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Resort's Snow Won't Be Pure This Year; It'll Be Sewage FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Klee Benally, a member of the Navajo tribe, has gone to the mountains just north of here to pray, and he has gone to get arrested. He has chained himself to excavators; he has faced down bulldozers. For 10 years, the soft-spoken activist has fought a ski resort’s expansion plans in the San Francisco Peaks that include clear-cutting 74 acres of forest and piping treated sewage effluent onto a mountain to make snow. New York Times, Sept. 26, 2012.

 

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Jinn
Gettysburg Review
Winter 2005
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Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous CAMERON, Ariz. — In the summer of 2010, a Navajo cattle rancher named Larry Gordy stumbled upon an abandoned uranium mine in the middle of his grazing land and figured he had better call in the feds. Engineers from the Environmental Protection Agency arrived a few months later, Geiger counters in hand, and found radioactivity levels that buried the needles on their equipment. New York Times, Apr. 1, 2012. [This story prompted a Congressional response.]

 
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mine Ban on uranium mining at Grand Canyon upheld by Arizona court. A coalition of conservation groups are hailing an Arizona judge’s decision this week to uphold the Obama administration’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon. The Guardian, Oct. 2, 2014. Photo: Leslie Macmillan.
Echols A Modern Day Witch Hunt Comes to Salem. SALEM, Mass. — Word is the quaint New England town wasn't big enough for the both of them: Mike Blatty, whose father, William Peter Blatty, wrote the Exorcist, and Damien Echols of the "West Memphis Three." Echols spent 17 years on death row before he was released in 2011. He had moved here seeking acceptance and the quiet life. He did not get it, and last month he and his wife sold their house and moved to New York City. Esquire, June. 19, 2014. Photo: Barry Chin/Boston Globe via Getty.
warning signs The Government Is Propping Up The Uranium Industry And We're Paying For It. Critics of the White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah say it is a poorly disguised nuclear waste dump that would have gone out of business long ago were it not propped up by a lucrative federal contracts. To stay alive in a depressed market, Energy Fuels Resources, the mill's operator, recycles mine tailings and radioactive waste -- known as "alternate feed" -- from Superfund sites around the country. The leftover waste, a toxic stew of industrial chemicals, is stored in open pits around the property. Esquire, May 30, 2014.
Peaks Hopi lawsuit against wastewater snowmaking gets green light in Arizona. The Arizona Supreme Court has greenlighted a lawsuit that the Hopi Tribe brought against the city of Flagstaff, Ariz. for selling wastewater to a local ski resort to make fake snow. In a procedural victory, the tribe has won the right to proceed with its lawsuit challenging Flagstaff’s 2002 decision to sell reclaimed wastewater to the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, on claims that the wastewater snow creates a “public nuisance." High Country News, Jan. 16, 2014. Photo: Sam Minkler.
Karen In A Shirt, Lakota Family Sees Its History. Ten years ago, lost to drugs and alcohol, Karen Little Thunder moved back to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where, she said, she saved her own life by reconnecting to her Lakota heritage, particularly the legacy of her great-great grandfather. He was Little Thunder, a Lakota leader and a contemporary of Crazy Horse, whose life spanned several decades central to the history of the tribe — from the battles it fought across the Great Plains to its resettlement on reservations. New York Times, Dec. 28, 2013. Photo: Sam Minkler.
Nez Peabody mine expansion coincides with Navajo and Hopi artifacts battle. Ten years ago, Jennafer Yellowhorse picked up an out-of-print archeology book titled A View from Black Mesa and read about a vast trove of artifacts unearthed on a lonesome plateau of Navajo land near the Four Corners. “Right in my backyard,” as she says, “but I’d never heard of it; no one had. So I started asking questions.” Her questions would lead to the heart of the Southwest’s energy infrastructure and the largest archeology project ever conducted on U.S. soil. High Country News, Dec. 20, 2013. Photo: Sam Minkler.
Little Thunder Regulations for Native American "Artifacts" Auctions May Still Be Too Lax. A 19th century Sioux shirt pulled from auction reveals that regulation of auctioning off Native American 'artifacts' may still be too lax. Recent events raise the question of who the rightful "owner" is of items that are important heirlooms of tribal history. The BIA is charged with enforcing some of these regulations, but its role is “ambiguous and remains unsettled." High Country News, Nov. 18, 2013.
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Placed on Hold. A uranium-mining company that was due to open its mine on the doorstep of the Grand Canyon is suspending work, citing falling uranium prices and the expense of ongoing litigation. The Guardian, Nov. 7, 2013.
horses Why Are Horses Still Being Slaughtered in Droves? An estimated 33,000 horses roam freely on public lands and even more on tribal lands. The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to control their numbers so that they don't ravage grasslands or die of starvation. But critics of horse roundups contend they are a profit-driven enterprise sanctioned by the federal government and driven by business interests like cattle ranching and extractive industries that want to clear land for development. Esquire, Oct. 24, 2013. A Win for the West's Wild Horses. The re-opening of equine slaughterhouses is halted, for now. Esquire, Nov. 5, 2013. Photo: Sam Minkler.
tar sands Forget Keystone. Tar Sands Drilling Is On In Utah. While tar sands have become synonymous with Alberta, few know that the United States may soon see its own oil boom. Last March, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved more than 800,000 acres for tar sands and oil shale development over a vast stretch of land in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado known as the Green River Formation. Esquire, Sept. 12, 2013.
Grand Canyon

Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Grand Canyon, But At What Cost?

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — For most of its existence, Tusayan, Arizona (pop. 580) has been little more than a pokey strip of motels and fast food restaurants strung along State Highway 64, the last place to gas up before entering the relative wilderness of the Grand Canyon, two miles away.
But a handful of wealthy business owners and their Italian development partner say the town could be more — much more. Esquire, Aug. 29, 2013.

Klee We Are Still Here. In 2011, Klee Benally chained himself to a backhoe on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Ariz. One knee in the dirt, the lanky Diné (Navajo) activist thundered at U.S. Forest Service officials, “Right here we draw the line! Right here we say no more!” He had gone to the mountain to pray, but ended up protesting the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort’s plan to turn wastewater into snow. After two hours, he was arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. High Country News, Aug. 19, 2013. photo: Sam Minkler.
beara Where the Wild Things Are (Or Aren't). When Lewis and Clark set out in 1804 to map the American West, tens of thousands of grizzly bears roamed the northern plains and Rockies — a “large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill,” their journals record. But just decades later, killing grizzlies had become common, as the Wild West was settled and large animals were cleared to make room for ranching, mining and homesteading. Ensia, June 3, 2013.
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Set To Go Ahead Despite Ban from Obama. Energy Fuels Resources has federal approval to reopen its mine six miles south of the canyon's South Rim entrance. The Guardian, April 30, 2013.
map A Snapshot of Drilling on a Park's Margins. Two years ago, the photographer Tony Bynum, whose images of Big Sky country have graced the covers of magazines like Field and Stream, embarked on a different type of photodocumentary project. His goal was to create an interactive map to illustrate the oil and gas boom in his own backyard on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park in Montana. New York Times Green Blog, March 1, 2013.
Grand Canyon National Parks on a Precipice. Unless Congress can reach a budget agreement by March 1, the country’s national parks will be hit by a $110 million budget cut, resulting in shuttered campgrounds, shorter seasons, road closings and reduced emergency services, a parks advocacy group reports. New York Times (Blog), Feb. 22, 2013. An Addendum on National Park Cuts. New York Times Green Blog, Feb. 25, 2013.
canyon A Move to Protect Red-Rock Country in Utah. A proposed resolution would urge the federal government to protect a vast roadless tract in Utah from development. New York Times Green Blog, Feb. 12, 2013.
mine Arizona Mining Project Wins Crucial Permit. A Canadian mining company has come one step closer to building a mile-wide, half-mile-deep open-pit copper mine on public land 30 miles south of Tucson. State environmental regulators have decided that emissions from the proposed Rosemont Copper mine would meet federal air standards. New York Times Green Blog, Feb. 4, 2013.
jaguar Hurdles Remain for Jaguar Habitat. Last fall, remote cameras in a rugged expanse of desert grasslands in Southern Arizona captured arresting images of a jaguar slinking through the underbrush, its yellow eyes fixed on some distant sight. The photos add to the dozen or so documented sightings of the endangered cat on American soil in the last century. New York Times Green Blog, Jan. 23, 2013.
Snowbowl Discolored Slopes Mar Debut of Snow-Making Effort. An Arizona resort attributes the initial yellowish cast to a rusty residue in its snow-making equipment, not the material’s wastewater origins. New York Times (Blog), Jan. 11, 2013. Inquiry Into Discolored Snow A local city council will investigate a complaint about exposure to discolored snow generated from wastewater at Arizona Snowbowl. New York Times (Blog), Jan. 17, 2013. Ski Resort Needs Bigger Wastewater Signs, Agency Says. New York Times Green Blog, Jan. 29, 2013.
Hantz Vast Land Deal Divides Detroit. John Hantz says he has a dream: to purchase 140 acres of derelict land in the heart of Detroit and turn it into the world’s “largest urban farm.” New York Times Green Blog, Dec. 10, 2012. Detroit Narrowly Approves Land Sale. In a 5-4 vote, the Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved a controversial land sale of more than 140 acres of land to an entrepreneur by a 5-4 vote.
small product photo Snow, Sewage and a Fragile Alpine Plant. Weeks before the snow guns at the Arizona Snowbowl ski area are set to begin blowing artificial snow made from sewage effluent — a focus of a 10-year legal battle — the Hopi tribe has mounted a new challenge, arguing that the plan could jeopardize the survival of a fragile plant. New York Times Green Blog, Nov. 19, 2012.
small product photo Bison Bones, a Backhoe, and a Crow Curse. Around the time of Christ’s birth, while the Roman Empire was reigning over the civilized world, a group of Indian hunters in what is now Sarpy Creek, Montana, chased a herd of 2,000 wild bison into a narrow drainage area and launched an attack, filling the sky with a sheet of arrows. As the wooly beasts lay bleeding to death from their wounds, the hunters then set upon them with their flint knives, scouring the animals for meat, hide, and bones. Outside Magazine, Nov. 9, 2012.
Snow On The Slopes, Gliding on Wastewater. As I wrote in The Times recently, a ski resort in northern Arizona will become the first in the world to make artificial snow totally out of sewage effluent this winter. Now, apart from longstanding concern about harmful chemicals in the water that will be used to make that snow — piped directly from the sewage treatment system of the nearby town of Flagstaff — new research indicates that the wastewater system is a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant genes. New York Times Green Blog, Oct. 10, 2012.
small product photo Lose the Crust, Inherit the Wind. As the West struggles with wildfires this summer, hot, dry weather is also contributing to massive dust storms in Arizona. Known as “haboobs,” the storms are characterized by strong winds and a wall of dust that can be thousands of feet high, grounding planes, blowing away barns and knocking out power to major cities like Phoenix. New York Times Green Blog, July 18, 2012.
garden The Garden Party Redefined. Forget the elegant hats and croquet; “garden assistance parties” are for ripping out lawns and planting native plants that soak up stormwater and protect oceans. New York Times Green Blog, July 2, 2012.
small product photo A Legal Battle Unfolds Over Newly Returned Bison. The legal battle continues over the fate of a herd of wild bison that are roaming the plains of northern Montana for the first time in more than a century. New York Times Green Blog, May 31, 2012. [This piece was mentioned in the preface to George Catlin's American Buffalo, forthcoming in fall 2013 from Smithsonian American Art Museum.]
small product photo A Difficult Choice on Water. Proposed legislation offers the Navajo and Hopi the service of having water piped into their homes but comes with the caveat that they hand over their rights to the waters of the Little Colorado River. New York Times Green Blog, Apr. 6, 2012. Photo: Sam Minkler
cattle Uranium, Grazing Cattle and Risks Unknown. There is no dispute that beef and milk from those cattle make their way into the food chain. What is not precisely known is how much radioactive material plants absorb through the soil, how much the cattle ingest by grazing on the plants and what the effect might be on humans. New York Times Green Blog, Apr. 4, 2012.
small product photo A Tough Pond to Fish. CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti—Driving through Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s largest city in the north, six months after the earthquake, it’s easy to forget for a moment that a city in rubble lies a mere seventy miles away. The World Cup is on. At eight a.m., people dressed in yellow and green Brazil jerseys are lugging huge TV sets onto sidewalks so that entire neighborhoods can watch together. When I ask Edy why those teams are favored, he smiles broadly. “Because they always win,” he says, “and Haiti wants to go with a winner.” Tufts Magazine, winter 2011.
small product photo Season of Hope. MILOT, Haiti—On a hot day in early July, Sally Greenwald walks across a dusty tent clinic set up by the local hospital here to treat earthquake victims flown in from the capital. She points to a young woman in a wheelchair. Six months after the January 12 earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince and killed more than 200,000 people, the woman is still here, and lately she has begun to wonder what life holds for her. She has no home, no family and no legs. Tufts Journal, Sept. 22, 2010.

For stories on school boards, town meetings and the like I did for a Massachusetts weekly, go here.

For all New York Times Green Blog stories, go here.