The Wayward West

  Black-tailed prairie dogs may have no place to go as bulldozers threaten their colonies on Colorado's sprawling Front Range. The South Plains Land Trust tried to create a preserve in Baca County for refugee prairie dogs last year, but ranchers there succeeded in getting a law on the books that outlaws the altruistic gesture (HCN, 2/1/99). Now, county commissioners have veto power over any proposed relocations. Says Susan Miller of the land trust: "We're going to lose a lot of prairie dog colonies."

The Fort Belknap Community Council of Montana has drawn up a $120 million reclamation plan for the bankrupt Zortman and Landusky gold mines (HCN,12/22/97). It's a more thorough plan than the one already approved by state and federal agencies, but at quadruple the price. William Main of the Fort Belknap Community Council told the AP, "The people of Fort Belknap have struggled and fought with mining corporations for 20 years."

Police in Santa Fe detonated a deadly pipe bomb that was left in the mailbox at the Forest Guardians office last month. Days later, a right-wing group calling themselves the "Minutemen" mailed a threatening note that claimed responsibility for the bomb. Forest Guardians' president, Sam Hitt, told the Santa Fe New Mexican the threats are taking a psychological toll on the group's staff. But Hitt added, "We work within the system and we work for the public interest, and we plan to continue."

Two attempts to block the controversial Initiative 137, which banned new cyanide gold mines in Montana, have failed in the state legislature (HCN, 3/15/99). Legislators had tried to give counties the option of approving a local ordinance to allow new mines and also to put the measure back on the ballot in 2000, the Billings Gazette reports. "If you vote in favor of this, you're saying the people didn't know what they were doing," said Rep. Bob Rainy, D, of Livingston. "People will not respect you for doing that."

A federal judge told Yellowstone National Park that it broke the law when it signed a bioprospecting deal with a California company interested in hot springs microbes (HCN, 3/30/98). The park never allowed the public to comment on the plan, and when watchdogs asked to see the financial details, they were turned down. "The best disinfectant is sunshine and we need to shine some light on this agreement to are just what the Park Service is up to," activist Phil Knight told the Billings Gazette.

* Dustin Solberg and Patricia Walsh
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