The Wayward West

  Northern spotted owls are still disappearing. The Northwest Forest Plan of 1991 was intended to lower the rate of the bird's decline to 1 percent a year, by halting old-growth logging in spotted owl habitat (HCN, 11/23/98). But The Wall Street Journal reports owl populations are falling at four times that rate. "The plan is not working," says Tim Hermach of the Native Forest Council.

By month's end, loggers could be at work in the beetle-infested forests of the Idaho Panhandle and Colville national forests in Washington and Idaho (HCN, 3/1/99). "Anybody that looks at the forest needs to conclude action is needed - there's just a sea of dead trees out there," says Jim Riley of the Intermountain Forest Industry Association in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Critics call the danger-of-fire talk "scare tactics' and promise a lawsuit.

On the western edge of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, a Canadian company is scheduled to begin exploratory oil drilling later this summer (HCN, 10/12/98). The tribe is split over the prospect of drilling for oil and gas on the reservation, where unemployment is nearly 70 percent, but the tribal administration has already signed on with the oil company. "We have the right to determine the destiny of our land," said Tribal Chairman William Old Chief in the Los Angeles Times.

The press secretary for Montana Gov. Marc Racicot has signed on with the George W. Bush campaign. Andrew Malcolm, a former New York Times reporter, will be deputy press secretary. Environmentalists said they won't be sorry to see the press aide go: "If they like arrogance in the Bush campaign, he'll fit like a glove," said Jim Jensen of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

The Navajo Nation is suing the Peabody Coal Co. for $600 million in unpaid royalties. The tribe alleges that between 1964 and 1983 it received only $2.7 million in royalties, although Peabody earned $141 million from the coal mined from the reservation. Navajo President Kelsey Begaye said the damage caused by Peabody's "influence peddling is staggering," reports the Arizona Republic.

* Dustin Solberg and Pat Dawson
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