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Know the West

Wilderness vs. mining, Roundup research and Western prisons

Hcn.org news in brief.


While the impact that glyphosate, better known as Roundup, has on milkweed and monarch butterflies is well known, the damage the herbicide might do to other plants and animals is not. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will spend the next five years studying the effects of glyphosate, atrazine, and two other commonly used pesticides on 1,500 endangered species. The study is the result of a settlement between the EPA and the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued the agency in 2007. The group said the EPA did not conduct due diligence on how such pesticides would affect rare species before registering the chemicals. Although Roundup has been around since the 1970s, its effects haven’t been broadly studied since 1993, when only 10 million pounds were used annually. Today, more than 300 million pounds are applied to U.S. fields each year.
-Gloria Dickie

A crop duster in northeast Oregon. In March, the World Health Organization said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is likely a carcinogen. Now, the EPA will study its effects, as well as those of three other pesticides, on endangered species.
Baker County (OR) Tourism

$35 BILLION: what it would cost to reclaim the half-million-plus abandoned mines in the U.S.

 40 percent of headwaters in the West are contaminated by mining 

Hundreds of state and federal employees, students, advocates, volunteers and contractors have spent over a decade planning, litigating and working on Montana’s Upper Clark Fork Superfund cleanup. There has been a lot of successful restoration, but it has a long way to go. Still, the Superfund project, which is projected to take another several years, legally can’t do anything to address the contaminants from hundreds of abandoned mines upstream. Federal and state agencies lack the necessary funding to deal with them. And federal money doesn’t touch the hundreds of thousands of sites on private and state lands.
-Kindra McQuillan

$5K: The fine cliff-jumpers could face for trespassing in Los Padres National Forest’s Tar Creek, where endangered California condors live.
-Kit Stolz

While the total prison population in the U.S. grew 16 percent between 2000 and 2011, the number of inmates housed in for-profit prisons grew 106 percent. Western states have some of the highest rates of private prison incarceration. The problem is the business model of incarceration. Companies promise to save states money, but they also need to make a profit. To do that, they often cut corners. A 2012 report by the Sentencing Project found that on average, private prison employees earn about $15,000 less per year than their state-employed counterparts and have 58 fewer hours of training.
-Sarah Tory

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In “How the California drought exacerbates water contamination,” videographer Zoë Meyers explores East Orosi, California, a rural community that couldn’t drink its water, even if they had it.

“If we want to take that glass of water and fill it up out of our faucet, we should be able to.”—Elvira Camacho, East Orosi, California, resident

Zoe Myers


The Forest Service has approved a mining company’s request to build a four-mile road and make as many as 571 trips a year with bulldozers, dump trucks and drill rigs into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Thanks to the 1872 Mining Act, which predates the 1964 Wilderness Act, mining claims made prior to wilderness designation can continue to have validity. The Golden Hand deposit was discovered in 1889, and the courts have determined that its latest owner has the right to prove whether the long-dormant claim is still valid. But how? With pack animals and pickaxes, or with bulldozers and jackhammers? 
-Krista Langlois

You say

Joshua Serfass: “I understand that the mining company has the right to prospect the area, but the USFS should not be allowing them to do so with trucks, bulldozers, or other modern means.”

Chris Link: “It’s not much of a ‘wilderness’ by conventional standards. This doesn’t change the future of wilderness.”

Mark Lewis: “What sort of idiotic ruling is this? Gotta love the duplicity. If mountain biking made as much money as mining, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

Jim Anderson: “Only when the last tree is cut, the last of land pillaged and the last of the water polluted, will the greedy be happy.”