Beavers Desert Future

In this Sept. 12, 2014, photo, a tagged young beaver explores water hole near Ellensburg, Wash., after he and his family were relocated by a team from the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group. Environmental advocates in New Mexico are pushing for the state to change its policies around beavers, the pesky animals they say provide ecological benefits for river and stream.

NEW MEXICO

Environmentalists push for changes on beavers

SANTA FE — Environmental advocates in New Mexico are pushing for the state to change its policies about beavers.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that WildEarth Guardians and other groups want New Mexico wildlife officials to rethink managing the removal and relocation of the pesky animals the groups say provide ecological benefits for rivers and streams.

The push comes two months after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed seven new members to the State Game Commission, which is responsible for creating regulations regarding fish and wildlife in the state.

The Department of Game and Fish doesn't have current data about how many beavers are in New Mexico, but an agency document from about eight years ago estimated there were around 6,000.

The animals create occasional headaches for irrigators and private landowners by blocking water flows and damaging trees.

But environmentalists say beavers also form wetlands habitat —rare in the desert Southwest — and filter sediment, which improves water quality.

ARIZONA

Nike keeps plans for factory despite shoe controversy

PHOENIX — Nike announced it's going forward with plans to make soles for Nike Air shoes in a Phoenix suburb even though Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey blocked state money for the facility when the company pulled a flag-themed shoe from the market.

The shoemaker did not address the controversy in announcing its plans for a $184 million factory with at least 500 jobs in Goodyear.

Despite his earlier criticism, Ducey welcomed Nike to Arizona in a tweet: “Arizona is open for business, and we welcome @Nike to our state.”

Nike faced criticism in early July for its decision not to sell the Nike Air Max 1 USA shoe, which included a Revolutionary-era emblem known as the Betsy Ross flag.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has a high-profile endorsement deal with Nike, told the company the flag recalls an era when black people were enslaved and that it has been appropriated by white nationalist groups, a person familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press.

Ducey ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw a grant of up to $1 million.

But Nike will still get more than $2 million in tax breaks from the city of Goodyear, where Nike said it will begin work on the facility later this year and begin making soles in 2020.

OKLAHOMA

Governor, tribes clash over casino gaming revenue

OKLAHOMA CITY — Leaders of Oklahoma's powerful Native American tribes are voicing frustration with the state's Republican governor after they say he caught them off guard with plans to force renegotiations for a bigger piece of the billions of dollars tribal casinos generate each year.

In an editorial published in the Tulsa World, Gov. Kevin Stitt suggested the existing compacts, which call for tribes to pay between 4% and 10% of a casino's net revenue in "exclusivity fees," should be re-evaluated now that the gambling industry has matured in Oklahoma.

Casino gambling is a booming industry in Oklahoma, with 130 casinos dotting the state, ranging from gas station annexes to resort-style hotel casinos, many of them in border communities, since voters approved a gambling expansion in 2004.

The WinStar World Casino in a rural part of the state's Red River border with Texas includes massive hotel towers, more than a dozen restaurants and a 400,000-square-foot casino floor billed as the largest in the world.

The exclusivity fees alone generated nearly $139 million for the state last year on roughly $2.3 billion in revenue from games covered under the compacts, which are scheduled to renew for another 15-year term in January.

Without a compact in place, Oklahoma tribes would be unable to offer many games at casinos, including advanced slot-machine-style electronic games or card games like poker and blackjack. Casinos could still feature bingo-style electronic games, which remain popular in Oklahoma and don't require the tribes to pay any fees to the state.

IDAHO

PETA finds name of rural road distasteful

BOISE — Chickens are friends for some people, dinner for others. Sometimes both.

But one animal rights group feels that the name of a rural road in the Treasure Valley region isn’t kind to poultry.

PETA sent out a news release this week alerting Idaho media that it has written a letter to Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas to ask for a change to the street name Chicken Dinner Road. However, Caldwell city street maps don’t include Chicken Dinner Road, which is located in rural Canyon County.

PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman urged the mayor to change the name of the road to “one that celebrates chickens as individuals, not as beings to kill, chop up, and label as ‘dinner.’”

In the letter, Reiman said she’s not trying to “ruffle any feathers,” adding that words matter and “have the power to change lives.” The way the industry treats chickens is inhumane, she said, because they are “confined to crowded, filthy sheds with tens of thousands of other birds, where disease, smothering, and heart attacks are common.”

Changing the name of Chicken Dinner Road would show compassion to chickens and respect for other species, she said. She said PETA would help pay for replacing the sign.

Joe Decker, a county spokesman, said the county has heard from a handful of residents who grew up there and don’t want the name changed. He said he was skeptical that they would change the name “based on a letter from PETA.”

NEW MEXICO

AG wants new sex offender law amid Epstein probe

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico's attorney general wants to change a law that allowed billionaire businessman Jeffrey Epstein to avoid registering as a sex offender in the state, where authorities say they are interviewing possible victims that visited his sprawling, secluded ranch south of Santa Fe.

Attorney General Hector Balderas said he will renew his push for legislation that would require anyone with a sex trafficking conviction to register as a sex offender in New Mexico.

Balderas' decision comes as New Mexico's laws face deepening scrutiny for allowing Epstein to avoid having to register as a sex offender.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting a minor for prostitution under an agreement that required him to spend 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender. The agreement has been widely criticized for ending a federal sex abuse investigation at the time that could have landed him behind bars for life.

An indictment filed in New York recently accuses Epstein of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York from 2002 through 2005.

Matt Baca, the New Mexico attorney general's spokesman, said state authorities were interviewing people who allege they were abused at Epstein's ranch and planned to provide additional evidence to federal authorities.

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