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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT

5,000 under evacuation orders as New Mexico wildfire rages

Evacuation orders for close to 5,000 people are still in place as firefighters battle a deadly blaze in New Mexico. The wind-fueled wildfire has ripped through the mountain community of Ruidoso. The flames have destroyed more than 200 homes and killed two people since the wildfire broke out Tuesday. Authorities said they suspect the fire was sparked by a downed power line. Elsewhere in the U.S., crews have been battling large fires this week in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, where a new blaze forced evacuations Friday along the Rocky Mountain's eastern front near Lyons about 18 miles north of Boulder.

Biden increases oil royalty rate, scales back lease sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Interior Department is moving forward with the first onshore sales of public oil and gas drilling leases under President Joe Biden, but will sharply increase royalty rates for companies that extract oil. Friday's announcement comes as federal officials weigh efforts to fight climate change against pressure to bring down high gas prices. The royalty rate for new leases will increase to 18.75% from 12.5%. That's a 50% jump and marks the first increase since the 1920s. Republicans want Biden to expand U.S. crude production. But he faces calls from within his own party to do more to curb fossil fuel emissions that are heating the planet.

New details in officer-involved killing of shooting suspect

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police have released more details about last month's officer-involved fatal shooting of a man suspected of firing shots into vehicles driving near his home in the Foothills area, killing one person and injuring two others. Police said Friday three officers responding to reports of an "active shooter" March 14 approached 52-year-old John Dawson after he exited the house about 40 minutes after the shootings. They were under the impression Hunter was surrendering but he "suddenly got to his feet and advanced on the officers. Police say three bean-bag rounds were deployed but Hunter began to pick up a handgun on the ground and the officers fired 12 shots.

New Mexico adopts stiffer pollution rules for oil and gas

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators have approved more rules aimed at cracking down on pollution from the state's big oil and natural gas industry. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration on Thursday praised the rules and called them among the toughest in the nation. The rules set by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board come amid a rekindled debate over domestic U.S. production amid growing concerns about global energy market instability. Lujan Grisham is a Democrat running for reelection and has pushed for more regulations during her first term. She says the latest rules represent a big step toward her goal of lowering emissions and improving air quality.

Ruling rejects challenge to habitat designation for mouse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An appeals court on Friday uphold a lower court's rejection of two ranching groups' challenge to a federal agency's designation of certain riparian areas in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado as critical habitat of a mouse species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016 designated nearly 22 square miles in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico as critical habitat of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a U.S. District Court judge correctly rejected the challenge by the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association and the Otero County Cattleman's Association.

Expanding drought leaves western US scrambling for water

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal water managers think they have a plan to keep the Rio Grande flowing this summer, but they conceded Thursday it all depends on the weather. The Rio Grande is a major water source for millions of people and thousands of square miles of farmland in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Farmers along the river are being encouraged to forego irrigating their lands this season. Climate experts say March marked the third straight month of below-average precipitation across the U.S., and areas of record dryness are expanding in the West. Irrigation districts from the Pacific Northwest to the Colorado River Basin are warning farmers to expect less this year.

Children's book illustrator scours Santa Fe after art theft

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An accomplished illustrator of books for children including a work authored by Chelsea Clinton says she's searching for a packet of penguin illustrations that were taken from her unlocked car. Gianna Marino said Wednesday that she filed a police report after the pack of 20 illustrations disappeared overnight from the backseat of her car in Santa Fe, during an extended stay in the Southwestern hub for artists and authors. Marino said she scoured pawn shops, galleries and social media for the illustrations without finding a clue. The theft won't halt publication of the images in a new book about penguins and the loving bonds of family.

New Mexico GOP tells schools to reject social studies change

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico lawmaker is urging K-12 school leaders to reject new social studies standards approved by the state's education department. Republican House Whip Rod Montoya argues that the new standards are racially divisive. He says local school officials "are morally obligated to reject" the education standards. It's unclear what that would look like. School districts, not the state, ultimately choose which books to buy and how lessons are crafted. It's also rare that school districts defy the state. But when a school board did so last year by rejecting mask mandates, the education department simply dismissed all members.