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USFS lets gold miner write own biological assessment

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Rockies Today

December 16 · Issue #52 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

The Midas touch-up
Documents show the U.S. Forest Service allowing the Canadian mining company Midas Gold to write a key environmental report on its proposed open-pit gold mines in central Idaho, near McCall, after the Trump administration became involved, the AP’s Keith Ridler reports.
Documents: Mining company writing own environmental report Documents: Mining company writing own environmental report
Documents show ongoing lobbying efforts with federal agencies and then a meeting in May 2018 between Midas Gold and Dan Jiron, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s acting deputy under secretary for natural resources and environment. In November, Midas Gold met with Jim Hubbard, the Agriculture Department’s under secretary for natural resources and environment.
Meanwhile, Forest Service resistance to Midas Gold playing a significant role in writing the biological assessment crumbled, according to Forest Service internal emails, meeting notes and a memorandum.
“And to be clear,” then-Payette National Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom wrote in a short email to colleagues in October 2018, “Midas will have the lead on fish, wildlife and plants ESA (Endangered Species Act) consultation.”
Lannom, who earlier this year became a deputy regional forester based in Montana and no longer oversees Payette National Forest issues, didn’t return a call from The Associated Press.
John Freemuth, an expert on U.S. land policies at Boise State University, said it’s not unusual for companies to lobby whatever administration is in power. But he said having a company get the OK to write its own biological assessment is something he’s never heard of before.
“It looks like there was a lot of political pressure that Midas brought to bear at higher levels,” said Freemuth, who reviewed the documents. “It wouldn’t pass what people call the smell test.”
Background on the mining proposal:
'Pioneering' plan for scarred Idaho tract may rock industry
Railroading climate science
A major but little-known supporter of climate denial: freight railroads A major but little-known supporter of climate denial: freight railroads
In the fight against climate change, the nation’s freight railroads have painted themselves as heroes. Rail is the “the most environmentally friendly way” to move cargo over land, says the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s trade group. The industry’s four biggest companies agree: “Railroads are essential to moving [climate] objectives forward,” says CSX Transportation, the largest railroad east of the Mississippi.
Yet for almost 30 years, the biggest players in the freight-rail industry have waged a campaign to discredit climate science and oppose almost any federal climate policy, reveals new research analyzed by The Atlantic.
The four largest American freight railroads—BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and CSX—have sat at the center of the climate-denial movement nearly since it began, documents and studies show. These four companies have joined or funded groups that attacked individual scientists, cast doubt on scientific consensus, and rejected reports from major scientific institutions, including the United Nations–led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their effort has cost at least tens of millions of dollars and outlasted individual leaders and coalitions.
It continues to this day. The four companies are members of a powerful pro-coal trade association that in 2014 called climate change a “hypothesis” and argued that carbon dioxide—the air pollutant that causes global warming—was as much as 400 times more beneficial to humanity than it was harmful.
“We can now identify railroads as an integral component of opposition to climate action,” Robert Brulle, an author of the new research and a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University, told me. “There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Why did railroads invest millions in climate-science denial? Perhaps because coal makes up almost one of every three tons of American rail freight.
Meanwhile…
Study: River water crisis could dry out Front Range
Grizzly bears move north in High Arctic as climate change expands range
Bird migration timing skewed by climate, new research finds
Paris disagreement: States split on climate, so U.S. to miss emissions target
Sleeping on the streets
SCOTUS rejects hearing Boise homeless case SCOTUS rejects hearing Boise homeless case
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case Boise v. Martin, which means a prior ruling stands: the city’s ordinance against sleeping in public is unconstitutional.
That’s true for the entire western U.S., too, ranging from other rural western states like Montana and Alaska to states with much more extreme homelessness challenges, like California, Washington and Oregon.
The case started out a decade ago, when Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. helped seven homeless and formerly homeless residents file suit against Idaho’s capital after getting ticketed for sleeping in public.
The city did change its policies in 2014 so people would only be cited for sleeping in public if there wasn’t room at homeless shelters. While that was enough for a federal magistrate judge to dismiss the suit, the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit Court.
That court ultimately found the city’s changes weren’t enough, and that it was still cruel and unusual punishment to cite people for sleeping in public. 
That case will now be headed back to Idaho courts where the city will have to find a way to comply with the circuit court’s ruling. 
More from the Times:
Punished for sleeping on the streets, they prevailed in court
More legal news from around the region:
Opinion: Judge’s strong ruling a victory for Idaho public records law
Idaho couple tries again at Clean Water Act challenge
Wyoming landowners’ flooding claims against reservoir revived
Four British Columbia Indigenous groups will argue Canadian government failed to consult adequately over Trans Mountain
Stripped miners
Retired Kemmerer coal miners' health care could be saved by federal legislation Retired Kemmerer coal miners' health care could be saved by federal legislation
More energy news:
Wyoming is losing millions every year from mineral tax delinquencies
New data reveals flaring surges nationwide, declines in Wyoming
‘It’s really scary to us.’ Idaho Power, customers at odds over rooftop solar panels
Dominion Energy and partner look to transform Utah hog waste into energy
Alberta asks Ottawa to ‘expedite’ approval of Teck’s Frontier oilsands mega mine
What else we're reading today
How many missing or murdered indigenous women are there in Idaho? No one knows.
Opinion: Montana's congressional delegates making progress on tribal legislation
Grijalva demands data on BLM relocation plans
Feral pigs roam the South. Now even northern states aren’t safe.
Wildfires have changed. It’s time the science did too.
Wildfires are getting worse, and so is the deadly smoke they bring with them
With federal rules looming, can Colorado hemp farmers still strike gold?
National group warns Idaho lawmakers to not transform independent watchdog office
Colorado to consider one more post-death option: human body composting
Gamblers, wastrels and lumberjacks: An old cemetery gives up its secret history
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812