TUES: O'Keeffe Museum Plans $60M Expansion, Hot Weather On Tap This Week, + More

Jun 8, 2021


Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Plans Expansion Project At New SiteSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Officials at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe have announced plans to build a facility large enough to fill an entire city block.

The new 54,000-square-foot museum will be built on the site of a former Safeway grocery store, which is currently occupied by the museum's Education Center and Prima Title, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported. It is estimated to cost $60 million.

Museum officials are expected to announce the plan publicly this week at an online neighborhood notification meeting required by the city for certain construction projects. The expansion project has been in the works since the museum opened in 1997, but the expansion evolved into relocation in recent years.

Museum Director Cody Hartley said the existing museum will become an annex, but officials could later decide to not use the current building.

"The organization has grown and grown and grown, and our facility has not kept up," Hartley said. "This future building will sustain us for years."

Hartley said he hopes to pull demolition permits by the end of the year, with design work taking up most of 2022. Construction is expected to begin shortly after, with a possible opening date in 2024.

The museum opened in 1997 with 40 O'Keeffe paintings. It obtained additional paintings in 2006 from the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation.

"This little museum had to prove itself so that museums could trust us with their works," said Hartley, who joined the museum in 2013 and became its director in 2019. "Now we are a leading American museum, internationally known and highly regarded for our expertise. We are among the smallest accredited museums by the American Alliance of Museums."

Gluckman Tang Architects of New York City designed the original Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and was also tasked with presenting a design for the new museum. Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the landscape architect, and Thinc Design of New York is the exhibit design firm.

"We have been quietly working away," Hartley said. "We haven't made any huge announcements."

Forecasters Warn Of Hot Temperatures For New MexicoAssociated Press

Forecasters with the National Weather Service said Tuesday that New Mexico is in for a stretch of hot weather.

They warned that a heat advisory may be needed for parts of eastern New Mexico from Roswell up to Clovis and Tucumcari later this week. Temperatures across the plains are expected to reach the triple digits while parts of the Rio Grande Valley will see highs well into the 90s.

An upper level pressure system is to blame for the high temperatures, but forecasters say a front that is expected to push into the state could bring with it thunderstorms and moisture for the weekend and take the edge off the heat wave.

New Mexico also was inundated with smoke from wildfires burning in neighboring Arizona. Air quality advisories were issued Monday and Tuesday due to the haze that was blanketing parts of the state.

US Senator Weighs In On New Mexico Stream Access Fight - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is weighing in on a long-running dispute in New Mexico over public access to rivers and streams that flow through private property.

The Democratic lawmaker is taking aim at a rule adopted by the state Game Commission in 2018 that gives landowners the ability to petition state wildlife officials to certify waters on private property as "non-navigable" and prohibit public access without written permission.

The commission is scheduled to consider a handful of landowner applications at a special meeting June 18. Heinrich is asking that those applications be denied.

In a letter sent to the commission, Heinrich said that the New Mexico Supreme Court decades ago ruled that small streams in the state are fishing streams to which the public has access as long as people do not trespass on private property along the banks of those waterways.

"This rule leaves no room for the commission to give wealthy landowners control over every stream, river and watercourse in New Mexico," he wrote.

In a petition filed with the state Supreme Court last year, a coalition of outdoor groups argued that it's not up to the commission to determine whether waterways should be classified as "non-navigable" because water policy and law are beyond its scope.

The groups maintain that the New Mexico Constitution specifies that the unappropriated water of every stream in the state belongs to the public and whether a river or stream is navigable makes no difference.

The court has not yet ruled on the groups' request to invalidate the commission's non-navigable rule.

Public access laws vary widely across the western U.S. states. In Montana, courts over the years have expanded the public's right to use steams that cross private land. But access is prohibited in Colorado without the landowners' permission.

Next week's special meeting in New Mexico was prompted by a federal court ruling that called for the commission to take action on the applications. The court noted that the commission has the discretion to accept, reject or take any other action to resolve the applications.

Heinrich said if the applications are denied, landowners or the commission would not be prohibited from trying to force a change in law to restrict access.

Several of the state's attorneys general also have issued opinions on the matter over the years.

Most recently, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas' office sent a letter to the commission in 2019 that concluded any language in the rule that attempted to prohibit access to the public waters was unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Biden Nominee For Public Lands Boss Faces GOP Opposition - By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

President Joe Biden's nominee to oversee vast expanses of U.S. public lands was criticized Tuesday by Republicans over her past involvement in partisan politics as a longtime Democratic aide and environmentalist, underscoring the importance lawmakers assign to a relatively small agency with broad influence over energy development and agriculture in western states.

Senate confirmation of Tracy Stone-Manning to direct the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would mark a stark change from the government's catering to oil and gas interests under former President Donald Trump.

It would take every Senate Republican plus at least one Democratic lawmaker to block her nomination. So far no Democratic defectors have emerged.

The land bureau has been in staffing turmoil after four years without a confirmed director and losing nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation after its headquarters was relocated from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Interior Department officials confirmed Tuesday that only three workers ultimately relocated to Grand Junction. The revelation, first reported by the media outlet Colorado Newsline, marks the latest example of the heavy toll on the federal workforce from a broad reorganization of federal agencies under Trump, which left agencies hobbled as they regulated industry and conducted climate research.

With roughly 9,000 employees, the land bureau has jurisdiction over 245 million acres of federally owned land in Western states, managing them for uses ranging from fossil fuel extraction, renewable power development and grazing, to recreation and wilderness.

Before joining the National Wildlife Federation four years ago, Stone-Manning worked as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and supported him through his failed attempt to unseat Montana Sen. Steve Daines.

During a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Republicans lambasted her role as treasurer and board member of the environmental group Montana Conservation Voters, which ran ads against Daines. The Republicans also raised concerns she would impede energy development.

"You've been incredibly partisan in your past," said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. "It seems like from your heart, you really don't care for Republicans."

Stone-Manning, from Missoula in western Montana, said her deceased Republican parents would be "rolling in their graves" over the allegation of partisanship. She indicated she wanted to move on from the 2020 election and said working in a collaborative manner was the only way to make progress in the West's contentious public lands debates.

"Elections can be tough. I was supporting my former boss, Gov. Bullock. But the election is over, and I will honor the outcome of that election," she said.

Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper asked Stone-Manning about the headquarters relocation, saying the move was "done in haste" and let down employees of the land bureau and the city of Grand Junction, which hoped for an economic boost.

Stone-Manning said the Interior Department was reviewing the issue but gave no further details. Interior officials were unable to immediately say how many positions at the Grand Junction office remain unfilled.

At the National Wildlife Federation Stone-Manning led the group's efforts to preserve public lands in the West for wildlife, hiking, hunting and other nonindustrial uses.

She was previously an aide to Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and worked for a nonprofit group that pushed the clean up one of the country's largest contaminated Superfund sites, Montana's Clark Fork River.

Tester introduced Stone-Manning at Tuesday's hearing and rejected the GOP description of her as an ideologue.

"She is a good person with a good heart who understands the value of our public lands," Tester said.

Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall questioned Stone-Manning on whether she had a conflict of interest in receiving a personal loan of $50,000 to $100,000 in 2008 while working on Tester's staff. Financial disclosure filings showed she received the 12-year loan from Missoula developer Stuart Goldberg at a 6% interest rate, which Marshall said was below the 11 % going rate for consumer loans at that time.

Stone-Manning responded that she had been "smacked by the recession and a friend loaned us some money to make sure we could get through."

"We honored the loan," she added.

The land management bureau's director post went unfilled for four years under Trump, who instead relied on a string of acting directors to execute a loosening of restrictions on industry. Chief among them was conservative lawyer William Perry Pendley, who before he took the position advocated for selling off federal lands.

Pendley was ordered removed by a federal judge after leading the bureau for more than year without required Senate confirmation and getting sued by Bullock.

Stone-Manning backed the effort to oust Pendley and said he was an illegal appointee.

She would serve under Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a former Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico who was confirmed over opposition from Republicans citing her criticisms of the oil and gas industry.

Albuquerque To Launch Plan To Invest In Black Businesses - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The mayor of Albuquerque plans to release details this month of a plan to invest $1 million in the city's Black community.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that Mayor Tim Keller will elaborate on the investment program during the city's Juneteenth Festival.

It's been a year since Keller first proposed funding for Black-owned businesses in response to the racial reckoning sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

The proposal was approved by the Albuquerque City Council after lengthy talks about how the money would be allocated.

Sarah Wheeler, a city spokeswoman, told the newspaper the city has been working closely with the Black business community and other partners on a plan.

The One Albuquerque Fund, a foundation supported by the city, will be tasked with administering the grants.

Pandemic Ruling: State Not Obligated To Compensate Business - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that there is no constitutional or statutory requirement to compensate businesses for financial losses due to emergency public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ruling in favor of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham scuttles about 20 lawsuits against her administration.

The original plaintiffs argued that aggressive health restrictions from the administration constituted a regulatory taking much like the taking of land for public works projects. The governor urged the Supreme Court to block the lawsuits.

In a unanimous opinion from Justice Shannon Bacon, the court said that current public health orders "are a reasonable exercise of the police power to protect the public health."

"Occupancy limits and closure of certain categories of businesses, while certainly harsh in their economic effects, are directly tied to the reasonable purpose of limiting the public's exposure to the potentially life-threatening and communicable disease," the decision said.

The high court noted that the Public Health Emergency Response Act does provide for compensation for the emergency appropriation from businesses of health care supplies, a health facility or any other property.

New Mexico's emergency health restrictions have been among the most aggressive in the nation, shutting down in-person learning at K-12 schools for more than a year, intermittently closing in-person restaurant service and locking down many public venues and non-essential businesses for months on end.

At the same time, Lujan Grisham also has signed into law a variety of grants, loans and tax breaks for businesses. State finance authorities are currently fielding applications for up to $500 million in minimal-interest loans for small businesses and $200 million in development grants designed to underwrite new employment in the private sector.

The largest proposed relief measure for businesses remains in limbo after Lujan Grisham vetoed a $600 million contribution of federal aid to the state unemployment insurance trust to avoid future payroll tax increases.

A. Blair Dunn, an attorney for a coalition of small businesses ranging from an amusement park to a rural auction house, accused the state Supreme Court of overstepping its authority in denying compensation to businesses.

Oral arguments took place at the Supreme Court in January, with New Mexico mired in high infection rates as initial doses of the vaccine were deployed.

Gay Albuquerque Councilors Say Pride Event Excluded Them Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is facing criticism for failing to include two openly gay city councilors at a recent Pride month event.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that neither Pat Davis nor Diane Gibson was present last week when Keller raised a rainbow flag, a symbol of Pride, outside City Hall with members of the LGBTQ community.

Both Davis and Gibson confirmed that they were not invited.

Davis tweeted "Inclusivity is not a photo op."

Gibson told the newspaper she did not expect to be invited because Keller has a history of not including her at events in her own district.

Lorena Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said anyone was welcome to the public flag event. She says the city shared the event details with various LGBTQ organizations who then promoted it.

US Wildlife Managers Tout Wolf Cross-Fostering Efforts - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A record 22 captive-born Mexican gray wolf pups have been placed into dens in the wild in the southwestern U.S. to be raised by surrogate packs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.

The agency called this year's cross-fostering season a success, saying the endangered predators that have been part of the fostering program over the last six years have helped to boost genetic diversity among the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona.

Officials said that over the last two months, nine pups were fostered into three different packs in eastern Arizona and 13 were placed with five packs in western New Mexico. Last year, 20 pups were placed into dens in the wild.

Jim deVos, the Mexican wolf coordinator with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said in a statement that the fostering program is built on partnerships with private organizations that are part of a nationwide captive breeding effort.

The captive-born pups came from litters at facilities in New Mexico, Texas and Missouri.

"Without this important partnership, genetic recovery would be essentially impossible," he said. "Importantly, we are now seeing Mexican wolves that have been fostered producing litters themselves."

Cross-fostering involves placing pups less than 14 days old from captive breeding populations into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised as wild wolves. Officials said cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate — about 50% — as wild-born pups in their first year of life.

According to the wolf recovery team, at least 12 of the wolves fostered over the years are still alive and surviving in the wild. Seven of these wolves have reached breeding age and four have subsequently produced pups in the wild.

Since pups are too young to mark when fostered, officials said only those that are recaptured can be confirmed as being alive, so it's likely more have survived.

Some environmentalists questioned those numbers and said cross-fostering doesn't go far enough to put the species on track for recovery. The Center for Biological Diversity is among those pushing for wildlife managers to release breeding pairs along with their pups as bonded family packs.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity suggested that captive-born, well-bonded packs released into the wild have a lower mortality and disappearance rate than cross-fostered pups. He also raised concerns about illegal killings, noting that the fate of many of the 50 pups placed into wild dens between 2016 and 2020 is unknown.

"Aside from whatever is ailing cross-fostered pups in the short term, (the Fish and Wildlife Service's) failure to address illegal killing casts a pall on genetic conservation of released wolves no matter what manner of release is employed," Robinson said in an email.

The most recent survey of Mexican wolves determined there were at least 186 of the animals spread between New Mexico and Arizona. Over the last five years, the wild population has nearly doubled.

Meanwhile, ranchers in the recovery area have said they are continuing to see more livestock killed by the wolves despite efforts to scare the animals away. They have been vocal with their opposition to more wolf releases, including one planned at Ted Turner's ranch in southwestern New Mexico.