In the August installment of Our Land, environmental correspondent Laura Paskus revisits the Gold King Mine spill and the destructive impact of the toxic orange plume that went flowing down the Animas and San Juan rivers five years ago. The waste that was released when crews tried to reopen the abandoned mine killed fish and coated river banks with heavy metals. Paskus reports with help from a grant by The Water Desk, an independent journalism initiative based at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism.  

Laura Paskus also interviews Lillian Petersen, an extraordinary young woman who just won the Regeneron Science Talent Search prize of a quarter of a million dollars. The Los Alamos High School student’s winning project, which predict harvests early in the growing year for every country in Africa, has also won the attention of the International Food Policy Research Institute. 

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the economy across New Mexico, including on tourism and the arts in tribal communities. Many Native artists rely on summer art shows to sell their works, and one of the biggest festivals is Indian Market – going online this summer because of the pandemic. Correspondent Antonia Gonzales talks about how the Native American art world is attracting virtual visitors. 

August 12 was “back to school” – virtually – for APS students. Gene Grant and The Line opinion panel discuss what the start of a new school year looks like during a pandemic, and also examine how an August tourist season plays out during COVID. The Line wraps up their panel discussion with a look at the tussle between the New Mexico GOP and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. 

New Mexico in Focus is involved, informed, in-depth media airing weekly on New Mexico PBS. The program debuts Friday nights at 7 p.m. on NMPBS 5.1 (KNME-HD) and appears online shortly thereafter. The show rebroadcasts on NMPBS 5.1 (KNME-HD) Sundays at 7 a.m. and on NMPBS 9.1 (WORLD) on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.     

In Focus Interviews

Our Land: Gold King Mine Spill Revisited 

Laura Paskus 

Talon Newton, hydrogeologist, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources 
Susan Palko-Schraa, Animas River homeowner 

Karletta Chief, Environmental Science Department, University of Arizona 

Regeneron Science Talent Search Winner  

Laura Paskus 

Lillian Petersen, grand prize winner, Regeneron Science Talent Search 

Online Indian Market 

Antonia Gonzales

Kim Peone, executive director, Southwestern Association for American Indian Arts 
Karl Duncan, executive director, Poeh Cultural Center 

Eugene Tapahe, fine art photographer  

The Line Opinion Panel

Gene Grant 

Merritt Allen, Vox Optima
Dede Feldman, former state senator  
Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group PR

New Mexico in Focus is the New Mexico PBS prime-time news magazine show covering the events, issues, and people that are shaping life in New Mexico and the Southwest. NMiF takes a multi-layered look at social, political, economic health, education, and art issues, and explores them in-depth with a critical eye to give them context beyond the “news of the moment.”

The producer of New Mexico in Focus is Matt Grubs, with Kathy Wimmer, associate producer. The NM PBS Public Affairs executive producer is Kevin McDonald.

The McCune Charitable Foundation provides NMiF funding, along with viewers like you.

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