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Know the West

The Wayward West

  The Forest Service won't give Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young information about connections between agency staffers and environmental groups. In July, Young asked Southwest Regional Forester Eleanor Towns for a list of employees who are members of groups like the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians (HCN, 9/14/98). In a Sept. 21 letter, Towns told Young that keeping such records would violate both the First Amendment and the Privacy Act. She added, "The Forest Service encourages its employees to participate in professional organizations and in their communities."

Don Young's hope of compromise went up in smoke in early October, when moderate Republicans joined House Democrats to defeat a giant omnibus public-lands bill, 302 to 123. The bill would have created a national network of historic trails, expanded New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, and finalized a land trade between the state of Utah and the Bureau of Land Management (HCN, 5/25/98). Environmental groups fought the legislation because it would have restricted the president's ability to create national monuments and waived environmental studies to speed up salvage logging.

Montana's patience with the mining industry is wearing thin. In late September, the state Department of Environmental Quality fined Canyon Resources Corp. $330,000 for dumping pollutants into streams from its closed CR Kendall gold mine near Lewiston. That adds to $500,000 the company already owes the state for a stalled environmental impact study for a proposed gold mine near the Blackfoot River (HCN, 9/28/98).

Legal fees totaling $54.2 million may have paid off for the federal Department of Energy. In late August, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by thousands of people who lived near Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. The lawsuit from "downwinders' said Cold War-era plutonium manufacturing at Hanford left them with widespread health problems (HCN, 1/22/96). U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald in Spokane ruled that scientific evidence on radiation injury was too complex for a jury to sort out, reports the Spokane Spokesman Review.

* Greg Hanscom