« Return to this article

for people who care about the West


  Keep your eyes peeled for yellow snow on the ski slopes: The Coconino National Forest supervisor has approved the use of treated wastewater for snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl ski area (HCN, 2/21/05: Snowmaking on sacred slopes stirs controversy). Resort owners hope to boost profits by keeping the slopes open during dry times. Leaders of the American Indian tribes who hold the San Francisco Peaks sacred oppose the plan, saying that spraying effluent water on the mountains is disrespectful.

California is trying to protect its biggest trees from the U.S. Forest Service. In March, the state’s attorney general, Bill Lockyer, filed a complaint against the agency over its plans to harvest 7.5 million board-feet of timber from Giant Sequoia National Monument (HCN, 6/9/03: Giant sequoias could get the ax). President Clinton placed the monument’s trees — considered the world’s largest — off-limits to logging in 2000. In the lawsuit, Lockyer alleges that the Forest Service’s 2003 plan to allow logging is so "nebulous and confusing that it fails to qualify as a discernible ‘management plan’ at all."

On March 4, President Bush nominated acting administrator Steve Johnson to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (HCN, 2/7/05: Bush's second-term shake-ups). Although the administration's critics have accused it of ignoring, censoring or otherwise bullying scientists, Bush noted that Johnson will be the "first professional scientist to lead the EPA." If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson’s "immediate task is to work with Congress to pass my Clear Skies Initiative," said Bush. Environmentalists across the country oppose the initiative, saying it weakens pollution regulations for refineries and electric power plants.

New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, R, has another of the Rio Grande’s endangered species in his sights (HCN, 8/4/03: Truce remains elusive in Rio Grande water fight). The southwestern willow flycatcher, like the silvery minnow, relies upon the health of the river for survival. Sen. Domenici has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delay habitat protection for the rare bird because it could "affect our overall effort to save and improve the bosque," or riverside forest, by hindering efforts to remove non-native, water-sucking tamarisk from the banks of the river (HCN, 11/10/03: It’s ‘bombs away’ on New Mexico saltcedar).