On The Trail: Election 1998

  Around the corner from the Cheyenne Club in downtown Cheyenne, Wyo., Democrats are throwing together a campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Geringer. Their man is 48-year-old John Vinich, a 24-year veteran of the state legislature from the town of Hudson who filed for governor just five minutes before the deadline. In the Republican primary, Geringer staved off a challenge by sheep rancher Bill Taliaferro, who may now throw his support to Vinich. But it is still an uphill race for Vinich - Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 2-to-1 in the Cowboy State.

Vinich has focused on: Wyoming's lagging economy (HCN, 7/6/98); controversies surrounding sales of state trust lands (HCN, 5/11/98); and the perception that Geringer is not as accessible as former governors. Wyoming, with only 482,000 residents, has prized easy access to elected officials. But when Geringer came to the governor's office, he closed off one of two office doors and hired a bodyguard.

Some Utah hunters are worried that activists may have their sights set on their favorite hunt, whether it be chasing bobcats with a pack of dogs or luring bears with bait. So they have gone on the offensive with an "anti-initiative" initiative called Proposition Five. It is the brainchild of Utahns for Wildlife Heritage and Conservation, a group supported by the Utah Wildlife Federation, Utah Sporting Dogs Council and others. If it passes, all future citizens' initiatives in Utah that seek to change state wildlife policy must collect a two-thirds supermajority. The proposition has plenty of opponents. Sandy Peck of Utah's League of Women Voters says the scheme would set a dangerous precedent by limiting the power of the vote.

"That means your vote counts half as much as someone voting against it," she says.

In Oregon, loggers clear-cut more than 80,000 acres every year - a practice that will come to a halt if a state ballot initiative passes in November.

A group called Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics (OLIFE) is pushing Measure 64 to ban clear-cutting on private and public lands.

The "Healthy Forests Alliance," a collection of timber companies, says that what initiative backers call "devastation" is a necessary forest practice.

But Joshua Binus of OLIFE told the Oregonian, "We can't sustain this rate of ecological devastation."

From the other side, Mark Laukkanen of Banks Lumber in Banks, Ore., says environmentalists are actually trying to ban a process that mimics fire, strong winds and disease. "We're trying to duplicate nature and that's the way nature operates."

" Dustin Solberg

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