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Feds to kill endangered wolf in New Mexico

Mexican gray wolves are struggling in the Southwest. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Conservation activists say shooting is unnecessary; push for better livestock protection and management

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Bowing to local political pressure, federal biologists say they will shoot an endangered Arizona wolf that has been killing livestock — despite the fact that its pack is surviving mainly on elk, and that ranchers have been fully reimbursed for their losses.

Wolf conservation advocates said the kill order is a throwback to Bush-era wildlife policies that don’t make sense as endangered Mexican gray wolves struggle to hold their own in the Southwest. Continue reading

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Evacuation orders lifted at Whitewater-Baldy Fire

New Mexico’s largest-ever wildfire reported as 18 percent contained

The Whitewater-Baldy Fire Sunday, June 2, 2012.

An aerial view of partially burned areas in the Whitewater-Baldy fire footprint. PHOTO COURTESY INCIWEB/KARI GREER. Click on the image to visit the Inciweb gallery for the fire.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters Sunday estimated they have achieved 18 percent containment of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire, but not before the blaze scorched its way across almost a quarter million acres of mountains, mesas and canyons in southern New Mexico in the state’s biggest-ever wildfire.

According an update from IncicWeb Sunday evening, the fire’s footprint is now at 241,000 acres and still growing in places, with isolated sustained torching and upslope runs Sunday producing up to 200-foot flame lengths.

The fire slowed as it encountered areas burned in previous wildfires, but firefighters said there is still a high potential for additional growth. Continue reading

Whitewater-Baldy fire in New Mexico burns to record size

Southwest may see more megafires, experts warn

The Whitewater-Baldy Fire continues to burn nearly unchecked in southern New Mexico.

Firefighters inspect a burned stand of trees in the Whitewater-Baldy fire complex in New Mexico. PHOTO COURTESY STEVEN MEISTER/INCIWEB.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Whitewater-Baldy fire complex in New Mexico is still growing along 95 percent of its perimeter and has become the largest wildfire on record in the state during the modern era — and it may grow bigger yet, according to wildfire experts who caution that the Southwest could be facing an era of megafires due to decades of fire suppression.

Fires burning to half a million acres in the dry and crowded forests of the region could become the norm, with geography being the only limiting factor, according to Wally Covington, a forest ecology expert at Northern Arizona University.

So far, the Whitewater-Baldy fire has burned in a footprint of more than 172,000 acres, though it’s important to remember that not every square mile in that area burned severely. In some places, entire stands of trees were destroyed, in other areas, the fire may have crept along the ground, consuming dry grasses, branches and pine needles. Continue reading

Whitewater-Baldy Fire grows to 82,000 acres

Firefighters disengage from fire lines as wind fuels long-distance spotting and crown runs

Whitewater Baldy fire complex, New Mexico wildfires

The 82,000-acre Whitewater-Baldy fire continues to spread in the Gila National Forest.

The Whitewater-Baldy fire burns in steep terrain on the Gila National Forest. PHOTO COURTESY INCIWEB. Click for more photos.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The lightning-caused Whitewater-Baldy wildfire in New Mexico has grown to 82,000 acres and has destroyed at least 12 cabins in the rugged terrain of the Gila National Forest, northwest of Silver City.

Firefighters continue to focus on structure protection the Willow Creek subdivision and assessing fire threats in the town Mogollon while the wind- and terrain-driven fire continues to spread, albeit more slowly than earlier in the week. A voluntary evacuation of Mogollon remains in effect.

Firefighters retreated from some of their fire lines Friday as high winds fueled long range spotting and sustained crown runs. More high winds are forecast for at least the first part of the weekend.

Smoke from the fire will probably continue to affect the region until the monsoon season arrives later in the summer, according Boulder-based National Weather Service forecasters.

About 500 firefighters are at the scene.

Nationally, eight large wildfires are burning, with most of the activity in Arizona. To-date, fires have burned across about 600,000 acres, about half the ten-year average. More fire statistics and info at the National Interagency Fire Center website.

New Mexico’s Catron County facing fallout from last summer’s illegal bulldozing of the San Francisco River

Environmental groups ask county to renounce actions

Illegal bulldozing in New Mexico's Dan Francisco River was well-documented by conservation groups and local residents. PHOTO COURTESY CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Last summer’s illegal bulldozing in New Mexico’s San Francisco River has been deemed in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, and the U.S. Forest also outlined how the action by county officials could lead to potential violations of Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

In trying to illegally assert local government rights on federal lands, the county also trespassed on private property along the river, according to landowners who documented the violation of their property.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Environmental Law Center today demanded that Catron County commissioners officially denounce the county’s illegal bulldozing of the San Francisco River and formally abandon plans to do so in the future. The groups also want the county to discourage any further motorized use of the area to avoid harm to imperiled wildlife and the river. Continue reading

Wildfires: New Mexico and Florida the latest hotspots

Incident commander Rob Shackelford views flames at the Pains Bay Fire in North Carolina. PHOTO BY B STRAWSER, USFWS.

Structures threatened in Gila Hot Springs, N.M. and the Big Cypress Preserve in Florida

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While cooler weather and somewhat higher relative humidities have helped firefighters control a number of huge wildfire in Texas, the 3,600-acre Schwartz Fire, 20 miles east of Marathon, is growing quickly in dormant brush, hardwood slash and tall grass fuels.

The fire, which started May 7, is only 5 percent contained and threatens to move east quickly under gusty winds, highs around 100 degrees and 3 percent relative humidity. Click here to get all Texas wildfire updates from the Texas Forest Service.

Dangerous new blazes have been reported in South Carolina, Florida and New Mexico, where the 27,000 Miller Fire, near Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, has forced the evacuation of Gila Hot Springs. Continue reading

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