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Know the West

The Wayward West

  The beleaguered black-tailed prairie dog is getting some federal help (HCN, 11/11/96). On May 28, the Forest Service ordered all staffers to stop poisoning the ground squirrels except in "extremely rare situations." The ban will remain in effect until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides whether to list the animals as threatened.

Wildlife Services, the federal agency formerly known as Animal Damage Control, is feeling the wrath of environmentalists for killing five bears on a ranch in southwest Colorado in May. The San Juan chapter of the National Audubon Society calls the killings an abuse of power. The agency, which eradicated 146,000 livestock predators in 1997, says the killing of so many bears in one area was "unusual" and that it should not happen again (HCN, 4/27/98). Meanwhile, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., tried to cut the $30 million budget of Wildlife Services by nearly a quarter. "The question is, should federal taxpayers pay for predator control services on private ranches - for profit - in the Western United States?" asked DeFazio. Agency supporters nixed the cut 230-193, saying the program also rids airports of troublesome birds and eradicates rats that carry bubonic plague.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May shot down an appeal by environmentalists aimed at keeping the Grand Canyon quiet (HCN, 12/21/98). The Grand Canyon Trust and other groups argued that the government was moving too slowly in reducing noise from sightseeing planes. The Federal Aviation Administration says that flight-free zones should be in effect by 2008.

An off-road vehicle advocacy group is suing the Forest Service for closing 89 miles of roads on Boulder Mountain in southern Utah (HCN, 3/1/99). Utah Shared Access Alliance calls the Dixie National Forest's closure of the roads an attempt to "keep people out of our public lands," reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Off-roaders must stay off a trail they blazed in Montana's Swan Mountains (HCN, 3/2/98). A court-ordered settlement requires the Flathead National Forest to close an unauthorized trail that cuts through the Krause Basin. Environmentalists sued in January 1999 after trail traffic rose dramatically.

* Tim Westby