The Wayward West

  Each year Wildlife Services "controls' about 100,000 lions, coyotes and bears, mostly by killing them. On June 23, the federal agency lost support when the House of Representatives voted 229-193 to cut $10 million from its $20 million budget. A day later, however, after the livestock industry mounted an intense lobbying effort, the $10 million was restored.


Gloria Flora, the forest supervisor who told oil and gas drillers in Montana that some wild places must be off-limits, is on her way to another controversial perch. Taking over this summer from Jim Nelson, who retired in February as supervisor, Flora will run the Lower 48's largest national forest, the Humboldt-Toiyabe. It stretches across Nevada and parts of eastern California, and its 6.5 million acres are home to many ranchers who don't like being told what to do with the grazing allotments they lease from the Forest Service.


For 16 years, Nevada Sen. Richard Bryan has fought the opening of a national nuclear waste dump in his state. The Nevada Democrat won another reprieve this spring by thwarting Alaska Sen. Bill Murkowski's bill to open the Yucca Mountain repository. "It's dead for this year," Bryan crowed after the vote, Gannett News Service reports.


Reeling from what had become a politicized program, a presidential advisory panel recommended only 10 rivers for designation as American Heritage Rivers. The label was designed to coordinate protection and conservation (HCN, 3/30/98). Only one Heritage river runs through the West - Oregon's Willamette River.


Wilderness will get another official look in Utah. In June, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled for the second time that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt had the right to order a re-inventory of possible wilderness on Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah. The agency had recommended 2 million acres, while conservationists urged at least 5. 7 million acres as wilderness. Babbitt had been sued by the state of Utah, along with the Utah Association of Counties and state school-trust lands administration. All could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.


It may not be a comfortable fit, but the International Mountain Biking Association recently found itself allied more with drivers of motorized vehicles than with environmentalists. Mountain bikers said they could not join the Utah Wilderness Coalition, since if 5.7 million acres were designated wilderness, bikes would be banned from those areas.


A bill introduced to build a "lite" version of the Animas-La Plata Dam in southern Colorado seems dead, thanks to opposition from the Clinton administration. A Bureau of Reclamation official told a Senate panel last month that many questions - environmental, legal and financial - remain unanswered. The bill's sponsor, Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, told the Denver Post that tribes backing the dam should sue for their long-delayed water rights.





" Betsy Marston


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