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Week in Review

Top stories from April 20 thru April 24:

In News to track, a proposal to protect 1.9 million acres in Utah, a Colorado senator proposes giving states six more years to protect sage grouse, federal agencies team up to speed development of wind farms, and a couple of new studies on bees are all in the news.

As Utah U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop continues to gather proposals for his public land initiative, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Tribe are gathering support from other tribes to protect a wide swath of southeastern Utah that runs south from the border of Canyonlands National Park to the San Juan River and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to near U.S. Highway 191 on the east and the Colorado River on the west.  The 1.9-million-acre proposal is larger than the other three initiatives proposed in the area.

This week, Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner introduced his Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act that would fend off federal protection of sage grouse for six years to give states time to implement their conservation plans.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Area Power Administration are working on a plan that would shorten the permitting process for wind farms in six states including Montana from two years to one year by providing information about wildlife concerns in specific areas. The proposal has yet to be published in the Federal Register, and there will be a 30-day comment period on the proposal following that publication.

And finally, a couple of new studies out of Europe on bees and the effect neonicotinoid insecticides are having on bee populations. The studies further support earlier studies that found that class of insecticide, which contains nicotene, can reduce bee numbers, and in the case of bumblebees, cause the bees to seek out plants that have been treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.

Mountain West Perspective

Montana's two-year colleges revamp curricula to meet changing workplace demands
Nov. 20, 2014

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux reviews three books that deal with water in the West

April 15, 2015

Mountain West Voices

Yellowstone Public Radio will broadcast Mountain West Voices at 7:05 a.m. on Sunday.

Tune in to Yellowstone Public Radio at 7:05 Sunday morning, or listen to the program via the Mountain West Voices website.

A Look Ahead

April 29-30: Asia-Montana Energy Summit, University of Montana, Missoula

News to track

Navajo, Ute tribes team up to protect 1.9 million acres in SE Utah
In order to protect the archaeological treasures of their ancestors, the Navajo and Ute tribes in Utah are proposing the creation of the 1.9-million acre Bears Ears National Conservation Area in the southeastern corner of Utah, and last week, representatives of the Pueblo, Hopi, Hualapai, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni Pueblo tribes toured the area to garner support for the proposal.
Salt Lake Tribune; 4/21/2015

Colorado senator's bill would delay sage grouse decision for 6 years
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner introduced the Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act on Wednesday that would give states at least six more years to put their management and conservation plans to protect sage grouse and habitat in place.
Denver Post; 4/22/2015

WAPA, USFWS team up to speed progress of wind energy in 6 states
Montana is one of the six states affected by the agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Area Power Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, which presents developers of wind-energy projects with site-specific information about what mitigation measures they may have to take to protect wildlife, including endangered whooping cranes and bald and golden eagles. Other states affected are Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 4/24/2015

Two studies find neonicotinoid insecticides harmful, addictive to bees
Two studies published in the Wednesday in the journal Nature, give weight to previous findings that neonicotinoid insecticides are harmful to bees, and that bumblebees may actually seek out the insecticide, but researchers say the findings may not carry enough heft to extend Britain's two-year moratorium on the use of that class of insecticide, a conversation that has yet to begin in the United States.
Washington Post; 4/23/2015


U.S. Transportation Dept. issues emergency safety regulations for oil trains
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a series of regulations that to make shipping oil by rail safer, including limiting the speed of trains carrying more than 20 cars of oil or other flammable cargo to 40 miles-per-hour when moving through urban areas, which takes effect immediately, although railroad officials said they're already meeting that rule.
New York Times; 4/18/2015

U.S. board releases draft EIS on proposed Tongue River RR in Montana
The draft environmental analysis of the proposed Tongue River Railroad in southeastern Montana released Friday by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, lists 11 alternatives, including one that proposes the line to ship coal from the Montana-Wyoming border to existing rail lines not be built. Officials of the federal board expect an active public comment period on the analysis, as cities and towns along the rail line to carry the coal from Montana to West Coast seaports have joined in the debate.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 4/19/2015

N.C. firm's deal to buy Rock Creek apartments largest in Colorado history
Real estate investor Bell Partners of Greensboro, N.C. made its first deal in the western U.S. in Colorado on Monday, with its $250 million purchase of The Horizons at Rock Creek apartments in Superior, making history for the highest price ever paid in Colorado for a multifamily complex.
Denver Post; 4/21/2015

USDA makes Chobani yogurt an option for school lunches nationwide
Chobani yogurt made its debut in school lunch programs in the school year 2013-14 in four states, including Idaho and New York, where the Greek yogurt company has production plants. In 2014-15, the yogurt was added to programs in eight more states, and based on the success of those projects, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Chobani Greek yogurt will be an option for schools across the United States for the next school year.
Twin Falls Times-News; 4/24/2015


Groundwater users in Idaho face another water call
The Idaho Department of Water Resources notified groundwater users from Idaho Falls to Wendell that they have until April 30 to tell the state how they intend to answer the water call of the seven largest irrigation companies in the Surface Water Coalition. The water call affects nearly the same group of groundwater users that had to answer the water call for the Rangen fish farm in February.
Twin Falls Times-News; 4/22/2015

Irrigators in Idaho's Treasure Valley deal with early, lower allotments
Irrigators in Idaho's Treasure Valley said they were surprised when the Board of Control set the beginning of the allocation season on April 16, about two weeks earlier than normal, and since irrigators' allocations are lower this year, those who have yet to plant their fields are reconsidering their crops.
Idaho Statesman; 4/23/2015

Another tribal water compact in Montana joins waiting list before Congress
After decades of negotiations, and two back-to-back contentious efforts before the Montana Legislature, the agreement to settle the water rights of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in the Flathead Valley is now headed to Congress, where it joins a similar water compact with the Blackfeet Tribe, approved by the Legislature in 2009, and another with the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservation, approved by the Legislature in 2001, awaiting congressional approval.
Missoulian; 4/19/2015

Iowa water utility sues 3 counties to force regulation of nitrates
Des Moines Water Works filed a federal lawsuit against county officials in three counties, charging that they have done too little to keep nitrates from farmers' fields from reaching water resources upon which roughly half a million Iowans depend, and asking that farmers be required to meet the same federal clean-water standards for nitrates as factories and commercial users.
New York Times; 4/20/2015

Wyoming seeks to capture, store more of its water
The drought in the southwestern United States has put some urgency on Wyoming's plan to capture some of the water it owns in rivers that run through the state, including the Green River, which feeds into the Colorado River, and some of the largest water storage projects the state is contemplating are on the Green River, which would reduce flows on the Colorado River downstream.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 4/22/2015

Oregon governor declares drought emergencies in 2 more counties
On Monday, Baker and Wheeler counties in Oregon joined Crook, Harney, Klamath, Malheur and Lake counties where drought emergencies have been declared by the governor.
Portland Oregonian; 4/21/2015

Federal judge declines to dismiss Utah ranchers' wild horse lawsuit
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson rejected the request of American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign to dismiss a lawsuit filed by ranchers seeking to force the removal of wild horses in south- central Utah, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); 4/21/2015

Federal judge tosses Wyoming lawsuit to force roundup of wild horses
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal sided with the U.S. Department of Interior and wild horse advocacy groups, and dismissed the lawsuit filed by the state of Wyoming seeking to force the Bureau of Land Management to round up and remove wild horses from several herds in the western part of the state.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 4/22/2015

Decline in long-billed curlew prompts study in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
The number of long-billed curlews, a shorebird that nests in grasslands, at the Long-billed Curlew Habitat Area of Critical Environmental Concern in southwest Idaho has fallen from 2,000 in the 1970s to 200 a few years ago, and researchers in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will put transmitters on 19 of the curlews this spring to help learn more about the species.
Twin Falls Times-News (AP); 4/24/2015

BLM declines to protect Mono Basin sage grouse in Nevada, California
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Tuesday that agreements with private ranchers, as well as other conservation efforts, along the along the Sierra Nevada's eastern front in California and Nevada, adequately protected the Mono Basin sage grouse, and that the species did not warrant federal protection.
Portland Oregonian (AP); 4/23/2015

Public Lands
BLM releases final plan for Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness in Idaho
The final Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Management Plan was published by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Federal Register on Monday, putting in motion a 30-day public comment period on Idaho's newest wilderness areas that include about 518,000 acres and 325 miles of wild and scenic river in Owyhee County. The plan covers the 50,929-acre Little Jacks Creek Wilderness, the 12,533-acre Pole Creek Wilderness, the 42,413-acre North Fork Owyhee Wilderness, the 267,328-acre Owyhee River Wilderness, the 52,826-acre Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, and the 89,996-acre Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 4/19/2015

Forestry watchdog: B.C. needs better info on resource roads
The B.C. Forest Practices Board, an independent industry watchdog, released its 2015 report that said the province still has very little information on the 372,822 miles of resource roads on Crown lands, and with more than 6,200 miles of such roads being added each years, the need for accurate information on those roads is growing.
Vancouver Sun; 4/22/2015

U. of Utah scientists complete map of what lies below Yellowstone Park
After decades of research, University of Utah scientists have made the most complete map of the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park, including a previously unmapped 11,200-cubic-mile magma reservoir dubbed the "Lower Crustal Magma Reservoir," which is four times larger than the long-known magma reservoir.
Jackson Hole Daily; 4/24/2015

Utah snowboarders appeal dismissal of lawsuit against Alta Ski Area
After a federal judge in Utah dismissed the lawsuit filed early last year by snowboarders seeking to overturn Alta Ski Resort's ban on snowboarders, Wasatch Equality and four snowboarders have appealed that decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Salt Lake Tribune; 4/24/2015

USFS oks Colorado ski area's new lift route, plans for new glades
Aspen Skiing Co. released the map of the route its new High Alpine chairlift at Snowmass in Colorado, with the U.S. Forest Service's approval of the project also allowing removing trees to expand glade skiing within its boundaries in six areas.
Aspen Times; 4/24/2015

Defendants in ATV protest ride in Utah all going to trial
Federal prosecutors had offered plea deals to three men who took part in an illegal ATV ride in Utah's Recapture Canyon to protest the Bureau of Land Management's closure of that route, but all three declined the plea deal. San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is also facing the same charge arising out of the incident but was not offered a plea deal. All four will now go to trial on the misdemeanor charges.
Deseret News; 4/23/2015


Montana's federal lawmakers must break the dam on tribal water compacts
Now that the Montana Legislature has approved the state's water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the deal goes to Congress, where it joins other such compacts that have been waiting for congressional approval for years, a situation U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, along with U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, should work diligently to rectify.
Missoulian; 4/21/2015

Wyoming senator must act on information gleaned from reservation hearing
It's unfortunate that Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso was the only member of Congress to attend the field hearing the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held on the Wind River Reservation as the problems the residents of the reservation, and in particular the young people, face day-to-day such as methamphetamine, truancy, and others, deserve federal attention.
Casper Star-Tribune; 4/21/2015

EPA's Superfund designation transformed Utah slag site
On Monday, there was joy in Midvale, when the Utah community celebrated the transformation of the "slag site," into the mixed-use project called Bingham Junction, a transformation that began when the slag site was put on the National Priorities List as Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nearly 30 years ago. While the removal of the Bingham Junction site is certainly one to celebrate, perhaps a better path to follow would be one that would not allow sites to become so toxic they need a Superfund cleanup.
Salt Lake Tribune; 4/24/2015

USFWS's plan for black-footed ferrets in Wyoming a good one
Whenever you can find the federal government and Wyoming on the same page, it's a good day, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to expand protections for private landowners in the Cowboy State who allow black-footed ferrets to be reintroduced on their lands is a good one that deserves to succeed.
Casper Star-Tribune; 4/17/2015

Study does not support keeping Idaho sheep research station open
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research's Sheep Experimental Station in Eastern Idaho was again pulled from the brink of closure by the state's congressional delegation, but a new study that found the research done on the 16,000-acre high-elevation parcel isn't really needed -- or used -- and perhaps Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and his colleagues can look at those acres, which provide an important wildlife corridor, in the same way conservation groups do, and work to find a way to protect the land and move the sheep research elsewhere. A Letters from the West column by Rocky Barker.
Idaho Statesman; 4/21/2015


Blackfeet Nation launches full-court press to retire energy leases in Montana
On Wednesday, members of the Blackfeet Nation held a press conference where they laid out the details of their campaign to retire 18 oil leases on the Badger-Two Medicine, an area of Montana near Glacier National Park that is culturally and spiritually significant to the tribe. The National Congress of American Indians is partnering on the campaign, as is the band Pearl Jam, whose bass player Jeff Ament posted a plea on Facebook. A website has been created to allow the public to join the campaign and billboards will soon pop up around the state to urge the public to press for retirement of the leases.
Flathead Beacon; 4/23/2015


Disgruntled legislators nix Idaho Fish & Game's land purchase
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game planned to use federal funds from the Pittman-Robertson Act, which collects taxes from firearms and ammunition production, to buy the 10,400-acre Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey, currently held by the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy, a deal that needed no state funding but did required legislative approval, and the state Senate approved the deal, but before the House could vote on the measure, the state Fish and Game Commission wrote an op-ed piece critical of the Legislature for trying to set hunting and fishing fees, and the land deal failed to pass the House by one vote.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); 4/22/2015

Montana House sends FWP fee increase to governor
House Bill 140, which increases the cost of hunting licenses for residents and nonresidents by $8 and $5, respectively, and the cost of fishing licenses for residents by $3 and nonresidents by $26, passed the Montana House on Thursday on a 75-23 vote and is now on Gov. Steve Bullock's desk awaiting action.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle; 4/24/2015

Montana governor signs bill to shine light on campaign donations
On Wednesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Montana Disclose Act, which will require groups that spend money on statewide races in the state to disclose their donors.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 4/23/2015


Congress reauthorizes Secure Rural Schools funding for 2 years
All three members of Montana's congressional delegation voted in favor of a bill that would assure the Secure Rural Schools program, which was put in place more than a decade ago to provide funding to counties that lost revenue when federal timber receipts dropped, will continue for the next two years, providing some budgetary certainty to counties like Montana's Lincoln County, which is one of the largest recipients of SRS funds.
Flathead Beacon; 4/21/2015

Montana commission to investigate lobbying complaint on tribal water pact
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices accepted the complaint filed by Jayson Peters, chairman of the Flathead County Republican Central Committee, against the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, public affairs firm Mercury LLC, registered lobbyists Mark Baker and Shelby DeMars, and the pro-compact group Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM), alleging that the groups and individuals violated state law when they did not disclose lobbying efforts to get a bill passed to ratify the settlement of the tribes' water rights with the state and federal government.
Flathead Beacon; 4/19/2015


Wyoming, Utah, Montana all in Top 10 for largest gender-pay gap
The National Partnership for Women and Families recently released a report on data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau that ranked Wyoming second in the nation for the size of the gender gap for worker pay, with women earning 31 cents less for every dollar men earned for the same job; Utah ranked fourth with a 30-cent pay gap; and Montana ranked sixth with a 26-cent pay gap.
Missoulian; 4/19/2015

Utah equity firm give Idaho router maker a $48 million boost

CradlePoint, a mobile wireless-router manufacturer founded in Boise that has tripled the number of its employees in Idaho to 300 in three years, announced it had received a $48 million in capital from investors led by Utah-based Sorenson Capital, and that it will use some of that money to expand its office in London, and look at new locations in the Middle East and South Africa in the short term, with Australia, Asia and Latin America on the map for expansion in the long term.
Idaho Statesman; 4/23/2015

Idaho's jobless rate hits 7-year low in March
Last week, the Idaho Department of Labor reported that the state set a record for jobs by exceeding 757,000 jobs for the first time ever, while statewide unemployment dropped to 3.8 percent.
Twin Falls Times-News (AP); 4/20/2015

Idaho-based Boise Cascade reports 36.7% increase in 1Q profits
In the first quarter of 2015, Boise Cascade reported a 6 percent increase in sales, which translated into a $7.6 million profit for the Idaho-based lumber company.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 4/24/2015

Colorado coal company credits acquisitions for doubling 1Q revenues
Englewood-based Westmoreland Coal Co. reported a $11.7-million loss for the first quarter of this year, but its revenues for that quarter were $371.5 million, more than double the $180.2 million reported in the same quarter of 2014, an increase the company attributed to the purchase of an Ohio coal company and the completion of its deal to buy a Canadian coal company.
Denver Post; 4/24/2015

Montana's statewide unemployment rate drops to 4.1% in March
The 4.1 percent unemployment rate reported in March in Montana, ties the state with Wyoming and Hawaii for the 11th lowest in the nation, with 8,800 new jobs added to the economy in the first quarter of the year.
Flathead Beacon; 4/22/2015

Owner of Dallas Mavericks invests in Idaho-based Melni Connectors
Last Friday's broadcast of ABC's "Shark Tank" revealed that Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, would invest $500,000 at 12 percent interest in Idaho-based Melni Connectors," to help market its Melni Splice Connector.
Twin Falls Times-News; 4/19/2015

Colorado-based SurveyGizmo to open office in London
SurveyGizmo, a Boulder-based company that develops online survey software, employs 70 at its headdquarters in Colorado, is opening an office in London, since more than 42 percent of its users live outside the United States.
Denver Post; 4/19/2015

Lightning strike sparks fire at Colorado wastewater injection site
A lightning strike Friday afternoon at a wastewater injection site near the Greeley/Weld County Airport in Colorado set off a series of explosions and a fire, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage.
Greeley Tribune; 4/20/2015

Beyond the region

USGS releases maps where energy operations, earthquakes intersect
On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released its first complete assessment of 17 areas in the United States where energy operations have been linked to an increase in seismic activity, with Oklahoma identified as the hardest hit. There are a couple of areas in Colorado, one near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the other on the state's border with New Mexico.
New York Times; 4/24/2015

Oklahoma acknowledges link between earthquakes, injection wells
On Tuesday, Oklahoma's energy and environment cabinet rolled out a website with a map detailing the location of injection wells used to dispose of discharge water from oil and gas drilling operations and the location of earthquakes, and the state-run Oklahoma Geological Survey issued a statement that it "considers it very likely" that those discharge water wells are causing most of the earthquakes.
New York Times; 4/22/2015

Texas study links swarm of earthquakes to wastewater injection
Between November 2013 and January 2014, scientists from Southern Methodist University and the U.S. Geological Survey monitored an area of Texas that had no seismic activity for 150 years, but was hit with a swarm of 27 magnitude 2 or greater earthquakes in the 84-day study period, and scientists noted that earthquakes picked up when discharge water from natural gas drilling operations was reinjected back into the ground.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 4/22/2015

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T he hot rock in the newly discovered, deeper magma reservoir would fill the 1,000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon 11.2 times, while the previously known magma chamber would fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux reviews three books that deal with water in the West


Mountain West Perspectives
Montana's two-year colleges revamp education to meet changing workplace demands


A Look Ahead
April 29-30: Asia-Montana Energy Summit, University of Montana, Missoula

Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana