The Wayward West

  A bill that would have promoted tourism and allowed off-road vehicles to wheel across specified areas in Utah's San Rafael Swell is on "life support" in the House after green-friendly amendments passed. Conservationists, who pushed for even more wilderness protection, describe this as a victory (HCN, 5/22/00: Stirrings in the San Rafael Swell). "We called everyone we know and told them (the original bill) was not just a threat to the San Rafael Swell, but also to the whole wilderness system," Keith Hammond of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance told The Salt Lake Tribune. Rep. Chris Cannon, who sponsored the bill, is urging Democrats to rethink their position before the bill goes to the Senate. He says without the bill, the swell will have absolutely no protection.

If Al Gore becomes president, he says there will be no new road building and no timber sales on 43 million acres of undeveloped national forests (HCN, 11/8/99: A new road for the public lands). This promise, made on the campaign trail, extends protections proposed by the Clinton administration. "If I am entrusted with the presidency, it will be a national priority to preserve these roadless areas as they are, no ifs, ands or buts about it," said Gore.

Picnics in California state parks just got cheaper (HCN, 2/14/00: Land of the fee). This year California's budget surplus is estimated to be upwards of $12 billion, and Gov. Gray Davis wants to use some of that to cut state park fees in half. "I'm determined to make sure that all these parks are accessible and affordable to all Californians," announced Davis.

Last June, a ruptured gas pipeline in northern Washington killed three young people, but the industry continues to make potentially deadly mistakes (HCN, 8/2/99: A disaster puts spotlight on pipeline safety). A recent inspection by state and federal regulators found that pipeline companies still aren't following guidelines for preventing rust, detecting leaks, public education and timely maintenance inspections. The nation's top pipeline regulator says such lapses could present future problems if left unchecked. "That's how ocean liners run into icebergs, too - it's not one big thing, it's a lot of little things," Steve Coleman, a citizen lobbying for improved oversight, told the Seattle Times.

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