Albuquerque East Mountains primed for wildfire disaster

From - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - There is potential for another wildfire disaster like the Little Bear fire near Ruidoso - and it's right in Albuquerque's backyard, in the Sandia and Manzano mountains east of the city. The East Mountain area is what foresters call an "urban interface" - the place where civilization meets the wildernress. When enough people move into a heavily forested region, the risk of catastrophic wildfire goes through the roof. Think Ruidoso. Think Los Alamos. Think East Mountains, where thousands of people live in the cool upland forests, with their houses surrounded with trees and brush. In a prolonged drought like this one, it's like living between a blowtorch and a barrel of gasoline. "We basically have our mountain surrounded with homes," said Sunbear Vierra of the Sandia Ranger District, a fire management specialist for the U.S. Forest Service. "We look at it as a high probability that there will be a lot of damage done if something happens and if a wind event does take place." All it would take is a breeze and a spark. The fine fuels on the forest floor are more than ready. On a visit to Pine Flats picnic area south of Tijeras we found three fairly fresh cigarette butts in the dry pine needles under a tall Ponderosa. Read more


Bingaman's Wildfire Assistance Bill Signed

Jeff Bingaman
Washington DC - President Obama today signed legislation U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman cosponsored to make it possible for the Forest Service to add more air tankers to their wildfire suppression fleet.  The bill was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). While the U.S. Forest Service has made decisions regarding contracts for seven next-generation air tankers, those contracts cannot be awarded until after a 30 day waiting period. The new law expedites the contracts by waiving the waiting period and getting the planes into service as soon as possible. “In New Mexico, firefighters are continuing to battle several ongoing wildfires,” Bingaman said.  “I am pleased Congress and the President were able to act in short order to get this bill passed and signed so the Forest Service can move more quickly to secure much-needed air tankers,” Bingaman said. The Forest Service notified Congress on May 25 that it intended to award four contracts for seven planes to partially fulfill the government’s need for large air tankers. The Forest Service also requested that Congress waive the 30 waiting period. That was a week before two accidents involving Forest Service air tankers left one plane totaled and another likely out for the season with landing gear damage. Read More News New Mexico


What New Mexico can teach us about storing nuclear waste

courtesy of Patricia Leyba
Washington PostThe nation’s nuclear waste is piling up. The proposed storage site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has been nixed — possibly for good. And the problem is only growing more acute: On Friday, a D.C. federal appeals court ruled that the current strategy of keeping waste on-site at power plants around the country may not be viable. So what can the United States do instead? One place to look for inspiration might be out in the New Mexico desert. At least, that was the suggestion from Allison MacFarlane, President Obama’s nominee to head up the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, MacFarlane was grilled by senators about her views on how best to dispose of the nation’s nuclear waste. As a possible model for future repositories, she pointed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., which opened in 1999 and now handles the radioactive leftovers from U.S. defense facilities. Any long-term storage facility for nuclear waste will have to overcome local unease and opposition — that’s what’s bogged down Yucca Mountain, after all. But Carlsbad’s $2.5-billion plant was actually welcomed by local residents, who were worried about what would happen to the area’s economy once its potash mines ran out. As Roger Nelson of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad office told me, Carlsbad’s residents managed to lobby wary state legislators in New Mexico to drop their opposition. Since the plant opened, the small desert town of 27,000 has been teeming with high-tech jobs. Read More News New Mexico


PEARCE: NEW MEXICANS FOUGHT, WASHINGTON LISTENED Applauds the Decision to Save Thousands of Jobs

Steve Pearce
Washington DC - Today, Congressman Steve Pearce released the following statement regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement that the dunes sage brush lizard will not be listed as endangered:
 “For over a year, New Mexicans have fought against the unnecessary listing of the lizard,” said Pearce. “They have demanded that the lizard not be listed without accurate science or at the expense of jobs for hardworking people. Finally, Washington listened, and the lizard will not be listed. This is a huge victory for the people who have so tirelessly fought to save their jobs and their way of life. I extend my gratitude to the New Mexicans who came to the table, and through good faith efforts, voluntarily protected the lizard’s habitat.”
 “Local and state officials, private stakeholders and conservationists put millions of dollars and acres into this balanced approach that saves both the species and jobs,” Pearce continued. “This is undoubtedly one of the most successful CCAAs ever. The willingness of New Mexicans to conserve the habitat and species serves as a fine example of what we can do when the federal government takes input from all sides, and tries to find common ground. I am proud of the hard work that went into this effective and efficient solution, and I am pleased that oil and gas jobs in New Mexico will not be killed at the hand of Washington bureaucracy.” Read More News New Mexico


Crews, DC-10 continue to fight Little Bear Ruidoso fire

From - by Nancy Laflin and Gabrielle Burkhart - RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) - At least 234 structures have burned in the very big Little Bear Fire in the Lincoln National Forest. Officials say 224 residential structures have burned and 10 outbuildings have been destroyed. Teams were on the ground Tuesday surveying the damage which means that number will likely grow.  Governor Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency in Lincoln County, freeing up emergency funding and making additional state resources available for the community and for the firefight. Nearly 1,000 people fighting this fire and a DC-10 jetliner that can lay down 12,000 foot path of retardant has arrived from Arizona.  Officials say 36,000 acres have burned, which has not changed from Tuesday morning.  They also say anywhere from 154 to 175 structures have been destroyed. Those structures include homes, barns even dog houses.  Approximately 200 homes have been evacuated, mainly north of Ruidoso.  The town of Ruidoso is fine.  The incident commander says weather is a huge factor and that there's more moisture in the air Tuesday afternoon.  However, they are worried about lightning strikes and wind that come with that storm. Read more

Lee: Can't Say All Unhappy With Obama Are "Racist"

Spike Lee
Politico - Spike Lee is predicting a tough road to reelection for President Obama. “This thing is not a lock,” the filmmaker told GQ in a recent interview. “It is not a lock that President Obama is getting a second term and people have to really rekindle the enthusiasm that we had the first time.”
Lee, who hosted a fundraiser for the president in January, said that he “just had a meeting with somebody high up in the Obama campaign” to discuss the race. “I can't say to all the people that are unhappy with him that they're racist people,” Lee said of Obama’s critics. “People ain't got jobs, people are hurting. So I don't care what color you are, if people are out of work, it's tough. And then when you're the first African American president, that's not helping either.” Still, Lee doesn’t sound too worried about Obama’s Republican rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Read full story here: News New Mexico