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Know the West


  Interior Department employees, check your in-boxes for a new message: In February, the nonprofit Campaign to Protect America’s Lands sent e-mails to almost 60,000 of the department’s 70,000 employees, asking them to call a confidential hotline — 1-866-LANDTIP — and report proposed anti-environmental regulations (HCN, 1/19/04: Coming Soon to a Wilderness Near You).

Next November, Montana voters may get to decide if they want more cyanide in the state. The Montana Mining Association is trying to put an initiative on the ballot to repeal a 1998 state ban on cyanide leaching in gold and silver mines — a process that removes bits of metal from tons of rock ore. The association claims the initiative will "bolster" the state’s economy, but critics point to Colorado’s Summitville Mine, where a spill from a cyanide leaching pond deadened 17 miles of the Alamosa River (HCN, 9/29/03: Reweaving a river).

Trying to calm the beef-eating public after a Washington cow tested positive for mad cow disease last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the disease was discovered as a result of its "downer" cow testing program. But eyewitnesses to the infected cow’s slaughter say it wasn’t a downer after all, and the disease was discovered in a healthy-looking cow as part of a separate, random testing contract (HCN, 1/19/03: Have another pig-brain/beef-blood/chicken-spine burger). Now, Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., are investigating the incident, and in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, wrote that this casts doubt on the "credibility of the USDA."

Forget NAFTA and Bush’s flailing economic plans — just blame environmentalists for the loss of jobs in America. The House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, chaired by Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., held a hearing in March to investigate job loss in the energy and metal industries. At the hearing, Cubin blamed the Endangered Species Act, "frivolous lawsuits" and oil and gas permitting delays. Ken Wonstolen with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association griped that enviros are holding up drilling projects in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.