Follow-up

by Laura Paskus

With buddies like Steve Williams, endangered species don’t need predators, pesticides or encroaching pavement. In early March, Williams — head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — told Congress that money slated for designating critical habitat for endangered species could be better spent elsewhere within the agency (HCN, 6/23/03: Who needs critical habitat?).

Nuclear bomb builders need more money and less time: In mid-March, Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, asked Congress for $30 million to make sure the Nevada Test Site could be ready within 18 months. That’s up $5 million from December, when the agency said it planned to reduce readiness time to two years (HCN 12/8/03: New nuke studies are in the works). Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is asking Congress to support his "Safety from Nuclear Weapons Testing" bill. In Utah, thousands of people have sued the U.S. government over illnesses resulting from fallout from nuclear testing in Nevada.

The U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors might want to slow their "accelerated cleanup" of the former nuclear bomb factory at Rocky Flats. Last May, Kaiser-Hill contractors, who were decommissioning a building, made mistakes that led to a fire (HCN, 9/1/03: Rocky Flats, the sequel?). The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees nuclear weapons safety issues, found that workers may have contributed to the fire — by, among other things, poking it with a metal pole — and that management impeded the fire department’s investigation of the incident.

Tiffany & Co. has weighed in on the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to mine for gold and silver under Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness (HCN, 2/18/02: Battle brews over a wilderness mother lode). In a letter to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the jewelry company’s chief executive officer, Michael Kowalski, chides the agency for ignoring opposition to the mine and for planning to store mine tailings — "a polite term for toxic sludge" — in a "holding facility of questionable durability." The CEO also criticizes the 1872 General Mining Act, writing that it "remains a perverse incentive for mining in wilderness areas, near scenic watersheds, around important cold water fisheries, and in other fragile ecosystems — all of which are inappropriate for mineral development." © High Country News