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

Volcanic cones near peak sacred to tribes gain protection

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A national conservation group has acquired a sprawling ranch near a New Mexico mountain peak held sacred by Native American tribes. The Trust for Public Land announced Thursday that land managers will be able create New Mexico's largest state-owned recreation property, near Mount Taylor. The $34 million effort comes as state and federal officials look for opportunities to preserve more natural landscapes amid climate change. The property encompasses more than 84 square miles of grassland, volcanic cones, rugged mesas and part of the Mount Taylor Traditional Cultural Property, which is on the state register of historic places due to its significance to Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona.

New Mexico Democrats vie for attorney general in primary

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic voters are deciding on a nominee for New Mexico attorney general as state prosecutors contend with a surge in urban gun violence. Voters also have concerns about water supplies, pollution, consumer protection and political extremism. Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez is running against State Auditor Brian Colón for the Democratic endorsement to succeed termed-out Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas. Absentee and early in-person voting are underway in advance of Election Day next Tuesday. The winner will compete against Republican attorney and U.S. Marine veteran Jeremy Michael Gay of Gallup. Republicans have held the office only three times in New Mexico's 110-year history.

New Mexico OKs rule on suspending boards of school districts

SANTA FE N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Public Education Department has approved a new rule allowing the state to suspend a school district board because of fraud or other serious problems that severely impair the district. The rule approved last week allows both emergency and nonemergency suspensions of entire boards but not individual members. The rule includes a requirement that the state provide notice to the district and replaces a rule adopted in 2005 that applied to superintendents, principals and charter school governing boards. The state in 2021 suspended the Los Lunas and Floyd school boards but department spokeswoman Judy Robinson said the revised rule was intended to clarify the process, not a response to a particular incident."

Jury says it's deadlocked in 'We Build The Wall' fraud trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Eleven jurors accused one juror of political bias before saying they were deadlocked in deliberating the fate of a Colorado businessman accused of defrauding investors in a wall along the U.S. southern border. Federal Judge Analisa Torres read jurors a so-called Allen charge late Thursday in the trial of Timothy Shea two full days into deliberations. The instruction designed to spark productive deliberations Friday came after jurors said in a note that they couldn't agree on a unanimous verdict on any count. Eleven jurors earlier had asked that one juror be replaced, saying he showed anti-government bias and had accused the other jurors of being liberals.

Steam railroad to postpone season opening due to fire threat

The commission that oversees a historic steam railroad in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado has voted to delay opening its operating season by nearly three weeks because of the extreme wildfire threats in the region. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad operates passenger trains on 64-miles of narrow-gauge tracks between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado. The two states own the railroad, which provides an economic boost to a five-county region. The commission voted during an emergency meeting Wednesday to delay the opening from June 11 to July 1. Thousands of firefighters are currently fighting major wildfires in New Mexico, including the largest in the state's recorded history.

US Interior Secretary Haaland tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. The Interior Department says Haaland is isolating in Nevada where she took part in a roundtable discussion Tuesday about clean energy production on public lands. The agency says Haaland began experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus on Wednesday and tested positive. She has canceled further travel around the U.S. West and is working remotely. The Interior Department says the 61-year-old Haaland is confident she'll recover quickly. Haaland is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots.

Facility to be upgraded to serve larger wildfire tankers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A planned $15 million upgrade will allow a Forest Service facility at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque to serve the largest tanker aircraft used to fight U.S. wildfires. The larger "tankers can hold about 5000 gallons (18,900 liters) of retardant, about three times as much as the aircraft that currently use the Cibola National Forest Air Tanker Base at Kirtland, Sen. Martin Heinrich said improving the base will reduce the time it takes for large aircraft to get involved in fighting wildfires. The New Mexico Democrat toured the banker base Tuesday. The project could break ground in the fall.

Body recovered after avalanche in Rocky Mountain park

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) — Authorities say rescuers have recovered the body of a man who was killed in a weekend rock fall and avalanche that also injured two climbers at Rocky Mountain National Park. Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says a helicopter crew lifted the man's body from the avalanche zone on Mount Meeker on Tuesday. The Boulder County coroner's office planned to release the man's identity after an autopsy, Patterson says. Two New Mexico climbers were injured in Sunday's avalanche. Michael Grieg, 27, of Albuquerque was airlifted by helicopter and hospitalized at Medical Center of the Rockies. Grieg's condition wasn't known Wednesday. Lillian Martinez, 24, of Albuquerque suffered minor injuries, Patterson says.