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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

  • More call for pause as US weighs New Mexico drilling plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists want federal land managers to suspend efforts to amend a plan that would guide oil and gas development and other activities near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. They sent a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, saying the coronavirus pandemic has prevented meaningful in-person consultation with Native American tribes and others who would be affected by the decision. Officials held five virtual public meetings earlier this year and extended the public comment period to Sept. 25. Four more meetings were held in August, but critics say those too were inadequate. Legislation that would make federal land within a 10-mile radius of the park off-limits is pending in Congress.

  • New Mexico's high court GOP justice reschedules retirement

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The lone Republican justice on the state Supreme Court is retiring on Dec. 1, triggering the nomination process for one of five seats on the high court. The University of New Mexico School of Law that oversees judicial vacancies made the announcement Thursday about the retirement of Justice Judith Nakamura. She was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez in November 2015 and won election to an eight-year term in 2016. A bipartisan Supreme Court nominating commission is taking applications through mid-October on candidates it can recommend to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

  • New Mexico governor eases some COVID-19 restrictions

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico children can practice sports and develop skills while in small groups and residents will soon be able to camp at state parks under changes being made to the state's public health order. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the updated order also permits visits to pumpkin patches and the state plans to issue guidance for corn mazes and haunted houses as fall approaches. The governor said the state is trending in the right direction but she warned people not to let down their guard. Health officials reported an additional 159 COVID-19 cases Thursday and four additional deaths.

  • New Mexico racinos ask governor to reconsider closure

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's racetrack and casino operators are asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to consider allowing them to reopen. In a letter sent this week to the Democratic governor, they pointed out that commercial casinos outside of New Mexico have opened — from Nevada to New Jersey and New York. Track and casino managers in New Mexico they say they have a plan to do it safely. While tribal casinos in the state have reopened, the governor's office said Thursday that doesn't necessarily make opening a safe decision at this time and that public health conditions will determine when the time is right for easing restrictions on non-tribal operations.

  • Tribes' ancestral remains return home to American Southwest

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Tribal leaders have reburied the remains of their ancestors that were taken more than a century ago from what's now a national park in Colorado. The remains of about 20 people along with funerary objects were unearthed during excavations by a Swedish researcher in 1891. They eventually became part of the collection of the National Museum of Finland. Tribes worked with the U.S. and Finland to have the items returned to the U.S. Southwest. The remains and funerary objects were reburied over the weekend within Mesa Verde National Park, best known for the hundreds of stone dwellings built along the cliffs.

  • US judge blocks Postal Service changes that slowed mail

SEATTLE (AP) — A U.S. judge blocked controversial Postal Service changes that have slowed mail nationwide, calling them "a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" before the November election. Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Washington, said Thursday he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states challenged the Postal Service's so-called "leave mail behind" policy, where trucks have been leaving postal facilities on time regardless of whether there is more mail to load. They also sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first class mail.

  • US agency denies petition to strip protections from songbird

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has denied a petition that sought to end federal protections for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The agency issued its finding this week, saying taking the songbird off the threatened and endangered species list isn't an option at this time. American Stewards of Liberty, a nonprofit group that advocates for private property rights, had argued that the bird's status needed to be reviewed because it had sufficient habitat. Biologists said new data shows habitat loss and fragmentation continue to be an issue for the cuckoo. Recent mining projects in central and southern Arizona are also affecting the species.

  • Ambassador: Time is right for new arms control agreement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Trump administration has sketched out a framework that it hopes will avoid a three-way arms race. Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control, spoke with The Associated Press about negotiations with Russia and efforts to bring China to the table while touring nuclear research labs and production sites in the United States. Last week's visit comes as the facilities ramp up modernization of the country's multibillion-dollar nuclear enterprise. He acknowledged that the proposed treaty would be ambitious but that the time is right for a new agreement to curb the buildup of nuclear warheads.