The Latest Bounce

  Rural Nevadans may ask for a little federal help in an epic water fight. Las Vegas is moving forward with a controversial plan to pump groundwater from beneath the Great Basin (HCN, 9/19/05: Squeezing Water from a Stone). Now, some citizens in rural White Pine County are looking to curtail that plan by asking their commissioners to endorse a proposal to create a 323,000-acre federal preserve around the existing Great Basin National Park and include it in a public-lands bill that the Nevada delegation is currently drafting. The proposal was inspired by Congress’ designation of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado’s San Luis Valley in 2000 — a move intended, in part, to protect the valley from a similar project that would have pumped water to the Denver area.

Is clean energy just a new excuse for more political grandstanding? In his Jan. 31 State of the Union address, President Bush announced an "Advanced Energy Initiative" that includes increased attention on renewable energy technology. But in early February, 32 workers at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., lost their jobs after Congress cut funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs (HCN, 2/6/06: Lawmakers chop up renewable-energy fund). Then, on Feb. 19 — just two days before Bush was scheduled to visit the renewable energy lab — Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., announced that the Energy Department was able to shift enough money from other programs to bring the fired employees back to work.

You can’t buy it at a roadside stand, and 4-H doesn’t give any prizes for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real crop. Washington state officials say that the $270 million worth of marijuana plants they seized last year makes pot the No. 8 agricultural commodity in the state, ahead of cherries (HCN, 10/31/05: The Public Lands' Big Cash Crop). Officials won’t estimate how much more marijuana — much of which is grown on public lands — they didn’t get their hands on. It may still be a while, however, before pot overtakes apples, Washington’s No. 1 crop, which bring in nearly a billion dollars a year.