Morning Word

State Water Board Approves Top Protections for Watersheds

Doctors, advocates push to legalize psychedelic therapy

State water board OKs protections for watersheds

Environmentalists, tribal leaders, government officials and others and are heralding yesterday’s unanimous decision by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission to approve petitions granting Upper Pecos Watershed and portions of the Rio Grande with Outstanding National Resource Waters designations. According to the state, ONRW designation “is the highest level of protection against degradation that can be afforded for a waterbody under the State of New Mexico’s Water Quality Standards” and entitles those streams, lakes and wetlands to receive special protection. “We as Native Peoples see the sacredness of the water ecosystems that sustain life for all the birds and animals, plants, and the aquatic life that humans greatly benefit from,” Brophy Toledo, Jemez cultural leader and co-founder of Flower Hill Institute said in a statement. “These protections ensure that sacred practices and irrigation can continue without additional requirements while ensuring that new or increased pollution to the watershed is prohibited.” According to the Western Environmental Law Center, the WQCC heard public and technical testimony at public hearings in April and June; more than 3,800 public comments were submitted in support of the two nominations, with more than 30 Pueblos, local governments, acequia associations, legislators, businesses and nonprofits submitting letters of support. Watersheds face heightened danger due to climate change and concomitant threats, as this week’s SFR cover story explores.

Doctors, advocates push for some psychedelic therapies

Physicians and representatives from the New Mexico Psychedelic Science Society yesterday asked lawmakers on the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to consider creating legislation to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms in mental health therapy (Oregon became the first and thus far only state to do so in 2020, although the Department of Veteran Affairs recently began offering psychedelic substances to patients as a part of clinical trials). According to a handout shared with the committee, psilocybin-assisted therapy would be beneficial for New Mexicans who have been diagnosed with difficult-to-treat forms of mental illness; struggle with addiction and substance abuse; have suffered severe trauma; and those “facing existential distress” due to a diagnosis of a terminal illness. “Given the persistent rise in mental illness, substance abuse and drug overdose mortality in New Mexico,” the handout reads, “legislation that promotes the availability of novel evidence-based treatments are warranted.” The information cites the Food and Drug Administration’s designation of psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” (so given when preliminary studies show promise) in 2017 and 2018. Dr. Lawrence Leeman, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of New Mexico, told the panel yesterday “there is a lot of promise from these medications. If this does go ahead, let’s do this really safely, let’s make sure we have people who are well trained (to administer the psychedelics)…Let’s make sure that people have counselors to see afterward.” According to the Associated Press, it’s unclear if any lawmakers intend to draft the requested legislation in advance of the next legislative session in January 2023.

Environment department launches climate, cannabis bureaus

With the start of the new fiscal year July 1, the state Environment Department has launched two newly funded bureaus, for climate change and cannabis/hemp. According to a news release, The Climate Change Bureau is funded by $730,000 in a recurring appropriation that will support five new positions. The bureau, the department says, “will play a significant role in the Climate Change Task Force, working across state government to coordinate policies and actions to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 economy wide and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.” The Cannabis and Hemp Bureau, funded by a $449,999 recurring appropriation ($1.9 million less than the governor had requested) will “oversee the department’s efforts to ensure that cannabis and hemp-based food products are produced in accordance with food safety regulations” and will “collaborate closely” with Cannabis Control Division housed under the Regulation and Licensing Department. The department also has funding for a variety of initiatives, including: $1.14 million for resilient water infrastructure to mitigate water systems against extreme drought from climate change; $825,000 to develop and implement initiatives that protect the public from exposure to PFAS at Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base and elsewhere in the state; and $660,000 for planning, administration, and oversight of uranium mine remediation and cleanup.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported July 12:

New cases: 795; 574,117 total cases

Deaths: 18; Santa Fe County has had 321 total deaths thus far; there have been 7,990 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 155. Patients on ventilators: 18.Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase will provide a COVID-19 update at 1 pm, Thursday, July 14, which will stream live on the DOH Facebook page and with Spanish translation on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube page.

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends published yesterday, for the seven-day period of July 4-10, San Juan County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 63.4, followed by McKinley County at 60.9 and Lincoln County at 59.7; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 42.4, down from 49.4 last week and within the second highest category of case rates—red—in that report. The health department reports 5,889 cases in the last seven days, an approximate 7% decline from the prior week’s seven-day period.Community levels: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly community levels report, which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination for its framework, for the seven-day period of June 30-July 6, 11 counties—including Santa Fe for the second week in a row—have “red” or high levels (one more than last week). Among other recommendations, the CDC recommends indoor masking for communities with high levels. Twelve counties are “green,” aka low—three more than last week—and the rest are “yellow,” or medium. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-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. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at

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

Listen up

In the second episode of PBS’ new series, The Great Muslim American Road Trip, which began airing yesterday, husband and wife Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins continue their three-week trip across Road 66, tracing the American Muslim story. This leg of the journey includes stops in New Mexico, including Santa Fe, where they visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and talk with docent Stanley Robb and the Rev. Timothy Martinez about the shared importance for the Virgin Mary for both Muslims and Catholics.

Santa Fe ranks 3rd for best US cities

Travel & Leisure magazine announced its “world’s best” awards yesterday, with Santa Fe coming in at number three for the best cities in the US, largely due to our “robust restaurant and art scenes” (We were #2 last year). The 2022 World’s Best survey was open for voting from Oct. 25, 2021 to Feb 28, 2022; the results will appear in the August 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine. Categories include airlines, airports, car-rental agencies, cities, cruise ships, destination spas, hotels, hotel brands, islands, tour operators, safari outfitters and US national parks. T&L also released rankings for the five best hotels in Santa Fe, with Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi coming in at number one. Ten Thousand Waves came in at number two for the 15 best US spas and Ojo Caliente Spa came in fifteenth. Need more “best of” lists? You’re in luck. SFR’s OG Best of Santa Fe 2022 issue drops in just two weeks (July 27), with a return to the Railyard for our BOSF party from 5 to 9 pm, Friday, July 29.

Park it here

We were a teensy bit surprised to not see any of New Mexico’s national parks on the Travel & Leisure’s best national parks list. No matter. More for us! And speaking of parks, New Mexico Magazine has the skinny on camping in New Mexico’s state parks, courtesy of state park volunteer Greg Wood, who has stayed at almost all 35 of them (and be sure to check out Wood’s own blog on his adventures). The magazine also delves into enjoying nighttime activities at our state parks, such as stargazing and twilight hikes. New to camping? Be sure to check out tips from State Parks Director Toby Velasquez, which include packing appropriately for the evening chill, following campfire rules and being bear-aware!

Weather the storms

A potentially wet week continues, with a 30% chance for showers and thunderstorms after noon. According to the National Weather Service, some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Otherwise, today will be mostly sunny with a high near 84 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. We’ve got a 20% chance for more showers and thunderstorms this evening before midnight. Monsoon-like weather should continue straight into next week.

Thanks for reading! The Word is feeling this New Yorker cartoon’s response to yesterday’s release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

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