KUNM

Laura Paskus

Independent Journalist
Sandia National Laboratories

Although the wind energy industry in the United States is below the peak it hit three years ago, 2011 was still a pretty good year.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual market report, last year, wind power accounted for about one-third of the nation’s new sources of electricity.  And much of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year came from domestic factories.

Almost three-quarters of the wind turbines, towers, blades, and generators were made within the U.S.  That number is double what it was in 2005.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

UPDATED 8/12/12. 3:15 pm

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rescinded its lethal removal order for AF1188. The agency has agreed to allow the Arizona-based Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center to provide permanent sanctuary to the female wolf.

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Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in Albuquerque ordered the killing of a Mexican Gray Wolf whose pack is responsible for the killing of four head of cattle within the past year.

New Mexico State Forestry Division / NMEMRD

This week, an American icon celebrates his birthday: Smokey Bear is turning 68.

He’s still a spry old guy, kept alive by the Ad Council and the US Forest Service. It’s New Mexico’s forests that have been taking a hammering. In 2011, the Las Conchas Fire was the largest in state history. Then this year, the Whitewater-Baldy Fire in the Gila National Forest doubled its record. This summer also saw the state’s most destructive wildfire, the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso.

But believe it or not, there’s good news.

EcoFlight / http://ecoflight.org/

On Thursday, 33 organizations asked the state’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to create a new "clean energy standard" to reduce carbon emissions in New Mexico.

The groups include the American Lung Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility  and a number of environmental organizations.

Under the standard, utilities could choose to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by three percent each year.

US Bureau of Reclamation

A legal battle over water in the lower Rio Grande has New Mexico accusing the federal government of trying to take control of the state’s groundwater.

In a filing in the Third District Court in Las Cruces recently, the Bureau of Reclamation said it should be able to pump groundwater when it needs to deliver water in the Rio Grande to downstream users, such as farmers.

That raised the hackles of New Mexico state legislators, and others, including the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. That office controls the state’s groundwater.

Greg Lundeen / NOAA/CreativeCommons

The journal Science has just published a new study from scientists at Harvard University showing how a rise in global temperatures is helping to destroy the ozone layer.

Drilling delayed at Kirtland

Jul 29, 2012
U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Berenger

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the drilling of monitoring wells at Kirtland Air Force Base has been delayed until later this year. The monitoring wells are being drilled in order to determine the extent of contamination from a leak of about 24 million gallons of jet fuel.

One of the two contractors drilling the wells has gone out of business.

According to the story, available online:

USDA, Gila National Forest

Even after the flames have died down, the impacts of a wildfire persist. Without tree and grass roots to absorb rainfall and hold soil in place, flooding can be a big problem.

In the wake of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire—which burned almost 300,000 acres in southwestern New Mexico—officials in the Gila National Forest have been working to get ahead of the summer rains and next year’s snowmelt.

Taos Land Trust

In northern New Mexico, a sacred site has been returned to its indigenous community.

On  July 14, the Taos Land Trust officially transferred the Ponce de León Hot Springs to the Pueblo of Taos.

Now, the springs will be protected from any future development and also remain open to the general public. “This kind of partnership is very rare in the conservation community,” says Patricia Quintana, executive director of Taos Land Trust.

The land trust had purchased the 44-acre parcel in 1997 to save the springs from private development and create a public park.

Santa Fe National Forest plans to release travel map

Jul 23, 2012
USFS

The Santa Fe National Forest is expected to come out with a map this fall that tells visitors where they can and cannot travel with motorized vehicles such as trucks and all terrain vehicles.

All national forests are required to create what are called "travel management plans" to control the impacts of motorized vehicles on natural resources.

Cibola County added to list of drought disaster areas

Jul 19, 2012
Craig D. Allen , USGS

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added a New Mexico county to its list of primary natural disaster areas due to drought and excessive heat.

Cibola County joins 39 counties in eight states in the latest designation Wednesday.

In all, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared nearly 1,300 counties in 29 states as disaster areas during the current crop year. Much of New Mexico and the Southwest is already on the list.

Laura Paskus/KUNM

The monsoon rains arrived this month, but it’s still hot and dry in New Mexico.

The ongoing drought is placing stress on the state’s rivers and streams, including the Rio Grande. And while cities and farmers still receive their shares of water, each summer, one user gets left out—the Rio Grande itself. Like it has every summer for the past decade, the Rio Grande downstream of Albuquerque is drying.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

On July 6, law enforcement officials from Arizona Game and Fish Department recovered the body of Mexican Gray Wolf. The carcass was found near Big Lake in the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests.

The carcass is that of AM806, an adult male wolf that was released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in 2006. The recovery area includes 4.4 million acres in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico and Arizona’s Apache National Forest.

This is the third wolf death documented within the recovery area this year.

US Forest Service / Creative Commons

About an hour north of Albuquerque, the Jemez  Mountains are popular with hikers, fly fishermen, and pretty much anyone else looking for a mountain escape. The mountains have also been grazed, logged, and recently, hit hard by wildfire—Cerro Grande in 2000 and Las Conchas in 2011.

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project

As the natural gas boom has spread to the eastern United States, the term “fracking” has become common in news reports coming out of Pennsylvania and New York.  But fracking has been a part of New Mexico’s history for decades.

After all, fracking is not a new technology. Halliburton pioneered hydraulic fracturing, as it’s officially known, in the 1940s. And it has been used around New Mexico for decades.

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