There’s cause to celebrate in New Mexico: The Salt River Project has decided to pull the plug on its plans for a coal strip-mine near the Zuni Reservation (HCN, 10/08/01: Salt Woman confronts a coal mine). Tribes and environmental groups have fought the mine for more than 10 years, and earlier this year, Gov. Bill Richardson and both the state’s senators jumped on the anti-mine bandwagon. Now, the utility company, which provides electricity to Phoenix, is casting about for coal in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

The dams are coming down: In early August, Pacific Gas and Electric Company tore down the first of three dams on West Panther Creek on the upper Mokelumne River in Northern California (HCN, 9/24/01: River of dreams). In order to renew its federal hydropower license for the rest of its dams on the river, the company is demolishing three that have been rendered useless by sediment buildup. The $40 million project will restore more than 40 miles of salmon habitat.

The Forest Service has already burned through its firefighting budget for the year (HCN, 5/26/03: A losing battle). The agency says it expects to spend $773 million dollars fighting wildfires this summer, even though its current budget hovers around $350 million. Under pressure to cut the nation’s gargantuan deficit, Congress refused to allocate more money to the agency before adjourning for summer recess — much to the dismay of Western governors and congressmen, who have about 20 big wildfires on their hands as this issue goes to press.

What do you get when you mix a political strategist, a Republican senator, 1,400 farmers and the Bureau of Reclamation? Apparently, 33,000 salmon and steelhead belly-up in the Klamath River (HCN, 6/23/03: Sound science goes sour). At the end of July, the Wall Street Journal revealed that in January 2002, Karl Rove, President Bush’s right-hand man, met with 50 officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior and urged them to “accommodate agricultural interests” — thereby giving a boost to Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and his re-election campaign. That summer, Interior gave farmers their full allotments of water, a move that likely killed the fish the following September.
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