The Wayward West

  For the first time in its history, the U.S. Forest Service admits it has lost money on national forest timber sales. Losses amounted to $14.7 million for fiscal year 1996. The agency says the shortfall comes mostly from rehabilitation projects such as forest thinning and stream restoration, while commercial logging operations continue to profit.

Utah has moved closer to confrontation with federal officials over storing nuclear waste on the Goshute Indian Reservation (HCN, 9/1/97). State road commissioners voted Dec. 4 to assume control of a county road into the reservation. They took their cue from Gov. Mike Leavitt, who opposes nuclear waste storage in the state. Leavitt says he'll use the state's control of the road to block waste shipments.

The U.S. Forest Service has removed an obstacle to Vail's plans to start clearing forest for ski runs and new lifts under a new 4,000-acre expansion. The agency has rejected an appeal by environmental groups aimed at protecting habitat for the lynx, a wildcat last seen in Colorado in 1974 (HCN, 11/24/97). Vail needs Eagle County's approval before it starts building chairlifts and other structures.

Using his line-item veto, President Clinton killed a $4.26 billion transfer of federal mineral rights to the state of Montana. Montana Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Rick Hill, both Republicans, saw the transfer as a payback for the federal buyout of a proposed mine outside Yellowstone National Park (HCN, 11/24/97). The Clinton administration said it would set "a costly, and potentially environmentally harmful, precedent."

To protect Atlantic salmon, federal officials have ordered the removal of Maine's Edwards Dam, the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a dam license renewal application. What dam in the West may be next? The Condit Dam on Washington state's White Salmon River could go (HCN, 3/22/93), say officials at American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. Federal studies show that taking out Condit Dam would be cheaper than building fish passages. A decision is a year or two away.

Ted Turner, an admirer of the wild nature of bison, owns 15,000 bison on ranches across the West. Now he sees a business opportunity. Turner appointed his son Teddy to head his U.S. Bison Co. to explore market possibilities for the herd. "If you really want to bring something back," Ted Turner told the Associated Press, "you have to make it pay."

- Peter Chilson

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