The Wayward West

  It's Idaho's turn for a new national monument (HCN, 5/8/00: The Wayward West). Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt wants to create a national monument in the Great Rift and lava flow areas, west and south of Arco. The proposed monument would expand Craters of the Moon National Monument by 618 square miles and also protect the Laidlaw Park range, 126 square miles of lush sagebrush and wooded steppe area surrounded by lava flows. Babbitt is working with local ranchers to map out the boundaries. "We want to stay out of the monument," Bud Purdy, a Picabo rancher told the Idaho Statesman. "But if you're going to do this, we want to be in on the planning." Babbitt promises grazing and hunting will continue in the designated area.

A Colorado gold-mining company is suing Montana to challenge a voter-passed ban on open-pit cyanide mining (HCN, 7/5/99: Mining on the run). Dick DeVoto, head of Canyon Resources Corp., says the ban wrongly deprived his company of its mining property near Lincoln, Mont., and, if the law can't be overturned, he wants $600 million in compensation.

Bill Yellowtail (HCN, 10/14/96: Rustling up votes in Indian country), an Environmental Protection Agency administrator, faces an indefinite suspension while investigators determine whether he illegally helped raise money for Montana Democrat Robert "Dusty" Deschamps' 1998 campaign for the U.S. House. "We feel this is serious enough that he needs to step aside," W. Michael McCabe, acting director of EPA, told AP.

The man who ordered employee Scott Dominguez to clean a tank containing cyanide had his day in federal court. He lost (HCN, 4/10/00: Boss must pay for poisoning employee). Allan Elias was ordered to spend 17 years in prison and to pay a $5.9 million fine, the harshest sentence ever imposed for an environmental crime. Elias plans to appeal.

No matter how many westerns have been filmed there, Nevada isn't a hotbed of cowboys and cows. The arid state has 510,000 cattle, far fewer than New York, according to a state agricultural survey. Minimal rainfall yields minimal forage for livestock. "This isn't Kansas," Doug Busselman of the Nevada Farm Bureau told the Nevada Appeal. "It takes a lot of land to feed an animal."