What are agencies and organizations thinking about?

This year’s legislative session will go from January 17 – March 18. Here’s a round-up of what some advocacy organizations and government agencies will be focusing on.

350 New Mexico aims to build an inclusive movement in New Mexico to prevent the worst effects of climate change and to help the public get an overview of the impacts of climate change on our state. Their website is easy to read, with both their proposals to combat aridity and the background materials which led to these recommendations. You can volunteer to join their legislative action team; by signing up, you will receive alerts to attend virtual hearings at the Legislature and make public comments. They will hold a Zoom Legislative Action Training on Sunday, January 8th at 4 p.m.

Another critical site to check out is the Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates. Their site has the Office of the State Engineer’s plan, developed from the input of many experts, which describes New Mexico’s overall water situation. The “Water Action Plan” will be discussed soon . To develop this plan, small groups of people with expertise on water met together for months and came up with agreed-upon actions based on the State Engineer’s report. These will be presented to legislators for sponsorship and ultimately to Legislative Council Services who will draft bills for the 2023 session. Their Water Policy and Funding meeting is planned for January 11 at 6:30 on Zoom (here is the link to sign up for to attend).

The Nature Conservancy has a statewide agenda focusing on public ownership of power and prohibiting an increase in the disposal of radioactive waste. They are looking for volunteers to be present at hearings for these bills. There are no water-related bills on their website.

The Conservation Voters Alliance values the responsible stewardship of our water, land, and natural resources. They track what decision makers are doing to advance public policies related to these values. This year they are particularly looking for policies related to        and after the session will produce a report card on how these policies have or have not been supported by each of our legislators.

The Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club has an agenda which includes no plastic pollution and support for a Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. They will be holding citizen meetings on Zoom each Friday from 11am–12pm during the entire two month session, beginning on Friday, January 6th. Their Water Action Team is currently focused on water contamination from cattle in feedlots.

Pajarito Ditch. Photo: Ken Gingerich

The Mid Rio Grande Conservancy District is working with the Bureau of Reclamation to restructure the distribution of water stored at the El Vado Dam. This process involves water for the Compact, tribes, and the irrigation district. There will also be requests for capital outlay funds to repair and replace aging infrastructure, and also specifically for the Corrales Siphon.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) has decided on its legislative priorities for 2023. They will be requesting $18.5 million in capital outlay funds for eight different projects. The largest request ($4.5 million) is for a Thomas Wells Arsenic Treatment Plant. Between 2006 and 2009, Albuquerque had to shut down 40 of its 96 wells because arsenic levels were above the EPA’s allowable standard for drinking water. The arsenic levels in these wells came from rock deposits, industry, and agriculture. This treatment plant will bring four wells in the Northeast Heights back to capacity. There are also projects for water reclamation, pipelines to sites to use this water, wetland and habitat restoration, a new well to monitor the Kirtland Air Force Base spill of ethylene dibromide, and a reuse recovery plant in Uptown for irrigation, water features, and toilet flushing.

Another ABCWUA initiative is to decrease water usage by 30% on nonfunctional turf (NFT). Examples of NFT can include medians, neighborhood entrances, streetscapes, and roundabouts. “Unused turf is wasted water,” according to those who are a part of the Colorado River Basin Partnership MOU. ABCWUA is stepping back and asking what the ideal landscape is for Albuquerque … probably a lot fewer NFTs.

Arid LID is hoping to increase Green Infrastructure Initiative projects through junior bills with individual state legislators as sponsors. Final details are not yet worked out.

Bernalillo County has passed a resolution with its legislative priorities which this year include mental health and public safety initiatives. Water projects are left to the existing water-related departments of the county government.

The City of Albuquerque has yet to decide on its legislative agenda.


View from the Sandia. Photo by: Ryuta F. / unsplash

While hiking, bird-watching, and cross-country skiing are possible in parts of New Mexico if you bundle up, there are also other possibilities you might not have thought about.

The Transfer of Canes happens in many of New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos at the first of the year, combined with dances. This ceremonial event establishes and honors the new tribal leaders. The first canes (like scepters) given to the Pueblos were in 1620 from Spain’s King Phillip and indicated the blessing of the Catholic Church. In 1821, when Mexico became free from Spain, Mexico presented canes. Then in 1863, President Lincoln presented canes in recognition of Pueblo sovereignty and the authority of their governments. Other tribes have not been presented canes. There are six Pueblos in the mid Rio Grande watershed: Isleta (505-869-3111), Sandia (505-867-3317), Santa Ana (505-771-6700), San Felipe (505-867-3381), Kewa (505-465-2214), and Cochiti (505-465-2244). Some of the dances at this time of the year are open to the public, but the Transfer of Canes is probably not open to non-tribal members. Call the tribal governor’s office at the numbers listed above to get the latest information a day or two before planning to visit.

The legislature begins on January 17th this year. The Roundhouse is open to visitors. There are tours of the extensive artwork collection and educational booths in the Rotunda, and the committee and floor sessions are all open to the public.

There is also a Legislative Reception on January 23rd at the Santa Fe Convention Center where you may mingle with the legislators, cabinet officials, and the governor. The cost is $45.00 and tickets have to be purchased in advance by calling 505-988-3279.

And then there is eating all the leftovers of New Mexican traditional holiday food: tamales, posole, and biscochitos!


An aquifer is a pocket of rock which can hold groundwater. Aquifers exist in the dark, far below the earth’s surface. These bodies of water can travel between each other through fissures in the rock, and surface water can penetrate in through fissures or porous rock. The water in aquifers comes from precipitation as rain or snowpack sinking into the ground to recharge them. Although technology is being introduced which can put a fraction of our wastewater back into wells, this is not an adequate solution to the problem of pumping out more water than we are recharging.

Aquifers are ‘in the dark’ for another reason: We have no idea how much drinking water might be in any one of them. A rough measurement is taken by dropping a measuring device down a well, but that cannot tell us the amount of drinking water it can provide before it becomes too brackish or salty to be useful.

In 2002 two satellites were launched as part of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint project between NASA and its German counterpart. The satellites use earth’s gravity fields to locate the margins of aquifers. They can tell if an aquifer is expanding or contracting but not the overall amount of water.

Here in New Mexico, aquifers supply 87% of our drinking water. As we face increased aridity caused by temperature increases and decreased snowpack, surface water in streams and rivers has been decreasing. With less surface water to meet human needs, agricultural producers and municipalities have relied on groundwater more. As a result, aquifers are not only failing to be recharged with sufficient surface water but also being pumped out even faster. Already jeopardized aquifers are thus declining even more rapidly.

Aquifer health is at risk because of decreased water input and increased demands for their water. Where are our local and statewide policy makers? Both need to start making painful decisions. The legislative session is coming up, and in future issues of the Mid Rio Grande Times we will keep you updated as to any progress on water policy and ways you might help support policies to avert a water crisis.

                                                                                                By Sue Brown


Dragonfly nymph and ice (composit). Photos: Dragonfly nymph, by Dave Huth, Allegheny County, N.Y. / Wikimedia Commons, and ice by Jan Koprova / unsplash.

Seems like insects have as many strategies as humans do for making it through the cold and dark of winter. Surprisingly, different species do it in different life stages. 

Praying mantids winter as eggs, as do some mosquitos. A more common method is employed by cutworms, which as larvae burrow into leaf litter or soil, or even replace the water in their bodies with glycerol (a type of alcohol) which has a lower freezing point. Alerted by shorter days, some fly larvae inhabit galls on tree leaves. Corn borers can withstand temperatures down to -40 degrees F. by balling up inside corn stalks or cobs.

Dragonflies hang out as nymphs under water, even under ice, actively feeding. Less active insects (the majority) reduce their metabolic rate to a level high enough to keep them alive but not to move or produce growth, which is called diapause. Silkworms build cocoons to overwinter as pupae

Monarch butterflies migrate annually as adults to warmer climes, which requires about four generations for the round trip. Adult bees cluster in the hive, eat honey, and fan the air around the queen to stay warm. As temperatures have begun to stay warmer in autumn, bees are sometimes fooled into thinking that spring has begun. When this happens, the queen swarms to begin a new hive just as colder temperatures arrive and kill the flowers that would provide food for a large population with no stored honey.

We were invaded by little Aedes mosquitoes this summer, but will they survive our winter and be around next year? We know they are cold-blooded, and if the temperature is less than 50 degrees F. they become less active. They may hibernate in holes or lay eggs in cold water that then hatch when the water warms. Spraying is an inefficient way of controlling them and a danger to other insects such as bees and lady bugs. (Read more on mosquito control in the upcoming May 2023 Issue of the Mid Rio Grande Times.)

And finally, some insects make their homes around the equator, where temperatures are consistently warm enough to grow and reproduce year-round without having to adapt to winter. Or they hang out on warm-blooded animals like us…think bedbugs, fleas, and lice. Ick!

By Donna Detweiler

What is your favorite strategy for enduring – or even enjoying – winter? Are you a snowbird, or do you prefer to hole up in a cocoon of quilts and eat honey? Maybe we can learn new tricks from our insect neighbors.


Embudo night sky. Photo: mike lewensky : unsplash. Contact at

This season of darkness is a good time if you are interested in the galaxies. The Albuquerque Astrological Society (TAAS) has over 300 members who enjoy gazing upward and who work to educate our schoolchildren and larger community about what the sky has to offer after dark.

Programs for children and youth are in the daytime and school-based. They have a portable planetarium with seating and offer presentations on constellations and mythology. TASS also holds Star Parties – the next one is at Valle del Oro on December 16th at 6 p.m. Telescopes are set up around the site and visitors can move from scope to scope to learn about the sights each is focused on. This December, Saturn will be one of the visible planets! There is no registration requirement for the Star Parties, so show up and enjoy a luminaria walk, story time, snacks, and the stars.

The community is also invited to attend the UNM Observatory which is open on Friday nights at 6 p.m. when UNM is in session and the sky is clear (check this page each Friday at 3pm to see if it will be open). However, currently there is quite a bit of light pollution at this site.

Bernalillo County and other urban areas in this watershed are greatly affected by light pollution, but TAAS has a list of good places to go for star gazing. In Bernalillo County, one might choose Chamisoso Canyon’s Coyote Trail, south of Tijeras. In Sandoval County near San Ysidro is the White Ridge Bike Trail. South of Grants there is good viewing at the El Morro National Monument Campground, and in Socorro County, the Datil Well BLM campground is recommended. Other sites and many more driving details are on the TAAS web site.

If this sounds exciting, you may want to consider a yearly membership in TAAS. The organization holds members-only events, and all members are entitled to use their secluded observation facility in Socorro County and borrow telescopes. Yearly membership is $30.00.

Coexisting with Our Urban Coyotes

By David Parsons

Photo: David Parsons

I’m a Wildlife Biologist. It makes my day to see coyotes on my morning walks and bike rides in the North Valley. And it’s always a special treat to hear their chorus howls in the evening from our back porch on Decker Avenue near the Candelaria Nature Preserve. Not everyone views our urban coyotes in the same way I do, though. This is often due to the myths and assumptions humans make about coyotes, their behaviors, and intentions: “I saw a coyote during the day, he must be rabid!” or “Those coyotes were trying to lure my dog away so they could kill her.” False assumptions about coyotes underlie a perception that coyotes are naturally aggressive when, in fact, most of their behaviors are rooted in concern for their families or just their innate curiosity. Lack of accurate science-based knowledge about coyotes can lead to false assumptions and unnecessary fear of our wild canine neighbors.

In the 21st century, multiple encounters with urban coyotes occur in towns and cities of all sizes across the nation, including large cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, and even New York City. Intensive research on urban coyotes in Chicago revealed an estimated 4,000 coyotes make their homes in the city! As author Dan Flores states in his fascinating book, Coyote America, “close encounters with coyotes have now become the country’s most common large-wildlife experience.” Urban coyotes are here to stay, and it is up to us to learn how to peacefully coexist with them.

Coyotes are family-oriented animals that live in groups (sometimes called packs) consisting of a dominant breeding pair and often multiple generations of offspring. They establish and defend territories containing a den site and enough space to provide a sustainable source of food for the group. They defend their territories through aggressive encounters with interloping coyotes who are not members of the group. Many animals considered “pests” by humans are “food” for coyotes, such as rats, mice, squirrels, and rabbits. Thus, coyotes provide important ecological services by controlling the populations of these pest species, some of which can transmit diseases. Recent scientific research has shown that even in urban environments, coyotes mostly prey on similar species as in more “wild” environments, though they also often supplement their diet with fallen fruit and pet food left outside.

Perceived “conflicts” between coyotes and humans most often result from uninformed people presenting irresistible attractants. Most seemingly aggressive encounters in Albuquerque’s open spaces occur with people walking their dogs. Coyotes perceive dogs as canine invaders of their territories and may respond with aggressive behaviors. These behaviors are most pronounced during denning season when pups are born and reared, from April through June. It is important to keep your dog on a short leash especially at that time of the year. Other close encounters are caused by leaving pet food outside and garbage unsecured. These attractants are easy to remove.

Aggressive or close encounters with coyotes can most often be averted through human reactons referred to as “hazing.” The most simple methods of hazing are shouting, waving one’s arms, and throwing objects in the direction of the coyote. More detailed information on hazing and coexisting with urban coyotes can be found at

Urban Animals, at times a Problem: What to Do

Occasionally animals such as bears wander into neighborhoods looking for food. New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish have a special federally trained team to capture bears and transport them to different locations where hopefully there will be more food. They will also trap and relocate mountain lions, bobcats, and, occasionally, beavers. These are considered fur-bearing animals and protected by state law. Racoons, on the other hand, are euthanized when trapped. You can reach the Department of Game and Fish by calling 505-222-4700 if one of these animals has become a nuisance.

Black Bear. Photo by Jethro Taylor / Flickr Commons

Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico is a licensed volunteer organizations that rescues and rehabilitates animals. These include birds, squirrels, lizards, prairie dogs, porcupines, rabbits, and other small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. For more information on what to do if you find an injured wild animals, see: Removal of live skunks from under a house or shed requires the homeowner to contract with a private pest control firm. Larger mammals as bobcats, foxes, coyotes, some skunks and injured or abandoned racoons are taken to the Espanola Wildlife center where they will be monitored and rehabilitated if possible.

The City of Albuquerque has an Environmental Health Department. There are five different divisions, one of which is the Urban Biology Department. Its major function is disease control. They trap mosquitos at 22 different locations from Alameda Road to Isleta Reservation to look for any carrying the West Nile Virus. Since the virus for heartworm is also mosquito born, they work to educate the public to use heartworm medication prophylactically for their dogs. People are also counseled not to leave pets outside. Another role is to meet with citizens who are concerned about or in conflict with wildlife. For example, people might worry about coyotes patrolling their neighborhood or porcupines in their tree. Once they know more about the animal’s characteristics, fears can be alleviated. They share strategies to discourage various urban animals from entering one’s property if that is a concern, i.e., decreasing spaces skunks can inhabit. One can learn more by checking out their website. There is a useful list of commonly found animals in our region and what to do in response at:

Bats are handled differently. When injured or dead, they are referred to a bat biologist who then checks for rabies. Most are free of rabies and are released if rehabilitated.