The Wayward West

  All those cries of "5.7 Wild!" may have paid off for the Utah Wilderness Coalition. The Bureau of Land Management took a look at the public lands proposed for wilderness status by Utah environmental groups - and, in early February, announced that all 5.7 million acres have wilderness characteristics. "We're pretty tickled," says Mike Matz, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "The BLM did a bang-up job." There's no rest for the weary, though: Another 2.8 million acres added to the conservationists' wilderness proposal this summer (HCN, 8/3/98) are waiting to be surveyed by the BLM.


Environmentalists are also tickled in Montana, where the Forest Service has called a halt to hardrock mining on the Rocky Mountain Front. On Feb. 3, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck announced a ban on new mining claims on 430,000 acres of Forest Service land in western Montana. After a two-year study period, the agency may decide to withdraw the area from mineral entry for up to 20 years. A previous decision by Gloria Flora, then supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, put a stop to oil and gas drilling on the Front (HCN, 10/13/97).


Surrounded by reporters, two female Canada lynx took their first steps into Colorado's Rio Grande National Forest on Feb. 3. The agency plans to reintroduce a total of 11 cats to the Colorado backcountry this winter. The Canada lynx is a candidate for federal protection (HCN, 12/7/98) and has not been seen in the state for 26 years.


The state of Oregon has dropped its appeal of the coho salmon listing. When the fish was federally protected last summer, Gov. John Kitzhaber said the decision wouldn't drown the state's plan for saving fish with voluntary measures (HCN, 10/26/98), but his optimism didn't stop the state from taking the listing to court. Environmentalists are now praising the governor for walking his talk.


Last year, the Department of Agriculture's proposed organic standards generated more than a quarter of a million public comments, most of them negative (HCN, 4/13/98). While it revises its plan, the agency has proposed a cautious interim step: an organic label for meat and poultry. The label would allow state and private certifying agencies, which currently inspect only fruits and vegetables, to put an organic stamp on antibiotic-free meats.


* Michelle Nijhuis


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