The Latest Bounce

  Rep. “Butch” Otter, R-Idaho, and 17 Republican co-sponsors have introduced the “American Wilderness Protection Act.” Under the act, all wilderness study areas would lose protection as wilderness either immediately, as determined by the secretary of the Interior or secretary of Agriculture, or within 10 years of the act’s passage (HCN, 3/3/03: The Wild Card).

Taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for cleanup of the nation’s filthiest sites: In March, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., introduced an amendment to reinstate a “polluter pays” tax on corporations that would pay to clean up toxic Superfund sites (HCN, 12/9/02: Life in the wasteland). But the amendment failed, 43-56, along largely partisan lines.

Construction is set to begin on the Fence Lake Mine in New Mexico (HCN, 10/8/01: Salt Woman confronts a coal mine). The Salt River Project has announced that work on the coal mine and railroad link will begin this summer, and the mine will be ready to open in 2005. Conservation groups and the Pueblo of Zuni continue to oppose the mine.

On March 1, the Department of Homeland Security assumed responsibility for the nation’s borders with Canada and Mexico (HCN, 3/3/03: Fences go up along the Mexican border). The department swallowed up the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol and 20 other federal agencies. Under the Homeland Security Act, employees of the new department could be denied union representation and collective bargaining rights.

Advocates for wild fish are suing to keep hatchery-raised coho salmon and steelheed trout out of Puget Sound (HCN, 3/17/03: Bracing against the tide). In their lawsuit, Washington Trout and the Native Fish Society say that the hatchery fish kill and eat endangered wild chinook salmon.

Woe is Wal-Mart: The Taos Town Council voted at the end of March to uphold its land-use plan that prevents “big-box” stores from moving into the northern New Mexico village (HCN, 3/17/03: Taoseños take on Wal-Mart). A representative of La Gente for Wal-Mart was unavailable for comment, since he had already cleared out of the local motel where the group was based.
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