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Updating the Response to the Yazzie/Martinez Ruling, The Future of the Forests & NM River Rights

This week on New Mexico in Focus, we look back on some of the key stories of the last few months that will have lingering impacts around the state. Our Land Senior Producer Laura Paskus speaks with Mario Atencio, whose family lives on the eastern Navajo Nation, where oil and gas development have affected the land and water. Atencio is the Greater Chaco Energy organizer with Diné CARE, or Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, and he talks about why increased protections for communities and landscapes are so important. 

NMiF Correspondent Russell Contreras sits down with Thomas Saenz,  president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to update the state’s response to the landmark Yazzie/Martinez ruling. MALDEF represents Louise Martinez, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, and continues to push for educational advancements for the students highlighted in the court ruling. 

Laura Paskus updates the state of the Sandia Mountains, where conditions are prime for what could someday be a catastrophic fire. That’s despite the mountains receiving more precipitation than in recent years. They are still warming and drying over time. The forests are also overly dense, due in part to more than a century of fire suppression.  

Laura also interviews Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, about a new plan at LANL to expand production of a major component of nuclear weapons. Mello explains what goes into the production increase — and why the war in Ukraine is impacting the production of nuclear weapons.  

A new report spotlights some of the federal government’s shortcomings when it comes to Indigenous health care — specifically for mothers and newborns. Maternal mortality among American Indians and Alaska natives ranges from 2 to 4-and-a-half times the rate for non-Hispanic white women. New Mexico in Focus correspondent Antonia Gonzales spoke with the author of a report detailing the disparity and asks what changes could help mitigate against it.  

Laura Paskus closes the show by exploring the legalities of water rights along New Mexico’s many rivers, including the Rio Grande. She speaks with Paul Tashjian, director of freshwater conservation for Audubon Southwest, about the current system used to assign water rights, and the reality that the river itself has no rights to the water that maintains its ecosystem.

Host: Gene Grant 


Working to Protect the Greater Chaco Landscape 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guest: Mario Atencio, Greater Chaco Energy organizer, Diné CARE 

Updating the Response to the Yazzie/Martinez Ruling 
Correspondent: Russell Contreras 
Guest: Thomas Saenz, president & general counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund 

The Future of the Forests 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guests: Shawn Martin, Forest Silviculturist, Cibola National Forest  
Aaron Johnson, Forestry Program manager, Cibola National Forest 

Ukraine War Makes it Harder to be a Nuclear ‘Dove’ 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guest: Greg Mello, executive director, Los Alamos Study Group 

Improving the Health and Safety of Indigenous Mothers and Infants 
Correspondent: Antonia Gonzales 
Dr. Edward P. Ehlinger, MD, former chair, HHS Advisory Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality 
Janelle Palacios (Salish and Kootenai), nurse, midwife, co-chair of the ACIMM Health Equity Workgroup 

Without Rights, NM’s Rivers Can Come Up Empty 
Correspondent: Laura Paskus 
Guest: Paul Tashjian, Audubon Southwest, director of Freshwater Conservation