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Know the West

The Wayward West

  A national land trust recently preserved over 21,000 acres as open space between Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo. (HCN, 2/28/00: Acre by acre). The tract, which is the largest area of undeveloped land remaining along Colorado's Front Range, was sold last week to The Conservation Fund, a Boulder, Colo.-based land trust, and Douglas County. "People often talk of how you can protect open space and prevent sprawl," says Douglas County Commissioner Jim Sullivan. "This is the best way."

Folks are signing up to sue the U.S. Forest Service over its roadless initiative (HCN, 11/8/99: A new road for the public lands). A new group, including Boise Cascade Corp., a coalition of Idaho counties and a rancher, wants to force the agency to include more public input in the planning process. "They had one big scoping meeting where everyone got together and sang "Kumbaya," but if they're going to do something as big as this, people that live and work in those forests should be allowed to plan," says plaintiff, rancher and HCN board member Brad Little.

In Utah, Republican Rep. Jim Hansen wants Congress to set a 10-year deadline for acting on wilderness designation proposals. Western Republicans who support the bill say federal agencies can lock up land indefinitely while Congress decides. Democrats say the bill's title, "America's Wilderness Protection Act," is misleading. "If we were used-car salesmen, they'd throw us in jail and take our license for doing something like that," Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Conservationists are confident that a federal judge in Portland will rule that four dams on the Lower Snake River violate water-quality standards (HCN, 12/20/99: Unleashing the Snake). U.S. District Judge Helen Frye has already ruled that the dams must comply with the federal Clean Water Act, which could cost as much as $900 million. "The court's order provides yet another reason for the government to seriously consider dam removal," Nicole Cordan of the National Wildlife Federation told The Seattle Times.

Lynx lovers can shout hooray. On March 21, after 10 years of petitioning, the Canada lynx was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (HCN, 6/12/95: In one man's hands, this lynx became a teacher). As a result, lynx habitat in northern Washington, Idaho and Montana forests could remain roadless and free from logging. But, says Joe Scott of Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, "It remains to be seen if the Forest Service will designate critical habitat; I think they'll try not to."