Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Southern New Mexico will see the state’s first cloud seeding venture. Many southern New Mexico counties are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions exacerbated by another early fire season that is expected to worsen as we head into summer.

The Interstate Stream Commission approved the cloud seeding operation, which Texas-based Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research will lead. The process will involve airplanes releasing silver iodide into targeted clouds in hopes of catalyzing rainfall. Other rocky mountain states, including Colorado, have similar operations in place.

The counties that will see cloud seeding operations will include Chavez, Curry, De Baca, Lea, Quay, and Roosevelt Counties.

Earlier attempts to bring cloud seeding operations into drought-stricken New Mexico were been met with concern from environmentalists and distrust from the general public. Earlier this year, Colorado-based Western Weather Consultants withdrew their proposal to operate cloud seeding operations in the northern part of the state over public concern. Officials say there has been no evidence as of yet to suggest that the process has a negative ecological effect.