They're stepping down

  Two powerful Western Republicans announced they would not seek re-election in 1996. Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said in early December that he would step down because "Thirty years of voluntary separation from the state I love is enough." Soon after, Alan Simpson of Wyoming said that he, too, would retire after serving 18 years.


The loss of Hatfield looms huge for the Northwest, which has seen its clout wane with the departure of Oregon's Bob Packwood and former House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington. The moderate Hatfield delivered money and jobs to the state and looked after its largest industries, cutting deals to ensure federal logs for the timber industry and cheap power for the aluminum industry. Though Hatfield helped pass several Oregon wilderness bills and co-authored the landmark Endangered Species Act - which he now says goes too far - environmentalists say they won't miss him.


"He has used his power to harm the environment much more than help it," says Andy Kerr of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. As for Simpson, who earlier this year lost his majority whip position for not being conservative enough, environmentalists say they will miss the man for his candor, if not his record. Simpson opposed many wilderness areas and fought hard for development interests in the Yellowstone area, says Larry Mehlhaff of the Sierra Club. But "Simpson definitely wasn't part of the no-brainer wise-use crowd" now in Congress, he says.


* Paul Larmer