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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


Has the Department of Interior blown its last chance to straighten out the Indian trust fund fiasco (HCN, 1/31/00: Judge rules on Indian money mess)? Over the past several months, a court-appointed monitor has reported that the agency filed inaccurate and false reports about its progress in untangling the case. Now, the Native American Rights Fund wants Interior Secretary Gale Norton charged with contempt of court and the money put under control of an outside receiver.

The Bitterroot grizzly bear reintroduction plan received resounding support after Norton's move to deep-six it in June (HCN, 7/30/01: Norton snubs grizzlies). Norton's veto of the Clinton-era plan was subject to a 60-day comment period, during which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received more than 28,000 comments, 98 percent of which were in favor of reintroduction. The agency says that it will make a final decision in the "not-too-distant future."

The Bonneville Power Administration ended its power emergency without fanfare on Oct. 1. The agency declared the emergency in early April and suspended salmon-protection measures at dams in the Columbia River Basin (HCN, 6/18/01: Transforming powers). Although the immediate threat to salmon is over, damage may already have been done: the Fish Passage Center's preliminary analysis of this year's salmon and steelhead migration shows the poorest survival rates since monitoring began in 1993.

After being hit by environmental lawsuits demanding stricter off-road vehicle management, the BLM is now being sued by four-wheeling enthusiasts (HCN, 11/8/99: The Forest Service sets off into uncharted territory). The Utah Shared Access Alliance says that the Bureau of Land Management used a series of emergency closures to restrict ORV access in southeast Utah without seeking public comment.

A two-year extension of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is inching toward reality (HCN, 9/10/01: Congress may agree on fees). The extension is part of the 2002 Interior appropriations bill, which has gone through committee but still awaits Congress' attention. The fee demo program, which has been the target of numerous protests, allows federal agencies like the Forest Service and BLM to charge user fees at selected sites to make up for budget shortfalls.