Morning Word

US Forest Service Report on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire IDs Errors

COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5 now available in NM

Morning Word

Forest Service report IDs errors leading to wildfire

The US Forest Service has acknowledged miscalculations and errors in its actions that led to the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire still burning in Northern New Mexico. An 85-page-report the agency rolled out Tuesday begins with a letter from Chief Randy Moore, who called a pause on all Forest Service prescribed burns on May 20 to evaluate policies. “I cannot overstate how heartbreaking these impacts are on communities and individuals. In the most tragic events, people have lost their lives and it grieves us as agency employees who live and work in these communities,” Moore’s letter reads. The review team found that the personnel assigned to the Las Dispensas Prescribed Fire, which started the Hermits Peak part of the complex fire, followed an approved prescribed fire plan from 2019 when they started the action on April 6, “however, a post-prescribed fire analysis of fuel and weather revealed that the implementation was occurring under much drier conditions than were recognized.” The Calf Canyon part of the blaze demonstrated a type of event that “was nearly unheard of until recently in the century-plus of experience the Forest Service has in working on these landscapes,” Moore wrote, describing how pile burns stayed hot through two snowfalls and freezing temperatures, then re-emerged as wildfire. The report also notes pressure on what it calls the agency’s “competing obligations” to catch up after two years of delays due to “government shutdowns, a global pandemic, and Mexican Spotted Owl regulations” that led to “unrealistic expectations.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham responded to the report Tuesday afternoon. “I am deeply frustrated by the numerous missteps within the Las Dispensas burn identified by this review,” reads a public statement. “It is very difficult to understand how a plan crafted several years ago could be repeatedly re-approved without adjustments or considerations for updated drought conditions, as well as how that plan could be put into place without any immediate data for weather conditions during what New Mexicans know to be a particularly windy time of the year. In addition, it does not appear that anyone involved in this burn was held to account for the significant mistakes made during this burn.” US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, called the findings “incredibly disturbing” and noted “prescribed burns play an important role in forest management. But, this tragedy was avoidable, and the Forest Service should indefinitely suspend prescribed burns until it has fixed the glaring issues described in its report.” The fire has now burned 341,471 acres and is 72% contained. It remains the biggest fire in the state’s history.

Vaccine appointments for children now available in NM

Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday. Following the Saturday approval of the vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pre-ordered doses of Moderna, which requires a two-dose primary series, and Pfizer, a three-dose primary series, began arriving at clinics throughout the state Monday. By June 27, state health official expect 5,000 to 7,500 vaccine doses to arrive and be available for administration. “In addition to protecting those in child care and pre-K settings, vaccines for children under age five will also benefit working parents, employers, and child care providers by lessening disruptions caused by classrooms that are forced to shut down due to close contacts,” Early Childhood Education & Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said in a statement. DOH estimates about 75% of the under-5 vaccines will be given by practitioners or primary care providers. About 2,200 appointments statewide became available Tuesday to schedule online through the Department of Health website: VaccineNM.org, with more pharmacies and providers expected to join the effort soon.

Wage hike proposed as solution for child hunger

More than 5,000 Santa Fe children suffer from food insecurity, and the City of Santa Fe could take direct action to alleviate those conditions, according to a recommendations issued Tuesday by The Food Depot in A Report to the Mayor: Ensuring Every Child in Santa Fe has Access to Sufficient and Nutritious Food. “Food insecurity and hunger are symptoms of poverty, which is a result of income and resource insufficiency. When families cannot meet their basic living requirements of housing, utilities, health care, and transportation, it also affects their ability to purchase fresh produce and other food,” it reads. How can the city help families meet needs? By immediately raising the minimum wage to $17 per hour, for one. Santa Fe already has a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state: its Living Wage Act calls for a current hourly rate of at least $12.95 per hour, with future increases tied to a federal statistic. Though Mayor Alan Webber has talked generally about supporting higher wages in the city, he told SFR last fall lots of work would need to be done before he’d introduce an amendment to the act. “This report is intended to start an important conversation,” said Sherry Hooper, executive director of The Food Depot. “I have worked in food banks for more than 30 years, 20 here at The Food Depot. While that work is extremely rewarding, I recognize that we haven’t moved the needle on hunger. Food banks were founded to provide emergency food assistance to people struggling on a temporary basis. What will it take to truly end hunger for low-income Santa Feans? We may not have the perfect plan. We know that there is more than one way to end poverty. However, our research led us to the solution we discuss in the report.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported June 21:

New cases: 3,055 (including the weekend and Monday); 554,671 total cases

Deaths: Zero; Santa Fe County has had 307 total deaths thus far; there have been 7,883 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 144. Patients on ventilators: 17.

Vaccines for children: Parents and caregivers can register their children or dependents for vaccination by scheduling online at VaccineNM.org and adding them to their own vaccine profile. Parents and caregivers can also call their provider/pharmacy to check for appointments.

Case rates: According to the most recent DOH report on geographical trends for COVID-19, for the seven-day period of June 6-12, Los Alamos County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population in the state: 133.3, followed by Cibola and Grant counties at 75.7 and 75.4, respectively. Santa Fe County has the fifth highest at 64.8.

Community levels: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination for its framework—for the seven-day period of June 9-15, nine counties show high—or “red”—levels—seven more than last week. Twelve counties, including Santa Fe County, are classified as having yellow or “medium” levels. CDC recommendations for individuals and communities based on the community-level rankings can be found here, but include the recommendation for people living in counties with “high” community levels to wear masks indoors and on public transportation. The CDC updates its map every Thursday.

Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

The latest episode of Barrier Free Future on KSFR spotlights a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The podcast on aging and disability issues hosted by Bob Kafka made last year’s Forbes list of “8 Disability Podcasts That Are Well Worth A Listen.” The most recent episode recalls his days of organizing in the 1990s in advance of the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision and interviews Stephen Gold, a retired attorney who has worked in the disability rights movement. Gold, who became disabled himself about four years ago, says the ruling—which came down on June 22, 1999—established the unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination. “This is a basic civil rights statute for people with disabilities,” he says. “What could be more basic than integration, rather than having to stay in institutions to receive services, to receive them in the community.”

Folded in the flora

Giant metal sculptures inspired by origami and created by Santa Fe artists Jennifer and Kevin Box are the leading exhibition at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia this summer in collaboration with origami masters Robert J. Lang, Te Jui Fu, Michael G. LaFosse and Beth Johnson. Press materials describe the show thusly: “A group of four colorful, painted ponies are framed by more than 20 crabapple trees in the Grand Allée, a boat balances nearly 11 feet in the air on metal oars near a spring-fed stream, and a flying crane with a 12-foot wing span graces the entrance to the Asian Garden. The tallest sculpture in the exhibition, a butterfly 13 feet in height, emerges from a chrysalis. The smallest metal sculpture, a 12-inch bronze acorn, weighs 35 pounds and is included in a display featuring a squirrel that is seven feet in height.” The couple’s art—and the art in the context of public gardens—might be familiar here as the exhibition Origami in the Garden was first displayed at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden in 2014. It has now traveled to 17 botanical gardens and museum venues. Kevin Box developed a method for casting paper that captures the medium in detail. While he initially performed the casting process himself, he now oversees 12-plus-week process with fine-art foundry and fabrication teams. Drivers along NM Hwy. 14 about 12 miles south of Santa Fe can also spot the couple’s studio.

Free for the bees

Santa Feans with green thumbs or those who would like to develop them have a shot at landing a smattering of native plants that attract pollinators this fall courtesy of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation’s second year of habitat-kit distribution. Last year’s project in the region was new to Xerces, which has executed projects on bigger scales in California and the northeast with large landowners. The society doled out kits containing nine species of plants to 250 homes and several small, public spaces such as community gardens, city parks and multi-family common areas. “There are a lot of groups that do wildlife conservation with birds and mammals and other big, charismatic kinds of things, but invertebrates are so critical to the function of our planet,” Kaitlin Haase, southwest pollinator conservation specialist with the society, tells SFR. The nationwide nonprofit with 80 employees now has two working in the Santa Fe area “to make sure that we are supporting pollinators at multiple scales, from individuals and gardens to cities to counties and even the Legislature,” she says. Apply to receive a pollinator habitat kit before June 30 here. Seedlings will be ready for distribution in late summer or early fall and Xerces is particularly looking for younger households who want to participate.

High probability

Expect a 90% chance of precipitation in Santa Fe today and a high near 71, with showers and possibly a thunderstorm, mainly before noon, then showers and thunderstorms likely after noon, according to the forecast by the National Weather Service.

Thanks for reading! The (substitute) Word enjoys the History Channel show Alone and was pleasantly surprised to learn a new season has begun via Frederick Dreier of Outside Magazine, who ponders the question “Is beaver the perfect Alone cuisine?

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story transposed two numbers in the acreage of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. It’s been corrected.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.