The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (HCN, 12/20/04: Rulings keep the West open for business). In early January, the agency announced that even though there are only 100,000 to 500,000 of the birds left in 11 Western states and two Canadian provinces, they don’t warrant protection under federal law. This contradicts the agency’s earlier findings last April that listing "may be warranted" to protect the species from the impacts of agriculture and energy development.
Despite the "honorable
intentions" of the multiple agencies involved,
Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection has
acknowledged that cleanup of Yerington Mine — where Anaconda
Copper Co. mined copper for more than 25 years, contaminating soil
and groundwater with toxic and radioactive waste — merits
bringing in the big guns (HCN, 12/20/04: Nevada BLM cleans out
cleanup project manager). In December, the state requested that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency take the lead in cleanup at
the site, which had been largely in the hands of the Bureau of Land
Management since 2002.
The energy bill isn’t the
only legislation being resurrected in 2005: Stubborn
wilderness supporters are also reintroducing proposals
that were sunk by the 108th Congress. These include bills
protecting Washington’s Wild Sky, New Mexico’s Ojito
Wilderness, California’s Northern California Coastal
Wilderness, and three areas in Idaho: the White Clouds Wilderness,
Jerry Peak Wilderness and the Owyhee Canyonlands. With a more
conservative Congress, however, and the devoutly anti-wilderness
Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., again at the helm of the powerful
House Resources Committee, the bills’ bipartisan supporters,
including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., New Mexico Reps. Heather
Wilson, R, and Tom Udall, D, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., may have a hard time making the
West wilder in the new year.