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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


President George W. Bush has nominated J. Steven Griles to serve as deputy secretary of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate as second in command, Griles would help Secretary Gale Norton create policy and manage Interior's eight bureaus (HCN, 1/15/01: Coloradan tapped for Interior). Currently a lobbyist who represents the National Mining Association, Griles served with Norton under James Watt's Interior Department.

A Griles confirmation could be good news for Montana Gov. Judy Martz. She wants the Interior Department to give Montana 5,000 acres of federal land that includes $10 million worth of coal mining rights. Martz says the government owes Montana the land, because in 1996 the state agreed not to develop a gold mine near Yellowstone National Park, if it could mine somewhere else (HCN, 4/28/97: Yellowstone mine swap is in a very deep pit).

Pumice mining in Arizona's San Francisco Peaks ceased this month, ending a decade-long effort by tribes and environmentalists to shut down the White Vulcan Mine (HCN, 9/11/00: Coalition ushers a mine off sacred ground). Under an agreement approved by Congress in October, the federal government paid Arizona Tufflite Inc. $1 million to stop mining the extinct volcano near Flagstaff. Now, the company must reclaim the site; that's good news for 13 local tribes that hold the peaks sacred.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., is revved up to keep Yellowstone National Park open to snowmobiles. (HCN, 1/15/01: Coalition finds harmony in the backcountry). In February, he introduced a bill that would repeal the Clinton administration's ban on snowmobiles in the park. Craig wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service to come up with noise and pollution standards so the industry can develop new sleds.

New Mexicans don't want to give up cockfighting, a sport in which roosters fight to the death (HCN, 10/9/00: New Mexico's secret sport: Cockfighting in the land of enchantment). This year, state legislators voted down a bill that would ban a sport that animal rights activists say is inhumane. Legislators who voted against the ban say they are respecting a cultural tradition of Chicanos. New Mexico is the only Western state where cockfighting is legal.