The Latest Bounce

  Assistant Secretary of the Interior Rebecca Watson, who oversaw the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department’s mining and oil and gas operations, resigned on Oct. 28. On Watson’s watch, the BLM dramatically increased the number of oil and gas drilling permits it issues. But Interior Secretary Gale Norton also commended Watson for her "noteworthy leadership role in promoting renewable energy" (HCN, 8/22/05: Drilling leases slowed by paper jam). Watson will return to Denver to work at a law firm; President Bush has not yet nominated a successor for the Senate’s consideration.

A Texas oil baron who tried to torpedo an environmental restoration program in Utah’s Book Cliffs has been indicted. Federal prosecutors have accused Oscar Wyatt of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in the oil-for-food program. In the 1990s, federal and Utah agencies and conservation groups agreed on a plan to retire grazing permits in the Book Cliffs and restore wildlife habitat — but Wyatt, who owns a ranch in the area, sued to stop the plan (HCN, 4/13/98: Oil clashes with elk in the Book Cliffs). The suit was eventually thrown out and a more limited form of the plan went forward; Wyatt’s ranch is now for sale.

For the second year in a row, Congress voted not to fund President Bush’s program to develop "bunker buster" nuclear weapons (HCN, 9/1/03: Courting the Bomb). The "baby nukes," formally known as Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators and intended for use against underground targets, would likely have been built in Carlsbad or Los Alamos, N.M., or at the Nevada Test Site near Las Vegas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that a controversial ski village proposed at Colorado’s Wolf Creek ski resort will kill a lot of Canada lynx — and that’s OK (HCN, 2/7/05: Developers push ahead with mammoth ski village). In October, the agency determined that, over two to three decades, increased car traffic around the Village at Wolf Creek could cause the deaths of about 43 Canada lynx — approximately one-fifth of the total lynx population in Colorado and New Mexico. Nonetheless, the agency concluded, the project will not harm the overall survival of the species.

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