- AP-NEW MEXICO WILDFIRE-MONUMENT
SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) — The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in southwestern New Mexico is closed to the public while crews conduct a burnout operation to reduce the risk of a wildfire burning toward the monument and the nearby community of Gila Hot Springs. Officials said the closure of the monument located 32 miles north of Silver City took effect Saturday and will continue until further notice. Burnout operations are a fire suppression technique in which fire is set along the inside edge of a control line or natural barrier to consume unburned fuel between a wildfire and the control line.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
TSAILE, Ariz. (AP) — A college on the Navajo Nation is accepting President Joe Biden's challenge to get students and others vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4. Diné College Incident Command Director Velveena Davis says COVID-19 remains a threat to the Navajo Nation, "so the college would like to do its part to expand the efforts of having our employees and students vaccinated." Davis says the college wants to ensure the safety and wellness of its campuses as they transition to in-person operations. The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday reached out to higher education institutions on behalf of Biden, asking them to play a role in reaching a 70% nationwide vaccination goal by July 4.
- MIGRANTS RESCUED
GILA BEND, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol says its agents in southern Arizona have rescued 26 migrants stranded in the mountains south of Interstate 8 amid rising summer temperatures. The agency said Friday the rescue took place Wednesday afternoon in the Tabletop Mountains near Gila Bend after one of the migrants called 911 for help. Temperatures had hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The Border Patrol's air rescue units and Arizona state troopers helped rescue the migrants, several of whom needed treatment for heat related illnesses. Border Patrol agents in the Yuma Sector this week found the remains of two migrants who died in separate locations.
- LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIP-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's lottery scholarship program in the next academic year will cover full tuition for eligible in-state students at public and tribal colleges and universities for the first time since 2015. The state Higher Education Department announced Thursday that the scholarship will be funded at $63.5 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, a 30% increase, with the additional money coming from several sources. The scholarship paid full tuition for eligible students from 1996 to 2015 before it was reduced to levels as low as 60%. That was due to circumstances that included rising tuition rates.
- POLITICAL REDISTRICTING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Retired state Supreme Court Justice Edward L. Chavez will lead a public vetting of proposed New Mexico redistricting maps as chairman of a citizen redistricting committee. Chavez was appointed to the leadership role Friday by the State Ethics Commission. Districts are redrawn every 10 years after the Census count to adjust for population shifts. New Mexico will draw new maps for three U.S. House districts as well as the state Senate, House and Public Education Commission that regulates charter schools. The redistricting panel will hold a series of public meetings as it develops proposals. Its recommendations will be presented to the Legislature and are not binding.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has rejected the Biden administration's attempt to delay a lawsuit from several states and environmental groups that would end sales for coal mining leases on federal lands. The coal program was temporarily shut down under President Barack Obama because of concerns about climate change. It was revived by the Trump administration, but there have been few sales in the years since because the use of coal has plummeted as utilities turn to cleaner-burning fuels. Environmentalists want to shut down the program permanently. A federal judge issued an order late Thursday denying the Biden administration's attempt to delay the case for another three months.
- COUNTY SHERIFF-MISTRIAL
TIERRA AMARILLA, N.M. (AP) — A state district judge has declared a mistrial in the case of Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan. Court officials said Friday that the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The sheriff faced charges of harboring or aiding a felon and bribing a witness in connection with a 2017 incident. He was accused of helping former Española City Councilor Phillip Chacon evade police after a high-speed chase and telling a sheriff's deputy who witnessed some of his actions not to tell anyone. But Lujan's attorney argued that the sheriff had no knowledge of the charges against Chacon at the time.
- AIR FORCE-CONTAMINATION
CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico environmental officials say they're several months into an investigation to determine the extent of contamination at two Air Force bases. Environment Secretary James Kenney said Friday that the work is on track to be completed by summer 2022. The state sued in 2019, saying the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities. Similar contamination has been found at dozens of military sites across the U.S. New Mexico officials consider the contamination "an immediate and substantial danger" to the surrounding communities of Clovis and Alamogordo.