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State-and-regional
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BLM drops plans for mining ban on 10 million acres

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has nixed plans to withdraw 10 million acres of public land from exploration and mining to protect greater sage-brush habitat, finding that future mining is not a threat to the habitat.

Acting BLM Director Mike Nedd said analysis showed that less than 0.1 percent of the 10 million acres would be affected by mining.

“The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 (acres) from potential mineral development was a complete overreach,” he said in an announcement Thursday.

Nedd said that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has “said from the beginning that by working closely with the states, who are on the front lines and a valued partner in protecting the health of these lands, we can be successful in conserving greater sage-grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth.”

The decision is good news for the mining industry, according to the American Exploration & Mining Association.

“These land-use restrictions and withdrawals were a blatant overreach by the BLM and a thinly veiled attempt to impose a top-down policy, completely disregarding states’ efforts, statutory requirements and public involvement,” AEMA Executive Director Laura Skaer said.

“Now, thanks to President Trump and Secretary Zinke, the governors are back in the driver’s seat when it comes to the proper management of public lands in their states. We urge all governors to take full advantage of this opportunity and step up to make the necessary changes to these flawed plans,” she said.

The restrictions and land withdrawals would have had a devastating impact on the economies of Western states, according to the association.

The BLM stated that the lands will continue to be managed in accordance with existing plans, programs, policies and regulations in Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. New mining claims were on hold for two years beginning when the withdrawals were proposed in 2015. That hold ended Sept. 24.

Also Thursday in related action, the BLM offered the public an opportunity to comment as it explores amendments to greater sage-grouse land use plans, to help improve sage-grouse conservation and strengthen collaboration between the states and federal government.

The agency wrote that its offer follows a U.S. District Court ruling in March that the BLM’s designation of sagebrush focal areas in the 2015 plan amendment for Nevada was illegal. The plans covered 10 Western states, including Nevada.

The action on the proposed withdrawal of 10 million acres from mining affects six states, but the plan for amendments to sage-grouse conservation plans covers California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Montana, the BLM announcements state.

The Wilderness Society was critical of the BLM’s latest actions, writing that the intention to change plans is consistent with Zinke’s focus on energy and threatens habitat protection.

“The Interior Department is traversing down a dangerous path that could put this vital habitat at risk,” said Nada Culver, senior director of policy and planning at The Wilderness Society. “These plans took nearly a decade of collaboration and planning with a variety of Western stakeholders and should not be torn apart in mere months.”

“Wildlife protection remains an important priority for our industry, which is why we participated with Governor Sandoval’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Council to craft a Nevada-driven program

to address the real threats to Sage Grouse habitat,” said Nevada Mining Association President Dana Bennett.

“A wholesale land withdrawal that encompassed 20 times more land than all mining activity combined did little to address the risk of fire and invasive species that threaten the species and its habitat. We remain committed to continue working with Nevada’s Department of Wildlife and the BLM toward the development of viable solutions,” she added.

The BLM is posting a notice of intent, and a 45-day comment period begins as soon as the notice is published in the Federal Register. Public meetings also will be announced at later dates, according to the agency.

“The BLM is committed to being a good neighbor and cooperating with its partners at all levels of government, including states, as well as tribal leaders, industry and conservation groups, ranchers and other stakeholders throughout the amendment process, Nedd said.

He said the BLM will be especially interested in hearing from “the many governors whose states put hard work and time into collaborative efforts to develop the existing plans.”


Mining
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Mining companies remember Las Vegas victims

ELKO – Local mining companies conducted moments of silence to remember the victims and survivors of Sunday’s country music concert shooting in Las Vegas that claimed the lives of at least 59 concert-goers and injured more than 500.

Employees of Newmont Mining Corp. gathered at noon on Oct. 5 for a moment of silence and a balloon release, and Barrick Gold Corp. coordinated a two-minute stand-down of equipment and mill operations on Oct. 4.

Both mining companies announced the ceremonies through internal communications to their employees.

The ceremony by Newmont was “to honor those affected by the tragic event that occurred this past Sunday at a Las Vegas concert,” said Natacia Eldridge, external relations representative.

About 55 people assembled at Newmont’s Elko office to remember the victims and to release orange balloons representing the victims of the shooting.

Richard Martinez, regional vice president of human resources, addressed the crowd and expressed his condolences to the victims.

After the moment of silence, Newmont employee Roger MacGregor played “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes.

The balloon release was suggested by Newmont employees who attended Sunday’s concert, Martinez said, and was “a gesture of remembrance of the death that occurred and to say thank you to everybody for their heroic efforts.”

It also was “to say thank you for our employees who are back with us,” Martinez said.

Barrick, which has an office in Henderson, organized an equipment shutdown for two minutes Wednesday at noon with administrative staff gathered at all sites in Nevada, said Leslie Maple, manager of communications.

Curtis Cadwell, general operations manager of Barrick Nevada, delivered a message via radio to all sites on an “all call.” It signaled equipment to stop and clutch out the mills for the two minutes of silence.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, those who have been injured, the first responders, and all those impacted by this tragic and senseless event,” Cadwell said.

One Barrick employee from the Henderson office attended the concert and was treated and released for a minor injury, Maple said, adding that some employees of the Henderson office knew those affected by the shooting, and counselors were provided for Henderson-based employees.

The tragedy in Las Vegas is being reported as the worst mass shooting in 68 years and comes more than a year after a man opened fire in an Orlando nightclub, killing 49.


Crime-and-courts
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Man wanted for courthouse bomb threat arrested

ELKO — A Spring Creek man accused of calling in a bomb threat to the Elko County Courthouse was arrested Wednesday after attempting to evade Elko police.

A criminal complaint filed in September charges Casey D. Overacker, 34, with making the threat on June 19, the day his girlfriend Shawna Parker was scheduled to appear in court.

Police officers were making their rounds Wednesday when they spotted Overacker approaching a trailer residence.

“The officers were familiar with Overacker and knowing that he had outstanding warrants called to him to stop,” said Elko Police Lt. Mike Palhegyi.

According to Palhegyi, Overacker ignored the request and continued into the residence. Law enforcement approached the home and knocked on the door to try to speak with Overacker. The suspect ignored the knocks and refused to open the door.

Police were later able to obtain a search warrant for the residence, entered and placed Overacker under arrest.

“It seems that he just did not want to go to jail,” said Palhegyi.

According to court documents, authorities were able to trace the phone number of the bomb threat to Parker, who was on the docket to appear in court that day. When they confronted her she reportedly implicated Overacker.

Overacker was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear after bail for communicating a bomb threat and two counts of failure to appear after bail on a misdemeanor crime. His bail was listed at $22,412.

According to Elko Daily Free Press files, Parker and Overacker were arrested in May at a local motel after Parker was allegedly observed passing a counterfeit $20 bill. A small amount of heroin and drug paraphernalia were found in the room, along with two additional counterfeit bills on Parker, according to police.


Crime-and-courts
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Reward in Elko murder increased to $50,000

ELKO – The family of a July 2014 homicide victim has increased the amount of reward being offered for information leading to his killer’s or conspirator’s arrest and conviction.

The amount has been raised from $10,000 to $50,000, police announced Thursday.

Richard Lawson Jr. was 31 when he was bludgeoned to death in his Wilson Avenue home early on the morning of July 30.

The reward bulletin includes a photo of the victim and a plea from the family:

“Please help us find the person(s) responsible for RJ’s death which occurred on July 30th 2014 at his home in Elko, Nevada. He was a hardworking man holding down two jobs (Taco Bell and High Desert Inn) and at the time of his death, had just started working at Timberline Drilling. His family can’t sleep and still lives in fear they could be next.”

Police were called by a roommate to the home around 3:30 a.m. and found Lawson’s body in his bedroom, which had an outside entrance.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to contact Detective Pete Nielson at the Elko Police Department. Call 777-7324 or email pnielson@elkocitynv.gov.

“You can remain anonymous,” stated the announcement.