SAT: Forest Official Cites Rising Risk Of Human-Caused Wildfires, + More

May 9, 2020

Forest Official Cites Rising Risk Of Human-Caused Wildfires -Associated Press

A New Mexico national forest's top administrator says there's an elevated risk of human-caused wildfires due to drying conditions and some visitors' negligence.

Carson National Forest Supervisor James Duran said there's a high fire danger in the 2,340-square-mile forest as it is visited by many people weary of staying at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Duran said that has fire managers concerned about an early start to this year's fire season. He also says patrols last weekend reported crowding in day-use sites and disbursed camping sites in violation of state public health orders on mass gatherings and social distancing.

The forest remains open but its developed campgrounds are closed and campfires and use of charcoal grills are prohibited.

Extreme Lockdown Shows Divide In Hard-Hit Navajo Border Town -Associated Press

Tens of thousands of people living on and around the vast Navajo reservation in the U.S. southwest do their shopping in Gallup, a town of 22,000 people. The town has been locked down because of a coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds.

The effectiveness of the lockdown is up for debate. Infections are still climbing as local hospitals, homeless shelters and nursing homes are reeling from demoralizing outbreaks of their own.

The dividing line traced by roadblocks also is tugging on sensitivities about birthrights and inequities.

Native American visitors worry about the social stigma of being locked out because of the contagion. 

From Oilfields To Food Banks, New Mexico Feels Jobless Sting -Associated Press

New Mexico already was among the most poverty-stricken states in the U.S. before oil prices crashed and the coronavirus outbreak derailed efforts to diversify the economy. Now, more than 130,000 have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut, putting even more pressure on families and food banks.

An army of volunteers helps daily to sort, label and pack tons of food inside a giant warehouse in Albuquerque for distribution to pantries throughout the region as more people seek assistance.

Numbers released Friday show New Mexico saw a nearly 40% increase in unemployment applications for the week ending May 2.

Coronavirus Cases In New Mexico Surpass 4,670; 181 Dead -Associated Press

New Mexico has recorded another 181 coronavirus cases, pushing the statewide total to more than 4,670.

The state Health Department announced the latest numbers Friday, saying there were also nine additional deaths attributed to COVID-19. That includes five deaths in McKinley County, a rural area along the New Mexico-Arizona border that includes Gallup and part of the Navajo Nation.

Despite its lower population, the area has been hit particularly hard and the county leads New Mexico in the number of confirmed cases.

McKinley County accounts for nearly one of every three cases statewide.

Court Overturns Restitution Order For Extradition Costs -Associated Press

A New Mexico court ruling says criminal defendants generally cannot be ordered to pay restitution for costs of being extradited.

A Court of Appeals ruling overturns a restitution order that a woman pay $2,100 to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department for extradition costs in a forgery case.

Natisha George pleaded guilty under an agreement in which other charges were dismissed. But she appealed the restitution order for costs of being returned from New York where she had moved to live with her father.

The Court of Appeals said there wasn't a direct tie between George's criminal conduct and the extradition costs and that extradition costs typically are a non-recoverable cost of administering a system of justice.

GOP Hopeful In Crucial US House Race Skips 1st Radio Debate -Associated Press

The first major debate among GOP hopefuls in a crucial U.S. House race in New Mexico had a noticeable absence – a Republican who skipped debates in 2018 and lost the seat.

Former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell declined Thursday to participate in the debate with two of her opponents on KIVA radio in Albuquerque. Herrel says she did not attend because host Eddy Aragon had endorsed against her.

Aragon said he had endorsed oil executive Claire Chase in the race but always allows candidates equal time on the station.

Herrell lost to U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in 2018 by less than 3,000 votes. 

Audit Slams Española Public Schools' Finances -Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An audit has found a financial takeover of the Española Public School District by state officials in 2016 led to a series of mistakes costing millions of dollars.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the district's annual audit for fiscal year 2019, performed by Las Cruces-based firm Fierro and Fierro, found 17 instances of noncompliance in Española Public Schools' finances. Those findings range from uncashed checks worth more than $140,000 to school accounts not matching New Mexico Public Education Department cash reports.

Department spokeswoman Nancy Martira says the department was still reviewing the findings.

New Mexico State Basketball Coach To Stay For Another Season -Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

New Mexico State's head basketball coach is staying for another year.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports head coach Chris Jans put to rest speculation on Wednesday that he would leave for East Tennessee State.

Jans announced on Twitter that he would return to the Aggies next season. He remains under contract through the 2022-2023 season with an annual base salary of $290,000.

The Fairbank, Iowa, native is now entering his fourth season as New Mexico State's shot-caller with an 83-17 record under his belt.