbad Caverns Visitors Stranded By Elevator MalfunctionAssociated Press

It took a rescue team more than three hours to hoist up three visitors who were stranded after one of the elevators at Carlsbad Caverns National Park malfunctioned.

Park officials provided details of the rescue Tuesday, a day after the visitors became stuck 740 feet below the surface.

The team set up rigging in the elevator hoist way and used harnesses to pull each visitor through the escape hatch and transfer them to another working elevator.

There were no injuries reported.

Officials say it appears a cable that sends signals to the elevator controls was worn and caused the problem.

The southern New Mexico park has been working in recent years to repair and modernize its elevator system.

With the latest mechanical issue, the park has no elevator service. Visitors can still hike to the caverns through the natural entrance.

WNMU Will Not Increase Student Tuition Next YearSilver City Sun-News, Associated Press

Western New Mexico University will not increase student tuition next year.

The Silver City Sun-News reports Western New Mexico University Board of Regents unanimously approved this week a plan to keep student fees and tuition amounts the same.

But the board voted to move ahead with the capital projects transmittal for underground utilities on campus and with the disposal of depreciated computers.

Regent Chair Jerry Walz says he'd like the board to keep tuition rates the same for a while.

Last week, the University of New Mexico regents voted to increase tuition by 2.5 percent.

Judge Orders Albuquerque To Pay For Records Law ViolationAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico judge has ruled the city of Albuquerque deliberately refused to follow the state public records law and must pay its former police records custodian.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the judge recently ruled the city owes Reynaldo Chavez $100 for each day he went without requested documents, which should have been received by June 2015.

Chavez's attorney, Thomas Grover, says that amount could exceed $100,000.

Chavez was fired from the police department in 2015. A whistleblower lawsuit he filed claims officials ordered him to withhold requested public records.

Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says Mayor Tim Keller's administration is reviewing policies and procedures to ensure transparency in the police department. He says the city is working to comply with the court order.

Sheriff Taps Law Firm For Use-Of-Force ReviewAssociated Press

A law firm that has represented multiple New Mexico law enforcement officers in misconduct cases has been tapped by the sheriff in New Mexico's largest county to review his department's use-of-force and pursuit policies.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales says he and the county attorney have selected the Albuquerque firm Robles, Rael and Anaya for the review. The sheriff is expected to provide a status report stemming from the audit to county commissioners at a meeting next month.

The law firm is led by Luis Robles, who has conducted law enforcement training seminars on use-of-force.

A resolution approved by the commission Tuesday calls for the sheriff to hire a third-party evaluator to review the policies and possibly recommend changes.

It comes as the sheriff's department contends with lawsuits and deadly force cases in recent years.

Authorities, Volunteers Preparing For Holy Week PilgrimageSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Authorities are preparing for an annual journey that brings thousands of travelers to a Roman Catholic shrine in northern New Mexico each year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports most travelers arrive to El Santuario de Chimayo during the Holy Week pilgrimage on Good Friday.

Some travelers are drawn to the rural village to view Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, a crucifix that, according to legend, was discovered at the site on Easter Week in the early 1800s. Some are drawn to the holy dirt, believed to have healing powers.

Some make the trek to visit another chapel nearby and pay homage to Santo Niño de Atocha, patron saint of those unjustly imprisoned or in peril.

New Mexico State Police and the state Department of Transportation work to keep the travelers safe on highways, while volunteers stationed along the route provide water and snacks.