Environmentalists aren’t the only ones opposed to mining in the wilderness. Citing “quality of life” concerns, more than 50 business owners in Sandpoint, Idaho, officially opposed the Forest Service’s plan to allow a copper mine beneath Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area (HCN, 2/18/02: Battle brews over a wilderness mother lode). The downstream businesses include an insurance company, a furniture store and a development company.

Environmentalists were optimistic last year when Wyoming elected its first Democratic governor in eight years. But Gov. Dave Freudenthal has jumped on the coalbed methane bandwagon (HCN, 2/17/03: Wyoming at a crossroads). In a July letter to Federal Reserve board chairman Alan Greenspan, the governor complained that the Bureau of Land Management was taking too long to complete environmental studies related to methane drilling in the Powder River Basin, and thereby causing production declines.

Is the Fish and Wildlife Service giving up on itself? For the past 30 years, the agency has enforced the Endangered Species Act by evaluating whether the actions proposed by other agencies harm rare species (HCN, 6/23/03: Sound science goes sour). But under a new rule, agencies will police themselves instead. In July, Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed that land-management agencies do their own endangered species consultation for projects involving “wildfire prevention.”

The Columbia River: It’s big, it’s wide, but it’s still not any deeper. The Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge and deepen the Columbia’s shipping channel has been delayed again, this time by the state of Washington (HCN, 6/24/02: Columbia dredging closer). The state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board has issued a stay preventing the Department of Ecology from approving the plan until the agency reviews its policy toward beach erosion and sediment placement.
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