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

Big progress on wildfires, but dangerous winds on the way

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Firefighters have been making significant progress on the biggest wildfires burning unusually hot and fast for this time of year in the western U.S. But forecasters from the Southwest to the southern High Plains are warning of the return the next two days of the same gusty winds and critical fire conditions that sent wildland blazes racing across the landscape last week. Some of the nearly 1,000 firefighters battling the biggest fire in drought-stricken New Mexico cut away brush and burned out any extra fuel Wednesday. It's burned about 94 square miles. And hotter, drier, windier weather is in the forecast into the weekend.

New Mexico adapts to same-day registration in primary voting

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Recent changes in New Mexico election law are making it easier for unaffiliated voters to participate in the June 7 primary election if they chose to affiliate with a major party — even briefly. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Wednesday highlighted the opportunity for voters who are affiliated with a minor party or decline affiliation to participate in the statewide primary by picking a major party affiliation on site at election-day polling places and county clerks' offices. New Mexico remains a "closed primary" state that requires affiliation with a major party in order to vote in a primary.

Report: Albuquerque should shrink public schools, cut jobs

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A report from the New Mexico Legislature recommends that the state's largest school system prepare to close schools and cut education jobs. That's despite an influx of state and federal cash and nearly 700 unfilled school worker positions at Albuquerque Public Schools. The Legislative Finance Committee report delivered Wednesday says the district must plan major cuts because of declining enrollment exacerbated by the pandemic. It says the district has a mismatch of teachers and students and that special education students don't have enough trained educators. District superintendent Scott Elder has acknowledged that the district needs to cut some staff positions, but says closing schools could hurt communities and increase bussing costs.

Videos show aftermath of film-set shooting, Baldwin reaction

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico sheriff investigating the fatal film-set shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin described complacency, disorganization and neglected safety measures in the making of the low-budget movie "Rust." The vast trove of newly released law enforcement files include lapel camera video of the mortally wounded Hutchins slipping in and out of consciousness as an evacuation helicopter arrives. Witness interrogations, email threads, text conversations, inventories of ammunition and hundreds of photographs round out the collection of evidence. The sheriff says he is waiting on a forensic analysis before turning the 6-month-old case over to prosecutors to decide whether criminal charges will be filed.

Protections sought for Western bird linked to piñon forests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A bird that is inextricably linked to the piñon and juniper forests that span the Western United States has seen its numbers decline over the last half century. Environmentalists announced Tuesday that they're petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the pinyon jay under the Endangered Species Act as a way to save the species and the trees. A very social bird, the jay is known for stashing away piñon seeds, a habit that helps propagate the next generation of trees. Piñon and juniper forests across the West already have been effected by climate change, hotter and drier conditions and more severe wildfires.

Added crews making progress on Midwest, Southwest fires

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Stiff winds remain a challenge but beefed up fire crews are making significant progress on a large prairie fire burning near the Nebraska-Kansas line. In the Southwest, lighter winds have allowed firefighters to keep flames from advancing significantly at big fires in Arizona and New Mexico where multiple blazes have charred a combined 225 square miles since last week. More than 200 firefighters are now battling the Nebraska fire that killed a former volunteer fire chief, injured several firefighter and destroyed several homes last week. Fire spokesman Terry Krasko says the biggest loss on Tuesday was a few hay bales. That fire is now 74% contained.

Native American leaders push for Chaco area protections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Native American leaders are meeting with land managers as the Biden administration considers prohibiting new oil and gas development on nearly 550 square miles of federal land in northwestern New Mexico. Top officials with the All Pueblo Council of Governors said Tuesday they will reiterate their support for the proposal during tribal consultations this week. The U.S. Interior Department will accept comments on the proposal through May 6. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is from New Mexico, cited the cultural significance of the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park when she first proposed the withdrawal in November. She has said many tribes in the Southwest have a connection to the area.

High court could free Biden to end Trump asylum policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is questioning lower-court orders that have blocked the Biden administration from ending a controversial Trump-era immigration program for asylum-seekers. Questions from conservative and liberal justices during nearly two hours of oral arguments on Tuesday suggested that the court could free the administration to end the "Remain in Mexico" policy that forces some people seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico for their hearings. President Joe Biden suspended the program on his first day in office. After Texas and Missouri sued, lower courts required immigration officials to reinstate it, though the current administration has sent far fewer people back to Mexico than its predecessor.