Happy Earth Day everybody!!!

We know the official day isn’t actually until April 22, but we thought we’d give you a head start. Unfortunately, most in-person Earth Day activities have been canceled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, there are plenty of online gatherings taking place that might be worth more screen time.

The national organization Earth Day Initiative will be hosting several days of virtual talks featuring some very interesting speakers, including Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief for the Paris Agreement; US Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren; and a handful of random actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Could be a good/existentially terrifying time. Either way, we’ll probably check it out.

If you are looking for something closer to home, Santa Fe County is hosting several tree planting events starting today and continuing through the next few weeks. To sign up, visit santafecountynm.gov/earthday.

The Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency is also hosting a free dump day today at the Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station and at the Caja Del Rio Landfill until 4:45 pm. You’re allowed one load of trash and two people per car, and you’ve got to wear a mask.

Other than that, we will probably take some time to plan our summer garden and consider how we can conserve more water by planting drought resistant shrubs and flowers or setting up a rainwater-catchment system. It’s gonna be another hot dry summer and the city has already banned fireworks for the fourth of July. We can only keep our fingers crossed that Zozobra will moan once more and this time we can stand there and feel the heat on our faces. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s all just enjoy the spring and plant some Earth Day seedlings!

Read on for more environment reporting from SFR and others. 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.

Regional News

The Pecos River was named the 5th most endangered river in the US by the national environmental nonprofit American Rivers. The primary reason the Pecos made it so high up on the list is the threat posed by new mining operations by Comexico LLC at the Tererro Mine, though the mining company is still waiting on the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division to approve its exploratory mining application.

Santa Fe City Council approved a plan to replace thousands of streetlights with LED energy efficient bulbs. Some locals raised concerns that the new bulbs would threaten the darkness of Santa Fe’s night skies. The City Council has agreed to gather public input to help determine the allowed brightness of the new bulbs. Starting April 23, you can check out five sites around town where different kinds of lighting will be displayed. Comment before May 10 here.

The state finally released its 2020 Forest Action Plan. The document is updated every 10 years and lays out the direction of the state Forestry Division for the next decade. It includes an emphasis on reforestation and reducing risks from wildfire.

The US Department of Energy released its priorities for 2021 to 2031, which include cleaning up and storing nuclear waste at Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia Labs and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. In its report, the DOE said it expects WIPP to continue to operate beyond 2050, despite local opposition to the site. The DOE also said it was monitoring two groundwater contamination plumes near LANL.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in federal court against the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee over the Holtec Nuclear Waste storage facility. The lawsuit challenges the federal agency’s authority to license the construction of a temporary storage facility in southeastern New Mexico that would hold tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants around the country.

Around the Web

Researchers say Trump’s border wall may have negative long-term environmental consequences because it cuts straight through important wildlife habitats and migration routes in several areas, such as along the San Pedro River in Arizona. Environmental activists are calling for the wall to come down.

Scientists and policy-makers in several Western states are weighing the idea of “water banking,” where holders of water rights could receive credits for conserving water. Proponents of the idea says it gives people an option besides using or selling their water rights, and could help combat increasingly extreme drought conditions across the region. Yet farmers and conservationists in both Colorado and Nevada worry that the proposal could cause even more problems by sharply accelerating the rising costs of water rights.

Texas is already preparing for a second major power crisis in less than a year due to extreme weather, except this time the problem could be summer heat rather than the extreme cold conditions that caused blackouts over the winter.

The Biden administration is pushing for significant environmental justice funding as part of its infrastructure plan. The House of Representative’s Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act is one piece of legislation that acknowledges that low income communities and communities of color suffer disproportionate environmental risks and health problems such as respiratory illnesses.

One positive impact of the pandemic: Nepal’s rhino population has reached its highest numbers in decades, due to the radical decrease in tourist activity in the area.

SFR’s Environment News

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