Vermont Sen. James Jeffords' defection from the Republican Party was costly for Western Republicans. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah lost his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico stepped down as budget chairman; and Sen. John McCain of Arizona lost his top seat on the Commerce Committee. Western Democrats now head the Energy and Finance committees.


Las Vegas' wastewater might be poisoning endangered fish in Lake Mead. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that male razorback suckers in the lake have unusually low testosterone levels. Fish and Wildlife researchers are reluctant to assign blame, but they say the city's treated wastewater - which flows into the lake through the Las Vegas Wash (HCN, 4/9/01: The water empress of Vegas) - contains both natural and synthetic estrogens.


Since 1994, the Green Party has enjoyed strong support - and major-party status - in New Mexico (HCN, 8/31/98: New Mexico Greens here to stay). But after the party's less-than-stellar performance in November, the Greens may be back in the minor leagues. New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron says major-party candidates for president or governor must capture 5 percent of the vote to maintain their parties' status and public funding; Ralph Nader got the nod from only 3.5 percent of New Mexico voters. Green Party leaders told the New Mexican that they'll challenge the secretary's decision.


The snowmobiling ban is still on thin ice. In December, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers' Association sued over the Park Service's ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks (HCN, 3/12/01: Yellowstone's last stampede). The two sides are now in settlement talks, the Associated Press reports, and the industry group has asked the agency to write another environmental impact statement on the ban. Interior Department officials say they're considering the proposal.


A state judge has killed a controversial land swap in central Colorado (HCN, 7/31/00: Neighbors oppose land trade). The state had proposed to trade 640 acres in Chaffee County for over 3,000 acres of private land in neighboring Conejos County. Locals opposed the trade, arguing that development of the parcel would seal off access to 4,500 acres of federal land. In mid-May, reports The Denver Post, the judge rejected the proposal on the grounds that the state had severely undervalued the Chaffee County parcel.