It's finally starting to feel like summer is almost here, and after two whole months of being stuck at home, public health restrictions are finally starting to lift in New Mexico. Retail stores were allowed to open back up to 25% capacity last week, and restaurants are set to host dine-in meals again on June 1.

State parks have also begun to reopen (though only for day use). Like just about everyone, here at SFR we've been feeling cooped up and can't wait to get out on new adventures. But let's not forget to take extra steps to be mindful of our impact on others and the environment in the process. Let's not trash our state parks the first week they are open or create health hazards for our fellow visitors.

It's the beginning of fire season, and while human-caused fire are never fun, this year they are more dangerous than ever. The Southwest region is going into a major drought, and smoke particulate in the air could exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19 and make it more difficult for infected individuals to overcome the virus. If you do end up backpacking out somewhere you can camp or glamping out on BLM land, don't go starting any fires this season, no matter how tempting a s'more might sound. We've also been hearing anecdotal reports from dog walkers that the poop situation on Santa Fe trails is getting out of hand, which is bad news for our waterways and for city employees who have to clean up after the rest of us.

If you love our environment newsletter, we'd love your help spreading the word! If you've got a story about something happening on the local environmental front that we should know about, write leah@sfreporter.com.

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Regional News

  • The New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Minerals and Natural Resources Department continue with methane rule making despite theCOVID-19 pandemic and plunging oil prices. Some attendants at a recent hearing on the issue argued that the virus has only made the need to address air pollution more pressing, while industry leaders worried that rule making might put more strain on businesses that have already been hit hard by the economic downturn. Methane is a serious air pollutant that is not only far stronger than CO2 in its warming capacities, but is also known to cause respiratory problems.
  • State regulators are considering a petition filed by farmers, environmentalists, and local northern new Mexico officials to protect 200 miles of the Pecos River under the “Outstanding National Resource Waters” designation.
  • After a decade of negotiations, the town of Questa in Northern New Mexico gets $2.3 million in a settlement with a mining company responsible for an old polluted mine in the area. The money will go towards preventing future contamination by improving the town’s water infrastructure, restoration of the Red River aquatic habitat in Questa and the Midnight Meadows wetlands in the Carson National Forest.
  • The moths are out in force this spring, and it seems no matter how carefully you turn out the lights before opening the doors at night or bait them out of your house by turning on a flashlight outside, there still seem to be some clinging to the inside corners of rooms and windows in the morning. Luckily these are not the kind of moths that will eat your clothes, and they are a welcome feast to birds, bears and other wildlife.

Around the Web

  • The Trump administration released a report at the end of April detailing proposals to reopen public lands in the Southwest to uranium mining as part of the administration’s goal to revitalize the nuclear industry. New mining operations would most likely be located in areas around the Grand Canyon. Some Arizona lawmakers are in favor of the proposal, but Havasupai tribal leaders warn that renewed uranium mining in the area could threaten the tribe’s only public water supply. Other areas in the four corners could also be reopened for mining, and one company located in San Juan County could be a recipient of money set aside for new mining in Trump’s 2021 budget proposal. The Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s Environmental Programs Department sent letters to Utah state officials raising concerns about ongoing contamination issues from existing mines near tribal communities.
  • In countries across the world, those who believe governments should restart the economy by investing in renewable energy and green jobs are locked head-to0head in a battle with those that believe governments should restart the economy by salvaging devastated industries such as airlines, oil, and the auto industry. The outcomes of this debate will likely have far reaching consequences for the world of tomorrow. “The battle has started. Its outcome will define the post-pandemic world,” European economist Jean Pisani-Ferry wrote recently for Project Syndicate.
  • Data from the governments indicates that the US will likely produce more electricity from renewable energy this year than from coal for the first time ever. The closure of businesses across the country for the last two months has sharply reduced energy demands, and is partly responsible for this shift, though utilities’ moves to begin phasing out old coal plants has been ongoing for much of the last decade. Natural gas, which is one biproduct of fracking, has fallen in price as oil prices plummet, making it a cheaper option than coal as well.