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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Monday, Dec. 17, 2012
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, the EPA's new standard on soot, wild horses and mountain lions are in the news.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a new standard on fine particulate pollution that lowers the allowable limit by 20 percent, a move that Utah state officials said won't matter much in the Beehive State as it already meets that standard.

But Utah's U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, along with four other senators, took issue with the new standard in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that said the new standard will have a chilling effect on business.

The Bureau of Land Management is struggling about what to do with an ever-increasing number of wild horses, both on and off the range.

The drought of 2012 has not only dried up forage on federal rangelands, limiting the carrying capacity of those lands, but it has also withered interest in adopting the mustangs as a decrease in hay production has sent prices spiraling upward. With nearly 50,000 wild horses corralled in holding facilities and the need to round up another 11,000 that are currently running wild, the agency has reached its tipping point with no clear solution.

And in Montana, where the state has been studying elk in the Bitterroot Valley, the role mountain lions have played in reducing elk numbers in that valley has prompted a new study of the large cats as well.

Rockies today

U.S. is running out of options for wild horse management
There are currently 50,000 wild horses corralled in holding facilities in the United States, and with an estimated 11,000 more roaming the range beyond what those wild lands are capable of supporting, the U.S. policy on wild horses has reached a tipping point.
New York Times; Dec. 15

Utah's U.S. senators, state officials have different takes on EPA soot law
The Environmental Protection Agency's announcement Friday that it would drop the agency's fine particulate standard by 20 percent earned swift condemnation from Utah U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, but state officials said the new regulation wouldn't have much of an impact in the state because it's already meeting the lower threshold.
Salt Lake Tribune; Dec. 15

Montana turns its focus to mountain lions in Bitterroot study
At midpoint of a three-year study of elk in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists were surprised to learn the role mountain lions have played in elk deaths, and they have begun a yearlong study of the big cats in the valley to learn more about that population.
Ravalli Republic; Dec. 17

Alberta ski area's summer plans puts visitors, grizzlies on the same paths
Parks Canada's proposed summer use plan for Mount Norquay in Alberta would ferry visitors by chairlift to Cliff House, an area where grizzly bears often graze in the summer.
Calgary Herald; Dec. 17

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Idaho, Washington ports
To deal with sedimentation buildup, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to dredge the shipping channel of the lower Snake and Clearwater rivers, as well as the Port of Lewiston in Idaho and Washington state's Clarkson port.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Dec. 17

Bakken Oil money flows into Montana businesses
While oil production in Montana from the Bakken formation hasn't yet really ramped up, the effect of increased production in North Dakota is bleeding over the border, with private jet traffic up at the Billings International Airport and business is booming at Billings jewelry stores and auto dealerships.
Billings Gazette; Dec. 16

Colorado task force on marijuana legalization meets today
Colorado's Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force will meet for the first time today to begin work on crafting regulations needed to regulate the state's legalized marijuana industry.
Denver Post; Dec. 17

Pipeline planned to carry gas by-products from Colorado to Texas
Three companies are teaming up to build a 345-mile pipeline to carry natural gas liquids from northern Colorado to Texas, with plans to begin construction by the second quarter of 2013.
Colorado Springs Gazette; Dec. 16


Keeping collared wolves alive helps Montana collect info, save money
After several wolves collared by researchers in Yellowstone National Park were killed by hunters outside the park, Montana closed some hunting districts near the park to hunting and trapping, and hunters could help by taking care not to shoot collared wolves.
Helena Independent Record; Dec. 16

USDA using wrong test for determining if Wyoming trapper should be fired
After Jamie Olson, a trapper with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Wyoming, posted pictures of his dogs harassing trapped coyotes, the federal agency promised an investigation which appears to be focusing on whether Olson was working at the time his dogs were allowed to attack the trapped coyotes, but the issue here isn't whether Olson was on the clock, but his unethical approach to trapping.
Casper Star-Tribune; Dec. 16

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado took protest too far
The drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing has sparked strong opposition in western states, but in Boulder, Colo., opponents made personal threats against an oil company official and prompted the Boulder County Sheriff's department to provide security at a recent commission meeting, an unacceptable level of engagement that should not be repeated anywhere. A column by Adam Voge.
Casper Star-Tribune; Dec. 16

Beyond the region

Doctors warn antibiotic overuse in cattle herds threatens public health
Doctors, veterinarians and food-safety advocates are pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release more information about the use of antibiotics in the nation's meat animals.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Dec. 17

Federal agencies in Alaska will be hit hard by new retirement rules
Alaska has by far the largest amount of lands under federal control, and new federal rules on retirement that are being phased in has 8 percent of senior staff managers in the Bureau of Land Management serving in Alaska leaving by year's end, and in the National Park Service, more than 7 percent of those employees say they're retiring as well.
New York Times; Dec. 17

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"W e're looking at critical mass. The fact is we can't be in a position of gathering horses that we can't take care of. The capacity issue is staring us in the face."

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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