After three years of negotiations, wilderness in Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonlands is one step closer to reality (HCN, 12/8/03: Riding the Middle Path). On Oct. 22, the Owyhee Initiative voted 8-0 to forward its 500,000-acre wilderness proposal to the Owyhee County Commission, which quickly sent it on to Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. A spokesman for Crapo says the senator will introduce a bill to Congress by the time the next Congress arrives in Washington, D.C., in January.

California’s CALFED program got new life breathed into it on Oct. 25, when President Bush signed a bill authorizing $395 million in federal funds over six years for the joint federal-state project (HCN, 9/30/02: Delta Blues). The program is intended to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ensure the reliability of water supplies for millions of Californians; the new bill includes $90 million for environmental restoration projects, and money for studying the feasibility of enlarging several reservoirs.

All that oil and gas drilling is helping pump up economies in the Rocky Mountain states, which are receiving hefty dividends from the federal government (HCN, 9/27/04: Energy companies rush the West). Wyoming got the biggest check — $564 million — for royalties from oil, gas and coal production on public land during the year ending Sept. 30. New Mexico got more than $364 million; Colorado earned $80.5 million, a record for the state; Utah received more than $69 million; and Montana got $30.2 million.

The National Wildlife Federation has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for playing fast and loose with the rules for the federal Conservation Reserve Program (HCN, 8/2/04: The Greening of the Plains). The program pays farmers to take land out of production to conserve water, soil or wildlife habitat. But the Wildlife Federation says that on reserve lands in seven states, including Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Washington, officials are allowing farmers to cut hay or graze cattle during bird-nesting season.

High Country News Classifieds