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Week in Review

Top stories from Sept. 15 thru Sept. 19:

In News to Track, the focus is on Western water.

The Utah Foundation released its report, "Flowing Toward 2050: Utah's Water Outlook" this week that detailed the challenges facing the arid state, given its growing population.  One of the primary recommendations the Foundation makes in its report is that the state raise the rates people and businesses pay for water to encourage conservation.

In Montana, the state Department of Natural Resources has spent the last 18 months holding basin-based meetings on water, and released its draft statewide management plan that the agency plans to have in final form by December to submit to the 2015 Legislature.  Public comment will be taken on the report through Oct. 26 and public meetings on the plan are scheduled in those basins around the state from the end of September through mid-October.

And in Colorado, where water roundtables have been working in that state's eight river basins, a draft report is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with draft legislation due that Legislature for next year's session.

Mountain West Perspective

Fifty years after the Wilderness Act became law, it's time for new Wilderness
Sept. 10, 2014

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews "Stuff Matters" and "Unruly Places"
Sept. 4, 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.

This week Clay Scott talks with poet Tyler Knott Gregson - an unlikely success story from Helena, Mont.

Gregson typed his first poem off the top of his head, standing up, on an old typewriter in a junk store. Three years and 900 poems later, he has a following of several hundred thousand people around the world.

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

Montana releases draft statewide water management plan
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation released a draft, statewide plan that will guide water management over the next 20 years, and will take public comment on the plan through Oct. 26. Public meetings are scheduled in towns in each of the state's river basins.
Great Falls Tribune; 9/19/2014

Colorado struggles to wring out new water management policy
Representatives of the eight water basins in Colorado are working to have a draft plan of the state's water plan done by the end of the year, and legislators are working on draft legislation that would help agricultural land from drying up while accommodating population growth and meeting downstream requirements of Colorado River water users.
Durango Herald; 9/16/2014

Report recommends Utahns should pay more for water
The Utah Foundation released its report, "Flowing Toward 2050: Utah's Water Outlook" on Wednesday that said population growth over the next 35 years will surpass the state's current water supplies by the late 2030s, that smaller water companies in the state may have to begin rationing water by 2020, and the report recommended raising the rates paid by Utahns for water to encourage conservation.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/18/2014


Utah county commissioner, others charged for illegal ATV ride in May
On Thursday, acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen filed formal charges against San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and four others who helped organize and promote an illegal ATV ride through Utah's Recapture Canyon in May.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/18/2014

B.C. teachers' contract approved with 86 percent of the vote
The six-year contract approved Thursday by 86 percent of teachers in British Columbia means school starts Monday for students in the province.
Vancouver Sun; 9/19/2014


Mining company defends work done to stop flow from B.C. tailings pond
After the B.C. Ministry of Environment expressed concerns that Imperial Metals had not done all it could to stop the flow of water and material from the failed Mount Polley tailings pond, the company outlined all it had done and asked the province to provide details on steps that should have been taken but were not.
Vancouver Sun; 9/16/2014

Source of groundwater contamination still a mystery in Wyoming
A couple of recent studies ruled out the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing as the source of groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania and Texas, but a researcher involved in one of the studies said those results can't rule out the drilling method as a source of contamination in Wyoming near Pavillion, which is currently under investigation.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/17/2014

Group effort revitalizes Montana's Sun River, fishery
Over the past 20 years, private landowners along the Sun River, the Fort Shaw and Greenfield irrigation districts, Trout Unlimited and others have worked to improve irrigation systems to allow more water to remain in the Montana river, improve riparian areas to reduce sediment flow into the river, and remove old car bodies from the river, all which have improved the river and the trout that now inhabit it.
Great Falls Tribune; 9/18/2014

Utah group appeals water permit for nuclear plant
HEAL Utah filed an appeal in the Utah Court of Appeals asking that a state court decision issued last November, which granted the developer of a proposed nuclear power plant water rights to Green River water to use for cooling purposes, be overturned, with the appeal charging that Blue Castle Holdings was using the water rights to sell investors on the project and questioning if the volume of water granted to the project can be supported by the river.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/18/2014

USFS's proposed groundwater policy ignites controversy in the West
Public comment is being taken through Oct. 3 on the U.S. Forest Service's proposal to formalize a policy on management of groundwater and its role in watersheds as part of the agency's special use permit process, and the Utah Water Development Commission, the Western Governors' Association, 40 members of the Congressional Western Caucus, the American Farm Bureau and the Western States Water Council have all expressed concern about the policy.
Deseret News; 9/16/2014

Groups petition USFS, NPS to stop slaughter of Yellowstone bison
On Monday, the Buffalo Field Campaign and Friends of Animals filed a petition asking the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service put plans to cull 900 bison from the herds in Yellowstone National Park on hold until genetic testing can be done to ensure viability of the species.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle; 9/16/2014

Scientists propose moving whitebark pines to save the species
Nearly half of all the whitebark pines, trees that thrive in the upper reaches of the Sierra Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada, are dead or dying, victims of a fungus, a voracious beetle, and now climate change, and scientists are proposing using "assisted migration," to move the species to more habitable places.
New York Times; 9/19/2014

Montana FWP to hold off on wolf stamp
Citing a need to address multiple concerns raised by the public, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said a proposal to sell a wolf stamp that would allow non-hunters to support wolf management in the state would be put on hold to give the agency more time to work out the details.
Flathead Beacon; 9/19/2014

Public Lands
Report tracks loss of access to public lands in Montana
The joint report, "Roadblocked and Landlocked," put together by the Montana Wildlife Federation and Public Land/Water Access Association provides a detailed list of locked gates and closed roads that are keeping Montanans out of tens of thousands of acres of public land.
Helena Independent Record; 9/14/2014

Drive to transfer federal lands to western state loses steam
The fervor for states to take over management of federal lands within their borders appears to be cooling, as legislative committees in both Montana and Nevada have backed away from a recommendation that those states pursue such an agenda, and in Utah, where a law is in place requiring the federal government to transfer its lands to the state by the end of this year, the attorney general said there is no plan in place to force such a transfer.
Idaho Statesman; 9/14/2014

Utah governor says federal officials promise no new monuments
Last week, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert met with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and he was assured by her and other top Obama administration officials that the administration will hold off on any national monument designation to allow Congress to work on a comprehensive public lands initiative championed by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/18/2014

BLM's proposed auction of Utah leases draws fire from all sides
The Bureau of Land Management will auction 69 parcels of federal lands in Utah in November, but conservation groups said 27 of those leases lie adjacent to areas vital for recreation and wildlife, while the oil and gas industry and Uintah County are criticizing the agency for withholding parcels they argue should have been included.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/17/2014

Massive King Fire in California showing 'unprecedented' wildfire behavior
Two decades of drought that dried California's landscapes set the stage for the unprecedented wildfire behavior firefighters are experiencing on the firelines of the King and other wildfires burning in the state.
Los Angeles Times; 9/19/2014


Lack of debates in federal races shows disrespect for Montana voters
Montana voters deserve better from the candidates seeking the open U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats, and Republicans Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke, and Democrats Amanda Curtis and John Lewis, should make every effort to schedule additional debates than the one in each race currently scheduled.
Helena Independent Record; 9/18/2014

Challengers in Wyoming gubernatorial race should focus on substance
Debates are a good way to inform voters of candidates' stance on a wide variety of issues, but the candidates who are challenging Gov. Matt Mead this November, Democrat Pete Gosar and independent Don Wills, appear to be focusing on the number of times Mead will debate with them, rather than the more important substance of such meetings.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/18/2014

Idaho can no longer blame the recession for poor funding of education
When it comes to education, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is long on good policy and short on adequate funding, and the state's leadership can no longer hide behind their excuse that the Great Recession has kept state funding for education buried in the basement, which has forced school districts to pass an aggregate of $1 billion in local supplemental levies since 2007 to deal with overcrowded and under-supplied schools.
Twin Falls Times-News; 9/19/2014


Inaugural Blackfeet Indian Summer Games Sept. 25 in Montana
The International Traditional Games Society, founded in 1998 by cultural directors and tribal college presidents from Southern Alberta and Montana, will host the inaugural annual Blackfeet Indian Summer Games on Sept. 25 in Browning, Mont.
Hungry Horse News; 9/18/2014


Utah county commissioners lobby Congress to renew PILT program
County commissioners from Utah joined their counterparts from other states in Washington, D.C. this week to lobby Congress to again fund the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes program which provides revenue to counties with federal lands, which are not subject to local property taxes.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/19/2014

GOP House lawmakers fold logging measure into jobs bill
Washington state U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings' Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, a measure that Montana U.S. Rep. Steve Daines supports and which 18 sportsmen's groups in the state oppose, was resurrected in the House when it and 13 other measures were folded into a jobs package that could be voted upon this week.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle; 9/17/2014

U.S. Senate passes bill to streamline BLM oil, gas permitting process
On a unanimous vote on Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation co-sponsored by Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall that will help the Bureau of Land Management deal with a backlog of oil and gas drilling applications by providing funding for more staff and streamlining the process.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/19/2014

U.S. House panel moves Colorado watershed bill to the full House
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act was approved by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, but both San Juan and La Plata county officials said they were disappointed in amendments offered at the eleventh hour and expressed support for removing those amendments to return the Act to its original language as approved through a consensus process.
Durango Herald; 9/19/2014

Lineup, time changes for Wyoming gubernatorial race debate in Casper
The debate between candidates running for governor in Wyoming hosted by Casper College and the Casper Star-Tribune on Oct. 9 will now include Dee Cozzens, a libertarian, and Don Wills, an independent, as well as Democrat Pete Gosar and Republican incumbent Matt Mead, and the debate will now begin at 6:30 p.m.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/19/2014

Idaho governor gets an "A" from the National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association has endorsed Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in his re-election run, and the group has also given the Republican governor an "A" ranking consistently supporting policies in line with the NRA.
Idaho Statesman; 9/19/2014


Wyoming legislative panel ditches bill to abolish death penalty
The Wyoming Legislature's Judiciary Committee voted Friday to decline to consider state Rep. Keith Gingery's draft bill that would abolish the use of the death penalty in the state, but the panel did advance a draft bill that would allow the state to carry out a death sentence using a firing squad.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/14/2014


EIA: Oil production surges in Wyoming basin
The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports that oil production in Wyoming's Powder River Basin has more than doubled over the past five years.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/16/2014

This year could be worst in years for oil spills in Wyoming
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality began tracking oil spills in the state in 2009, and so far this year, almost 220,000 gallons have been spilled, more than double the 90,000 gallons reported last year, but few were reported to the public in that they occurred in remote areas and didn't affect waterways.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/19/2014

Little effort made to create Colorado marijuana banking cooperative
Despite the international attention Colorado's decision to allow marijuana businesses to create the world's first cooperative banking system, no one has yet filed an application to do so.
Denver Post; 9/15/2014

U.S. Commerce cites Rocky Mountain region as driver in rise of GDP
The U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday that the rise in the nation's GDP in 2013 was driven by metropolitan areas in the Rocky Mountain West, including Greeley, Denver, Salt Lake City, Casper and Billings.
Denver Post; 9/16/2014

Wyoming city ranked 11th in U.S. cities for GDP growth
The U.S. Dept. of Commerce released a report Tuesday that said Greeley, Colo., ranked second in the nation for GDP growth in 2013, Casper, Wyo., ranked 11th, and Billings, Mont., 12th.
Casper Star-Tribune; 9/18/2014

Census Bureau ranks Wyoming, first Utah third in income increases
In a report issued today, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wyoming led the nation with a 5.7 percent increase in median-annual income between 2012 and 2013, Alaska came in second with a 5.3 percent increase, and Utah third with a 3.3 percent increase, all far higher than the 0.6 percent increase nationally.
Salt Lake Tribune; 9/18/2014

Summer business in Colorado mountain town to again outpace winter
Given the high mountain location of Telluride in southwest Colorado, businesses usually rang up their highest sales in the winter, but that changed in 2012, when summer revenues were higher, and then summer outpaced winter again in 2013, and appears to be doing so again.
Denver Post; 9/18/2014

BNSF seeks second railroad bridge in Idaho near Sandpoint
Citing an increase in rail traffic driven by coal, oil and other freight, BNSF is seeking a second bridge in Idaho near Sandpoint, where Lake Pend Oreille meets the Pend Oreille River, and where the current 109-year-old bridge carries a train approximately every half hour.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; 9/17/2014

Lack of success wilts Chevron's search for plant-based fuel source
At a speech in Minnesota on Tuesday, Chevron CEO John Watson said the nation's second-largest oil company's search for a plant-based fuel source has come up empty, an outcome similar to that of Exxon Mobil, which admitted its quest for algae-based fuel may not pay off for another 25 years.
Salt Lake Tribune (Bloomberg News); 9/17/2014

Beyond the region

Corps of Engineers halts review of Oregon coal export terminal
Following Oregon's denial of a key permit needed by Australia-based Ambre Energy for a proposed export terminal to ship Montana and Wyoming coal overseas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has halted its environmental review of the terminal pending the outcome of the appeals of the state's decision.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); 9/16/2014

USDA OKs 2,4-D resistant corn, soybeans
With weeds becoming more resistant to Round-up, farmers have been pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve corn and soybeans genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide known as 2,4-D, and the federal agency has done so, but there is opposition to the approval because of concerns 2,4-D may present to the environment and human health.
New York Times; 9/18/2014

Chevron first company to meet voluntary shale drilling standards
The Center for Sustainable Shale developed voluntary shale gas drilling standards that go beyond state requirements in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and on Thursday, the Pittsburgh-based center announced the Chevron had met those standards at its production sites in those three states.
New York Times (AP); 9/18/2014

Germany takes the lead in revolutionizing the power industry
With nearly 30 percent of all electricity used within its borders coming from renewable resources, Germany leads the industrial nations in such use, and how that nation decides to rework its power grid will be closely watched as some experts believe that the electricity industry is poised to go through a transition similar to those undergone lately by the airlines, telecommunications and music industries.
New York Times; 9/14/2014

Colville Tribes want national forests in Washington state to reduce fire risk
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation invoked the 2004 Tribal Forest Protection Act, which allows tribes to contract for forest restoration work on nearby federal forest lands, in their request to the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests to reduce the wildfire risk on those lands.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; 9/15/2014

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I ’d like to do that to the federal government. 'Hey, if you guys don’t pay your taxes for five years, then it becomes the county’s and we’ll decide what to do with it.'"

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux reviews "Stuff Matters" and "Unruly Places"


Mountain West Perspectives
Fifty years after the Wilderness Act became law, it's time again for Capital W Wilderness


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