The Conservation Beat

NM Quickly Reverses Decision to Drop Trail Funding

Aug 31, 2012

New Mexico has reversed its decision to pull out of a program that provides money to build, improve and maintain recreational trails.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation had informed the Federal Highway Administration on Wednesday that it was opting out of the Recreational Trails Program.

A day later, Transportation Secretary Alvin Dominguez wrote to the FHA saying he had reconsidered and would accept grant funds this year.

Owls put a stop to Las Cruces trail project

Aug 20, 2012
Alan Vernon via Flickr

The discovery of a nest of protected burrowing owls has brought work on a trail extension in Las Cruces to a screeching halt.

The 4.5 mile extension of the pedestrian and bike path bike was expected to be done by this month but the discovery forced city officials to stop work immediately.

Burrowing owns are considered a protected species in New Mexico and are listed as endangered in Canada.

Environmental groups oppose SF Forest road plan

Jul 2, 2012

The majority of roads in the Santa Fe National Forest will now be closed to motorized travel, according to the Albuquerque Journal. But two environmental groups say the plan still leaves too much of the forest open to vehicle traffic.

The Record of Decision came after nearly six years of analysis and public comment. The Forest Service evaluated more than 7,000 miles of roads and trails and designated about 2,400 miles where motorized travel will be allowed. It also prohibited off-road motorized travel.

Little Bear Fire 95 Percent Contained

Jun 29, 2012

A New Mexico wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is now 95 percent contained as crews finish mopping up around the fire's perimeter.

Crews demobilized some equipment Friday as they restored containment lines around the 69-square-mile Little Bear fire to a more natural state. Firefighters were also able to take advantage of rain on the blaze's southern end.

The lightning-caused fire is burning near Ruidoso and started June 4.

Businesses in Ruidoso are open despite some road closures due to fire operations.

DOE proposes storing tons of mercury near WIPP site

Jun 26, 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy is eying two sites in Eddy County to store 10,000 metric tons of mercury (about 22 million pounds). A site in West Texas was DOE’s preferred storage spot, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus. But now the federal agency is exploring two locations near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

Jody Knox, president of the Carlsbad Department of Development, said her board supports the proposal.

On Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will be hosting a public meeting about a proposed uranium deconversion plant near Hobbs, N.M.

In 2009, International Isotopes submitted an application to the NRC, which oversees the nation’s nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities. At the proposed Fluorine Extraction Process and Depleted Uranium Deconversion Plant, depleted uranium hexafluoride will be “deconverted” into fluorine products for commercial sale.

Laura Paskus / KUNM

UPDATE 6/22 6:00AM: 

A wildfire in a wooded area along the Rio Grande on the northern edge of New Mexico's largest city has charred about 360 acres. Authorities say the fire continues to burn on both the east and west sides of the river but is a combined 50 percent contained.

State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said Thursday that the Romero fire hasn't burned any structures since it began Wednesday afternoon. Its cause remains under investigation.

Group concerned about NM bear management

Jun 20, 2012

Conservationists are accusing state wildlife managers of trying to eliminate the black bear population in the mountains that border Albuquerque.

Sandia Mountain BearWatch contends state Game and Fish Department logs show the agency has trapped and either removed or killed 49 bears between 2010 and 2011.

The group accuses the agency of trying to remove the animals to reduce the number of nuisance calls.

The agency disputes the accusations, saying the number of bears removed or killed by vehicles stands at less than 20 for the two years.

Sentencing reset for men in Arizona wildfire case

Jun 18, 2012

The sentencing hearing for two cousins charged with accidentally causing the largest wildfire in Arizona history has been reset.

Caleb Malboeuf and David Malboeuf were scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Flagstaff.

Defense attorneys say they need more time to prepare arguments in support of probation with substantial community service.

The Malboeufs each face up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The new sentencing date is Aug. 22.

Gila fire prompts rescue of threatened fish

Jun 18, 2012

Biologists are trying to save a threatened trout species in southwestern New Mexico, even as crews around the West struggle to contain blazes that have charred hundreds of square miles of forested countryside.

The concern is that after the fires, summer rains could choke waterways with ash, soil and charred debris. A team is using electroshocking devices to temporarily stun the Gila (HEE'-luh) trout. The fish are then scooped up and ferried to a hatchery in northern New Mexico for safe keeping.

EPA sets tighter standards for soot pollution

Jun 18, 2012

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new air quality standards to lower the amount of soot allowed from diesel trucks, buses, power plants and other sources.

The long-delayed rule responds to a court order that required the Obama administration to update air quality standards under the Clean Air Act.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an endangered species.

The decision was announced today in Washington, DC by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.


A proposal to create the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area has taken a small step forward.  A House subcommittee heard testimony on the measure, sponsored by Representative Ben Ray Lujan.  It now goes to the full committee for markup. Questa mayor Esther Garcia spoke at the hearing. A corresponding bill, sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman, has already been sent to the Senate floor.


The federal Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward on a set of rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants. Because the rule would have no effect on existing plants, New Mexico will be largely unaffected. But Shrayas Jatkar with Sierra Club New Mexico,  says as the state has been repealing its own rules to limit carbon emissions, this development sends an important message. Jatkar says the Sierra Club will be working to inform residents about the rule during the 60 day comment period that begins now.