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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


The U.S. Forest Service revoked its approval of the Rock Creek Mine in Montana's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness - at least temporarily (HCN, 2/18/02: Battle brews over a wilderness mother lode). The agency's decision came a day after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, facing a lawsuit and intense criticism from local activists, withdrew a biological opinion that OK'd the mine. The FWS hopes to issue a new opinion in a few months.

Nevada's fight against Yucca Mountain may be melting down (HCN, 2/4/02: Yucca Mountain debate goes nuclear). Last May, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., vowed to keep a vote on the nuclear-dump plan from making it to the Senate floor. But in March, Daschle said he became aware that the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act placed Yucca Mountain on fast-track status and prevents him from staving off a vote on the dump. Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn has until April 16 to veto President Bush's approval of the project; Congress will then have 90 days to override the veto.

ARCO and five other mining companies agreed to pay $87 million to pump and treat toxic water in Butte, Mont.'s Berkeley Pit (HCN, 10/23/00: The Berkeley Pit gets deeper). The former open-pit copper mine has been filling with water contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals, and threatens to overflow contaminating Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River and endangering Butte's drinking water. A water treatment plant is scheduled for completion by August 2003, but water in the pit may have to be treated in perpetuity.

The fight over banning Jet Skis in national parks is getting noisier (HCN, 1/29/01: Park Service bans Jet Skis). In March 2000, the National Park Service banned Jet Skis from all but 21 of its units. The Park Service must prove that Jet Ski use in the remaining areas complies with the National Environmental Policy Act or ban the machines by April 22. A bill before the House of Representatives and a recent lawsuit from the American Watercraft Association seek to delay or invalidate the deadline.

The controversial program to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico has gained an ally (HCN, 1/29/01: A slow comeback for Mexican wolves). Arizona's White Mountain Apache Tribe agreed to the release of six packs of wolves on the 1.5 million-acre reservation. Officials believe about 30 reintroduced wolves are living in the wild.