Morning Word

In Advance of Earth Day, Feds Announce Protections for Public Lands

Meow Wolf layoffs include 29 in Santa Fe

Feds sign rule protecting public lands

US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) signed a final rule yesterday during a ceremony in New Mexico to protect more than 4,200 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in the Placitas area. “Indigenous communities have called the Placitas area home since time immemorial, with evidence of their presence found from nearly every settlement period of the past 10,000 years,” Haaland, a former US congresswoman for New Mexico, says in a statement. “The site contains significant cultural ties to neighboring Pueblos and provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the local community.” Haaland’s announcement came as the Biden administration also announced a final BLM rule governing conservation on federal lands described by the Washington Post as a “seismic shift” to federal land-use policy by placing conservation on par with extractive uses. “As stewards of America’s public lands, the Interior Department takes seriously our role in helping bolster landscape resilience in the face of worsening climate impacts,” Haaland says. “Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come.”

The BLM’s final rule swiftly garnered praise from local governments and environmentalists. “The climate crisis continues to have a severe and ongoing impact on Western communities,” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber says in a statement, noting the BLM “is the largest land manager in the nation, and its final Public Lands Rules will play a leading role in protecting our public lands for the future and mitigating the impacts of climate change.” In a statement, New Mexico Wild Executive Director Mark Allison notes that “with almost 90% of New Mexico BLM lands open to oil and gas leasing, the Public Lands Rule’s emphasis on conservation is not just important, it’s essential.”

Meow Wolf cuts include 29 in Santa Fe

After an internal email announcing layoffs from arts business Meow Wolf leaked to the press on Monday, April 15, the company began notifying those affected on Wednesday and yesterday revealed the tally so far: 159 employees across four states have lost their jobs, including 29 at Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return; 50 at Denver’s Convergence Station; 61 at Las Vegas’ Omega Mart and two at Grapevine, Texas’ The Real Unreal, according to an email from Meow Wolf Vice President of Public Relations and Communications Kati Murphy. The layoffs are part of across-the-board cuts that include a 10% salary reduction for CEO Jose Tolosa and his “direct reports” employees, though Tolosa’s annual salary has not been disclosed. Murphy’s email says the company also is dropping certain software contracts; closing Meow Wolf’s New York City office and eliminating plans for a proposed office in Los Angeles. The company will also reportedly lower its travel and associated costs by close to $1 million, reduce its spend on professional services and lower funding for the Meow Wolf Foundation in 2024. In response to the layoffs, the Meow Wolf Workers Collective union released a statement, reading in part: “These cuts will harm working creatives, many of whom were living at near-poverty conditions before the layoffs. We expect these cuts to greatly impact our ability to not only make art, but to operate our exhibitions.”

DA appoints new Rust special prosecutor

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has appointed Erlinda Johnson as a special prosecutor in the pending involuntary manslaughter case against Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin. Johnson, the Associated Press reports, previously represented former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who pled guilty to embezzlement and other charges in connection with spending campaign contributions at local casinos. Johnson also previously worked as as an assistant district attorney in the Albuquerque area and as a federal prosecutor on drug enforcement and organized crime cases. In an email response to SFR, DA spokesman Nathan Lederman says, “Any and all questions regarding the Rust case, regardless of the substance of the inquiry, should be directed to special prosecutor Kari Morrissey. The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office will not be releasing any updates/statements related to the case.” Neither Morrissey nor special prosecutor Jason Lewis responded to requests for comment on the addition of Johnson to the prosecution team. A pending motion by Baldwin’s lawyers to dismiss his case has not been scheduled for a hearing. Barring dismissal or a plea agreement, his trial is scheduled for July and follows Morrissey and Lewis’ successful prosecution of former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, whom a jury found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer subsequently sentenced to the maximum degree with 18 months in a women’s correctional facility.

State extends Medicaid for some

The state Human Services Department yesterday announced a 12-month extension—approved on the federal level—of Medicaid coverage for seniors receiving long-term care and for individuals with disabilities. The extended coverage also applies to Medicaid members living in intermediate care facilities and nursing homes. “We are committed to reducing barriers to health care services for our most vulnerable Medicaid members,” HSD Secretary Kari Armijo says in a statement. “By securing this federal flexibility, we aim to ensure that every eligible individual receives the health care they need.” According to a news release, eligible Medicaid members include those whose renewals were due after April 1 of last year that have not yet been processed, if they meet certain criteria, such as a documented need for full-time care and supervision. The extension “does not include Medicaid members whose coverage ended because they did not return renewal packets or those who failed to provide required documentation.” Moreover, because the extension “is related to the rollback of temporary pandemic-era policies,” it does not apply to renewals scheduled as of next month.

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Cline’s Corner podcast, host Lynn Cline talks with Julia Furry, Santa Fe Community College’s director of automotive technologies, about the program and the forthcoming April 26 auto show from the students in the Broken Parts Car Club. The first year the show “was just the students and their cars,” Furry says. Last year, the show’s second, “we had over 40 cars and this year we’re hoping it’s going to be even bigger.” Expect several categories, including Japanese, European, domestic and, this year, one for students who are 21 and younger. “We have a lot of talent with our students,” Furry says.

Earth to Santa Fe

In advance of and on Earth Day on Monday, April 22, Santa Fe has many activities and events this weekend where folks can get their hands dirty. You’ll find several of those in this week’s SFR picks, including a 10 am to 2 pm celebration Saturday at the Railyard; The Santa Fe Symphony’s Oceana program at 4 pm on Sunday, April 21, featuring works by Native American composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’Tate (Chickasaw); and sketching during Earth Day in Nature at noon on Monday at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St.). Santa Fe County will also be unveiling new rain gardens at Seton Village on Saturday as part of Santa Fe County Sustainability Division’s annual celebration. Athena Beshur, urban forestry organization Seeds of Wisdom owner, will also deliver a presentation on how rain gardens work and offer tips to prospective rain gardeners at the event. “These are really important right now, especially because of the soil,” Beshur tells SFR. “The more we have infiltration in our soil, the more apt it is to be resilient and able to absorb water when monsoons do come and not create flooding. It allows for life to grow as well.” The nonprofit Dog Park Project will also host a spring clean up 9 am to noon on Saturday at Frank Ortiz Dog Park (160 Camino de Las Crucitas).

This year’s Earth Day’s theme, planet vs plastics, can be experienced fully by a trip to Railyard Park where artist Adam Horwitz’ latest creation, “Plastolithic,” has just been erected. SFR profiles Horowitz, whose previous work includes the 1990s-era recreation of Stonehenge made from old refrigerators at the old city landfill, for this week’s cover story: “One Man’s Trash.” Horowitz’ work often focuses on waste, he says, whether it’s plastic or nuclear, with a sense of the macabre. “It’s kind of a lot of elements that come together in these things, and some of it’s serious and some of it’s silly,” he says. “It’s terrible, but it’s also kind of humorous in a black humor kind of way that we know the environmental havoc we are causing on the Earth, and yet we keep doing it.”

Dream weaver

The New York Times profiles “millennial weaver” Melissa Cody (Diné), a 2007 Institute of American Indian Arts graduate, whose work is currently on display in her first major solo exhibition, Melissa Cody: Webbed Skies, at MoMA PS1 through Sept. 9. The Times describes the exhibition as “part of the overdue recognition of Indigenous artists by museums and other institutions,” citing Corrales resident Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith’s (citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) work at the Whitney Museum of American Art as one example. Cody, 41, the story notes, “is a millennial at the forefront of an art form harking back millenniums—at once building on tradition and joyously venturing beyond it.” When she was a child, Cody, who grew up in Arizona, traveled to art markets and “won her first ribbon at age 8 at the Santa Fe Indian Market, reflecting an inner drive that had her glued to the loom after school and even while watching Saturday morning cartoons.” A fourth-generation weaver, Cody’s “vibrant Germantown Revival color palette emerged from a dark era,” the story notes: the 1863-1866 campaign to “annihilate the Diné” and the forced march of 10,000 Navajos hundreds of miles to southeast New Mexico. She also has “revived culturally significant motifs like the Whirling Log” and says: “To move forward as Indigenous artists, we need to reclaim our stories and respect our true selves in the work we create.”

Spring wind up

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 74 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. The wind could pick up tonight and tomorrow, when temperatures will drop by about 10 degrees and a little rain may fall, with a 20% chance for precipitation after noon. Another sunny, windy day on Sunday, with temps in the low 70s.

Thanks for reading! The Word looks forward to at least one quiet day this weekend, during which she will read this New Yorker story about noise. The Word returns Tuesday, April 23.

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