« Return to this article

Know the West

The Latest Bounce


Taking its duty to expedite energy exploration on public lands very seriously, the Bureau of Land Management has given a hearty thumbs-up to a plan for seismic exploration for natural gas in Uintah County, Utah. In early October, the agency issued a "finding of no significant impact" for the tests, which would spread across more than 3,000 square miles of public and tribal lands in the northeastern part of the state, and approved the project without further environmental reviews (HCN, 8/5/02: Utah gases up).

In early October, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ordered the U.S. Army to cease test burns at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, after releases from the incinerator consistently exceeded the state's legal limits for heavy metals (HCN, 9/30/02: Environmentalists fight chemical weapons burns). The Army is currently checking its facilities and will report back to the state in November.

According to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, the state is in trouble this year, and its downstream neighbors could be in a world of hurt next year: Stream flows in six of the seven river basins in Colorado have hit record lows, statewide runoff is 25 percent of average, and most of the state's reservoirs have been tapped out. (HCN, 8/19/02: The Great Western Apocalypse).).

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is demanding that the National Park Service explain why it pulled Bob "Action" Jackson from his ranger post in Yellowstone at the start of this year's hunting season (HCN, 11/19/01: Outspoken Yellowstone ranger gagged). Last year, Jackson was forced to sign a gag order after he criticized hunters for using salt licks to lure trophy elk and grizzly bears out of the park.

And, in October, the National Treasury Employees Union reminded the Environmental Protection Agency that "for the time being, political appointees are still prevented from instructing career employees to promote a particular political candidate or agenda." The union's letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was in response to an agency memo earlier this fall, which reminded EPA employees of restrictions on their off-duty political activities and told them to "express support for the president and his program."