The Wayward West

  Conservationists in north-central Washington worked hard and fast to raise over $13.1 million to keep chain saws out of the 25,000 acre Loomis Forest (HCN, 5/24/99). Now, the state's Board of Natural Resources says they're millions of dollars short. After wrestling over the value of the forest's timber for more than a year, the board voted 5-1 to set the price at $16.5 million, $3.4 million more than environmentalists originally expected. The board's decision was influenced by local school officials; proceeds from timber sales and other activities on the state-owned forest go to schools.

Colorado politicians and residents living near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument are celebrating the passage of a bill in Congress last week that will make the monument into the 55th National Park (HCN, 8/2/99). The new park will combine the monument's 21,000 acres with 10,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management and 3,000 acres of private holdings. The government plans to buy or put conservation easements on the private property to protect the canyon rim from development.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah is more than just 1.9 million acres of rugged canyon country (HCN, 9/30/96). Underneath are nearly 35,000 acres of federal coal leases, owned by the mining company Andalex Resources. Disposition of the leases has been in question since the monument was established by President Clinton in 1996. This month, Andalex agreed to abandon its right to the leases in exchange for $14 million from the federal government. Interior Department Secretary Bruce Babbitt says the agreement makes good on Clinton's promise to mitigate mining concerns while protecting the land "for all time."

Interior Secretary Babbitt can breathe another sigh of relief. A special prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to indict him in connection with investigations of a proposed Wisconsin Indian casino (HCN, 2/2/98). The investigation was launched after allegations that Babbitt perjured himself when he explained to Congress the Interior Department's reasons for rejecting a permit for the casino.

* Ali Macalady
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