The Wayward West

  Four more national monuments could be coming our way (HCN, 11/22/99). On Dec. 13, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt asked President Clinton to create two monuments in Arizona, including the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon, and two others in California, totaling more than 1 million acres.

Nevada's Paiute Tribe made history this month. In an attempt to save the endangered cui-ui and Lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake, the federal government says the tribe can control water releases from Truckee River reservoirs. This made headlines because the water resources are off the reservation. "It is a big deal," tribal chairman Norm Harry told AP. "It will enable us to meet the needs of the 21st century while restoring this historic but fragile environment."

The U.S. Department of Energy didn't play by the rules, says the New Mexico Environment Department, citing documents that prove the Rocky Flats bomb plant in Colorado illegally mixed radioactive waste with hazardous metals or chemicals before trucking it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M. last March (HCN, 4/26/99). The DOE insists the shipment was hazardous-material-free and therefore broke no laws.

The North Fork of Idaho's Payette River will continue to flow free. The Gem Irrigation District has withdrawn its application to divert water, ending an eight-year battle over hydropower development (HCN, 2/11/91). Kayakers and conservationists call this the most significant protection event in Idaho's history. "This has been a long-fought campaign with a happy ending," says Liz Paul of Idaho Rivers United.

Park rangers want help. Since 1989, 700 law-enforcement employees in national parks have been let go, while 16 million more people are visiting parks annually. "Everyone has been led to believe that law enforcement has been increased, and parks are better protected. It isn't so, and it smacks of hypocrisy," says Randall Kendrick, head of the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

* Rebecca Clarren