TUES: Floods are expected soon in NM's burn zones, Tribal leaders & feds reestablish Bears Ears Commission, + More – KUNM

No floods reported over weekend, but they’re expected soon in the burn zones – Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico 
Residents in northern New Mexico are preparing for floods and solidifying evacuation plans, but so far, no floods have been reported.
There is a flood watch for Mora County and San Miguel County around the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire for Tuesday. This doesn’t mean it will flood, but it is possible.
Niki Carpenter, spokesperson with Southwest Area Incident Management Team 5 for the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, said the weather may “dump higher volumes of water in one location through a sustained period of time,” which can cause flooding.
The Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire is still listed as being at 72% containment, as it has been for the last five days, and Carpenter said this is mainly due to a delay in land assessment because of time and risk factors. She said containment numbers will probably go up soon, but a lot of the area has been inaccessible because of the weather.
“They don’t want to increase the number without being 100% positive,” she said.
The area of concern right now is around Pecos River and Hamilton Mesa Trail, where the fire burned into wilderness and larger fuels have a harder time absorbing humidity and rain, she said.
Over the weekend, the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire received anywhere from one-quarter inch of rain to three-quarters of an inch, depending on location, noted meteorologist Andrew Gorelow with the National Weather Service. He said the rain was “slow and steady,” as opposed to the quick bursts of a lot of rain that can cause floods, but that may change in the coming days.
No flooding has been reported in southern New Mexico near the Black Fire yet, said Stefan La-Sky, spokesperson with the team in command of the fire. There is a flood watch until Wednesday morning.
He said minimal rain reached the wildfire over the weekend, but humidity overnight helped with containment and allowed firefighters to cease night shifts. He expects increased containment in the coming days.
The amount of water in the atmosphere around the Black Fire could hit record levels later in the week, said Gary Zell, National Weather Service meteorologist.
“The atmosphere is loaded with moisture and any thunderstorm … now that we’ve had some precipitation on the fire, it can definitely cause flash flooding,” Zell said.
Crews fighting the Black Fire have shifted from full suppression efforts to repair with tasks like cleaning up fire lines and picking up brush from limbs and trees, La-Sky said.
With expectation for increased rain over the next few days, firefighters are cautious of areas that could flash flood, La-Sky said.
The Black Fire area saw a range of precipitation in various areas over the weekend, Zell said, from one-quarter of an inch to an inch and a half in some parts. But a lot of it missed the fire, La-Sky noted.
Tribal leaders and feds reestablish Bears Ears Commission – By Sam Metz Associated Press
Federal officials and tribal nations have formally reestablished a commission to oversee land management decisions at a national monument in Utah — among the first such joint governance agreements signed by Native Americans and U.S. officials.
Leaders from agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service met with representatives from five tribal nations Saturday to sign a document formalizing the Bears Ears Commission, a governing body tasked with day-to-day decisions on the 2,125 square-mile Bears Ears National Monument.
In 2021, President Joe Biden restored two sprawling national monuments in southern Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — reversing a decision by President Donald Trump that opened for mining and other development hundreds of thousands of acres of rugged lands sacred to Native Americans and home to ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
Together, the monuments encompass an area nearly the size of Connecticut, and were created by Democratic administrations under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historic, geographically or culturally important.
Tribes have long sought a larger role in their oversight.
“This is an important step as we move forward together to ensure that Tribal expertise and traditional perspectives remain at the forefront of our joint decision-making for the Bears Ears National Monument. This type of true co-management will serve as a model for our work to honor the nation-to-nation relationship in the future,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, one of the agreement’s signatories.
The Bears Ears Commission and Obama-era joint governance plan was altered to the chagrin of tribal officials when Trump downsized the monument in 2017. The five nations, all of which were driven off land included in the monument, are the Hopi, the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.
“Today, instead of being removed from a landscape to make way for a public park, we are being invited back to our ancestral homelands to help repair them and plan for a resilient future. We are being asked to apply our traditional knowledge to both the natural and human-caused ecological challenges, drought, erosion, visitation, etc.,” said Bears Ears Commission Co-Chair and Lieutenant Governor of Zuni Pueblo Carleton Bowekaty.
Tribes also play a role in jointly managing some resources within national park units, including Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Nation and Point Reyes National Seashore on the historic lands of the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo in California.
NM state epidemiologist leaving next monthBy Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing, a top infectious disease expert in the New Mexico government is leaving next month.
New Mexico State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross will leave the Department of Health on July 10, acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase told reporters during a news conference last week.
“She’s going to spend the summer with her family,” Scrase said. “We’re just so privileged to have her here and sad to see her go.”
Scrase said Ross is an incredible leader and a “great thought partner” to him.
“There’s probably nothing I think about the pandemic that hasn’t been informed by my discussions with her,” Scrase said of Ross.
He said they are supported by the state epidemiology team who have worked “many, many, many weekends here since the beginning of the pandemic.” He said New Mexico has been a national leader among state governments’ pandemic responses and credited that to Ross’ work managing large amounts of data and sharing it with the CDC.
DOH spokesperson Jodi McGinnis Porter said the department is advertising for Ross’ replacement.
The state epidemiologist’s job involves overseeing the Epidemiology and Response Division at DOH, using health data to support public health policy, and advising the health secretary and senior leadership on epidemiology, evaluation, scientific evidence and health policy, according to the advertisement for the position.
“Leadership will designate an acting person when she leaves,” McGinnis Porter said.
The announcement that Ross is leaving DOH comes when New Mexico is reporting a seven-day rolling average of 929 new cases per day.
But the true count is much higher, somewhere between 2,787 and 9,290 cases per day, according to DOH estimates. Scrase said he thinks reported cases should be multiplied by between three and 10 times to get the true count, in part because testing is mostly being done at home, and only a fraction of those tests that come up positive are actually reported to the state.
By the beginning of July, an average of nearly five people in New Mexico are projected to die from COVID each day, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington.
The center’s model predicts that the average daily death rate throughout July would be reduced by about half — if 80% of New Mexico residents were to always wear masks in public.
Consistent mask wearing in New Mexico as of Thursday was only 22%, and is projected to decrease to 10% by mid-July, according to the center.
The Washington Post reported in May that the U.S. overall could see 100 million coronavirus infections and a potentially significant wave of deaths this fall and winter.
Arizona fires sweep land rich with ancient sites, artifacts – By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
As Jason Nez scans rugged mountains, high desert and cliffsides for signs of ancient tools and dwellings unique to the U.S. Southwest, he keeps in mind that they’re part of a bigger picture.
And, fire is not new to them.
“They have been burned many, many times, and that’s healthy,” said Nez, a Navajo archaeologist and firefighter. “A lot of our cultural resources we see as living, and living things are resilient.”
As a pair of wildfires skirt this mountainous northern Arizona city, the flames are crossing land dense with reminders of human existence through centuries — multilevel stone homes, rock carvings and pieces of clay and ceramic pots that have been well-preserved in the arid climate since long before fire suppression became a tactic.
Today, firefighting crews increasingly are working to avoid or minimize damage from bulldozers and other modern-day tools on archaeological sites and artifacts, and protect those on public display to ensure history isn’t lost on future generations.
“Some of those arrowheads, some of those pottery sherds (broken ceramics) you see out there have that power to change the way we look at how humans were here,” Nez said.
The crews’ efforts include recruiting people to advise them on wildlife and habitat, air quality and archaeology. In Arizona, a handful of archaeologists have walked miles in recent months locating evidence of meaningful past human activity in and around scorched areas and mapping it for protection.
Just last week, a crew spotted a more than 1,000-year-old semi-buried dwelling known as a pit house.
“We know this area is really important to tribes, and it’s ancestral land for them,” said U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and tribal relations specialist Jeanne Stevens. “When we do more survey work, it helps add more pieces to the puzzle in terms of what’s on the landscape.”
It’s not just the scattered ruins that need protecting.
The nearby Wupatki National Monument — a center of trade for Indigenous communities around the 1100s — was evacuated because of wildfire twice this year. Exhibits there hold priceless objects, including 800-year-old corn, beans and squash, along with intact stone Clovis points used for hunting that date back some 13,000 years.
Before the first wildfire hit in April, forcing the evacuation of the monument and hundreds of homes outside Flagstaff, there was no set plan on how quickly to get the artifacts out because wildfire wasn’t seen as an imminent threat to Wupatki.
“Now with climate change, conditions have become different, hence a new plan,” monument curator Gwenn Gallenstein said.
Gallenstein assembled nested boxes with cavities for larger items and foam pouches for arrowheads and other smaller artifacts. She had photographs for each item so whoever was tasked with the packaging would know exactly where to put them, she said.
Gallenstein created a training plan on how to pack up ceramic pots, bone tools, sandals, textiles woven from cotton grown in the area and other things before another large wildfire broke out June 12 and the monument was closed again. No one expected to put the plan into action so soon.
The fires have so far avoided the facility. Several boxes of items that trace back to what archaeologists say are distinct Indigenous cultures were taken to the Museum of Northern Arizona for safekeeping.
Some Hopi clans consider those who lived at Wupatki their ancestors. Navajo families later settled the area but slowly left, either voluntarily or under pressure by the National Park Service, which sought to eliminate private use of the land once it became a monument in 1924.
The monument has some 2,600 archaeological sites across 54 square miles, representing a convergence of cultures on the Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet. The region includes the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Hopi mesas, volcanic cinder fields, the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the U.S. and the San Francisco Peaks — a mountain sacred to 13 Native American tribes.
“That gives you an idea of the density of the cultural history here, and that continues outside the national monument boundaries into the national forest,” said Lauren Carter, the monument’s lead interpretive ranger.
The Coconino National Forest on the southern edge of the plateau has surveyed just 20% of its 2,900 square miles and logged 11,000 archaeological sites, Stevens said. Forest restoration work that includes mechanical thinning and prescribed burns has given archaeologists an opportunity to map sites and log items. More discoveries are expected because of the current wildfires, especially in the more remote areas, Stevens said.
The arid climate has helped preserve many of the artifacts and sites. But it’s also the type of environment that is prone to wildfires, particularly with a mix of fierce winds and heat that were all too common in the U.S. West this spring as megadroughts linked to climate change baked the region.
Stevens recalled working on a wildfire in 2006 in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona and a prison crew coming across a great kiva — a circular stone structure built into the earth and used for ceremonies. “That was something that was really notable,” she said. “Where we’ve been having fires lately, we do have a lot of survey and a lot of knowledge, but we’re always ready for that new discovery.”
Nez, too, has made rare finds, including two Clovis points and village sites on a mountainside that he wasn’t expecting to see.
“There’s going to be pottery sherds, there’s going to be projectile points,” he tells firefighting crews and managers. “In Native cultures, those things are out there, and we respect them by leaving them alone.”


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