« Return to this article

Know the West

The Wayward West

  Eleven Mexican gray wolves were released to the wilds of the Arizona-New Mexico border March 29 (HCN, 2/16/98); now one wolf is dead - shot and killed by a camper who said it attacked his family's dog, reports the Albuquerque Journal. The wolf program faces a lawsuit filed by a coalition of New Mexico ranchers, who claim Mexican gray wolves are not extinct and the captive-bred wolves have genes from dogs and coyotes. Both claims are false, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Give him an inch and he'll take a million board-feet. After Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck announced an 18-month roadbuilding moratorium on most roadless forest lands (HCN, 2/2/98), Idaho Sen. Larry Craig attached a rider to the supplemental appropriations bill. It encourages more logging on national forests to make up for what will be off-limits.

In the Beehive State, state coffers are off-limits to the Republican Legislature that wanted to fund a legal battle over the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After vetoing the bill, Utah Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt told the Salt Lake Tribune that he's still opposed to what critics have labeled a federal land grab, but "it seems to me that those who bring the (legal) actions ought to pay for those actions."

Federal dollars still pay for B-2 bombers to bomb Nevada. Although the Department of Energy plans fewer than 15 tests this year- down from a high of 150 - at the Tonopah Test Range, mothballing the site could save $5 million a year, reports the Albuquerque Journal. As the number of bombing tests has dropped, the price of each individual test has climbed. The DOE Inspector General's office found a single test at Tonopah costs $564,000 - 24 times more costly than dropping bombs at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base.

Bombs aren't yet dropping in Idaho. Though the U.S. Air Force announced in 1993 it was planning an 11,000-acre bombing range in the Owyhee Canyonlands, it first needs approval from the BLM (HCN, 4/13/98). Last month, the Bureau of Land Management announced it's not convinced low-level flights won't harm bighorn sheep. Meanwhile, the Greater Owyhee Legal Defense has filed suit against the Air Force to stop the bombing range plan.

In Nevada's remote Crescent Valley (HCN, 4/3/95), the BLM continues to pursue Western Shoshone tribal members Mary and Carrie Dann for grazing livestock without a permit. In 1995, the BLM revoked the grazing permit owned by the sisters after they failed to transfer the grazing privileges once owned by their father to their own name. Still, the Dann Ranch continues to graze the land, which the family says is tribal land. That argument was rejected by federal courts in 1991 and the BLM has threatened to impound the family's livestock.

* Dustin Solberg