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Know the West

The Wayward West

  Western Republicans are tightening the noose on an inland Northwest ecosystem study. Riders on the appropriations bill in the House and Senate would give the 4-year-old Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project 4 months to live (HCN, 6/23/97). "We made an endangered species list for bureaucratic boondoggles and (the project) just got listed," Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth told the Medill News Service. The rider has already passed in the House, but Democratic supporters say they haven't lost yet - President Clinton could still veto the appropriations bill.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals still isn't in step with the Supreme Court - but the high court has reversed fewer of the West Coast court's rulings (HCN, 1/19/98). The Supreme Court overruled 13 of 17 cases this year, compared to 28 of 29 cases the year before, reports the Los Angeles Times. The California-based judges downplay any major difference of opinion between the two courts, since the 9th Circuit hears about 4,600 cases a year. Chief Judge Proctor Hug Jr. said: "It doesn't mean a hoot."

Elizabeth Winter of the Picuris Pueblo's environment office says "It's not just a relief. It's a cause for celebration." The Tribe of Picuris welcomed Summo USA Corp." s announcement last month that it was dropping its 223 mining claims on northern New Mexico's Copper Hill (HCN, 6/23/97). The pueblo had allied with environmentalists and fought the mine for almost two years. But the company reports its Lisbon Valley copper mine in Utah is still in the works.

Paperwork on the McDonald gold mine has stopped. Last month, Montana halted environmental studies at the headwaters of the Blackfoot River because Canyon Resources Corp. wasn't paying its share of the bill. Now, the mining company owes more than $300,000, and the state won't resume its review until the company pays up. Canyon Resources insists it is going ahead with the project (HCN, 12/22/97).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that leaving the Atlas uranium tailings pile beneath an earthen cap on the bank of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, might be OK after all (HCN, 4/13/98). Atlas Corp. wants to leave the low-level radioactive pile in place, and the agency's opinion moves the company a step closer to getting its way. "This is pretty good news for us," Atlas Corp." s Richard Blubaugh told the Salt Lake Tribune. Some environmentalists and the National Park Service want the waste hauled off to a remote desert site.

* Dustin Solberg