The Wayward West

  Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt says he's one step closer to protecting 1.1 million acres of West Desert wilderness (HCN, 7/5/99). To garner support for a federal wilderness bill, Leavitt has agreed to trade to the Bureau of Land Management 118,000 acres of school-trust land within the proposed wilderness for 128,000 acres of federal land near Utah towns. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney Heidi McIntosh calls the bill "too small and not visionary enough."


Idaho range activist Jon Marvel is leasing school-trust land for the first time. The Idaho Board of Land Commissioners awarded Marvel's Idaho Watersheds Project two 10-year grazing leases Jan. 11. Marvel has fought for the right to compete with ranchers for state grazing leases since 1994 (HCN, 8/2/99). "We plan to keep the cows off them," he says.


Republican presidential candidate John McCain talked out of both sides of his mouth during a December speech in New Hampshire, reports the Wall Street Journal. He portrayed himself as a Teddy Roosevelt-style conservationist but also vowed to repeal President Clinton's directive to consider protecting more than 50 million acres of roadless forests (HCN, 11/8/99).


An experimental forest restoration project near Flagstaff, Ariz., will soon be up and running. In December, Southwest Regional Forester Ellie Towns rejected an appeal to stop the Grand Canyon Forests Partnership plan to thin ponderosa pine trees and reduce fire danger (HCN, 3/1/99). "The only way to continue to develop restoration practices is to test different approaches on the ground," the Grand Canyon Trust's Brad Ack told the Navajo Hopi Observer. "(This) decision allows that critical learning process to continue."


A plan to build two dams on Wyoming's Dry Fork of the Little Bighorn River has collapsed. Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Stan Sylva made the announcement in December, putting to an end a proposal that dates back to 1985 (HCN, 3/1/99). Ronn Smith of the Powder River Basin Resource Council told the Casper Star Tribune that the decision was a welcome end to "an ill-advised project."


*Greg Hanscom
High Country News Classifieds