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Remembering Anti-Nuclear Activist Margene Bullcreek

 The West lost an important anti-nuclear activist last week, when Margene Bullcreek was laid to rest on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation.

Bullcreek battled her own village of Skull Valley Goshutes to fight plans to store high-level nuclear waste on the reservation.

In a 2009 interview in New Mexico, she described how it would violate traditional Goshute values to use tribal lands as a long-term parking lot for the nation’s nuclear-reactor waste.

“We have been taught to respect our land, our ‘devia,’ our Mother Earth,” she said, highlighting the impact on Goshute culture as well as the natural world.

“And to have the high-level waste be two miles down from where we live would be a threat to who we are as indigenous people.”

Bullcreek paid a steep price for her activism even though she was an elder, because leaders of the tiny Skull Valley Band welcomed the three-billion-dollar project. Soft-spoken and petite, Bullcreek found unlikely allies in political leaders like Senator Orrin Hatch and former Governor Mike Leavitt.

“She was very courageous and she was very tenacious,” said environmental activist Chip Ward, who worked alongside Bullcreek for years. “But she really, I think, suffered a lot. It was really, I think, a physical and emotional strain for her to take that stand, but she did it.”

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed the storage site in 2006, but the nuclear companies backing it abandoned their license a few years later.

Ward says Bullcreek’s legacy can be seen in the structure that was never built.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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