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Know the West

The Latest Bounce

  The money’s still rolling in to protect 97,000 acres of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. After The Nature Conservancy negotiated a $31.28 million price tag for the Baca Ranch last year, the federal government kicked in $10.5 million (HCN, 2/18/02: Dunes shifts toward park status). Now, Congress has pledged $12 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, money from offshore oil drilling, toward the establishment of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Baca National Wildlife Refuge.

Oil development on Alaska’s North Slope has had a profound effect on wildlife and the environment, and also on Alaska’s native people, according to a new report (HCN, 1/20/03: Refuge back in the crosshairs). The National Academies’ National Research Council studied — for the first time — the cumulative effects of more than 30 years of oil drilling on the North Slope, and has made recommendations to Congress to minimize future impacts.

The Environmental Protection Agency has put the kibosh on water studies at a Superfund site outside of Denver (HCN, 12/9/02: Life in the wasteland). Four years ago, at the EPA’s request, the U.S. Geological Survey began a groundwater study at Lowry Landfill. From 1965 to 1980, about 250 corporations dumped more than a million gallons of liquid hazardous waste at Lowry (HCN, 6/21/99: A grudge against sludge). Now, the EPA has suspended further groundwater sampling, saying there’s no conclusive evidence of radioactive contamination.

The General Accounting Office has finally quit hounding Vice President Dick Cheney. Last year, the GAO unsuccessfully sued the White House to learn the details of Cheney’s Energy Plan meetings with oil and gas industry executives (HCN, 6/4/01: An energy plan as solid as natural gas). Now, Cheney’s off the hook: After consulting with members of Congress, the GAO has declined to appeal the judge’s decision.

It isn’t easy being Green — especially if New Mexico Democrats have their way. State House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé, introduced a bill that would require “major parties” to have a membership equal to at least 10 percent of registered voters in the state. Last year, Greens — who include less than 2 percent of the state’s voters — had their major party status restored when their gubernatorial candidate received more than 5 percent of the vote (HCN, 10/14/02: New Mexico Greens lose steam).