Mining for copper and silver in the wilderness “will provide some beneficial effects” for grizzly bears in Montana (HCN, 2/18/02: Battle brews over a wilderness mother lode). So says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its new biological opinion, which gives the Sterling Mining Company a green light to begin a 35-year mining project beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. As part of the deal, the company will give 2,400 acres of privately owned grizzly habitat to the Forest Service.
Traditional reclamation bonds may soon be a thing of the past: The state of New Mexico is planning to allow Phelps Dodge to post a “corporate pledge” in lieu of a bond for three open-pit copper mines in southern New Mexico (HCN, 5/12/03: Phelps tries to dodge bond). The state hasn’t worked out all the details yet, but environmental groups say that if the company takes a nosedive, New Mexico will be stuck with more than $300 million in cleanup costs.
Environmentalists aren’t to blame for forest fires, after all: The U.S. General Accounting Office released a study in mid-May that shows 76 percent of the Forest Service’s “fuels reduction” projects went ahead without any appeals or litigation. (HCN, 5/26/03: Congress jousts over forest health). Projects that were challenged by environmental groups usually proceeded within 90 days, and those that didn’t were more often delayed by inadequate staffing — not lawsuits or appeals.