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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


The Department of the Interior has approved the controversial Fence Lake coal mine in New Mexico (HCN, 10/8/01: Salt Woman confronts a coal mine). The Salt River Project will mine 80 million tons of coal to generate electricity for Phoenix, but Indians at the Zuni Pueblo worry that the project could destroy trails and grave sites, and that groundwater pumping could wreak havoc on the sacred Zuni Salt Lake. Zuni officials are discussing possible responses.

Meanwhile, another New Mexico pueblo has given a twist to the golf-course-as-Indian-economic-development-engine theme (HCN, 6/4/01: Tribal Links). The Santa Clara Pueblo is using a new golf course to bolster its claim in the state's decades-long Indian water rights settlement process. Opening the 18-hole Black Mesa golf course in the middle of a massive drought has drawn local criticism, but pueblo officials say the course will help the tribe establish its water claim under use-it-or-lose-it water law.

A northern Colorado elk "hunting ranch" whose animals were slaughtered to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease has restocked, despite the fact that state and federal agencies have yet to finalize a herd management plan (HCN, 6/10/02: No magic bullet for wasting disease). Although the state Division of Wildlife opposes the restocking at the Trophy Mountain Elk Ranch, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says if the new batch of elk is segregated from areas where the diseased elk grazed, there is little risk.

Wyoming is moving forward with the creation of a wolf management plan (HCN, 5/27/02: Wolf at the door). The state's Game and Fish Department will kick off the process with eight public comment meetings starting July 1; officials say they hope to have a final plan ready for approval by the Game and Fish Commission next February. Federal approval of the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho wolf management plans could pave the way to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list next year.