Morning Word

President Biden Approves NM Disaster Declaration

SFPS Board President leaving to join seminary

Morning Word

President Biden approves NM disaster declaration

Following requests Tuesday from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state’s congressional delegation, President Joe Biden yesterday approved a major disaster declaration in response to the South Fork and Salt fires, both of which began June 17 on Mescalero Apache land. The declaration, for Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, opens up access to assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a news release from the office of US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, says. The initial request also included Otero County, which is still being assessed. Lujan Grisham, meanwhile, also signed executive orders authorizing the release of $5.25 million in additional emergency funds for the Department of Homeland Security Management to support relief efforts.

“In the face of such a disaster, it is imperative that we act swiftly,” she said in a statement. “Although there is still a long road to full recovery ahead, these emergency funds will help stabilize these communities and provide much-needed assistance to those in need.” The governor’s office also unveiled a new online Wildfire Dashboard, which as of press time showed both fires at zero containment, at about 16,000 and 7,000 acres, respectively. Southwest Incident Management Team #5 held a community meeting on Facebook last night, and said they will be holding daily operations briefings. Officials did not reveal the fires’ causes at last night’s meeting; Source New Mexico reports no evidence of lightning strikes in the area for more than a week before the blazes began.

SFPS Board President leaving to join seminary

After serving on the Santa Fe Public Schools Board since 2022, District 5 member and Board President Sascha Guinn Anderson announced her pending resignation at last night’s meeting. She is not just leaving the board, but is also leaving Santa Fe, following her acceptance into the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, where she plans to study to become a priest for the Episcopal Church. “It was a process that I thought would take three to five years, but which moved very quickly,” Anderson said. She described herself as “deeply sad” to leave the board, but “heartened that Santa Fe Public Schools is in such good hands. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you have taught me,” she said. According to SFPS General Counsel Josh Granata, once Anderson submits her letter of resignation, the school board will have 45 days to appoint a new member. Anderson’s replacement must live in District 5, which encompasses the majority of the Midtown area in Santa Fe, and would have to run for re-election in 2025 to retain the seat. Board member Kate Noble suggested the board allocate one of the two meetings in the summer or call a special meeting so that “we and the community can hear from anyone who is interested in being appointed to the position.” Anderson’s resignation from the board will be accepted at the school board’s next meeting, which is currently set for 5:30 pm, July 25.

Tesuque residents: No to Bishop’s Lodge effluent plan

Some Tesuque village residents say they are considering legal action in response to a proposal from Bishop’s Lodge to discharge treated wastewater effluent into the Little Tesuque Creek over the winter. Approximately 60 people gathered at the Tesuque Volunteer Fire District last night to discuss the draft proposal, which has been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval. Resident Elissa Eccles, who hosted the meeting, tells SFR going to court is “not out of the realm of possibility” for residents. “We are considering legal action,” she says, “and there’s an anonymous benefactor who has offered to pay legal fees.” County Commissioner Justin Greene, whose district covers the area, also attended the meeting, and tells SFR because the permit is through the EPA, “Santa Fe County does not have regulatory oversight, so there is—at a certain level—little we can do.” However, county officials have been in contact with Bishop’s Lodge representatives and state officials and have suggested alternatives.”No is not an answer, how is the answer, so we’re trying to say, ‘Come to the light,’” he said during the meeting, noting county officials helped organize an upcoming public meeting with the NMED and Bishop’s Lodge officials next week. “We’re trying to be as realistic as possible but also trying to dial down on the level of fear.” The meeting will take place from 5 to 7:30 pm Monday, June 24 at the Tesuque Volunteer Fire District.

Environmentalists decry lack of protection for NM fish

Despite initial findings in 2016 that both the Rio Grande Chub and Rio Grande Shiner might need protection under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this week published findings saying the listing isn’t warranted for either. According to a news release from WildEarth Guardians, which petitioned for ESA status for the fish in 2013 and 2014, respectively, both fish are native to the Rio Grande Basin, and have undergone significant declines in population “due to habitat destruction, climate change, invasive species and the impacts of human land and water uses.” Specifically, the chub has disappeared from 75% of its historical range and the shiner has basically disappeared all together from the Rio Grande in New Mexico, and is considered rare in Colorado. “New Mexico’s rivers were named the most endangered in the country this year, and both the Rio Grande chub and sucker depend on the Rio Grande and its tributaries,” WildEarth Guardians Wild River Advocate Joanna Zhang says in a statement. “It’s disappointing to see the service deny protections to two species whose populations have been in severe decline, especially when climate change will only exacerbate current threats.”

Listen Up

KUNM, 89.9 FM and Source New Mexico have set up a phone line, (505)738-4020, and an online site for people searching for find friends and family evacuated from the South Fork and Salt fires. Those messages can be heard, read and recorded here. Yesterday’s Let’s Talk New Mexico call-in program also focused on the fires, and includes accounts from journalists in the vicinity.

From the cheap to the sublime

Carlsbad Caverns lands on Outside’s list of the 10 most affordable national parks, in fifth place alongside Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Writer Emily Pennington advises hitting both parks in one trip by flying into El Paso, Texas, and then “basing yourself in the affordable hamlet of Carlsbad, New Mexico.” If the visit happens between May through October, she writes, “stay after hours and take advantage of the free Bat Flight Program, led by a park ranger.” That experience, she notes, “blew my mind as a nine-year-old.” The Travel also gives Carlsbad a shout-out, of sorts, by describing it as New Mexico’s “most overlooked” national park, but one that’s worth visiting. One of its salient traits, the story notes, is “it’s easy to see the entire park in a very short amount of time.” And while it lacks lodging, hiking or “many of the activities people associate with national parks,” it does have caverns. White Sands, by the way, receives an honorable mention from Outside in terms of its affordability, but lands on The Travel’s other list of seven “life-changing” travel destinations. Visiting feels like “stepping into a dreamscape,” the story proclaims, “the surreal beauty of the gleaming white sands with a wave-like structure under a clear blue sky creates an otherworldly landscape perfect for exploration and contemplation.”

San Fran dreaming

The state tourism department’s $650,000 gambit to lure San Francisco residents here on vacation apparently worked, according to a new study released earlier this week. The campaign, launched last winter, followed a 2021 study evaluating markets where the state’s tourism advertising would be most effective. San Francisco, that study concluded, “offered some of the greatest potential for visitation and spending growth from a market that was not currently featuring New Mexico True advertising.” Last winter’s campaign, the report says, “influenced 19,700 trips to New Mexico and generated an estimated $34.3 million in visitor spending.” In addition, it estimates the average spending trip for visitors from San Francisco landed at approximately $1,700 and overall generated a return-on-investment of $52 in visitor spending in New Mexico for every $1 spent on the campaign. “We have wanted to enter the San Francisco market for years, and we finally had the resources we needed to adequately enter that market for the Winter 2023-24 campaign,” Acting Tourism Secretary Lancing Adams says in a statement. “Being able to measure the impact of our campaigns is incredibly important to ensure we continue to make the best decisions the most effectively drive visitation to New Mexico. The results of this report show us that we are in fact making smart investments that are helping grow New Mexico’s economy through tourism.” The report notes a positive response to the ads themselves, but says the campaign’s weak point was its reach, and that most of the “out of home” advertising took place in airports, where people were already traveling. The ads included ones focusing on Zuni Pueblo; James Beard Award-winning Sazón Chef Fernando Olea; and US National Snowshoe Racing Team member and Los Alamos resident Whitney Spivey and her two daughters.

Wild weather

The National Weather Service forecasts a 70% chance for rain today and tonight, with mostly cloudy skies during the day and a high temperature of 78 degrees. Chances for rain over the weekend drop to about 30%, with partly sunny skies both Saturday and Sunday, along with high temperatures in the mid-80s. This wet weather is not, apparently, an early start to the monsoon season. It is, however, causing flooding, so be careful out there.

Thanks for reading! The Word will definitely check out Linda Thompson’s new songseven if Thompson isn’t singing them.

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