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Biden facing fire and anger during New Mexico visit

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — President Joe Biden is visiting New Mexico to talk about his administration's efforts to tackle wildfires as residents smolder with anger over how federal officials allowed planned burns to spread out of control, leading to the largest blaze in recorded state history. The fire has destroyed more than 430 homes across 500 square miles since early April, according to federal officials. Residents are concerned they won't receive compensation for damage they've suffered to cabins, barns, sheds and other properties.

Five killed in California Marine aircraft crash identified

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps has identified five people who died when their Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crashed during training in the California desert. The pilots were identified Friday as captains Nicholas Losapio of New Hampshire and John Sax of California. Also killed were three tiltrotor crew chiefs: Cpl. Nathan Carlson of Illinois; Cpl. Seth Rasmuson of Wyoming and Lance Cpl. Evan Strickland of New Mexico. The MV-22 Osprey went down Wednesday afternoon during training in a remote area in Imperial County. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Rare wetland plant found in Arizona now listed as endangered

A rare plant that depends on wetlands for survival is now on the federal endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a decision Friday to list the Arizona eryngo as endangered. The agency also set aside about 13 acres in southern Arizona as critical habitat. The decision comes years after environmentalists petitioned and then sued to gain protection for the plant with cream-colored spherical flower heads. Environmentalists say they decision will boost efforts to protect the San Pedro River, which is the last free-flowing river in Arizona. The wetland plant depends on springs from deep aquifers that nourish the river and is threatened by over-pumping of groundwater.

Native American youth to be tapped for conservation projects

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has rolled out guidelines for a new youth service program meant to create job opportunities for Native Americans while boosting their cultural connections to nature through conservation projects on tribal and public land. The Indian Youth Service Corps is the latest addition to the Biden administration's plans for building a 21st century version of the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps. Projects will range from clearing brush to reduce wildfire threats to preserving historic sites. Haaland said Friday that it's time for Indigenous youth to have a seat at the table. Nearly $10 million in federal and private funding is being invested in the effort.

New Mexico residents sue for information on massive wildfire

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico residents are suing the U.S. Forest Service for information on a massive wildfire that's been burning in the state since late April. The agency has been criticized for its role in causing two wildfires that merged to become the largest blaze in New Mexico's recorded history. Mora County residents allege the Forest Service improperly withheld documents following a records request. The agency says it does not comment on pending litigation. The wildfire has charred 500 square miles in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. A second large fire in southern New Mexico prompted an emergency declaration by the governor on Friday.

New Mexico county wants to halt use of vote-count machines

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Republican-led county commission in southern New Mexico is seeking to change the way ballots are collected and counted in the run-up to the November mid-term election. The commission voted unanimously Thursday to recount ballots from this week's statewide primary election by hand, remove state-mandated ballot drop boxes that facilitate absentee voting and discontinue the use of vote tabulation machines in the general election. The initiatives were proposed by commissioner and Cowboys for Trump cofounder Couy Griffin. He ascribes to unsubstantiated theories that the former president won the 2020 election.

Water company fined $1.2M for sewage discharge in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Environment Department has fined El Paso Water $1.2 million for allegedly discharging more than 1 billion gallons of raw sewage into the Rio Grande in Sunland Park. The state compliance orders issued Thursday also require El Paso Water to fix the problems that caused the illegal diversion and clean up the impacted areas. Authorities say El Paso Water illegally discharged up to 10 million gallons of raw wastewater daily into the river just upstream of the Courchesne Bridge since last August. They say sewage traveled downstream along the New Mexico-Texas border for nearly 2 miles and the illegal discharge didn't stop until January.

Albuquerque mayor isolating after testing positive for COVID

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has tested positive for COVID-19 and has canceled his attendance at upcoming events. Keller's office said Thursday that he is experiencing typical symptoms. He had planned to attend weekend events in Albuquerque, including a Pride festival and Summerfest. His office says he also planned to visit Saturday with President Joe Biden who is scheduled to make a quick stop in New Mexico to be briefed on wildfires and recovery efforts. Keller's office says he's looking forward to returning to in-person duties once it's safe. Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in New Mexico, but health officials say infections are becoming more mild.