Biden declares disaster for five NM counties
President Joe Biden yesterday approved Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for a presidential disaster declaration for five counties particularly stricken from the early and devastating start of New Mexico’s wildfire season, enabling additional funds and resources in Colfax, Lincoln, Mora, San Miguel and Valencia counties. US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, announced the approval during last night’s virtual briefing on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, saying the approval was the fastest she could remember for a presidential declaration. “We made the point all along that these communities needed help and needed help right now,” Leger Fernández said. “They are communities that are centuries old. They are communities that might not be rich in cash and income, but they are incredibly rich in culture and heritage. And their lands that they have taken care of for centuries and their homes they have taken care of for centuries are being destroyed.”
The disaster declaration comes as fire managers report progress made yesterday on the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, currently estimated at approximately 160,000 acres and 20% containment. Officials expect today and tomorrow to offer a respite from red flag weather, during which they plan to prepare for a return of high winds over the weekend. The Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains is currently 26,927 acres, 5.16 miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory property and 10 miles from Los Alamos townsite. The state of New Mexico also announced yesterday the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with multiple state agencies, has established a Joint Information Task Force to provide the public with consolidated fire information, and launched an updated wildfire page on the DHSEM webpage, which it encourages the public to use “as their primary and most accurate wildfire source of information.”
NM adult rec cannabis sales topped $22 million in April
During New Mexico’s first month of legal adult-use recreational cannabis sales, retailers sold nearly $40 million in adult-use and medical cannabis combined, according to the Cannabis Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department. Adult-use sales accounted for approximately 56% of the sales, just over $22 million. “New Mexicans showed up on April 1 ready to support local businesses selling high-quality New Mexico products,” Kristen Thomson, Cannabis Control Division director, said in a statement, “and they’re still coming. Thanks to hard work by the dedicated people working in the industry, supply easily met consumer and patient demand. New Mexicans have a lot to be proud of in the launch of this new industry, which is already adding value to the state’s diverse economy.” Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe saw the highest sales numbers, but communities near the Texas border also posted high sales numbers, with Hobbs and Sunland Park having the fourth and fifth highest sales, respectively. Santa Fe had about $3.4 million in sales, the third highest in the state—$1.8 million from adult recreational sales.
Protected bike lanes prove popular
With bike month underway, the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization yesterday released a report with the results of last fall’s pop-up protected bike lane demonstrations. Protected bike lanes, as a city news release describes them, are pretty much what they sound like: bike lanes with a “physical/vertical separation between the bike lane and car lane.” The pop-up demonstrations in October and November of 2021 recorded more than 675 people using the protected bike lanes, with both “formal and informal” surveys showing the adults and children who used them preferred them to regular bike lanes. Moreover, speeding vehicles were reduced by 50% on Paseo de Peralta during the October event and 35% in November, and high speeds were reduced by 86% during October’s event. The next pop-up protected bike lane event takes place May 14 on Agua Fria from Frenchy’s Field to Siler; Siler from Rufina to the River Trail, with events along the route. “We knew protected bike lanes had been instrumental in increasing bicycle use in other cities, and it was exciting to be able to respond to residents and bring them to Santa Fe,” MPO Transportation Planner Leah Yngve said in a statement. The pop-up lanes were funded through an AARP Community Challenge grant. “We’re looking forward to using the equipment as a tool to demonstrate other options for bicycle infrastructure around town.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 248; 523,268 total cases
Deaths: eight; At last county, Santa Fe County has had 277 total deaths; there have been 7,536 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 46; Patients on ventilators: one
Case rate: According to DOH’s most recent report on trends across the state, Santa Fe County has a case rate of 18.3 per 100,000 population during the seven-day period of April 25 through May 1—the fourth highest in the state. However, SFR also has noted a 766 case county discrepancy between the department’s cumulative case report from last week’s report and is awaiting a response from DOH.
Transmission: According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—32 of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels, whereas Lea County is set at yellow, or medium, as are three Texas counties on New Mexico’s border. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.
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.
On the most recent episode of Pet Chat, Murad Kirdar, Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society public information officer, and Bobbi Heller, executive director of Felines & Friends New Mexico, discuss preparing pets for an emergency and what to do in an evacuation. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter has been helping with housing animals displaced due to the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire and accepting donations of food, litter and other supplies at the shelter (100 Caja del Rio Road). Española Humane also is helping with animal welfare during the crisis, and asking for help to continue doing so. Both shelters are currently running #EmptyTheShelters events with waived adoption fees.
Celebrating Red Planet
The Nation magazine spotlights Albuquerque’s Red Planet Books and Comics, possibly the only Native comic bookstore in the world. Founded in 2017 by Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo), the store is approaching its fifth anniversary next month, and has grown into more than a comic book store, the story writes, becoming “a space for artists, writers and fans to imagine Indigenous futures beyond the Southwest and the traditional comic book format.” Francis’ goal, he says, is to “fill gaps where there isn’t representational media of Native folks.” He held Indigenous ComicCon (today called IndigiPop X) a year before starting the store and founded his publishing house, Native Realities Press, partly to expand comics by Native creators. About 80% of the store is dedicated to Native American authors, many of whom come from other presses and write books outside the genre (the rest of the stock focuses on stories from other communities of color or by LGBTQ writers and artists). During the COVID-19 closure, Red Planet commissioned a series of posters encouraging viewers to wash their hands and protect their elders, featuring art from several Native American artists, which ended up on display in the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Francis encountered one of his posters, enlarged, when he visited the museum: “It was super cool,” he says.
Back to the land
In the story “Finding our way back to the land,” Grist magazine’s Fix Solutions Lab speaks with five people “representing a diversity of histories and customs about how they are reconnecting with their ancestral traditions.” They include Ángel Peña, executive director of Las Cruces-based Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project. A group of Latinx/Latine/Hispanic conservation advocates founded the organization in 2017, its website says, because their experiences had shown them “the need to provide communities of color with sustainable opportunities for community engagement, access and education around public lands and waters—rather than initiatives that tokenize our voices.” A first-generation Mexican American, Peña says spending time outdoors in Southern New Mexico initially was intimidating because of the overwhelming presence of Border Patrol. “They run around in big trucks, fully armed, and cause all sorts of ruckus on our public lands,” he says. His organization’s focus rests largely on creating opportunities for the next generation, he says: “For us, it’s always: Where’s the next generation? How are we including them?”
Enjoy today—and hopefully tomorrow—as we receive a brief respite from the high winds. The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies with a high near 67 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph.
Thanks for reading! In search of distraction from the horrors of the world, The Word stumbled upon this NYT story in which scientists speculate about Bolivian River Dolphins’ “playful interaction” with an anaconda as possibly the result of curiosity, education or sexual stimulation. You’re welcome!