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North Face Of Granite Peak
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, as Congress considers legislation to remove endangered species protection for wolves in Wyoming and three Midwest states, wildlife groups petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lower the Endangered Species listing for wolves in the lower 48 states from "endangered" to "threatened."

Also in Wyoming, the Bridger-Teton National Forest approved a special-use permit for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's elk feedground at Alkali Creek, despite the acting supervisor's concerns that the feedgrounds could allow the spread of chronic wasting disease.

In Idaho, a package of regulations on the state's oil and gas industry were approved by the state House on Tuesday and will be heard in the Senate today.

Rockies today

Wildlife groups seek 'threatened' status for wolves
Wyoming U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis has joined with representatives from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota on legislation that would remove federal protection for wolves in those states and allow hunting once again, a move that wildlife groups hope to stave off by petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify the wolf in the Lower 48 states as "threatened," which is less protective than the endangered listing.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); Jan. 28

Bridger-Teton NF approves Wyoming's permit for elk feedground
Acting Bridger-Teton supervisor Kathryn Conant issued a final decision last week approving a special permit for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to operate the Alkali Creek Feedground, which has been under consideration since 2007. The first draft decision was issued in 2013, and 450 individuals, groups or agencies commented. A provision of the final decision requires review of all eight elk feedgrounds every five years.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; Jan. 28

Groups weigh in on Idaho U.S. Rep. Simpson's wilderness bill
As Idaho U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced legislation last week to prevent presidents from using powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate areas national monuments, their colleague in the House, Rep. Mike Simpson introduced a new version of his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act that would create three new wilderness areas in the state, protecting an area that some in Idaho have been pressing President Obama to designate a national monument, which The Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and the Wood River Bicycle Coalition still prefer.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); Jan. 28

Wyoming coal mine's record year couldn't pull Peabody out of the red
As cheaper natural gas continued to erode coal's market share and an international glut of coal continued to pull prices down in 2014, most coal companies' bottom lines were awash in red ink, including Peabody Energy, despite its New Rochelle Mine in Wyoming having a record production year. Peabody, the world's largest private coal company, reported a $787 million loss for last year.
Casper Star-Tribune; Jan. 28

Natural events provide look into Alberta's hotter, drier future
A paper published in Nature presented the findings of an experiment in the northern reaches of Alberta's boreal forest, where in 1983, thousands of square miles of fen, a type of peatland, were partially drained to create more forestlands. The area burned in 2001, affecting both the drained and undrained portion, and in the intervening years, the undrained portion recovered nicely, but in the drained portion, the water table dropped, as did the water-storing capacity of the land and the vegetation. The researchers said that the drained portion of the fen provides a glimpse into the future as Alberta becomes drier, the vegetation changes and wildfires increase due to climate change.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); Jan. 28

Idaho Senate panel gets package of energy regulations from House committee
On Tuesday, the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee approved a package of more than 20 regulations for the state's nascent oil and gas industry, and today, the Senate Resources and Environment Committee will take up the package of regulations, which includes one that requires owners of 55 percent of mineral interests in any one given area approve the process known as integration before drilling can begin.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Jan. 28

Utah County's rezoning of 'critical environment' angers Alpine mayor
Residents of Utah County and the mayor of Alpine are working together to block the decision of the Utah County Commission to rezone 100 acres of undeveloped land in the Alpine foothills from "critical environment," which limits development to just two homes, to allow housing on 20 acres and putting the remainder under a similar critical environment designation. The newly formed group, We Decide Utah, has until Friday to collect the 20,000 signatures to put the rezoning decision to a public vote.
Salt Lake Tribune; Jan. 28

Another Arizona firm invests heavily in Colorado's solar power
Community solar gardens, where businesses, homeowners and nonprofits can buy shares of solar-power generation projects, are a hot ticket in the solar power industry, with the Solar Electric Power Association recently reporting that the number of such projects has increased by 64 percent in the past year and a half, and two recent deals involving Arizona-based firms investing in Colorado solar gardens underscore the interest, with Denver-based SunShare getting a $25 million investment from Scottsdale-based NRG Renew for five installations along the Front Range.
Denver Post; Jan. 28

Montana legislators have some hard questions for DEQ personnel
On the first day of a four-day hearing on the Montana Department of Environmental Quality's $62 million annual budget, members of the Natural Resources Appropriations subcommittee heard from DEQ Director Tom Livers, who admitted that some of the some of the recommendations on inspections of pipelines made following the 2011 spill into the Yellowstone River weren't implemented.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle; Jan. 28


Aspen to let federal permit for Colorado hydropower project expire
The Aspen City Council voted Tuesday to allow the second permit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had approved for the Castle Creek Energy Center, a 1,175-kilowatt hydropower plant on lower Castle Creek to expire.
Aspen Times; Jan. 28


Delay of release of information on Montana oil spill is inexcusable
Unfortunately Montana is getting experience on large oil spills, but it appears that any lessons learned in the 2011 spill into the Yellowstone River didn't take, as the information from pipeline company, local and state officials on the Jan. 17 pipeline breach that spilled oil into the Yellowstone River didn't reach many of the residents of Glendive until after they noticed that their drinking water smelled of oil.
Missoulian; Jan. 28

Wyoming forest's elk feedground decision historic
The decision of acting supervisor Kathryn J. Conant to approve the special-use permit for Wyoming Game and Fish to operate the Alkali Creek Feedground is historic in that it's the first decision by a senior public land manager that acknowledges that the elk feedgrounds are likely to make any outbreak of chronic wasting disease worse. A column by Todd Wilkinson.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; Jan. 28

U.S. Rep. Simpson's wilderness bill finally gets Sen. Jim Risch's support
Kudos to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson for not giving up on his yearslong effort to protect the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Central Idaho and for again revamping the legislation to do just that, and Sen. Jim Risch deserves a hand as well for coming around and finally supporting Simpson's legislation, which is far more beneficial to Idaho than a presidential declaration of the area as a national monument would be.
Twin Falls Times-News; Jan. 28

Beyond the region

Oregon wolf numbers hit threshold for state delisting
The latest wolf census conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that there are at least seven breeding pairs in the state, which will trigger a delisting review by the state as it set a threshold of four breeding pairs for delisting.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Jan. 28

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I 'm not comfortable with people bringing guns into school zones. ... The common argument is, 'well the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.' The problem is, we may also have a lot of inattentive and clumsy people with guns, and I'm not sure what we do about that."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux reviews S.M. Hulse's "Black River"


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


A Look Ahead
April 1-May 1: Water in the American West, a free, online college level course, offered by The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado. Register now.

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

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The University of Montana