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Best Environmental News Item/Issue

Ironwood Forest National Monument

READERS' PICK: The creation of Ironwood Forest National Monument would have been a nice story on its own. What made it a great story was all the sorry-ass whining by arch-conservatives about how underhanded it was for that damned Clinton to use the powers of his office to do the right thing. Using the federal Antiquities Act, William Jefferson Clinton designated 129,000 acres of largely unspoiled desert forever off-limits from becoming bulldozer fodder. The fact that the Pima County Board of Supervisors had practically begged Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to do this for them several months before somehow escaped Republican notice. Babbitt, now working his way back to Arizona after eight weird years in D.C., was happy to oblige. And Clinton was ecstatic to exercise one of the few powers a president has that doesn't require approval from the bozos in Congress. In fact, in his waning months in office, Clinton seemed to enjoy it so much that he went on a monument creation spree throughout the West, as much to tweak his impotent opponents as to preserve the land. As Babbitt said with a smile, "Never underestimate the power of a lame duck." Now the developers' loss means that our grandchildren may still get to see what the desert used to look like without having to drive to New Mexico.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Pygmy Owl. Let's hear it for the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy owl! The tiny raptor, a mere six inches tall on average, has finally stopped the willy-nilly scrapin'-and-rapin' of our fragile desert environment. And we've even got a brand-new national monument out of the deal. This is the second year the pygmy owl has won this particular honor. Let's hope next year we're celebrating the passage of the Citizens Growth Management Initiative, which would really change the way business is done in these parts.

LOOSE CHANGE: The bottled CAP blended water. This is the best anti-growth tool we've tasted or smelled. If every person considering a move to the Old Pueblo were sent a complimentary bottle they'd stay in Michigan and tough out the winters, and sprawl would come to a screeching halt. The CAP blend has a chemical aftertaste that lingers in the mouth and nose for half a day.