The Wayward West

  In North Dakota, legislators passed a law that makes it illegal to gather the purple coneflower on state lands. Often known by its Latin name, Echinacea angustafolia is a medicinal plant booming in popularity (HCN, 2/15/99). The new law also slaps a stiff fine on anyone caught taking the plant from private land without permission. In Montana, similar legislation passed the state Senate and awaits a vote in the House. Curley Youpee of Montana's Fort Peck Tribe says even if the legislation fails to pass, the lobbying effort has helped make the coneflower a household word.

A federal agency says Montana needn't be so militant about killing bison that wander out of Yellowstone National Park. As long as a few precautions are followed, says Patrick Collins of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the bison pose no risk to the state's brucellosis-free status. Montana remains skeptical, but Collins told AP that concerns are unwarranted. "Producers all over the country have had faith in our science for years and years and years."

For the first time in its 26-year history, the Endangered Species Act will affect a large, urban landscape. The listing of nine species of salmon and steelhead in the Northwest means Seattle will face pressure from the federal government to do everything from limiting homeowners' use of fertilizer to enacting new planning laws. Rick Edwards, a University of Washington stream ecologist, told the Seattle Times: "I don't have a lot of hope that we as a society are willing to make the lifestyle changes and devote the resources to a healthy environment."

Colorado's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is charged with balancing the interests of local landowners with big industry (HCN, 3/1/99), but critics say it leans heavily in favor of industry. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, R, recently appointed three new members; now five of the seven members have ties to the oil and gas industry. "It's not a big surprise to us," Gwen Lachelt of the San Juan Citizens Alliance told the Durango Herald. "When Owens was elected, we basically figured things would go from bad to worse."

* Dustin Solberg and Rebecca Clarren
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