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Tag: deb haaland

White House Kills Mining Leases For Firm Linked To Ivanka And Kushner

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week that it is canceling two leases for copper mining in the Minnesota wilderness that President Donald Trump authorized during his presidency.

Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Antofagasta plc, a multinational mining conglomerate, was slated to mine for copper in the Boundary Waters region. The area — which spans over 1.1 million acres from Minnesota to Ontario, Canada — has "pristine" water quality and is home to more than 50 animal species and more than 200 bird species.

Environmental activists had warned that the Twin Metals mining operation could put the Boundary Waters' status as a haven for natural life in jeopardy, with runoff flooding the area with contaminants.

"After a careful legal review, we found the leases were improperly renewed in violation of applicable statutes and regulations, and we are taking action to cancel them," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

In October, the Biden administration announced it would consider withdrawing the Boundary Waters from consideration for any mining leases for the next 20 years — the maximum amount of time under the Secretary of the Interior's authority.

In the final months of President Barack Obama's administration, the department declined to renew Twin Metals' leases to mine in the Boundary Waters region. Former President Donald Trump reinstated the company's leases. In 2018, Trump's Department of Agriculture canceled a study assessing the environmental impact of mining operations in the area.

After Trump took office, Antofagasta plc heavily increased its lobbying in Washington, spending upwards of $900,000 to advocate for the leases to be reopened, the New York Times reported.

Around the same time, Andrónico Luksic, whose family controls Antofagasta, entered into a private financial arrangement with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

In December 2016, Luksic purchased a $5.5 million home in the high-end neighborhood of Kalorama in Washington, D.C. One month later, when Trump took office, Ivanka Trump and Kushner rented and moved into Luksic's house.

Richard W. Painter, who served as ethics chief under former President George W. Bush, told Newsweek magazine in 2019 the arrangement gave the appearance that Luksic was "trying to influence" the administration on its mining decision by aligning himself with Trump's daughter and son-in-law.

Throughout Trump's presidency, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner each faced numerous accusations of self-dealing and corruption.

Antofagasta has previously faced allegations of being involved in corrupt actions like bribery as well as concerns that the company's mining operations have caused damage to culturally significant heritage sites.

The Biden administration's reversal of the decision by the Trump team was hailed by Save The Boundary Waters, an activist group opposing the project on environmental grounds.

"It is heartening to have an administration making decisions with integrity," Becky Rom, the group's national campaign chair, said in a statement. "Twin Metals leases should never have been reinstated in the first place, and this announcement should stop the Twin Metals mine threat."

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), who represents the Boundary Waters region in Congress, praised the Department of the Interior's decision.

"The Biden administration's cancellation of two Twin Metals leases that threatened this watershed is a rejection of the deeply flawed and politically motivated process under the Trump administration and a victory for sound science and protecting a precious and irreplaceable natural resource," McCollum said in a statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

A Native American Woman Retires That 'Squaw' Slur For Good

It has been 400 years since Native Americans took part in the first Thanksgiving, hosted by the Europeans who had appeared the previous year. This year also marks the first time a federal department has been headed by a Native American, and last week, she did something wise that none of her predecessors saw fit to do.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declared the word "squaw" to be derogatory and told the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to begin removing it from federal sites. "The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women," said a department press release, an assertion that is impossible to refute. "There are currently more than 650 federal land units that contain the term, according to a database maintained by the Board on Geographic Names."

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribal nation, describes herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican. She was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018.

Her announcement may be reviled as an oppressive policing of language. No doubt diehards were likewise aggrieved in 1962, when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall issued an order to change place names that included the N-word — of which there were dozens. The government took until 1974 to replace the term "Jap" in site names with "Japanese."

A few years ago, my wife and I had the strange experience of going for a hike outside Moab, Utah, in a place called Negro Bill Canyon. I had mixed feelings about the name. On the one hand, it was obviously a great improvement over "N——- Bill Canyon," as it was previously known. But "Negro Bill Canyon" was not a name I could utter comfortably.

The locals apparently came to agree. One Moab resident who led a petition drive said: "People cringe when we have to tell the name of it. The looks on their face is: 'What did you just say?'" In 2017, the county council voted to call it Grandstaff Canyon, in honor of the Black rancher for whom it was originally named.

It's hard to defend site names that carry racist connotations. Even the Texas legislature voted in 1991 to change the names of 19 places that contained "Negro," including a valley in West Texas called Dead Negro Draw — which, yes, was once called something far worse. It is now Buffalo Soldier Draw.

"Squaw" is regarded by Native Americans as offensive, even obscene. But hundreds of sites have been adorned with the word (including several using variations on "Squaw Teat"). One of them was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Squaw Valley Resort in California. Last year, the owners announced they would re-christen it Palisades Tahoe."

"'Squaw' is a hurtful word," said a corporate official. "We are not hurtful people."

While in Congress, Haaland introduced legislation requiring the federal government to "review and revise offensive names of Federal land units" and create an advisory board to solicit and recommend new names. The bill attracted only a handful of co-sponsors and went nowhere.

Names don't have to be derogatory to warrant revision. The tallest peak in North America was named for William McKinley, an Ohio politician who ascended to the presidency but never laid eyes on Alaska, where the 20,000-foot mountain is located.

In 1975, the Alaska legislature voted in favor of replacing "Mount McKinley" with "Denali" — as indigenous people had known it for centuries. But the federal government did nothing until 2015, when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered the change, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), had proposed.

Only someone with a tin ear and no sense of history could regard McKinley as a better name than Denali. It was probably inevitable, then, that during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump would vow to reverse the Obama administration's action. "Great insult to Ohio," he tweeted, which must have mystified most Ohioans.

In 2018, Republican House members from Ohio urged President Trump to follow through on his promise. But his Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, tossed the request into his circular file. For reasons known only to Trump — probably his short attention span — that was the end of it.

Native Americans can't alter the grim experiences they have suffered at the hands of European settlers and their descendants over the past four centuries. But Haaland has found one thing that can be undone.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Biden Restores Protection To Bears Ears National Monument

By Tobias Carroll

In 2017, the Trump administration took a dramatic step regarding Bears Ears National Monument, located in southern Utah. As reported at the time, the then-president arrived in Utah and announced that the size of the national monument would be reduced by 83 percent. And while public sentiment was overwhelmingly opposed to this decision, the government's plan went ahead — affecting both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

But what one administration can do, another can undo. Following the recommendation of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Presiden...

Judge Shoots Down Gov. Noem Over Mt. Rushmore Fireworks

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A federal judge has rejected South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem's attempt to circumvent safety rules and hold a massive Independence Day fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. He said her request amounted to asking for "judicial activism."

"This country could use a good celebration of its foundational principles of democracy, liberty, and equal protection of law," wroteRoberto Lange, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.

But, he wrote on Wednesday, it would "be improper judicial activism for this Court to disregard settled law" for him to force the U.S. Parks Service to grant a permit for a July 4, 2021, show, as Noem demanded.

Noem blasted the ruling, again asserting that "The Biden Administration cancelled [sic] South Dakota's Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration on completely arbitrary grounds," and writing, "I am disappointed that the court gave cover to this unlawful action with today's decision." She vowed to appeal, in hopes of having fireworks next year.

The Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior, said in March that it would not grant a fireworks permit this year for South Dakota Department of Tourism for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

"Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event," it explained. "In addition, the park's many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial."

Fireworks had been banned at the national park between 2009 and 2019, due to objections from Native American tribes (on whose sacred lands the monument was built) and concerns about wildfires. In 2020, Donald Trump and his administration ignored those — and coronavirus safety measures — to hold a massive Independence Day fireworks show and political speech at the site.

Noem sued Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in April, demanding a permit and falsely claiming that it was a purely arbitrary decision not to give her one.

"There was no reason given as to why we can't host the fireworks events. It wasn't based on environmental issues, it wasn't based on staffing issues or fire danger issues, it was just because they didn't want us to have it," she told reporters on May 3.

Just weeks before, Noem had declared "dangerous fire conditions" in the state.

Since becoming governor in January 2019, Noem has earned a national reputation for aggressively ignoring public health and safety.

She was one of the only governors who refused to issue any stay-at-home order as the COVID-19 pandemic hit her state in early 2020. As the situation worsened, she was also one of just a handful of governors who refusedto issue any mask requirements. More than 120,000 of her constituents tested positive — nearly 15 percent of the state's population.

In November, she railed against "absolutely false" claims by "some in the media" that her state had the highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita. At the time, her state had the second-highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Democrat Stansbury Romps In Special Election To Replace Haaland

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in a 60-36 landslide to hold New Mexico's 1st Congressional District in Tuesday's special election to succeed Deb Haaland, who resigned earlier this year to become U.S. secretary of the interior.

Stansbury improved on Haaland's 58-42 win last year and even ran slightly ahead of Joe Biden's 60-37 showing in this Albuquerque-based constituency, a result indicating that Republican efforts to turn the race into a referendum on crime gained little traction. Moores almost singularly focused his campaign on the rising local crime rate, a message his party hopes will resonate nationally next year. One of his TV ads even featured horror movie-style sound effects of a woman screaming as the narrator went after Stansbury on police reform.

Stansbury, though, pushed back and aired her own ads featuring law enforcement personnel vouching for her. She also emphasized her support for the Biden administration and its policies and campaigned with both first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

While Democrats will be pleased with the end result, whether the outcome portends anything for the midterms is much harder to say. At the very least, extrapolating from a single special election is a risky endeavor, and Republicans will be quick to note that GOP outside groups didn't spend any serious money on Moores' behalf.

For now, though, Stansbury's victory means Democrats will restore one more vote to their slim House majority, giving Nancy Pelosi a 220-211 advantage with four more vacancies to be filled in future special elections.

Interior Department Halts Oil Drilling In Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Washington (AFP) - US President Joe Biden's administration announced Tuesday it was halting petroleum development activity in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reversing a move by former president Donald Trump to allow drilling. The Interior Department said it was notifying firms of the freeze, pending a comprehensive environmental review that will determine whether leases in the area known as ANWR should be "reaffirmed, voided or subject to additional mitigation measures," the agency said in a statement. The announcement deals a blow to the long-contested quest of oil companies to...

Biden’s Cabinet Choices Prove His Climate Commitment

President-elect Joe Biden's recent environmental-related Cabinet selections have the experience required to effectively handle their jobs, a contrast to the current administration and further proof of Biden's commitment on the issue.

On Thursday, Biden tapped Michael Regan, North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality secretary, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

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