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Friday, 18 July, 2014

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Suit against Idaho gold mine exploration permit dropped

LEWISTON (AP) — A conservation group and the Nez Perce Tribe have dropped a lawsuit against three federal agencies after the U.S. Forest Service rescinded a central Idaho gold mining exploration permit.
The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1vKcNUe) in a story on Friday that the tribe and the Idaho Conservation League dropped the lawsuit after the Payette National Forest revoked the permit late last month.
The three-year permit would have allowed Midas Gold Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to drill about 178 exploratory holes in an area east of McCall in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River.
Forest officials decided that additional environmental analysis of the company's plans and potential environmental effects are needed.
The company tells the newspaper it still plans to establish a mine on private land.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com

Yakama tribal police involved in fatal shooting

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A Yakima County sheriff's spokesman says a Yakama Nation police officer was involved in shooting near Toppenish Friday morning that left one man dead.
Sgt. Mike Russell says the 42-year-old man fled from the Wapato area in a vehicle, and the tribal officer pursued him. The suspect reportedly shot at the officer during the chase. The man eventually stopped in Toppenish, got out of the car and began shooting at the officer multiple times.
Russell says the officer returned fire, striking the man.
The pursuit began after police responded to a disturbance call around 8 a.m. 
Russell said the sheriff's office was at the scene to assist. He says the FBI and tribal police are handling the investigation.
Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins identified the man as Ira Arquette.

Court rules Muccosukee Tribe not liable for judgment

MIAMI (AP) — An appeals court has ruled that a South Florida Indian tribe cannot be held liable for a $4.1 million wrongful death judgment stemming from a fatal 1998 car crash.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal decided last week that the Miccosukee tribe cannot be forced to pay for the actions of its members, even though the tribe paid the members' legal costs.
A lower court judge had previously ordered the tribe to pay Carlos Bermudez and his son for the crash that killed 30-year-old Liliana Bermudez.
Investigators said Miccosukee tribe member Tammy Gwen Billie had drugs in her system when the car crash happened. The car was owned by tribe member Jimmie Bert. Bermudez won a jury verdict against both, but they have maintained they have no assets.

Federal officials consider sending Yellowstone bison to Grand Canyon

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials said June 30 that 20 parcels of public lands in 10 states could be suitable for bison from Yellowstone National Park, although it's likely to be years before any animals are relocated to the sites.
The locations include areas as diverse as Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, an Iowa wildlife refuge and a North Dakota national historic site.
They were identified in a long-awaited Department of Interior report that looked at using Yellowstone's bison herds to further the restoration of a species that once ranged most of the continent.
Tens of millions of bison occupied North America before overhunting nearly drove them extinct by the late 19th century.
Yellowstone was one of the last holdouts for the animals in the wild, and had roughly 4,600 bison at last count. During their winter migrations, the animals periodically spill into neighboring Montana, triggering large-scale bison slaughters to prevent the spread of the animal disease brucellosis.
A pilot bison relocation program in Montana has struggled to overcome opposition from ranchers. They worry both about the disease and the possibility of bison competing with cattle for grazing space.
The pilot program quarantined Yellowstone bison for several years before they could be moved, to protect against disease transmissions. Even so, many within the livestock industry remain wary and most of the animals in the program have not yet been relocated.
Those animals are in control of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which is considering proposals from tribes, government agencies and private groups that want to take the bison.
If the park service were to revive the quarantine program and make it permanent, federal officials said it could be five years to a decade before more animals were relocated.
“If we were to do this, where would you place these bison? This report gives us a head-start on that question,'' said Jorge Silva-Banuelos, an official with the U.S. Department of the Interior.
That could help relieve population pressures that led to the slaughter of thousands of migrating Yellowstone bison during the last decade, under an agreement between Montana and federal officials.
Conservation groups welcomed Monday's report. But the National Wildlife Federation said it did not include enough collaboration with American Indian tribes interested in getting Yellowstone bison.
Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar first issued a directive for his agency to come up with a relocation plan for Yellowstone bison in May 2012.
Yellowstone's chief scientist, Dave Hallac, said planning for a bison quarantine program is expected to begin in late summer or early fall. Public input will be part of that process.
“Within a five-year-period there may be the possibility of moving some brucellosis-free bison,'' Hallac said.
The states and locations identified Monday as potentially suitable for relocated bison were:
• Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
• Colorado: Baca National Wildlife Refuge, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
• Iowa: Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
• Kansas: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
• Montana: Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, National Bison Range
• Nebraska: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
• North Dakota: Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
• Oklahoma: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
• South Dakota: Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park
• Utah: Book Cliffs, Henry Mountains

Near spill, reservation wrestles with oil's impact

MANDAREE, N.D. (AP) — Growing up, Ruth Anna Buffalo would follow the dirt track behind her house into the rugged North Dakota badlands, swimming in creeks picketed with beaver dams, finding artifacts and climbing bluffs overlooking Lake Sakakawea. For the young, the lake and the land around it were a wonderland.
Buffalo's grandfather, though, looked at the lake with pained eyes. Created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' building of the Garrison Dam in the 1940s and ‘50s, it flooded out a significant portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and swallowed his town of Elbowoods. Families were forced to leave their homes for higher ground.
Now, drilling rigs are visible in the hills behind Buffalo's childhood home in the small town of Mandaree and the trail to the lake is pockmarked with oil and gas development.
“It feels like this is the modern day flooding of our land,'' Buffalo said.
For many Native Americans on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation — a land that accounts for 300,000 of the 1 million barrels of oil produced by North Dakota daily — there is a difficult balance between the potential prosperity that oil and gas development can bring and the preservation of a land considered by cultural and religious tradition to be sacred. That dilemma has been brought to the fore this month since 1 million gallons of saltwater, a byproduct of oil and gas production, spewed from an underground pipeline into the badlands near Mandaree.
Crestwood Midstream Partners LP, whose subsidiary Arrow Pipeline LLC owns the pipeline, says the toxic fluid travelled a snaking, nearly 2-mile path down into a ravine, eradicating a 200-yard stretch of vegetation along its way. But the company says there is no evidence the saltwater made its way into Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water for the reservation.
Among residents of the reservation, there is an environmental concern not often exhibited elsewhere in North Dakota's booming oil patch. Roadside signs at Mandaree's entrance invoke the wisdom of the elders, encouraging tribal members and visitors to the reservation to respect the land and air around them.
“The elders say land is our mother,'' reads one. “Don't litter on our mother! Protect our mother!''
Another reads “Water and air is life! Protect our future generation!''
The leadership of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation says oil and gas development in recent years has rescued the reservation from the poverty that afflicts many reservations across the United States.
But prosperity is difficult to see in Mandaree, which had a population of just under 600 in the 2010 census. Unkempt grass rises in most lawns, some cradling abandoned vehicles or rusting propane tanks. Mangy dogs traipse the streets. The windows of some homes are boarded up or cracked.
“We should all be basking in wealth, but we're not,'' said 60-year-old Mandaree resident Katherine Young Bear. “We still have poverty — huge, horrible poverty — on the reservation.''
“As far as I'm concerned they should take it away and be done with it because it's killing our mother earth,'' she added, referring to oil and gas extraction.
The only shop in town is a small gas station convenience store. Harriet Goodiron, who works there, says radioactive oil filter socks — the tubular nets that strain liquids during the oil production process — were found near her home last year. Oil companies are supposed to haul them to approved waste facilities in other states.
Goodiron is concerned about the lasting impact of oil development on the land and its people.
“Once this is all over they're going to up and leave, with frack socks laying all over and saltwater spills in our water that we drink,'' she said. “Now, after that spill happened, whenever I brush my teeth, do I know that the water I'm drinking, is it safe? Is it going to give me cancer one day?''

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