Week in review: June 9

Bears Ears decision looms, another Hanford incident and Jerry Brown goes to China.


Waiting on Bears Ears

A decision from the Interior Department on whether to shrink or rollback Bears Ears National Monument is looming. The public comment period for the monument ended on May 26; the Interior Department said, at the time, it would have a recommendation in 15 days. A decision to rescind the monument could lead to a breakdown in U.S.-tribal relationships, Jake Bullinger writes in The Atlantic. For more context on the monument review, revisit our fact-check on false claims about monuments and the Antiquities Act. For all of our coverage on Bears Ears, go here.

Hanford workers take shelter

Approximately 350 cleanup workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation took shelter indoors on June 8 in response to airborne radioactive contamination. By midmorning, workers detected contamination on sidewalks, near the station where employees pick up respirators, and near a vehicle access gate, according to the Tri-City Herald. The Columbia River flows through the Hanford site, which is upstream from approximately 8,000 farms. The site has a history of safety and labor issues.

Not just a dude ranch

Deep Springs, a liberal arts, mens-only college, long attended by “intellectual cowboys” is changing: In 2018, for the first time, the insular and remote institution near Califonia’s Death Valley will begin accepting women. California Sunday Magazine has an intimate photo essay featuring the words of five current attendees on the imminent change. Laughlin McKinnion says: “The historical reasons for excluding women from the project — that women are a distraction or even that there’s this strict gender binary — are reasons that I disagree with.”

A climate crusader in China

California Gov. Jerry Brown traveled to China this week to galvanize the country into climate action, the LA Times reports. According to the Times, Brown said the leaders did not discuss Trump: “That wouldn’t be diplomatic.” As the U.S. federal government has walked back from climate action, California has joined with Washington and New York to uphold the tenets of the 2012 international Paris climate agreement. And as climate research and renewable energy efforts get the squeeze in the Captiol, California is happy to give dispirited federal workers a job in the state’s burgeoning green-energy sector

Land agency budget cuts could hurt

On Thursday, lawmakers took Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to task over the slim budget his department put forward. Of particular concern were cuts to the Land Water Conservation Fund, which uses oil and gas royalties to acquire private lands and fund conservation programs on non-federal land. It has an extensive backlog of funding priorities and had a recent brush with death in 2015 after a gridlocked Congress failed to authorize it.

“Not all these decisions we agree on, but this is what a balanced budget would look like,” Zinke said.

Lawmakers also raised concerns about cuts to national parks, the Fish and Wildlife Service, climate research centers and tribal programs, according to E&E News.

Do groundwater rights include water quality protections?

In March, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has legal rights to the groundwater beneath the tribe’s reservation in California’s Coachella Valley. This week, a federal judge ordered that the next phase of the lawsuit — to determine whether those rights include water quality protections — should proceed, despite plans by local water utilities to appeal the March decision. The tribe argues that the water agencies’ current practice of replenishing the over-drawn aquifer with salty Colorado River water degrades it.

Thoughts from the field

Need a break from the national news? Catch up on everything that published on hcn.org this week:

The Interior Department orders a review of sage grouse plans

The Trump administration’s false coal stats, explained

A fun romp through the atomic West

Infographic: White sharks rebound in California

Enviros and BLM reach major public lands settlement in Utah

States commit to action in absence of climate accord

In Montana, an election shows a deepening partisan divide

Opinion: Archaeologists are the last line of defense against destruction

Opinion: I am the High Priestess of Leave No Trace

Opinion: Trump is dangerously beyond climate denial

Thumbnail image credit: Steve Rhodes/Flickr