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High Country News March 13, 2000


Libby's dark secret

Asbestos-laced dust from a vermiculite mine near Libby, Mont., has caused illness and death among locals for decades, but it is only recently that the media - and victims - have called W.R. Grace & Co. to account.

Dear Friends

Dear Friends

Chris Setti and Joint Action in Community Service; HCN wins Web site award; Ted Smith of Kendall Foundation and Newsweek's Brook Larmer among visitors.

Uncommon Westerners

Tom Watkins has left us, but his Western dream remains

T.H. Watkins is remembered as "a writer and teacher and concerned citizen and father and husband and consummate agitator" whose literature and life revealed a deep love for the West.

The last Celtic warlord lives in New Mexico

A profile of Catron County, N.M.'s lawyer, Jim Catron, reveals a man steeped in Celtic and cowboy mythology, and uncompromising in his anti-government fervor.


A new town hits the skids

After a 14-hour hearing packed with anti-growth activists, Garfield County Commissioners vote down Sanders Ranch, a huge development that would create a new town between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

The Wayward West

Rosebud Sioux can't halt hog farm; illegal aliens caught near Douglas, Ariz.; Yosemite toad and mtn. yellow-legged frog in danger; Lolo Nat'l Forest, Mont., off-limits to snowmobiles; George W. Bush promises not to breach Snake River dams.

Poison traps kill unintended victims

After an M-44 cyanide trap put on their land by a government trapper kills the family dog, Paul and Lee-Ann Wright sue the federal government.

Goose got your gander?

A skyrocketing population of once-uncommon Canada geese has some locals up-in-arms and ready to try lethal methods to bring goose numbers under control.

Round two for Steens Mountain development

John and Cindy Witzel want to build a school for outfitters on the 160 acres they own on Oregon's Steens Mountain, an area also being considered for national monument status.

Hunter orange is a long shot

In Idaho, sportsmen are divided over a proposed law that would require hunters to wear blaze orange clothing.

Endangered species must learn to wait

Environmentalists are fighting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to no longer accept petitions seeking to move species off the agency's candidates list and up to formal threatened and endangered status.

A scarce bird tests the new rule

Crawford, Colo., rancher Mark Le Valley and other locals have set up a voluntary conservation plan to protect the Gunnison sage grouse enough to keep it off the endangered list.

Loggers tap new forests

The decline of logging in the Northwest has created a timber boom in the South, where most timber grows on private lands and chip mills are increasingly popular.

EPA sets sights on snowmobiles

The Environmental Protection Agency says snowmobiles should be banned in Yellowstone, at least until cleaner machines are built, but the Park Service is seeking a less controversial alternative.

Neighborly mining negotiations sour

In Montana, a consensus effort between environmental groups and the Stillwater Mining Co. have stalled over the mine's insistence that environmental data be kept secret and lawsuits not allowed.

A dam good speech

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber becomes the first major political figure in the Northwest to back breaching of four Snake River dams to help endangered salmon.


A barbed tragedy is lodged in Libby

The writer describes her thoughts as she witnessed the closing arguments of an asbestosis case in Libby, Montana.

Shadows out West

"Maria," an illegal immigrant, is only one among the many thousands whose work keeps the West going, even as the workers live in fear of deportation.

Shoveling vs. sniveling

A Montana mill owner's plan to send 10,000 shovels to Elko, Nev., so sagebrush rebels can re-open a road closed by the Forest Service, is "a triumph of symbolism over substance," according to the writer.

Heard Around the West

Heard around the West

Feces hits fan (and houses) in Utah again; Ariz. Legislature says state has right to secede, and worries about too much democracy; Flexcar in Seattle and Portland; golf carts in Senior Estates, Ore.; Reno billboards; Seattle school toilets save money.

Related Stories

Who knew what, and when?

Mine owner W.R. Grace says it's always been frank about the dangers of asbestos, but former workers and union leaders disagree, pointing to damning company memos.

'It's like sacking feather'

Former mine worker Lester Skramstad, who is dying of asbestos-caused disease, recalls how he and co-workers worked casually with asbestos, unaware of the danger.

'Grace is going to have to own up'

Don Judge of the Montana State AFL-CIO says W.R. Grace is culpable in the tragedy of asbestos poisoning.

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