Idaho’s Owyhee Initiative — a group of ranchers, environmentalists and off-road vehicle users — has unveiled a wilderness proposal for the Owyhee Canyonlands (HCN, 12/8/03: Riding the middle path). The plan would protect 511,000 acres, including 40,000 acres that would be cow-free. U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, hopes to introduce a bill in early June to turn the proposal into reality.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson has quashed the long-lasting struggle to overturn President Bill Clinton’s 1996 designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah (HCN, 4/14/03: Change comes slowly to Escalante country). Clinton had used the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the monument. In 1997, the Utah Association of Counties and the Mountain States Legal Foundation filed suit to overturn the decision, charging that the Antiquities Act is unconstitutional, and only Congress has the authority to "withdraw such lands from the federal trust." Benson dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs’ argument "fails on many levels."

Envirocare, the company that parlayed an empty stretch of Utah desert into a toxic-waste-storage empire, now hopes to hang out a shingle in Iraq (HCN, 12/8/03: Utahns beat back radioactive waste). It wants to open a dump in the Iraqi desert to dispose of hundreds of tons of toxic and radioactive depleted-uranium shells — and the vehicles they destroyed — that have been fired by U.S. forces in Iraq during the first and second Gulf wars. But company representatives say that the March killing and mutilation of four American security contractors has caused them to be somewhat more cautious about their expansion plans.

How do you save California’s Salton Sea, where salinity levels are rising to the point at which they’ll doom the lake’s fish and bird life? Cut the baby in half: In April, the Salton Sea Authority endorsed a $730 million proposal to build an eight-mile-long dike across the lake. This would create smaller, high-quality wildlife habitat on half the lake, while allowing the other half to dry up (HCN, 9/16/02: The Royal Squeeze). The plan still requires the approval of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R.

High Country News Classifieds