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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


Nineteen populations of steelhead and salmon have had their critical habitat designations formally yanked (HCN, 4/15/02: Habitat protection takes a critical list). On April 30, a federal district judge approved a settlement to a lawsuit by the National Association of Home Builders that requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct new critical habitat analyses for the fish. Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that NMFS failed to sufficiently address the economic impacts of the habitat designations. The agency says that redoing the designations will take "several years," during which time the fish will be without interim critical habitat protection.

The fight to drag the 1872 Mining Law into the 21st century may be back on its feet (HCN, 12/3/01: Closing the wounds). On May 16, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Chris Shays, R-Conn., announced new legislation to reduce mining's pre-eminence over other public-land uses. The bill gives land managers the power to deny projects in sensitive areas, as well as those proposed by companies with bad environmental records. In addition, the bill seeks an 8 percent royalty on hardrock minerals, the revenues from which will fund an abandoned mine cleanup program.

Gateway communities like West Yellowstone may get a greater say in federal decisions about nearby public land (HCN, 4/1/02: Winter-use plan lurches toward the finish line). The "Gateway Communities Cooperation Act," introduced by Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., in late April, would increase local officials' participation in federal lands planning, and could pave the way for gateway communities to gain "cooperating agency" status in environmental analyses. The bill applies not only to communities near national parks, but to those near national forests, BLM land and wildlife refuges.

After being raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency two years in a row, the White Plume family is planting hemp for a third time (HCN, 3/4/02: Seed in the Ground). On April 5, the family planted about two acres with hemp seed on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation. So far, the family hasn't heard from the DEA, but Ramona White Plume says "nothing's definite yet."