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Week in Review

Top stories from Oct. 20 thru Oct. 24:

In News to track, we'll be following the National Park Service's investigation into a New York artist's travels through western parks where she left more than her tracks behind and posted selfies and other photographic evidence of her work online.

The Park Service has found evidence of Casey Nocket's work in Utah's Zion and Canyonlands parks, Zion and Canyonlands parks, Yosemite and Death Valley national parks in California and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, and is waiting for confirmation of vandalism in Grand Canyon, Sequoia Kings, Joshua Tree and Bryce national parks.

In other stories which we've been tracking for awhile, Vail Ski Area is the first in the nation to get U.S. Forest Service approval for a major project under the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, clearing the way for the Colorado resort's $25 million project that will add new trails, ziplines and a mountain coaster at the resort.

Five men, including San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who were charged with conspiracy and illegally operating motorized vehicles in in Utah's Recapture Canyon back in May, all entered not guilty pleas to those charges and a trial has been set in December.

And finally, the clash between marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington state and federal banking laws was again in the news.  On Wednesday, the South Dakota-based Meta Bank pulled the plug on hundreds of ATMs at marijuana businesses in those states where marijuana use is now legal. 

Mountain West Perspective

Montana releases draft statewide water management plan
Oct. 16, 2014

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux provides a preview of titles from HumanitiesMontana's 15th Festival of the Book
Oct. 1, 2014

Mountain West Voices

We invite readers to listen to Mountain West Voices, a radio program that profiles an individual or community in the Rocky Mountain West, introducing listeners to the compelling stories that are part of the human landscape of our region.

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

Sunday's program is the second installment of the story of Joyce Vashro, an Englishwoman who married a U.S. serviceman and came to Montana 70 years ago.

She and her baby embarked on the Queen Mary with 2800 other war brides. Like them, she says she hardly knew the husband she was rejoining, and had no idea what awaited her in Montana.

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

News to track

National Park Service tracking artist's vandalism in western parks
The New York artist who created "Creepy-tings" was turned in by others who saw her postings of her work painted on recognizable landscapes in 10 western parks, including a large painting at Oregon's Crater Lake National Park and others in Zion and Canyonlands parks in Utah, and the National Park Service is investigating those incidents, which the artist defends as creating art and federal officials charge are vandalism.
Denver Post; 10/24/2014

S.D. bank pulls plug on hundreds of ATMs in pot shops in Colo., Wash.
Following up on its warning issued in January that ATMs in legal marijuana shops in Colorado and Washington state violated federal banking laws, South Dakota-based Meta Bank pulled the plug on hundreds of those machines in such locations in those two states.
Denver Post; 10/24/2014

USFS approves Colorado ski resorts $25M plan for summer attractions
The U.S. Forest Service's approval of Vail Ski Area's plan to add $25-million in summer attractions to the Colorado ski area that includes ziplines, a mountain coaster, more trails and other amenities, is the first large-scale proposal under the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act.
Denver Post; 10/21/2014

All 5 charged with illegal ATV ride in Utah plead not guilty
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and four other men charged with conspiracy and illegally operating all-terrain vehicles on a closed trail in Utah's Recapture Canyon in May entered not-guilty pleas at their initial court appearance on Friday, with a two-day trial set on Dec. 22.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/18/2014


Study of emissions in Utah's Uintah Basin finds slate of chemicals
The Uintah Basin in Eastern Utah has more than 10,000 oil and gas wells, with another 1,000 being added annually, and a study led by Carsten Warneke, a University of Colorado researcher, who wrote the report on the study which tracked ground-level emissions from oil and gas operations found high levels of methanol, methane, nitrogen dioxide, benzene and toluene.
Denver Post; 10/23/2014

Grand County joins 6 other Utah counties on energy push
After a heated Grand County Council meeting Tuesday night before an overflow crowd, the Utah county's council voted 6-1 to join the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition to work together for highway improvements to accommodate energy development in Eastern Utah, a move residents from Moab and Castle Valley resisted over concerns about how such energy development will affect their tourism-based economies.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/23/2014

Texas brothers expand their Montana land holdings
Farris and Dan Wilks, who now own 341,845 acres in Montana, primarily in the area of the state where Fergus, Musselshell and Golden Valley counties join, have moved up to 22nd in the nation for private land ownership, and after the Texas brothers' proposal for a land swap with the Bureau of Land Management near Lewistown was rejected, they proceeded to build a fence around the BLM's Durfee Hills, and the BLM plans to survey the location of the fence to ensure it's on the property boundary.
Missoulian (Billings Gazette); 10/24/2014

Federal appeals court upholds western states' regional haze reduction plan

Utah Department of Environmental Quality officials applauded the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued this week that found the efforts of Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico to monitor reductions in levels of sulfur dioxide pollutants from eight coal-fired power plants had been sufficiently reviewed, despite objections from a coalition of environmental groups.
Deseret News; 10/24/2014

Housing options for seasonal workers in W. Wyoming shrink
Dargui Work and Travel, which works with J-1 visa students from Peru who come to Jackson to work seasonally, was told by the owners of the Pony Express Motel that the Wyoming motel would no longer rent rooms to "temporary J-1 or other Visa employees," citing damage done by previous such employees.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 10/22/2014

L.A. developers plan to build on success in Idaho's Capital City
Local Construct, Mike Brown and Casey Lynch's business that has nearly completed the transformation of the Owyhee Hotel in Boise's Downtown into 36 high-end, market-rate apartments, 31 of which have been leased, the company is now turning its attention to a lot in the Idaho city's Central Addition neighborhood, where the plan is to build a seven-story, 160-unit complex that would have work, commercial and living space, as well as parking on the first two levels.
Idaho Statesman; 10/22/2014


Selenium pollution in B.C. watershed a long-ignored problem
Coal mines have been the source of selenium in British Columbia's Elk Valley since the 19th Century, but the discharge of selenium-laden waters has increased significantly over the past 40 years when open-pit mining began, and a report from Dennis Lemly, a research associate professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, warns that selenium pollution in the B.C. watershed may be nearing a tipping point.
Toronto Globe and Mail; 10/21/2014

Utah real estate agent faces charges for selling waterless lots
A real estate agent who is facing criminal charges for selling lots in a subdivision in Saratoga Springs said that the Utah city and the previous developer failed to disclose the tangled development deal that left the subdivision waterless -- and the city's records on the status of water incomplete.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/19/2014

Montana DEQ faces lawsuit over discharge permit for defunct paper mill
The Missoula City-County Health Board, the Missoula Valley Water Quality District, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Clark Fork Coalition have filed a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for transferring the discharge permit from the shuttered Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. pulp and paper operation to M2Green, the new owner of 3,200-acre parcel on the Clark Fork River, instead of cancelling that permit and requiring M2 to apply for a new discharge permit.
Missoulian; 10/23/2014

New report: Loophole allows list of petroleum products used in 'fracturing'
The Environmental Integrity Project's August 2014 report that found that companies are still using diesel in hydraulic fracturing operations despite a ban on such use has been followed up with a new report released this week that found companies are taking advantage of a loophole in the Clean Water Act that allows them to use fracking fluid additives that contain more benzene than diesel fuel.; 10/24/2014

Montana, tribes continue Flathead Basin water talks
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are working again with Montana and federal officials to hammer out a settlement of the tribes' historic water rights in the Flathead Basin, with the recent round of negotiations focusing on management of irrigation water rights on and off the Flathead Reservation.
Flathead Beacon; 10/20/2014

In less than two decades, Idaho tribe brings back 'extinct' coho salmon
When coho salmon runs blinked out in Idaho between 1991 and 1996, the Nez Perce Tribe decided to start a hatchery program using eggs from hatcheries in the lower Columbia River Basin, against the wishes of state officials, but over the past couple of decades, the coho salmon runs have steadily increased -- and this year a record 15,000 adults made it past Lower Granite Dam, allowing the state to open a sport fishing season for the fish.
Idaho Statesman; 10/18/2014

Utah hunters kill 7,041 coyotes this year
When Utah state Sen. Ralph Okerlund sponsored the Mule Deer Preservation Act during the 2012 Legislature, he and other legislators estimated that bounty hunters would kill 20,000 coyotes each of the three years the $50-per-coyote bounty was in place, but just 7,161 were killed in 2013, and this year 7,041 were killed, although 4 percent more hunters this year claimed bounties than last year; and state wildlife officials said deer populations were on the rise, due in part to the predator reduction.
Salt Lake Tribune; 10/21/2014

Federal agency killed 2,773 coyotes in Idaho in 2013
Most of the coyotes killed by Idaho Wildlife Services in Blaine County were killed in the southern portion of that county, and at the request of livestock producers, but at least one sheep producer said that they do not kill coyotes themselves nor do they request federal agents to do so, as removal of the predators spark a reproductive response in the species.
Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley); 10/22/2014

Chronic-wasting disease found in new hunting areas in Wyoming
Wyoming Fish and Game officials said chronic-wasting disease, which is always fatal to elk, deer, was found in mule deer in hunt areas 84 and 36, districts that border other districts where the disease had previously been found.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 10/22/2014

Third lawsuit filed against USFWS over wolverine decision
Thirteen advocacy groups and an ecologist filed a federal lawsuit in Montana against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its decision issued in August to not provide federal protection for wolverines, the third such lawsuit filed over that decision.
Missoulian (AP); 10/21/2014

Public Lands
Compromise land-use deal struck in Utah touted as template for the nation
On Wednesday, representatives from Daggett County, and from environmental and conservation groups, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Trout Unlimited, announced an agreement in a longstanding land-use dispute in the Utah county that would designate 80,000 acres as wilderness and put conservation protections on an additional 30,000 acres, as well as designate a stretch of the Green River as wild and scenic, with the agreement to become part of U.S. Rep. Bishop's public lands initiative he intends to introduce in January.
Deseret News; 10/23/2014

Report: 94 percent of BLM land in Colorado open for energy development
The Wilderness Society analyzed Bureau of Land Management resource management plans for western U.S. states, and found that, in Colorado, 94 percent of BLM lands were open for oil and gas development, and that 36 million acres of BLM lands in the West were leased for oil and gas production; that just 12.5 million acres of those lands were actually in production, and that thousands of drilling permits issued remain unused. You can read the report here.
Durango Herald; 10/21/2014

Idaho congressman to try again on Boulder-White Clouds bill
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson has introduced legislation to protect 300,000 acres of the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Central Idaho for more than a decade, and when the congressman met with Sally Jewell last week when she visited Idaho, he asked for a few more months to get the current iteration of the bill through Congress.
Idaho Statesman; 10/19/2014

AM Idaho purchases energy leases on 600 acres in Cassius County
Although much is unknown about oil and natural gas resources in Idaho's Cassius County, mineral leases on 600 acres of state lands within that county were among the 5,269 acres on which the Idaho Department of State Lands sold 10-year leases, with AM Idaho, the state's largest natural gas developer, the successful bidder.
Twin Falls Times-News; 10/23/2014

Yellowstone to Yukon quietly celebrates decades of success
The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a network of ecologists interested in ensuring corridors of land from Wyoming north to the Yukon to allow species to move freely on the landscape, began in 1993, and the group's efforts have helped enlarge the area protected, either as national parks, refuges or other conservation pacts, from 36 million acres to 66.6 million acres under public protection, with another 100.3 million acres protected by conservation agreements.
Missoulian; 10/21/2014


Elk hunt in Grand Teton NP should become a thing of the past
For most of the year, elk that roam Grand Teton National Park are protected from harassment, except during hunting season, a hunt the National Park Service said is necessary to keep elk numbers in Wyoming in check, yet sister agencies under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Interior spend millions of taxpayer dollars across an invisible border feeding elk at the National Elk Refuge, which those agencies say is necessary to keep elk numbers healthy. A column by Todd Wilkinson.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 10/23/2014


Crow leaders lobby Montana U.S. Rep. Daines to revive Indian Coal Tax
The expiration of the $2-per-ton Indian Coal Production Tax Credit in December of 2013 was immediately felt on the Crow Reservation in Montana, tribal leaders told Montana U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and Kansas U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran on Wednesday, with the tribe seeing a $3 million reduction in tax revenue, and tribal leaders pressed them to make the tax credit permanent.
Missoulian (Billings Gazette); 10/24/2014


Lots of 'green' being spent in U.S. Senate race in 'purple' Colorado
Colorado's population has become much more diverse over the past 25 years, and the politics much more complex, in this year's U.S. Senate race that pits Democratic incumbent Mark Udall against Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, both candidates are spending millions of dollars in their campaigns.
New York Times; 10/24/2014


Denver equity firm bets big on short-line railroads
OmniTrax, the short-line railroad company owned by the Denver-based private equity firm, Broe Group, has been on a buying spree of sorts lately, adding short-line railroads in Oklahoma and Texas, bringing the total of its holdings to 19 railroads in 10 states and Canada.
Denver Post; 10/20/2014

Grand opening held Tuesday at Wyoming oil-loading terminal
Granite Peak Development's $60-million Casper Crude to Rail facility has been online for weeks now, and is just one of several oil-loading terminals in Wyoming, but the Casper facility differs from the others in that it primarily serves the Express Pipeline that runs from Canada south to Wyoming where it connects with the Platte Pipeline in Casper on its way to Illinois.
Casper Star-Tribune; 10/22/2014

Colorado hears Utah's hoofbeats in economic race
The neighboring states of Colorado and Utah have always engaged in competition for jobs, corporate locations and even skiers, but five years ago, the Beehive State began making gains on the Centennial State, and Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., said that Utah bests Colorado in 26 of 59 categories his group monitors, with Utah clearly leading in job growth.
Denver Post; 10/20/2014

Smith Optics to pull operations out of Idaho

Italian eyewear corporation Safilo Group, the parent company of Smith Optics, is in the process of reworking its global operations, which includes moving Smith Optics employees out of Ketchum, with the 35 employees who work in the design division in Idaho moving to Portland, Ore., early next year; with the remaining 60 employees being offered jobs in Clearfield, Utah, or Parsippany, N.J., with plans to have all divisions dispersed by 2018.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 10/22/2014

Taseko seeks costs, lawsuit on Canada's rejection of B.C. gold, copper mine
A week before the judicial review of the federal environment minister's rejection of Taseko's proposed New Prosperity Mine in British Columbia begins, the lawyer for the company asked a Federal Court to allow a trial on the rejection of the mine and to allow the company to recoup the $130 million it has spent thus far on the process.
Vancouver Sun; 10/23/2014

Colorado's jobless rate drops to 4.7 percent in September
Private employers in Colorado added 14,700 jobs in September, and government jobs decreased by 100, but the state's jobless rate fell from 5.1 percent in August to 4.7 percent last month, a rate not seen in the state since June 2008.
Denver Post; 10/21/2014

Montana's unemployment rate dips to 4.6% in September
The jobless rate in northwest counties in Montana followed the state's unemployment rate down in September with Flathead County reporting a 4.8 percent jobless rate; Lincoln County, 8.7 percent; Lake County, 5.3 percent; and Glacier County, 8.4 percent. You can see a full county-by-county listing of unemployment rates here.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 10/22/2014

Idaho-based Boise Cascade reports 104% increase in profits
For the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Boise Cascade Co. reported $983.3 million in sales and $32.3 million in profits, both of which are increases from the previous quarter and for the same quarter in 2013, with wood product sales seeing the highest increase.
Idaho Statesman; 10/24/2014

Beyond the region

Four companies add solar-power discounts to employee benefits

Under a deal announced Tuesday, employees at National Geographic, 3M, Kimberly Clark and Cisco Systems will have access to discounts on solar systems for their homes.
New York Times; 10/23/2014

Microbeads from beauty products, toothpaste building up in rivers
Researchers first sounded the call of alarm on microbeads contained in facial cleansers and tooth-whitening toothpaste when the microscopic beads were discovered in the Great Lakes -- and in fish in those lakes -- and now the tiny plastic particles have been found in the St. Lawrence river, prompting a request that consumers not buy products containing the tiny beads, which dentists said don't help whiten your teeth anyway.
Durango Herald (Washington Post); 10/23/2014

Canada threatens tariffs after WTO panel ruling on U.S. food labels
For the third time in five years, a World Trade Organization panel has sided with Canada on its opposition to the United States' country-of-origin food labeling process, prompting Canadian officials to warn that the country may impose tariffs on a slate of iconic U.S. foods, including California wines, Vermont maple syrup and Florida orange juice.
Toronto Globe and Mail; 10/21/2014

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"N ational parks exist to preserve and protect our nation's natural, cultural and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law, and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides a preview of titles from HumanitiesMontana 15th Festival of the Book


Mountain West Perspectives
Montana releases draft statewide water management plan


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