Groups Sue To Protect Prairie Chicken, Kirtland AFB Gets Upgrade For 'Space Defense'

Jun 12, 2019

Groups Sue To Force Federal Protections For Prairie ChickensAssociated Press

Three conservation groups are suing the federal government to force it to protect the lesser prairie chicken and its habitats.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia by the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.

The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service has not done enough to protect the bird. The groups want the agency to determine whether the lesser prairie chicken is a threatened or endangered species.

The Interior Department said it cannot comment on pending litigation. The bird was listed as threatened in 2014 but a federal court overturned the designation.

The bird roams parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, but the groups said fewer than 38,000 remain.

Man Arrested In Albuquerque Killing Of Native American WomanAssociated Press

Albuquerque police have arrested a man in the 2017 killing of a Native American woman who was fatally stabbed and found decapitated in a ditch.

Police and court records say 31-year-old Andrew Garcia Jr. was arrested Monday and remained jailed Wednesday on suspicion of murder in the killing of 39-year-old Audra Wills.

Her death stirred concern among advocates for the homeless and Native American community in Albuquerque.

Police say two friends of Garcia, 30-year-old Eric Emerson and 33-year-old Damaris Marquez, were arrested on suspicion of tampering with evidence. They're accused of disposing of Willis' body.

Court records don't list defense attorneys who could comment on the allegations.

Deputy Police Chief Art Gonzalez said the arrests capped "a long and arduous investigation" and he credited the lead detective for persevering.

Flood Warning Issued For San Juan River In New MexicoAssociated Press

A flood warning is in effect along the San Juan River in rural northwestern New Mexico due to releases of runoff from Navajo Dam.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday its warning is in effect between Navajo Dam and Bloomfield in San Juan County until Thursday evening.

According to the weather service, that river was cresting Wednesday morning but was expected to gradually fall below flood stage.

The county Office of Emergency Management says there's a possibility of minor flooding that "it is not expected to be a great impact."

The office says it is discouraging recreational activities on the river due to swift flows, debris and impassible bridges.

The dam is 55 miles east of Farmington.

Records Show Unused Route 66 Bus Stops Cost Albuquerque $300KKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Unused bus stops for a delayed rapid transit system along Route 66 in Albuquerque are costing the city hundreds of thousands to maintain.

KOAT-TV reports records show the city of Albuquerque spent more than $300,000 to maintain the empty bus stops. The money was used to pick the garbage, power wash and for electricity at 19 bus stops.

Albuquerque's bus system spokesman Rick De Reyes says the city has an obligation to keep the empty stops clean.

The multimillion-dollar Albuquerque Rapid Transit, known as ART, was supposed to be running by the end of 2017 but it has yet to launch.

The city recently shipped more than a dozen electric buses back to the manufacturer after Albuquerque officials said they weren't working properly.

Maine Could Push To Change Way President Gets ElectedAssociated Press

Maine's House is breathing new life into a proposal to join states pledging to award Electoral College tallies to the national popular vote winner in presidential elections.

The House voted 77-69 Wednesday to join the National Vote Interstate Compact. Enough Democrats flipped from an earlier vote to keep the bill alive.

The agreement would only kick in when enough states join to reach 270 electoral votes.

Now, Maine's proposal faces action in the Senate, which has favored it.

To date, over a dozen states representing roughly 200 votes have joined the compact. Governors in New Mexico, Delaware, and Colorado signed legislation this year, while Oregon lawmakers passed such a bill.

Critics say big cities would wield all the power. Supporters say candidates would still need suburban and rural voters' support.

US Air Force Base Gets Upgrade For 'Space Defense' - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The U.S. Air Force has begun construction on a facility at Kirtland Air Force Base that officials say will play a role in the proposed "space defense."

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Air Force Research Laboratory's $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory will consolidate efforts on the New Mexico base.

The new facility will include office and lab space for 65 civilian and military contractors. It will contain a 5,000 square-foot high-bay laboratory space and more than 5,000 square feet of secure office, laboratory and meeting space.

Air Force Col. Eric Felt says space is now "a war-fighting domain."

President Donald Trump has proposed creating a new U.S. Space Force — a plan that has hit widespread resistance on Capitol Hill.

Police Arrest Motorcyclist Accused Of Pride Crosswalk Damage - Associated Press

Albuquerque police have arrested a motorcyclist days after they say he vandalized a rainbow-colored crosswalk ahead of the city's PrideFest.

A criminal complaint says 31-year-old Anthony Morgan faced charges Tuesday that include felony criminal property damage. Video showed a couple bikers taking turns burning rubber over the crosswalk on June 5.

The crosswalk on a stretch of Historic Route 66 near the University of New Mexico cost the city $30,000 to install as a sign of inclusiveness for the city's LGBT community.

Police say they received tips saying Morgan was part of a motorcycle group known as the Malicious Riders.

Video shows the riders who burned their tires on the crosswalk were among about 40 who slowed down at the intersection.

It was not immediately known if Morgan had an attorney.

State Senator Completes Prison Sentence In Corruption Case - Associated Press

A former New Mexico state senator whose conviction on corruption-related criminal charges helped spur state ethics oversight reforms has been released from prison.

Former Democratic Sen. Phil Griego was released Tuesday on parole from a state corrections facility in Los Lunas. Griego began his sentence in March 2018 after convictions at trial on fraud, bribery and ethical violations for using his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state-owned building in Santa Fe. Later guilty pleas to embezzlement and perjury charges lengthened his prison stay.

The convictions added to a string of high-profile corruption scandals involving public officials in New Mexico.

Voters in 2018 approved the creation of an independent state ethics commission to oversee the conduct of public officials, lobbyists and government contractors.

New Mexico Pays $700K In Prison Workers Discrimination Suit - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico has agreed to pay $700,000 to state prison workers who claimed they were discriminated against because of their age and faced retaliation after reporting the allegations.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the settlement agreement filed last week allows the state Corrections Department to deny the allegations while agreeing to two years of monitoring.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supervisor trial attorney Loretta Medina says about 70 employees will get a share of the settlement.

According to the complaint, two employees at the Los Lunas prison claimed they were passed up for a promotion or a job change because of their ages. They claimed the prison promoted and hired younger, less experienced employees.

State Corrections Department officials did not return the newspaper's calls and emails Monday.

New Mexico Proposes New Cap On Cannabis Production - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico is proposing new cannabis production rules designed to shore up supplies to its medical marijuana program without flooding the rapidly expanding market.

The Department of Health published a proposal Tuesday to limit medical cannabis cultivation to 1,750 mature plants per licensed producer.

Immature seedlings shorter than 8 inches won't count toward the limit so that producers can experiment with plant strains.

The production cap could increase starting in June 2021 if demands outstrip supplies.

Participation in the state's medical cannabis program has grown rapidly in recent years after chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder were added to a list of qualifying medical conditions. Last week, the list was expanded to include opioid use disorder, Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorder and several degenerative neurological disorders.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Targeting School District Policy - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that claimed a New Mexico school district was discriminating against charter school students by excluding them from its campus events.

The Gallup Independent reports the judge ruled last week that Gallup-McKinley County Schools' exclusion policy was "rationally related to its promotion of safety" and not intentional discrimination.

The ruling noted the policy applied to all students outside the district's nine regular schools.

Parents of Middle College High School students filed a lawsuit in August 2018, claiming the policy "singled out and intentionally discriminated" against their students.

The lawsuit sought to stop the policy that barred charter school students from district events like dances and pep rallies.

The parents' attorney, David Jordan, says they were disappointed by the ruling and will likely pursue an appeal.

New Mexico City Famous For UFO Event Trademarks New Logo - Associated Press

A New Mexico city known for its proximity to arguably the most famous UFO event in the United States has trademark protection for its alien-inspired logo.

The city of Roswell said Tuesday it received its requested trademark certification from the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office.

The new bright green logo includes the silhouette of a flying saucer within the letter "R."

The trademark will be in effect for 10 years and can be renewed when it nears expiration.

Officials say the logo is protected from unauthorized use by other entities or individuals. That will ensure it remains unique to Roswell, providing an identifiable graphic that people will associate with the city.

The site of a supposed UFO crash in 1947, Roswell has an annual extraterrestrial festival that draws thousands.