Ranger Ethan Ortega is now the Historic Site Instructional Coordinator

By Matthew J. Barbour, Regional Manager


After an exhaustive search, New Mexico Historic Sites is pleased to announce that one of its own, Ranger Ethan Ortega, has been selected as the new Instructional Coordinator. He replaces Instructional Coordinator Sharon Walker who departed Coronado Historic Site on June 15. During her relatively brief two-year tenure, Ms. Walker visited over 50 public schools and published 11 lesson plans utilizing Common Core State Standards for literacy.

The role, as envisioned for Mr. Ortega, is quite a bit different from the one Ms. Walker held. He will not only service Coronado Historic Site, but the entire Northern Region of New Mexico Historic Sites. It will include duties both at Jemez and Los Luceros (situated in Acalde, New Mexico). Mr. Ortega will work in tandem with Jemez Instructional Coordinator Marlon Magdalena on public outreach and digital media promoting the sites. However, Coordinator Ortega’s primary role –at least initially- will be on re-imagining the exhibits at Jemez Historic Site.

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PEEC Receives Outstanding Environmental Education Organization Award

By Sandra West


PEEC was one of five award recipients at this year’s Environmental Literacy Summit, and received the only award given to an organization. PEEC educators Denise Matthews and Siobhan Niklasson are fifth and sixth from the left.


The Environmental Education Association of New Mexico (EEANM) bestowed their first Outstanding Environmental Education Organization Award on Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC). Siobhan Niklasson, PEEC’s Director of Education, accepted the award last Thursday, November 9, at EEANM’s 2017 Environmental Literacy Summit. “EEANM is a valuable resource and community for our state and we are honored to be recognized by them,” said Niklasson.

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Risky Changes to NM Public Health On Tap at State Water Commission Hearing

Ramona Blaber



This media alert came in late, just after 5 p.m., perhaps too late for most people with an interest in the matter to react, but, better late than never, here it is:

WHEN: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | 9:00 a.m. MT

WHERE: Room 317, State Capitol Building | 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

WHO: — Impacted residents of New Mexico’s “Dairy Row” — Members of the Citizen Dairy Coalition, the community group Rio Valle Concerned Citizens, and the organizations Amigos Bravos, & Gila Resources Information Project   — Representatives of the Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter

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Still Abuzz, After All These Months

Photos R.W.

I know, official winter doesn’t begin for well over a month yet, and most folks in the Jemez have already had their first season-closing freeze and are all set for their long dark chill ’till late March, early April, while here, we nestled up in the warm glow of red earth and red rocks you see no smoke rising from our chimneys,  it’s still Summer, late Summer perhaps, no decent banana crop ’till climate change gets a good hold, but the air dense with more bugs than through all the past months of this year, doing what they do with their loads of pollen buzzing from flower to flower and birds gasping for a sip from the bowl of fresh well water provided for their comfort in this bit of a drought, drought lite, but growing, sharing it with the odd chipmunk, rabbit, even the occasional lizard or the neighbor’s cat.

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The Basin in Our Corner

Photo Courtesy EcoFlight

Oil and gas production sites in the Four Corners.

An entry in EcoFlight describes in word and images the San Juan Basin, which has contributed more than eight percent of the nation’s current natural gas supply. Our area has produced more than 370 million barrels of oil and nearly 38 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  There are currently more than 20,000 producing wells with a prediction of up to 5,000 additional wells targeting natural gas in the upcoming years.

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Of Big Oil and Gas in Sandoval County

By Anita Amstutz


Jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s the rallying cry of our time. And why not? Right livelihood brings self respect, good wages, and ability to take care of one’s own and participate in the human community. Unfortunately the public is continually handed the tired myth that we must have jobs at any cost. Ultimatums and lame excuses frame an either or proposition.

Recently the citizenry of Rio Rancho and surrounding communities of Sandoval County saw this golden calf paraded out again by the County Commissioners and the oil and gas industry—-we must bow down to the sacred, hungry machinery of big oil and gas or else we will not have jobs, jobs, jobs.

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New Mexicans Deliver Their Methane Comments

Ramona Blaber


On Monday, in Carlsbad, Farmington, Las Cruces, Albuquerque and in Santa Fe, New Mexicans delivered comments to Bureau of Land Management field offices. The comments were among thousands from New Mexico and at least 200,000 nationwide voicing opposition to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s proposed delay of the BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule for two years.

“The BLM’s Methane rule is win-win for the public, industry and our local economy. We can clean up our air here in the center of the nation’s biggest methane cloud, and the state of New Mexico AND the oil and gas industry can make money plugging their leaks and eliminating waste,” said Katee McClure, Aztec city commissioner. “Capture the escaping methane; use it as an energy source and make money for the state. Clean up the air and create jobs for our community.”

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New Mexicans Gear Up to Confront Interior Secretary Zinke Over the Air We Breathe

Ramona Blaber


The San Juan Basin, our  neighboring methane gas producing area.


Parents, faith leaders and elected officials will gather at BLM offices statewide Monday to deliver comments opposing another attempt to undermine a key BLM safeguard that would reduce methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands.

New Mexico citizens have commented in overwhelming support of these rules again and again. The two-year delay proposed would undermine public health and royalty income to New Mexico and allow oil and gas companies to continue leaking methane and other toxic pollution into the air we breathe. New Mexicans will deliver comments in person on the last day of the BLM’s public-comment period on the proposed delay.

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Celebrating the Return of the Jemez Post Heavy Drinkers Invade Red Rocks Back Yard

Photos by R.W.

After a  sustained glitch, the Jemez Post lurches back onto the internet, still slightly dazed and not quite sure what really happened. Testing the waters, literally, here are some characters, signalling seasonal change, who, put out by the recent drought-like conditions jostle by a constantly refilled bowl of water. Anyone identifying some of these, especially the small one with all the white on its face, will be appreciated.

Yes, this one in the foreground.

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People’s Rally and Press Conference on the Sandoval County Oil and Gas Ordinance


Tribal allies and community, citizen and environmental groups will gather before the Oct. 19 Sandoval County Commission meeting to rally against the county’s exclusion of Sandoval residents from the process of creating an oil and gas ordinance. The Stoddard oil and gas ordinance lacks water and public health protections, meaningful tribal consultation, and does not require public notification or input during the drilling approval process.

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Stricken Tree in Area 3

By Suzanne Swetnam

This  Douglas Fir tree was struck by lightning this morning on Ponderosa Drive in Area 3, right above the road at the big curve, about 200 yards from our house. It hit about 7:30 a.m.

As you can see, the lightning blew the bark off from the top to the ground. Bark shards are dispersed all over the ground and road.  It was so close that it shorted out our internet modem and the monitoring system for our solar power grid. I heard a popping sound in the house at the same time as the thunder and lightning.

Too close for comfort.

Photos by Suzanne Swetnam

Valles Caldera Geology Field Trip (Post edited with corrected date inserted)

By Sandra West


Geologist Fraser Goff, who wrote the book on Valle geology, is leading a trip to the Valles Caldera with his wife, Cathy Goff,  internationally known geologist, on a day trip to see geothermal springs in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

On Saturday, October 21 (please note, the previously posted date was incorrect), explore six different areas in the Valles Caldera with geologists Fraser and Cathy Goff. This is an amazing opportunity to learn about the volcanology of the preserve and see little-known geothermal springs with the person who literally wrote the book on the Valle’s geology.

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Flash Flood Watch for the Jemez

Starting this afternoon all the way through Sunday night the National Weather Service has announced a  flash flood watch for large parts of New Mexico, including the Jemez. They tell us that a few strong storms are possible across western New Mexico this afternoon and evening. Torrential downpours and small hail are the primary threats. Minor flooding is possible due to heavy downpours over already saturated soils.

Both localized and distant heavy rainfall will create dangerous flows in arroyos and over low water crossings. Do not attempt to drive through these waters. Water in arroyos may travel many miles and take hours to reach your location from upstream rain areas.

In many locations the ground is already saturated from 2 days of moderate to heavy rainfall, so even moderate rain amounts in a short period of time could lead to flash flooding.  Other vulnerable locations will include steep terrain, urban areas and burn scars. Keep a watchful eye on arroyos and small streams, and stay out of flooded low water crossings.

Drier air will arrive from the west and southwest on Saturday evening decreasing the risk of flash flooding.


It’s A Good Time For Seeing Tarantulas

By Chris Judson


Photo NPS.

Around here, in Bandelier National Monument and many other parts of New Mexico, everyone starts noticing tarantulas about this time of year.  Autumn is the time when males mature and start out on their quest to find a mate.  This exposes them to many dangers, from hawks and skunks, which want to eat them, to fast-moving cars, to people who just find them creepy and may think they should be squashed.

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Hiking Looming Birding Movies and Drawing and Painting (what more could you ask for) At the Pajarito Environmental Education Center

By Sandra West


Photo Chris Swanson.

Natural arch.

On Sunday, October 8, avid hiker Chris Swanson will lead an afternoon hike to our local window rock. This hike is about two miles round trip with around 400 feet of elevation gain.

To participate, register online at www.peecnature.org. Afterward, meet Chris and other hikers at 1:00 p.m. on October 8 at Mitchell Trailhead (located at the corner of Arizona and 45th streets). Participants need to bring water, snacks, hat, sunscreen, and good hiking shoes or boots.

Chris Swanson is a long time avid hiker and trail runner who also enjoys rock scrambling and nature photography. New to Los Alamos, Chris moved here in 2016 from Southern California and hit the ground running (literally), learning and loving the local trails.

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A Call to Residents of Sandoval County

Laura Robbins


This is a reminder about action to be taken by the Sandoval County Commission. The Commission is about to vote on an extremely permissive Oil and Gas Ordinance that could radically affect the quality of our lives as well as property values in a large part of Sandoval County.

Here’s how the Commission plans to make it easy for oil and gas companies to drill near your home or ranch or farm:

  • NO public notice
  • NO public hearing

Your wakeup call will occur when the company starts drilling next to your home.

Sounds unbelievable?

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Deer Creek Fire and Other Forest News

By Julie Anne Overton



Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) plan to manage the lightning-caused Deer Creek Fire on Peggy Mesa by using low-intensity fire on the ground to achieve multiple resource benefits.

The Deer Creek Fire started Sept. 15 on Peggy Mesa in the old San Diego prescribed burn area and adjacent to the site of this summer’s lightning-caused Peggy Fire.  Objectives for managing the Deer Creek Fire include:

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Deer Creek Fire Smoke Rises Over the Nascimientos

Photos R.W.

Smoke from the lightning strike caused Deer Creek Fire has now become visible in the southern parts of the Jemez Valley.  It started on Sept. 18 when it was estimated at about eight acres, but has most likely grown by now. No new reports on its progress have yet been posted  on New Mexico Fire Information or the Santa Fe National Forest sites.

The fire is burning on the Jemez Ranger District next to the site of the Peggy Fire.


Night Sky Observation Event Offered in Valles Caldera



Photo Jim Stein Photography

Night sky hanging over the Valle Grande.


The Valles Caldera offers some of the darkest skies in our area and is a great place to get a better look at the night sky on clear nights.

The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) working with the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VALL) offers a night sky observation event on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. PEEC astronomers Galen Gisler, Dave North, Akkana Peck, and Rick Wallace along with VALL park rangers will point out constellations, planets, and other celestial objects with the help of telescopes and lasers.

They will use lasers to reveal constellations and other celestial objects visible to the naked eye and also set up telescopes to give a closer look at planets, star clusters, and celestial objects visible that night.

This event is free to the public, aside from the VALL entrance fee. No registration is required. To attend, meet at the Valles Caldera National Preserve Visitor Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. For more information about this and other Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) programs, visit www.peecnature.org, emailprograms@peecnature.org or call (505) 662-0460.



California Condors Back from the Brink

By Sandra West


Photo by Joe Fitzgibbon.

A very rare visitor to New Mexico, this California Condor flew into Los Alamos in April, 2015. 

The largest bird in North America, which existed only in captivity in the last 1980’s, is taking to the skies in growing numbers, and its story will be told at the Los Alamos Nature Center on Tuesday, Sept.19 at 7 p.m. Four condor experts, Bette Korber, Melissa Moore, Shorty Esch, and Jeanne Fair, will talk about the California Condor’s story and bird science conducted at LANL. This free presentation is open to the public.

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Eclipses and Phantoms

By Sandra West



On Friday, September 9, at 7 PM in the Los Alamos Nature Center planetarium, three local astronomers, who watched the eclipse from within the path of totality, will share stories, photos, data, and videos from the August 21st total solar eclipse.

The full-dome film Phantom of the Universe will play in the planetarium at 2 PM on Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10.

Phantom of the Universe, a film that uncovers the heavenly mystery of dark matter, can be seen at 2 PM on September 9 and 10 in the nature center planetarium. The film traces existence back to its beginning, stretching through space and time to reveal its unique connection to the Large Hadron Collider.

For more information about these and future planetarium shows, please visit www.peecnature.org/planetarium. To reserve tickets, call (505) 662-0460.


Continental Divide Trail Remains Closed

By Julie Anne Overton


The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has extended the closure of a segment of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) on the Coyote Ranger District to provide for public safety as fire crews continue to work on the Ojitos Fire in the Chama River Wilderness.  The temporary closure is in effect until Dec. 31, 2017, unless it is rescinded earlier.

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The Mighty Bighorn

By Daryl Ratajczak

Wildlife Biologist, Forest Planning Team


Fragment of photo by Jwanamaker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28291925

Bighorn Sheep.

I stood motionless, afraid to even blink let alone breathe. His bulbous eye focused on the offcolored rock sitting before him. His 220-pound frame was sleek and well-defined but nothing compared to what it would be in a few months when he bulked up to begin defending his right to breed. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram standing before me was already a fine specimen, he was soon going to be a fierce competitor as well. Imagining the thunderous clap resounding from his mighty horns as he beat down his rivals, I had little doubt he would maintain his bloodline this coming breeding season.

So went my first encounter with New Mexico’s largest wild sheep. You can imagine my surprise as I learned about this majestic animal and its struggle to maintain a foothold in the rocky and wild places it calls home. As an invited member to a bighorn sheep management meeting, my first priority was to gather as much information about the animal as possible. As a wildlife biologist, I have managed numerous species of big game animals, but this was going to be my first foray with bighorns, therefore, I was quite content letting the experts lead the discussion.

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The Planned Destruction of the Nation’s Past, Present and Future

By R.W.

Photo by Laurascudder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10621997

Monarch Cave Ruin cliff dwelling on Comb Ridge

Fossil-fuel corporate polluters, represented by  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, are reaching their soiled, grasping mitts on vast areas of natural wonder that define this country, this continent, areas that hold  deep historic and cultural meaning as well as enduring habitats, endangered monuments to this country’s earliest human habitation , and also monuments to its natural diversity, linking our past and present, and linking a wide variety of biospheres.

President Donald Trump described the removal of secessionist war leaders statues as destroying  the nation’s history and culture. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he said.

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See the Solar Eclipse in the Valles Caldera Tomorrow


The Great American Eclipse is coming, and everyone is invited to the Valles Caldera National Preserve to watch it.

Join rangers to witness and learn more about this spectacular natural event, free of charge, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21 at the Valle Grande Entrance Station on N.M. 4. The maximum partial eclipse will be reached at approximately 11:45 a.m. MDT, Monday.
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The Effects of Climate Change on Hummingbird Populations 

By Sandra West


On Saturday, August 12th, researcher Bob Walker will lead two groups, one at 7:30 AM and one at 9:30 AM, to the hummingbird monitoring site in Bandelier National Monument. This location is one of a network of sites in the Western U.S. that tracks the impact of climate change on the movement and behavior of hummingbirds. To join one of the groups, visit peecnature.org to register. This is a free program offered by Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

These tours will start from the Los Alamos Nature Center and carpool to the site. The first hummingbird monitoring session will meet at 7:30 AM and the second will meet at 9:30 AM. Registration is required for this event, and admission is free. This program is open to individuals ages 12 and older.

For more information about these and other Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) programs, and to register for the count, visit www.peecnature.org, email programs@peecnature.org or call (505) 662-0460.

Smoke from Peggy Fire Still Rises Above the Jemez

Photos R.W.

Smoke from Peggy Fire as seen on NM Highway 4 just north of the schools.

The Peggy Fire, now in ite ninth day, has reached almost 600 acres. Dianne A. Berry, of the Santa Fe National Forest issued this information: “Fire crews took advantage of favorable weather conditions yesterday to make good progress through both ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper vegetation controlled ignitions.  Interior spot fires continue to be moderated by the minimal needle litter and ladder fuels in the San Diego prescribed fire treatment area.  Crews will continue controlled burning operations as conditions allow.”

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