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Gov. marks Earth Day at Nature Center

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez made a stop at the Rio Grande Nature Center Wednesday morning to celebrate Earth Day and recognize the people behind seven projects around the state who are helping protect New Mexico’s “natural treasures.”

The recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards came from across the state, including Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Las Cruces.

“These awards offer an important and unique opportunity to honor New Mexicans who lead the way in safeguarding our state’s abundant natural resources,” Martinez said. “I’m so proud that so many New Mexicans share this commitment, and I’m honored to recognize these individuals for their outstanding accomplishments.”

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said the selection committee and looked at several criteria, including whether the projects reduce waste and pollution, protect water resources or wildlife, involve community outreach and conserve wildlife or energy.

“I really love to see the little ones here,” the governor said. “We are making sure the next generation is involved in keeping the environment safe. We need to keep this the land of enchantment.”

The award winners were:

• Asombro Institute for Science Education, Las Cruces, for its environmental and education outreach. The nonprofit group allows students to participate in research through its Stepping Out for Science Inquiry Project.

• The University of New Mexico and Bosque School for their Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program. The students collect data at various sites in the state along the Rio Grande.

• The city of Raton was recognized for restoring its watershed, its major source of drinking water, which was damaged during a June 2011 fire.

• Puesta del Sol Elementary in Rio Rancho was recognized for recycling its organic waste generated at lunch. The waste is used as a compost around the district and also used at a local ranch to feed chickens.

• Vermejo Park Ranch in Raton received the award for its wildlife conservation efforts. The group is working to restore the state’s cutthroat trout population.

• Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos is working on a project to conserve energy by using more solar power.

• The youth development organization Talking Talons in Tijeras is teaching kids and teens how to become good environmental stewards. The youngsters work on a forest restoration program.

Laura McCarthy, director of conservation programs for the Nature Conservancy in Santa Fe, was also named Environmental Leader of the Year for her work there.