The Wayward West
by Tim WestbyA 25,000-acre swath of the last wilderness on Washington state land is now safe from chainsaws (HCN, 6/22/98). Shortly before organizers of the Loomis Forest Fund stepped before the Washington Board of Natural Resources to ask for an extension July 6, in came an anonymous $1.5 million check. The 11th-hour check gave fund raisers the $13.1 million needed to purchase development rights to the forest.
Backers of a Sonoran Desert National Park in southwest Arizona can't find anyone in Congress to sponsor the idea (HCN, 3/29/99). The proposed 3.2 million-acre park southeast of Yuma would link the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. But it requires an act of Congress, and the Air Force hopes no sponsor steps forward. "When you come out here and see this, your adrenaline starts pumping. You just want to drop some bombs," Air Force Colonel David White told the Wall Street Journal.
John Leshy, the Department of Interior's solicitor, says "a new cadre of leaders' is on its way to reforming the 1872 Mining Law. Leshy's optimism comes after congressional wrangling over a rarely used section of the law, which limits the acreage mining companies can use as waste sites (HCN, 5/24/99). Idaho's Republican Sen. Larry Craig attached a rider to the Interior Department's appropriations bill dropping the limitation. But House Democrats, with strong support from Republicans, passed a measure countering Craig's rider.
Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell earmarked $2 million of the Interior Department's appropriations bill for aspen logging in western Colorado forests. This will more than double timber sales in the region. Environmentalists say Campbell was doing the bidding of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., which gave $5,000 to the senator's 1998 re-election campaign (HCN, 6/22/98).
For two weeks in mid-June, Yellowstone National Park officials pumped 400 gallons per minute of treated sewage onto a meadow near Fishing Bridge. Park officials are seeking money from Congress to help with a $71 million backlog in sewage and water projects. The risk is "lower than most things because this is treated sewage," Yellowstone's maintenance chief told the Jackson Hole News. "That doesn't make it right. This is something that needs to be fixed."
* Tim Westby © High Country News