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Governor vetoes sacred Indian sites protection bill
by way of Native News online
By DON THOMPSON
The Associated Press
Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a bill that would help American Indians protect tribal
land Monday, hours before his midnight deadline to act on legislation sent to
him in the closing days of the legislative session.
The measure was opposed by developers and business groups that said the bill
was so broad it could grant tribes veto power over both private and public
land statewide, potentially delaying or blocking public improvement projects,
school buildings and new homes.
The bill would have required local governments to notify a tribe of proposed
construction within 20 miles of a reservation and protect from development
sacred sites that tribes have used for generations.
The bill authored by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, was spurred by
opposition from the Quechan Nation to plans by Glamis Gold Ltd., a Reno,
Nev.-based company that wants to build an open pit gold mine on federal land
near the tribe's reservation near the Arizona-California line. The Imperial
County land includes Indian Pass, a site of religious ceremonies that
contains ancient pottery shards and petroglyphs.
Burton, who has had frequent public run-ins with Davis, declined comment
The Interior Department on Friday revived the proposal, which had been
blocked by the Clinton administration. A lawyer for the tribe, Courtney
Coyle, said the ruling was intended to bolster the project against
potentially unfavorable state action, an assertion dismissed by spokesmen for
Glamis Gold and the government.
The department's Bureau of Land Management determined that Glamis' proposal
to open a mine would be profitable, a requirement of federal mining law. It
was an important step in the government's consideration of whether to grant
Glamis a permit to open the mine on 1,571 acres of federal land in the
southeast corner of the state, about 20 miles northwest of Yuma, Ariz.
Glamis senior vice president Charles Jeannes said the company would employ
about 120 people to mine 1.1 million ounces of gold worth about $350 million
at current prices.
But the decision was attacked Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., because the
planned open pit gold mining "literally alters the face of the landscape."
"This mine would rip the heart out of the tribe's religious center," Boxer
said. "There can be no justification for this decision."
A provision in the Senate's annual Interior Department spending bill also
would bar the administration from spending any money to continue evaluating
the Glamis proposal.
Coyle said the department appeared to be "racing the clock to set up some
kind of situation where Glamis gets compensated for its claims" in the event
the mine was blocked by California law. She contended the department's action
would strengthen Glamis' claim for a financial settlement from the state, if
the company cannot go forward with the mine under state law.
Interior's Bureau of Land Management still has to determine the impact on the
environment before deciding whether to issue a permit for the mine.
Spokeswoman Jan Bedrosian said the review would take three months and include
consultation with the tribe.
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, based his denial of the
project on a legal opinion that gave the interior secretary authority to
block new mines on federal land where they could harm communities and the
His Republican successor, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, overturned
Babbitt's decision after her department rescinded the legal opinion that
underlay Babbitt's decision. The company also sued BLM in federal court in
Washington last year to overturn Babbitt's denial.
On the Net:
Read SB1828 at sen.ca.gov
Quechan Tribe: itcaonline.com/Tribes/quechan.htm
National Mining Association: nma.org
Editors: Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman contributed to this story from
Published: Monday, September 30, 2002 21:02 PDT
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