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Local and State News

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


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists and Native American activists say the Biden administration's review of the federal oil and gas leasing program should result in more protections for an area of northwestern New Mexico that's considered sacred. The fight over drilling on federal land bordering Chaco Culture National Historical Park has spanned multiple presidencies, and an effort to update the area's management plan remains unfinished after years. The activists held a virtual gathering Wednesday as the comment period is about to close on the administration's leasing review. The coalition said U.S. officials need to do more than just check boxes and instead engage in meaningful consultation with tribes and other groups.


SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — A look at which U.S. states are leading at vaccinating against the coronavirus and which states are struggling is beginning to resemble America's electoral map. Vaccination numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show states that tend to vote Democratic at the top in terms of the percentage of their adult population that have received at least one shot. At the bottom are five Republican-leaning states, including Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in late March found that Republicans were three times as likely as Democrats to say they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican congressional nominee and New Mexico state Sen. Mark Moores is staking out a campaign platform based on support for the oil and natural gas industry, robust police funding and taxation issues, ahead of a rapid-fire special election. The state Republican Party sees the election as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recapture an Albuquerque-based congressional seat controlled by Democrats, including Deb Haaland before her confirmation as secretary of the Interior Department. Early voting begins May 4 ahead of the June 1 election. Democratic nominee and state Rep. Melanie Stansbury says she is firmly focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding the state economy, including modernizing the energy sector.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported two new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the third consecutive day. The latest numbers brought the pandemic totals on the tribe's reservation to 30,269 cases and 1,262 known deaths. Tribal officials had ordered a lockdown last weekend over fears that a new variant could drive another deadly surge. The Stay-At-Home order required all Navajo Nation residents to refrain from unnecessary travel to help limit the spread of the virus, including a new and more contagious strain.  Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez recently announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 B.1.429 variant on the reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. 


ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A Farmington man arrested for his acknowledged presence inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot says he is surprised that he now faces criminal charges. Shawn Witzemann told KOB-TV that he looks forward to being exonerated and called the charges against him false. He said he has a defense for his presence in the Capitol, though he declined to explain. Authorities say Witzemann provided investigators with three videos he took while in the building. His attorney has said Witzemann is a plumber who also is also a freelance journalist and that his client didn't participate in any violence during the riot.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New campaign finance filings show that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's political committee has paid $62,500 to settle allegations by a former campaign employee that he was sexually harassed by the governor. Lujan Grisham's re-election campaign spokesman Jared Leopold on Tuesday confirmed the settlement involving payments to a law firm representing James Hallinan. Hallinan worked as a spokesman for Lujan Grisham's 2018 campaign for governor and accused Lujan Grisham of dropping water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch during a meeting of campaign staff. Leopold says the settlement resolves "dubious and disputed" potential claims by Hallinan to avoid the distraction and cost of litigation. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Restoring forests, using fire as a management tool and getting more buy-in from private land owners are among the strategies outlined in New Mexico's latest forest action plan. The state Forestry Division released the plan Monday. The federal government requires each state to update the plans every decade. Officials say the latest version includes steps for how New Mexico can work with the federal government and other groups as part of a shared stewardship initiative. The document also identifies areas that are priorities based on wildfire risks and their importance as sources for water.


SANTE FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health is pausing administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in response to a federal recommendation stemming from reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said Tuesday the state and the federal government are "acting out of an abundance of caution." Collins said state officials will share more information as they learn it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said the federal government was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts.