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Know the West

The Wayward West

  The fastest bird in the world could fly off the endangered species list in the next year, according to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. The peregrine falcon nearly died out in the 1970s, after the pesticide DDT and other chemicals caused it to lay thin-shelled eggs. Today, there are 1,600 breeding pairs in the United States and Canada. "We have proved that a strong Endangered Species Act can make a difference," said Babbitt.

But the Endangered Species Act may not be as strong as Interior Secretary Babbitt once thought. In June, he announced that the law was working so well that 29 species were coming off the list. Now, the Interior Department acknowledges that some of those species were being dropped because they had gone extinct. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark told members of Congress that Babbitt's original statement was due to a miscommunication, according to Greenwire.

The National Audubon Society recently flip-flopped on a lawsuit over restoring wolves in Idaho. The group was a plaintiff in the lawsuit claiming that the reintroduction was illegal because it endangered naturally occurring wolves. The goal of the lawsuit was tighter protection, but it backfired last December, when U.S. District Court Judge William Downes agreed that the program was illegal, and ordered the wolves removed (HCN, 4/13/98). Now, Audubon supports the reintroduction plan. It is appealing Judge Downes' removal order.

The state of California will pay dearly for poisoning Lake Davis, northwest of Reno, and wounding the local tourist trade. In August the state agreed to pay $9 million to Plumas County, the city of Portola and local businesses and property owners, according to the Reno Gazette. Two businesses closed and others reported 50 percent drops after the California Department of Fish and Game killed all aquatic life in the lake last October in order to eradicate the northern pike (HCN, 5/25/98). The state legislature and the governor still need to approve the agreement.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Kelsey Begaye easily placed first in the Aug. 25 primary election for the Navajo Nation presidency. Begaye will face Chinle Councilman Joe Shirley in the Nov. 3 general election. Interim President Milton Bluehouse is trying to collect 3,000 signatures to enter the race as a write-in candidate.

* Greg Hanscom