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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, a report issued Tuesday said western landscapes are already showing the effects of a changing climate.

The report, which was peer-reviewed by the U.S. Geological Survey, drew from 60 sources, including governmental agencies, universities and nonprofits, and found that forests in the Intermountain West were already being affected by warmer winters and less snowpack.

Also in the news, the expansion of coal mining in British Columbia has Montana and U.S. officials concerned, as waters from the Elk River drainage flow into Lake Koocanusa and existing mines in that area of B.C. have already elevated the levels of heavy metals in those waters.

In Idaho, the state Public Utilities Commission issued a decision on Tuesday that rejected Idaho Power's proposal to curtail production by wind farms during times of low demand.

And the Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs released the framework on Tuesday for the $1.9-billion program to buy fractional interests in tribal lands and return those lands to tribes.

The program is part of the $3.4-billion settlement of the Cobell class action lawsuit filed against the federal government over mismanagement of tribal assets.

Montana Public Radio will broadcast the latest edition of Mountain West Voices at 8:25 p.m.

This week, producer Clay Scott talks with Montana native David Thatcher about his role in the "Doolittle Raid," a 1942 bombing raid against military and industrial targets in several Japanese cities that was intended as both a retaliation for Pearl Harbor, and a morale booster at home.

Thatcher's bomber crash-landed off the coast of China, and he and his surviving crew members escaped with the help of the Chinese resistance.

Tune in at 8:25 this evening to hear Montana Public Radio's broadcast, or listen online via the Mountain West Voices' website.

Rockies today

Report says climate change is already affecting Western landscapes
A report, "Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecoystems and Ecosystem Services," issued Tuesday provided details on how climate change is already affecting states in the Intermountain West.
Deseret News; Dec. 19

British Columbia bans drilling in First Nations' 'Sacred Headwaters'
A moratorium on drilling in an area of northern British Columbia at the confluence of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers known as the Klappan expired on Tuesday, when the B.C. government announced a deal with Shell Canada and the Tahltan Central Council under which Shell withdraws its plans to drill for natural gas permanently.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); Dec. 19

Expansion of coal mines in B.C. sparks water-quality concerns in Montana
Proposals to expand coal mines in the Elk River drainage in British Columbia have prompted discussions between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the British Columbia government as selenium levels in the Elk River where it flows into Lake Koocanusa in Montana are reaching the 5 micrograms per liter limit for water crossing the international border.
Missoulian; Dec. 19

Study of Montana river finds high mercury levels, prompts advisory
Geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Park were cited as the source of the mercury found in the Madison River and its tributaries, as well as Hebgen Lake, the reservoir in which the river flows, and Montana issued an advisory on consuming fish from those waterways.
Helena Independent Record (Billings Gazette); Dec. 18

Interior, BIA roll out $1.9B program to buy back Indian lands
Contained within the $3.4-billion settlement of the class action lawsuit over the federal government's management of Indian trust lands and assets known as the Cobell lawsuit was $1.9 billion to buy fractional interests in tribal lands from individuals and transfer ownership to tribes, and on Tuesday, the Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs released information on that program and scheduled public meetings to gather tribal comments on Jan. 31 in Minneapolis; Feb. 6 in Rapid City, S.D.; and Feb. 14 in Seattle.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Dec. 19

Idaho PUC nixes Idaho Power's proposed wind curtailment
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission ruled Tuesday that Idaho Power cannot curtail wind power production during times of low demand, that renewable energy credits for projects either go to the developer or be split between the developer and the utility, and kept power contracts at 20 years, rather than the five-year term Idaho Power sought.
Idaho Statesman; Dec. 19

Interior Department: Oil, gas leases in West account for 95% of 2012 sales
The Interior Department sold $221 million in oil and gas leases on federal lands in five Western states in 2012, with most of the activity occurring in New Mexico, although the January sale of leases in Montana was the largest.
Denver Post; Dec. 19

Disparity in oil pricing takes a bite out of Alberta's bottom line
Last week, Bloomberg News reported that the price Alberta producers get for their oil had fallen to a record low and was $37 less per barrel than the American benchmark.
Edmonton Journal; Dec. 19


Wyoming senator deserves credit for carbon-tax legislation
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi's legislation that would create a tax incentive for companies to capture carbon dioxide is a win-win for Wyoming--it would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, allow producers to recover more oil from aging fields, and will help make coal consumption more palatable.
Casper Star-Tribune; Dec. 19

Beyond the region

Seattle one of U.S. cities where young, homeless population on the rise
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have the highest unemployment rate in the U.S., and officials in major cities such as Los Angeles and Boston are working to find out just how many homeless people in that age class are living in their cities, while in Seattle, homeless shelters with services specifically targeted to that age group have opened.
New York Times; Dec. 19

California releases draft of hydraulic fracturing regulations
As the use of hydraulic fracturing increases, California lawmakers decided the drilling method needs its own form of regulation, and released draft regulations on Tuesday that would require companies to first pressure test wells that would use the drilling method, notify the state in advance of using hydraulic fracturing, and ensure the practice isn't used too close to a fault line.
San Francisco Chronicle; Dec. 19

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I f trends continue, baseline tree mortality rates in western forests are projected to double every 17 to 29 years."

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux provides a preview of coming book attractions for 2016


Mountain West Perspectives
The TransPacific Partnership could affect Rocky Mountain States' local measures


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