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Know the West

The Wayward West

  Colorado River water is going to the bank. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says a final plan allows Nevada, California and Arizona to negotiate deals for storing surplus Colorado River water. The three states will soon be able to store the water in underground aquifers for later use or even sell it for cash, which Babbitt believes will create conservation incentives. "This is one of the biggest things to hit Nevada in 30 years," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., told AP.

Vice President Al Gore has a new proposal: He wants to tax mining companies that extract minerals like gold and silver from public lands and use the revenue to purchase parklands. While activists say a tax is a long time coming, "we'd rather see these monies used to address abandoned mine cleanup," says Krista Dahlberg of the Mineral Policy Center (HCN, 1/19/98). She says there are 500,000 abandoned mines in the country, and cleanup could cost as much as $72 billion.

Prisoners will stay in the Colorado wilds. After a five-year battle, a federal judge says the state's largest minimum-security prison, in Delta, Colo., can legally remain in the middle of a state wildlife area (HCN, 3/30/98). Environmentalists and sportsmen said the state violated federal law guaranteeing sportsmen access to lands bought with wildlife restoration dollars. "We view it as a victory," says Brian Bernett of the state Corrections Department.

Watch your language: "squaw" is defined as wife or woman in most English dictionaries, but for many Native Americans the word translates to prostitute (HCN, 9/18/95). Employees at Idaho's Boise National Forest say they may seek name changes for five geographic features that contain the offensive term. In Idaho, 98 place names include the word squaw. In Montana, the word is already taboo after a four-year legal battle.

* Rebecca Clarren