The Latest Bounce


All sides are hailing the negotiated settlement of a lawsuit challenging the Forest Service's salvage logging plan for Montana's burned Bitterroot National Forest (HCN, 1/21/02: Judge puts kibosh on logging plan). On Feb. 7, environmental groups, the logging industry and Bush administration officials announced a revised plan that removes 27,000 acres of sensitive roadless lands from the proposed 41,000-acre timber sale, while allowing loggers to begin cutting this winter.

A massive rail line to haul coal between Wyoming's Powder River Basin and Minnesota was approved by the federal government on Jan. 30 (HCN, 2/12/01: Critics rail against expansion project). The Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad will run dozens of trains per day on the 880-mile route to haul cleaner-burning low-sulfur coal to Midwest power plants. The project, the biggest ever reviewed by the Surface Transportation Board, will cut across South Dakota's Buffalo Gap and Wyoming's Thunder Basin national grasslands. About 10 percent of the project's $1.4 billion construction cost will go toward environmental mitigation.

The effort to save the sage grouse may give a boost to the government's predator-control effort. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Program wants to use baited sodium cyanide M-44 "coyote-getters" in an experimental program in southeast Utah and southern Idaho to protect sage grouse nests from coyotes, foxes and wild dogs (HCN, 2/4/02: Last dance for the sage grouse?). The agency is still waiting for an experimental-use permit from the EPA; it hopes to start tests this spring.

Steven A. Williams was confirmed as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 30. Williams, formerly head of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, is a strong supporter of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, a plan to use royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to secure new public lands (HCN, 11/6/00: Congress moves on local proposals). The new job won't be easy: Steve Lyon of the National Wildlife Federation says that Williams' biggest challenge will be "whether he's able to hold the professional science line on endangered species protection" in the face of an aggressive national energy policy.

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