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Know the West

The Latest Bounce


The National Park Service has abandoned its quest to kick snowmobiles out of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks (HCN, 4/1/02: Move over!). Now, the agency is developing a plan that will reduce the number of snowmobiles in the parks, require four-stroke engines to minimize noise and air pollution, and require the use of licensed guides. The Park Service will release the plan to the public Oct. 15 and make a final decision by Nov. 15.

A federal judge has ruled that over 510,000 acres of critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher and the San Diego fairy shrimp will remain protected while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reanalyzes the economic costs of its critical habitat designations (HCN, 4/15/02: Habitat protection takes a critical hit). The bird and shrimp are two of several threatened and endangered species whose critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act have recently been challenged by developers. Meanwhile, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations is preparing legal action to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to redesignate critical habitat for 19 populations of steelhead and salmon within a year; those fish have been without interim protection since their critical habitat designations were overturned in April.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has introduced a bill to create a "charter forest" demonstration project on Colorado's Pike and San Isabel National Forests (HCN, 3/18/02: Can 'charter forests' remake an agency?). A 13-member panel of local community members, appointed by Colorado's governor and U.S. senators, would advise the forest supervisor and develop a forest-wide environmental impact statement under which projects could be approved without individual environmental analyses. Tancredo points to the Colorado wildfires as evidence of the need for "innovative strategies when it comes to forest management."

A new House bill could get the Clinton roadless rule back on track (HCN, 7/30/01: Bush fails to defend roadless rule). Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., introduced a bill in early June to codify the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which would prohibit most road building and logging in 58.8 million acres of national forests. The rule has been bogged down in court since a federal judge issued an injunction against it in May 2001. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate this month.