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Know the West

The Wayward West

  Two of the managers of Colorado's Summitville gold mine finally got their day in court, but the company higher-ups won't ever step inside the courtroom to explain their role in the nation's costliest mine disaster - the clean-up has cost $150 million so far. Six years after Galactic Resources declared bankruptcy, a federal court slapped two former mine managers with five years' probation and $20,000 fines. "It seems if you have the right lawyers and the right connections, you don't have to be responsible anymore," John Shawcroft of the Alamosa-La Jara Conservancy District told The Denver Post.

In a deal among the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Church Universal and Triumphant, and the U.S. Forest Service, an 8,000-acre wildlife corridor will be protected from sprawling development in Montana's Paradise Valley (HCN, 8/17/98). Under the $13 million deal, the Elk Foundation will buy much of the church's Royal Teton Ranch north of Yellowstone National Park, then turn it over to the Forest Service. "Predominantly elk, but all sorts of critters, use this as a migratory route in and out of the park," says Scott Laird of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Money must still be appropriated from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy the land from the foundation.

In the hills of Nevada's Virginia Range near Reno, 33 wild horses (HCN, 3/2/98) were found shot to death last month and wild horse advocates have ponied up a $35,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprits. The horses belong to the state of Nevada, though they roam private lands and have likely descended from private horse herds, says Paul Iverson of the Nevada Division of Agriculture. Dawn Lappin, a wild horse advocate, received 300 calls in four days from horse lovers across the country after the incident. "They're outraged. They tell me "the icon of the West is the wild horse. How could anybody do that?" "

After months of negotiations, many thought that New Mexico's Baca Ranch was in public hands and out of developers' reach. But now the land purchase is at least threatened and perhaps doomed because the ranch's Texas owners unexpectedly pulled out of the deal in early January in a dispute over a confidential appraisal. The collapse in talks frustrated those who lobbied for the land purchase. "Everybody here has been saying, "What is the real story here?" " Steve Bell, of Sen. Pete Domenici's staff, told the Albuquerque Journal, "For something like this to fall apart on a confidentiality agreement is just bizarre."

- Dustin Solberg