Navajo Nation lawmakers have voted to support a buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park that's only half the size of what is currently outlined in pending federal legislation, confounding environmentalists and other tribes who are attempting to protect the sacred site from encroaching gas and oil companies.
The Associated Press reports that Navajo Nation delegates approved the new measure last week, citing concerns that landowners in the area could lose money from leases and mineral rights if the protected area is too large. They voted for a 5-mile buffer around the site.
But a piece of federal legislation currently being considered proposes placing a 10-mile buffer around Chaco Canyon. New Mexico’s congressional delegation say they worked with Navajo leaders and members of the All Pueblo Council of Governors to write the legislation, which has been supported by the Pueblos and even Navajo President Jonathan Nez.
Nez told reporters that the measure could affect the future of the bills as they move through Congress.
Environmental advocates say allowing oil and gas companies to drill near Chaco Culture National Historical Park—designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—could cause irreparable damage to the site.
NM Switches to New Teacher License Test
The state has settled on a new teacher licensing exam that will improve support but be more costly for first-time candidates.
According to KOB, potential teachers will have to pay $50 to take the exam, but retakes will be free. Previous tests required candidates to pay the full price for retakes. The New Mexico Education Department said that more support will be provided to candidates with this test, compared to previous ones.
Public Education Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment told reporters that the free retakes and additional resources helped convince the agency to switch to the new test.
The new test will be given to individuals attempting to enter the field and to existing teachers looking to switch grades or subjects.
In her recent state of the state address, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said there are still 600 open teacher positions across the state.
Minimum Wage Affects Medicaid Eligibility
Thousands of New Mexicans could lose their Medicaid eligibility now that a new minimum wage rate has been enacted.
According to KRQE, the state's minimum wage rose to $9 an hour at the beginning of January—the first increase of its kind in more than a decade. This was the first of a series of raises that will happen over the next few years. The New Mexico Human Services Department says that means that 6,000 residents are now above the income requirement for Medicaid health coverage.
The series of increases in the minimum wage is slated to end in 2023 at $12 an hour. It is unclear how many New Mexicans will have lost Medicaid eligibility by that time.