• Idaho EPA may pare back aggressive water stance
Boise, ID (AP)—Acknowledging likely political problems, the new state Environmental Quality Board recently signaled its intention to pare back to just wilderness waters the stream segments it will ask state lawmakers to protect under Idaho's highest water quality standards.
While no decisions were made on the slate of river segments proposed for designation as "Outstanding Resource Waters," board members recognized the obvious problems of recommending the special designation—and the land use restrictions that would soon accompany it—for rivers running through private and even public land that is currently open to multiple use.
"Political reality should drive this process," Chairman Don Chisholm of Burley said, and he went on to call the segments within wilderness areas "our most likely candidates" for protection.
The board will review the nominations and the public comments on them on Aug. 31 before making a final decision in early November. But any designation must be approved by the Legislature, and that has been where every other attempt, even involving wilderness water, has died over the past decade.
The classification bans activities that would degrade the water quality but by itself does not prohibit logging, mining or grazing outright.
Still, resource interests have opposed it, fearing that it could be used as a level to restrict public land use and claiming it amounts to more bureaucracy for streams already subject to the provisions of existing state and federal laws.
Jack Lyman of the Idaho Mining Association, who has been involved in the water quality debate since the designation was authorized in 1989, was blunt in advising the board that its entire list of proposed stream segments "has zero chance of passing."
While the board has a responsibility to properly evaluate the status of all streams, Lyman said, "You should temper that with a political judgment of what is doable in the existing Idaho Legislature."
The two wilderness candidates are the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and the Selway River. Also on the list are the St. Joe River in northern Idaho, the South Fork of the Snake River in eastern Idaho and the three forks from the headwaters of Boise River in central Idaho.
Lyman pointed out to the board that the designation for the Middle Fork is the only one to have been approved by both the House and Senate although it failed to be enacted in 1992 when it became wrapped up with another issue.
This is the first time an "Outstanding Resource Water" designation will be proposed since Dirk Kempthorne became governor 19 months ago. The GOP chief executive has not commented on the nominations, but conservationists maintain he recognizes the value of the designation. .
Kempthorne's predecessor, Republican Phil Batt, made a concerted albeit unsuccessful attempt to win designation for the Middle Fork and Selway during his last two years in office. He pushed the designations to head off what he feared would be a drive by environmentalists to bypass the Legislature and put the issue before voters. But that initiative campaign has yet to materialize.
• House panel recommends changing federal mineral royalty
Washington, DC (AP}—A House committee has recommended a bill aimed at simplifying how taxes on federal mineral land are collected. The Mineral Revenue Payments Clarification Act would increase the amount of money Wyoming and other states with federal mining lands would receive, Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., a co-sponsor, said.
"It has cost Wyoming more than $94 million since the federal government started deducting administrative costs from our share of mineral revenues in 1991," she said last week. "Over $7 million was lost just in the last fiscal year."
H.R. 4340, sponsored by Rep.Tom Udall, D-N.M., would restore the system in place from 1920-1991 in which the federal government and states divided mineral revenues based on gross receipts.
In 1991, a net receipts sharing system was implemented, in which the federal government deducts its costs to administer mineral leases before splitting the remainder with states containing federal mineral reserves. States now bear one-fourth of federal costs, Cubin said,
"This new burden came with no authority to constrain the growth of administrative costs," she said. "Nor were the states made partners in the decisions whether to lease lands to increase the receipts to everyone's benefit."
The House Resources Committee unanimously recommended the bill for the full House to consider. The next date of action on the measure has not been set.
• Gold mining company raises funds to fight initiative
Victor, CO (AP)—The state's last major gold mining company has invested $202,000 in a group's effort to stop a ballot initiative aimed at restricting the use of cyanide to extract gold from ore.
AngloGold North America's opponent has raised about $34,000 to support the initiative campaign, according to its disclosure statements.
The company, which runs the Cresson Mine, contributed the money to the group Coloradans Opposing the Unfair Shutdown Amendment, headed by J.J. Ament. He said he expects further contributions from the company if the measure is certified for the November ballot.
The initiative would halt mining operations in which mined ore is bathed in cyanide to remove gold.
• Comment period extended
The comment period for the Draft Recovery Plan for the California Red-legged Frog has been extended until November 8, 2000. Comments should be addressed to: Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA, 95825-1846. Copies of the draft recovery plan are available by calling (916) 414-6600 or by writing the above address.