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Western governors want input on Interior shuffle

DENVER (AP) — A bipartisan group of 19 Western governors said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not consult with them about major plans for reorganizing the agency, and have asked him to delay implementing the proposal until he speaks with them.

The Feb. 1 letter from the Western Governors Association said the group had asked Zinke in April 2017 to be consulted on any reshuffling of the department, which wields considerable authority over public lands in the West.

They said last week that Zinke has still not sought the views of its members, who represent every state in the western half of the nation, from Texas to Hawaii.

Zinke, who was a Republican congressman from Montana, said last month he wants to reorganize the department’s regions along river basins and other natural boundaries instead of state lines. The plan also calls for all of the department’s component agencies, such as the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, to use the same set of regional boundaries.

Association spokesman Joe Rassenfoss said Thursday the group had not received a response from Zinke.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the governors “are welcome to share their ideas and opinions with the secretary or their staff are also encouraged to reach out to the secretary’s staff.”

That did not satisfy the association.

“Western governors expect to be treated as the chief executives of a sovereign level of government, not as stakeholders,” Jim Ogsbury, executive director of the group, said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press. He said the governors want to be “authentic partners” in the process.

Zinke told the Washington Post last month that many issues the Interior Department deals with, such as a single species of fish, follow natural boundaries, not political ones.

The Interior Department oversees nearly 700,000 square miles through four of its major component agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is also part of the Interior Department, has some responsibilities for another 103,000 square miles (about 265,000 square kilometers) of Native American land.

The Western Governors Association sent Zinke 10 questions about the reorganization plan, including why the changes were even necessary, and why all the department’s units couldn’t have the same regions based on state boundaries.

The governors pointed out that under Zinke’s plan, some states would be divided among two or three of the new regions. They asked how that would affect the department’s ability to coordinate with states.

The association’s letter was signed by its chairman, South Dakota Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and its vice chairman, Hawaii Democrat David Ige. The association includes 12 GOP governors, six Democrats and one independent.

Free workshop on how to start a business

ELKO – Small Business Start Smart, a live presentation on resources and directions to go as you start a new business, is coming to four rural Nevada locations, free of charge.

Anyone who is considering owning their own business is encouraged to invest 2.5 hours inside the classroom to learn critical first-step basics that will save both money and time. Whether you’re looking to create a job for yourself, turn a hobby into a revenue stream, or open a retail site, this workshop will improve your chances to succeed.

Discover who your local experts are that are both legitimate nonprofit agencies, and who offer their services at no cost to you. Follow up one-on-one counseling appointments are available to all who attend, at no cost. Agenda items include:

  • Common Pitfalls for Business Owners
  • Business Owner Pillars of Responsibility
  • Market & Industry Info and Research
  • Sections of a Business Plan
  • Financial Statements
  • What are the compliance/legal issues?
  • How and where do you get funding for your business?
  • Resources

The presenter will be Clint Koble, a business adviser with the Nevada Small Business Development Center.

Elko’s presentation is from noon to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Elko County Library.

Battle Mountain’s presentation is from 5:15-7:45 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Lander Cooperative Extension Office, 815 N. 2nd St.

Presentations are also planned in Winnemucca and Lovelock on Feb. 22.

Register at by clicking on “training calendar.”

Questions about the program may be directed to Kathy Carrico at(775-784-6879, or

Regional News in Brief

BLM keeps 1.3M acres open to mining

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The federal Bureau of Land Management has scrapped Obama-era plans to exclude 1.3 million acres of environmentally sensitive Southern California lands from new mining activity.

The BLM announced Tuesday that after a review it concluded that mining operations do not pose a significant threat to the protection of cultural, biological and scientific resources.

The agency also said an environmental analysis associated with the proposed withdrawal has been terminated.

Environmental groups slammed the decision. Phil Hanceford of the Wilderness Society called it an assault on public lands.

The San Bernardino Sun says the affected lands are in San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties. The newspaper says it includes the 31,000-thousand-acre Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a desert oasis that’s one of California’s 10 largest cottonwood and willow habitats.

Nevada’s traffic-related deaths decreased last year

CARSON CITY (AP) — State officials say the number of traffic-related deaths in Nevada has dropped for the first time in nearly a decade.

The Nevada Appeal reports the state Office of Traffic Safety on Wednesday announced a decrease in traffic fatalities, dropping from 329 deaths recorded in 2016 to 305 documented last year.

Officials say the reduction can be attributed to engineering, education and law enforcement efforts.

Officials say the agency plans to focus this year on pedestrian deaths, which make up about a third of the total traffic fatalities.

The agency says 100 pedestrians were killed on roadways in the state in 2017, increasing by 25 percent from the previous year.

The agency is planning to partner with law enforcement agencies across the state to address the issue.

Hiker dies in fall from 100-foot Sierra Nevada cliff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a hiker died after falling down a 100-foot cliff in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sacramento Bee reported Thursday that search and rescue teams skied out to Granite Chief, a 9,000-foot mountain just west of Olympic Village, on Wednesday night after receiving reports of three stranded hikers.

Placer County Sheriff’s Office one of the hikers had fallen approximately 100 feet down a precipice by the time help arrived.

The two other hikers were rescued and not known to be injured.

Authorities only identified the hiker who died as a Truckee resident as of Thursday morning.

The two other hikers were rescued and not known to be injured.

Colorado coal mine cited for worker’s death

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The operator of an underground coal mine in northwestern Colorado has been cited for a safety violation in connection to the death of a worker.

The Daily Sentinel reports Blue Mountain Energy was issued the citation last week as the federal Mine Safety Health Administration released the final report into the death of 32-year-old Jason Stevens at the Deserado Mine near Rangely.

According to the report, a 1,400-pound (635-kilogram) water box fell on Stevens on Aug. 2 as he was using a plasma cutter to separate it.

The report says the accident occurred because “mine management did not ensure that machinery or materials being worked were securely blocked against motion” prior to the work.

The administration’s website says no penalty has been assessed against Blue Mountain Energy.

Man in US illegally meant to kill deputies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A man who came to the U.S. illegally had “nothing but hate” when he killed two California sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors said in closing arguments Thursday in a case that has helped fuel the national debate on immigration.

Authorities say defendant Luis Bracamontes intentionally shot Sacramento County Deputy Danny Oliver in 2014 then killed Placer County Detective Michael Davis Jr. hours later.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bracamontes, who has repeatedly blurted out in court that he killed the deputies and wished he had killed more.

He sat quietly during closing arguments, The Sacramento Bee reported , in contrast to the outbursts that repeatedly led Judge Steve White to bar him from the courtroom.

Defense attorneys said Bracamontes should be spared because he is mentally ill and was high on methamphetamine at the time.