Gone Extinct

An ivory-billed woodpecker, now extinct, is seen on a display at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Friday Sept. 24, 2021. The U.S. government is declaring the splendid ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 assorted birds, fish and other species extinct, the Associated Press has learned.

MONTANA

US says ivory-billed woodpecker, 22 other species extinct

BILLINGS — Death's come knocking a last time for the splendid ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 more birds, fish and other species: The U.S. government on Sept. 29 declared them extinct.

It's a rare move for wildlife officials to give up hope on a plant or animal, but government scientists say they've exhausted to find these 23. And they warn climate change, on top of other pressures, could make such disappearances more common as a warming planet adds to the dangers facing imperiled plants and wildlife.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was perhaps the best known species the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared extinct. The woodpecker went out stubbornly and with fanfare, making unconfirmed appearances in recent decades that ignited a frenzy of ultimately fruitless searches in the swamps of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

The factors behind the disappearances vary — too much development, water pollution, logging, competition from invasive species, birds killed for feathers and animals captured by private collectors. In each case, humans were the ultimate cause.

Another thing they share: All 23 were thought to have at least a slim chance of survival when added to the endangered species list beginning in the 1960s. Only 11 species previously have been removed due to extinction in the almost half-century since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law.

Since 1975, 54 species have left the endangered list after recovering, including the bald eagle, brown pelican and most humpback whales.

Climate change is making species recovery harder, bringing drought, floods, wildfires and temperature swings that compound the threats species already faced.

NEW MEXICO

Guard unit to support resettlement operations for Afghans

BELEN — A New Mexico Army National Guard unit is deploying within the United States to support resettlement operations for Afghan refugees.

A departure ceremony was held Oct. 8 for the Belen-based 919th Military Police Company, the guard said in a statement that didn't specify where the unit's soldiers would deploy.

Afghans resettling to the United States are being housed temporarily at eight military bases while obtaining special immigrant visas.

The bases include Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico and the Army's Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

U,S. military officials have said there have been scattered reports of assaults, robbery and theft at some of the bases, including an assault on a female service member by several men at Fort Bliss.

According to the guard, the 919th's soldiers "will conduct security operations and assist units that are already providing transportation, temporary housing, culturally appropriate food, medical screening, religious accommodations, and general support for over 50,000 Afghan guests."

The Afghans include former interpreters and others who worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan during the past two decades.

Election nomination process delayed amid redistricting

SANTA FE — New Mexico election regulators are delaying the initial nomination process for congressional and state legislative candidates for as long as three months to allows more time for the political redistricting process.

The first step toward running for public office is to gather signatures on petition forms from registered voters.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced on Sept. 28 that petition forms would be available only for candidates aspiring to statewide office on Oct. 1. Other candidates seeking districted offices such legislative seats are likely to wait until January 2022 for the forms to begin gathering signatures to run for office next next year.

Pandemic-delays to the 2020 census have spilled over into the political redistricting process. The legislature is tentatively scheduled to convene in December to approve new political districts for Congress, 112 legislative seats and a Public Education Commission that oversees charter schools.

A Citizens Redistricting Committee authorized by lawmakers is collecting public comment on several redistricting concepts, including proposals from 20 federally recognized Native American communities from across New Mexico.

The committee's recommendation are due to the legislature at the end of October. The legislature can adopt the recommendation or start from scratch.

WYOMING

County to pay to keep flights from Casper to Salt Lake City

Natrona County will likely pay approximately $453,000 to maintain local flight service to Salt Lake City through April, the board of county commissioners decided Oct. 5.

The airline has been eliminating service to places where it's not making money, airport director Glenn Januska said. With flight traffic out of Casper down due to COVID, SkyWest stopped operating one of its two daily flights between Salt Lake City and Casper on Oct. 1.

Without the additional money to make flying to Casper worth the airline's while, Januska said, the other flight was set to end by the start of November. That money, an estimated $755,000, will be funded 60% by the county and the rest from state transportation funds. Several commissioners noted that they'd also reach out to Casper to see if the city is willing to shoulder some of the local cost.

If SkyWest pulls its service from Casper altogether, Januska said, it will be difficult to get even one flight back whenever demand goes up again. There are only so many small aircraft in their fleet, and once a plane (and pilots to operate them) are allocated to another, more profitable market, it's harder to make the argument for service to return to Casper.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Commission, is ready to approve the state's share of roughly $302,000 for the six-month guarantee once the terms of the agreement are finalized, commissioner William DeVore said.

Several members of the community testified at the meeting that losing the flights would mean fewer business opportunities coming to Casper, restricted access to out-of-state medical facilities and less competition at the airport.

Some commissioners said they were reluctant to allow government subsidies into the local airport, but agreed that losing the flight would hurt the county.

United Airlines still operates an average of four flights a day to and from Denver out of Casper.

IDAHO

Governor, lieutenant spar over COVID-19 vaccine

BOISE — With Idaho Gov. Brad Little out of the state on Oct. 5, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued an executive order involving COVID-19 vaccines.

Oh no you don't, said Little, who promised to rescind it in quick order.

The maneuvering of Idaho's top leaders came while Little was in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns on how President Joe Biden is handling border issues. McGeachin, a far-right Republican, is running for governor. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don't run on the same ticket.

McGeachin's executive order issued on Oct. 5 seeks, among other things, to prevent employers from requiring their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. Most mainstream Republicans prefer to stay out of the employee-employer relationship.

"I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected Governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf," Little said in a statement shortly after arriving in Texas. "I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return."

He was expected to be back in the state the next day.

Also on Oct. 5, McGeachin was rebuffed by Major General Michael J. Garshak in a query about activating troops and sending them to the U.S.-Mexico border.

McGeachin's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

"Attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country," Little said in a statement.

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