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Know the West

The Wayward West

  The League of Conserva-tion Voters congressional scorecard is out. The only Western senators to score 100 percent on their voting records are Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California. The entire Senate delegations of Idaho, Texas, Utah and Wyoming scored 0. The League gave 0 scores to 30 senators, all Republicans, and 12 of them from the West.

A California Superior Court judge has tentatively rejected a proposed landfill next to Joshua Tree National Monument near Los Angeles (HCN, 9/29/97). Judge Judith McConnell's Dec. 31 ruling called Riverside County's plan to build the landfill a threat to wildlife. McConnell is considering the county's arguments before making a final decision by the end of the month. If she sticks to her ruling, says Brian Huse of the National Parks and Conservation Association, "it will be the greatest day since the passage of the California Desert Protection Act" in 1994.

Electric utilities are suing the Department of Energy for missing its deadline to start disposing of spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The Jan. 31 deadline was included in the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Construction of a dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain has been delayed by technical problems, and opposition from the state's congressional delegation will likely stall a temporary storage site (HCN, 5/26/97). Even if Yucca Mountain proves "safe enough, it won't be ready until 2010," the DOE's Lake Barrett told USA Today.

Coyotes on Oregon's Hart Mountain Wildlife Refuge (HCN, 11/24/97) are safe from the guns of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. On Jan. 28, after the Predator Defense Institute filed a lawsuit, the agency canceled a coyote hunt it had ordered to protect antelope herds on the refuge.

Yellowstone's bison are under the gun again. The Montana Department of Livestock has killed 11 animals this winter, claiming brucellosis-carrying bison threaten the state livestock industry (HCN, 12/22/97). Sheriff's deputies arrested five activists for interfering with the killing. Among them was Dan Howells of San Francisco, who slowed a slaughterhouse shipment by locking himself to a trailer containing bison.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is reviewing its management plan for Lockhart Basin (HCN, 9/15/97), near Utah's Canyonlands National Park. The agency recently reaffirmed a decision to allow Legacy Energy Corp. of Denver to sink an exploratory oil well in the basin, drawing protests from conservation groups. Now, BLM plans a closer look at the basin's wildlife resources, says agency spokesman Kent Walter, though Legacy's permit to drill still stands.

* Peter Chilson,

Greg Hanscom