Friday, October 24, 2014
What's New in the New West

Politics

Pity the Poor Sage Grouse, A Symbol of the Times

Sage grouse

In the end, it’s not about the sage grouse, a rather modest little fowl that lives amongst sagebrush throughout the western United States. Instead, the continuing political battle over the sage grouse’s potential endangered listing is a symbolic clash all too common in the New West: environmental protections versus economic growth. Read More »

In Indian Country, a Federal Spending Cap Will Hurt

It sounds reasonable: Why not just cap federal spending? Make every agency operate with the money that’s already there. This notion has commonsense, yet it is impossible in practice. A few years ago, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights looked at federal funding needs for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The report concluded that “federal funding for Native American programs has increased significantly. However, this has not been nearly enough to compensate for a decline in spending power, which had been evident for decades before that, nor to overcome a long and sad history of neglect and discrimination.” Read More »

Pollsters Call Conservation Funding a “Shell Game”

What gets voters agitated when they talk about the federal budget? Sure, voices rise one moment over “spending like drunken sailors” while at the next moment, voters howl over potential cuts to a host of government programs, most notably Medicare. But get past those now predictable, first-blush comments and you’ll hear that what’s really bothering American voters is the distinct notion they have been conned. Read More »

Conservationists Deplore Bombing of Avalanche Runs at Yellowstone

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, backed by several other conservation groups, has strongly criticized Yellowstone National Park’s winter use plan to keep Sylvan Pass open between Cody and the park’s east entrance. The pass features 20 avalanche runs that must be knocked down by artillery shells fired from a 105 mm howitzer, at a cost of $325,000 per season. Weather permitting, high explosives are hand-dropped on the avalanche runs from a helicopter. Read More »

Wyoming Declares War on Wolves

An agreement reached last week between Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Dan Ashe, and the State of Wyoming will allow treatment of the wolf as a predator that can be shot, trapped, or run over at any time throughout most of the state. Interior has agreed to remove Wyoming wolves from the threatened and endangered species list, and give the state authority to manage wolves under a unique and widely criticized dual management plan. Read More »

What Can We Make of Multiple Use?

Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt’s re-entry in the political fray in recent weeks, which he says was precipitated by fears over the future of the nation’s wild lands, brings up the question of what it means nowadays to be a Westerner. To many people, the answer probably would be the same as it ever has been: wide-open spaces. Even though relatively few of us actually live in undeveloped areas anymore, wild lands remain central to our collective identity. It’s hard to think of any topic that gets Westerners going more intensely than wild lands and all they contain. Wolves, elk, salmon, sage-grouse, logging, mining, rivers, off-road vehicles, roadless areas, the list goes on and on. Is there a greater number of special interest groups involved in any other aspect of Western life? Read More »