Republican members of the House and Senate agreed to approve President Clinton's $1.6 billion plan for fire recovery and forest restoration (HCN, 9/25/00: Fires bring on a flood of federal funds), but there's a caveat. An amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill, sponsored by New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, attaches $240 million for salvage logging and puts time limits on environmental review.


Several other riders tagged to the Interior Appropriations bill have already been dropped. One by Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., would have blocked the dismantling of dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers (HCN, 12/20/99: Unleashing the Snake). Another by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., would have delayed a management plan by Colorado's White River National Forest until its economic effects were studied (HCN, 1/17/00: STOP - A national forest tries to rein in recreation).


Regardless of the bill's outcome, the public will now have the right to comment on and appeal Forest Service projects such as prescribed burns, thinning trees and limiting off-highway vehicles in national forests. That's thanks to a settlement between the agency and the Indiana forest protection group, Heartwood. Before, the only recourse for disgruntled citizens was to sue.


Some landowners in western Colorado are cheering a proposed rule by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It says that although Barrett Resources Co. can drill one well every 20 acres, in certain areas it must use directional drilling (HCN, 9/25/00: Colliding forces: Has Colorado's oil and gas industry met its match?). A decision comes Oct. 31.


New Mexico environment department officials have worried that post-fire floods would wash radioactive waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory into the Rio Grande (HCN, 5/22/00: 'Los Alamos is burning'). While recent water samples show cyanide levels are five times greater than state standards, that's not a chemical the lab uses. The cyanide is probably from a fire retardant used to fight the Cerro Grande fire.