« Return to this article

Know the West

The Latest Bounce


President George Bush has nominated Fran Mainella to be the first woman chief of the National Park Service. Mainella, currently the director of the Division of Recreation and Parks for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, has funded new cabins and other park infrastructure with thousands of dollars from the private sector. If confirmed, she will oversee 80 million acres of national parks.

Former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt has a new job; he is helping Seattle-based Washington Mutual Bank get federal approval to build 3,050 homes and a golf course on the Ahmanson Ranch in Southern California (HCN, 4/9/01: How green is this growth?). Before the banking giant can begin development, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must approve its plan for protecting an endangered toad and flower that live on the ranch. Critics say Babbitt's lobbying could be a conflict of interest, since he was so recently in charge of the agency.

When Congress appropriated over $1 billion last year to help federal agencies fight wildfire, a chunk of that money was intended to hire 8,200 new firefighters (HCN, 5/7/01: Back into the woods). A good firefighter may be hard to find. As of the end of May, only 70 percent of the positions were filled. A federal district judge says Rosebud Sioux tribal members can't prevent a huge hog farm from being built on their South Dakota reservation (HCN, 11/8/99: Can a hog farm bring home the bacon?). In 1998, the previous tribal council leased land to Sun Prairie, so that the North Dakota company could build a 869,000-hog facility. The present council opposes the hog farm and in April asked the tribal court to halt the development. This federal decision overrides tribal court action; the tribe has filed an appeal.

A tangle over control of Utah's Salt Lake Tribune has been resolved (HCN, 11/6/00: News battle emerges in Utah). For months, the city's competing daily paper, the Mormon Church-owned Deseret News, has wanted to buy the Tribune, but at the end of May, the widow and five children of longtime Tribune classified advertising salesman, T.K. McCarthy, acquired 80 percent of the Salt Lake Tribune publishing company. That means that when the paper's contract comes due in July 2002, the non-Mormon McCarthys will have first dibs to buy the paper.