Amid the national uproar after the Sept. 11 attacks, the California Public Utilities Commission quietly voted to end its experiment in electricity deregulation. In a 3-to-2 vote on Sept. 20, the commission closed down its "direct access" policy, which had allowed consumers to choose their own power providers (HCN, 1/29/01: Power on the loose). Direct access, along with a statewide cap on retail power prices, got much of the blame for the state's recent power crisis. Nearly eight months ago, the state Legislature told the commission to end the policy.
Biologists have discovered two
previously unknown gray wolf packs in Montana and Idaho,
each with two adults, yearlings and pups born this year. The find
has big political implications: The endangered wolf may now meet
its federal recovery goals by 2003, a year earlier than expected
(HCN, 2/26/01: Return of the natives). When that happens, the Fish
and Wildlife Service will begin the process of taking the wolf off
the endangered species list and returning wolf-management authority
to the states
After last year's hot and heavy
fire season (HCN, 5/7/01: Back into the woods), this summer seemed
relatively cool and calm. But a Sept. 7 memo from Forest Service
Chief Dale Bosworth says the agency still expects to
overspend its firefighting budget by $230
million. Fire officials say crews pursued blazes more
quickly and aggressively this year than last, using many more
people and aircraft. They also point out that while the $1.9
billion National Fire Plan set aside money for training and
equipment, firefighting itself is funded by a separate account.
Critics say forest managers could save money - and improve forest
health - by allowing some fires to burn in remote
The National Land Trust Alliance reports
that business is still booming for Western land
trusts (HCN, 2/28/00: Acre by acre). The nation's
fastest-growing trusts are in the Four Corners states, where, by
the end of the year 2000, homegrown trusts had purchased or placed
conservation easements on more than 900,000 acres of private land.
Montana trusts have also kept busy, claiming more than 500,000
protected acres. Nationwide, local and regional trusts have closed
conservation deals on 6.4 million acres of land.