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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, coal mining again emerges as a threat to the Flathead River in B.C. and Montana, and new developments on caribou in Idaho and wolves in Wyoming are in the news.

A deal signed nearly two years ago between British Columbia and Montana to ban energy development in the headwaters of the Flathead River and near Rocky Mountain National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the United States doesn't extend to federal coal tracts located just north of the protected acres in B.C., and now there are concerns that those tracts could be developed, putting the environmental protection of the area in jeopardy.

In Idaho, public outcry over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to protect 350,000 acres in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington state as critical habitat for a small herd of woodland caribou prompted the federal agency to revise its proposal to protect just 30,000 acres in Idaho's Boundary County and Washington's Pend Oreille County.

And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a second lawsuit over its decision to delist wolves in Wyoming and turn management of the species over to the state, with this lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver.

An earlier lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., and the wildlife agency has asked that that case be transferred to Wyoming.

Montana Public Radio will broadcast Mountain West Voices tonight at 8:25, and this week Clay Scott visits with Susan Sanford, whose father pushed her to leave the family's isolated farm in north-central Montana so she could experience the world.

After her father's death, Susan and her husband Brian returned to the farm, and, though the place is so remote that the nearest store is a five-hour round trip, they have discovered beauty in small things.

If you miss the broadcast at 8:25 p.m. on Montana Public Radio, you can listen online via the Mountain West Voices' website.

Rockies today

Coal tracts in B.C. a concern in transborder deal to protect Flathead River
British Columbia and Montana signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011 to protect 400,000 acres in the province and state from energy development, but federal coal tracts on the northern edge of the area protected in B.C. are not covered by that agreement, and recent postings indicate that there may be some interest in developing those tracts.
Missoulian; Nov. 28

Alabama senator: Sportsmen's bill exceeded spending limits
The failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the Sportsmen's Act of 2012, sponsored by Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, came as a surprise to many who believed the measures contained in the bill enjoyed wide-ranging public support, but Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said the bill exceeded spending limits passed by the Senate in 2011 to address federal debt, and for that reason alone, the bill failed.
Great Falls Tribune (Gannett); Nov. 28

USFWS scales back proposed critical habitat for caribou in Idaho, Wash.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday its proposal to protect 30,100 acres in Idaho's Boundary County and Washington's Pend Oreille County as critical habitat for a small herd of rare woodland caribou, a considerable reduction from the more than 375,000 acres originally proposed.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Nov. 28

Another federal lawsuit is filed on USFWS's decision on Wyoming wolves
A second coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove wolves in Wyoming from federal protection, allowing the state to manage the species, although this lawsuit is filed in federal court in Denver, while the first lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Nov. 28

Groups say Wyoming's law on hydraulic fracturing could be better
Wyoming's law on hydraulic fracturing led the way in the nation, with at least 14 states using the Cowboy State's rule as a template for their regulations, but under the Wyoming law, companies can shield information about chemicals used in the process, and the Powder River Basin Resource Council believes the state should require more disclosure about the chemicals used, while the Natural Resource Defense Council believes the state could do a better job of enforcing its regulations.
Casper Star-Tribune; Nov. 28

Idaho Power asks IPUC to cancel biogas contracts with Exergy
Despite assurances three months ago from Boise-based Exergy Development Group that its two biogas-to-power projects at dairies near Twin Falls were on schedule, Idaho Power has filed documents with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission asking that it be allowed to cancel its contracts to buy power from those projects because they have missed or will miss deadlines to deliver promised power.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Nov. 28

Denver gets kudos for keeping costs, permits time down on solar projects
On Tuesday, Denver was named Colorado's first "Solar Friendly Community," because of the city's $50 fee for rooftop solar-power installations and for the quick, 15-minute turnaround time on processing such permits.
Denver Post; Nov. 28

U.S. housing market's recovery an uneven process
Home prices are improving, foreclosures are dropping and sales are up in many Zip Codes across the United States, but in some markets, inventory levels are dropping, which means prices will rise, and in some of the markets where sales were hottest, October sales leveled off.
USA Today; Nov. 28


Montana's decision to put vehicle insurance info online a good one
Beginning the first of next year, all counties in Montana will be required to put vehicle insurance information online, a wise investment in a state where one in 10 drivers are not insured.
Great Falls Tribune; Nov. 28

Beyond the region

EPA puts future federal contracts with BP on hold
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that British oil company BP and its affiliates will not be eligible to get new federal contracts until the company can prove it can meet federal business standards.
Denver Post; Nov. 28

Tulsa company cancels plans to build N.D.-Oklahoma oil pipeline
Oneok Partners LP announced Tuesday that the company was unable to come up with enough commitments from oil producers to justify the building of the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline designed to carry North Dakota crude to refineries in Cushing, Okla.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Nov. 28

Effect of North Dakota oil development on wildlife focus of meeting
At a meeting Tuesday in Bismarck between oil industry representatives and members of wildlife and conservation groups, an oil industry official said lack of pipelines forced producers to ship oil by rail and heavy trucks, creating a more adverse effect on wildlife in North Dakota, but wildlife officials said the sheer magnitude of oil development in western North Dakota makes it impossible for wildlife to escape unaffected.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Nov. 28

Lawmakers from U.S. West Coast states ask for probe on gas prices
Democratic U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, have asked the Justice Department to investigate why gas prices spiked in May and October when crude prices were falling, and to determine if refineries had a role in the price volatility.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); Nov. 28

Drought, higher temperatures reduce levels in all Great Lakes
Towns along the Great Lakes are dealing with expanding shorelines as water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron have fallen to near-record lows, and below historical averages on the other three lakes in the world's biggest freshwater system of lakes.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); Nov. 28

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
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