The Wayward West

  A federal judge threw out a lawsuit challenging a 1997 ban on oil and gas drilling on the Rocky Mountain Front, imposed by then Lewis and Clark Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora (HCN, 10/13/97: Forest Service acts to preserve 'the Front'). The lawsuit claimed Flora was unduly influenced by public opinion and ignored her agency's analysis that drilling should be allowed. Judge Charles Lovell disagreed, telling the Associated Press that "nothing in NEPA forces agencies to submit blindly to the proposals of agency scientists and technical staff."

Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., became the first member of Congress to support breaching Washington's Lower Snake River dams (HCN, 12/20/99: Unleashing the Snake). "I think we're at a point where we've studied this enough and we need to take action," Udall told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The government's General Accounting Office says the $101 million Baca Ranch near Los Alamos, N.M., is overpriced. But the Forest Service, which is eyeing the ranch for federal protection, calls it a bargain. The 95,000-acre ranch is home to a large elk herd and contains the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Jemez River (HCN, 8/3/98: Congress drags its feet on Baca Ranch deal). GAO officials came up with a figure that is half of the asking price.

Once again, Louisiana-Pacific must pay for polluting. Faced with 422 counts of toxic dumping at its particle-board plant in Arcata, Calif., the company agreed to pay $712,500 in fines. The settlement follows years of complaints about the plant's formaldehyde and sawdust discharges. In 1998, Louisiana-Pacific was convicted and fined for violating the Clean Air Act at its Olathe, Colo., plant (HCN, 6/22/98: Judge disciplines L-P).

Albuquerque, N.M., Mayor Jim Baca says Mexican gray wolves are welcome in the Gila Wilderness (HCN, 1/31/00: Yellowstone wolves are here to stay). Thirty-three have been released in Arizona over the last couple years. Deaths and Fish and Wildlife Service roundups have reduced the Southwest wolf population to less than 10. Fish and Wildlife officials hope to translocate wolves into the more remote Gila, but have met resistance from locals and state leaders.

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