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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, a single donor steps in with the final $750,000 needed to retire gas leases on 58,000 acres in Wyoming's Noble Basin.

Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade who owns a ranch in Sublette County and who had previously given $1 million to the Trust for Public Lands, pitched in the final amount.

Swiss billionaire and Wilson resident Hansjorg Wyss contributed $4.75 million of the $8.75 million needed to retire the leases.

Also in the news, a couple of Bureau of Land Management decisions issued last week that have generated some controversy.

On Dec. 27, the BLM approved the 263-mile route of a pipeline Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to build to move groundwater south from the Utah-Nevada border to Las Vegas, a step that moves the $15.5-billion project one step closer to construction.

And that same day, the BLM gave its approval to Arch Coal Co.'s proposed expansion of its West Elk Coal Mine in Colorado, a decision conservation groups said they'll challenge in court.

And in Montana, a state district judge who imposed a temporary injunction on wolf hunting in Park County, lifted that injunction, allowing hunting and trapping to continue in that area north of Yellowstone National Park.

And in our In-depth section, a couple of articles containing details about the federal fiscal deal that are salient to the West: The extension of the wind-power production tax credit and the short-term extension of some farm bill programs, including one that will keep the price of milk from rising sharply.

Rockies today

Last-minute donation allows group to buy leases in Wyoming basin
TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who owns a ranch in Wyoming's Sublette County, came through with the final $750,000 needed to buy the energy leases owned by Texas-based Plains Production and Exploration in the Noble Basin, allowing the $8.75-million deal for the Trust for Public Lands to buy and retire the gas leases to be finalized by year's end.
Jackson Hole Daily; Jan. 3

Conservation groups vow to fight expansion of Colorado coal mine
On Dec. 27, the Bureau of Land Management approved Arch Coal Co.'s proposed expansion of its West Elk Mine near Paonia that will allow new roads and natural gas wells on 1,700 acres in the Sunset Roadless Area, which sits adjacent to the West Elk Wilderness in Colorado, a decision that conservation groups vow to challenge in court.
Summit County Citizens Voice; Jan. 1

BLM approves right-of-way for Utah-Nevada water pipeline
On Dec. 27, the Bureau of Land Management approved the right-of-way for Southern Nevada Water Authority's 263-mile water pipeline that will stretch from the Utah border to Las Vegas, bringing the $15.5-billion proposed pipeline a stop closer to completion, although the states are still negotiating water rights agreements needed.
Salt Lake Tribune; Dec. 28

Montana judge reinstates wolf hunting, trapping season near Yellowstone
The temporary suspension of wolf hunting and trapping in areas east and west of Gardiner north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana's Park County was lifted by Judge Nels Swandal, who had imposed the suspension over concerns that too many wolves collared for research were being killed by hunters.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Jan. 3

Report faults Exxon's slow response for worsening oil spill in Montana river
A federal report on the July 2011 oil pipeline rupture that sent about 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana near Laurel faulted Exxon Mobil Corp.'s slow response for making the spill worse.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Jan. 3

Study says water runoff in the West will fall by 10%
A new report from scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said their computer models based on 2007 research, which predicted drier times ahead for the American Southwest, found that average annual runoff will decrease by about 10 percent in the headwaters of the Colorado River, California-Nevada and Texas.
Los Angeles Times; Dec. 26

The Nature Conservancy adds 3 more protected parcels in Montana
At the end of 2012, The Nature Conservancy added three more easements to its portfolio in Montana that protects thousands of acres, including 14,624 acres in the Swan Valley, 2,013 acres in the Big Hole Valley, and 7,004 acres adjacent to the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area in northeastern Montana.
Great Falls Tribune; Jan. 3

Opinion

Full support of aboriginals needed to build Alberta-B.C. pipeline
If proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline want to get the project built--and it's a necessity for Alberta oil producers--then they must bring the aboriginal groups to the table before a single detail is set is stone and make them full partners in the process. A guest column by Brian Lee Crowley and Ken Coates, co-leaders of the Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based public policy think tank.
Toronto Globe and Mail; Jan. 3

Beyond the region

Warren Buffett's energy firm invests in California solar projects
Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. is spending $2.5 billion on solar projects in California.
Los Angeles Times; Jan. 3

Arkansas power plant now burning Wyoming coal
On Dec. 20, Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s new coal-fired power plant in Arkansas began producing power, using coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); Dec. 30

In depth

Federal fiscal deal contains funds for wind energy, coal on reservations
The deal between President Obama and Congress to end the fiscal stalemate contains hundreds of millions of dollars for industries, including the wind-energy tax incentive and a million dollars in tax breaks for coal producers on reservations in Montana.
New York Times; Jan. 3

  • Farm bill extensions contained within federal fiscal agreement
    Contained within the federal fiscal deal was a partial extension of the farm bill, including provisions that provided some certainty in estate taxes for farmers and ranchers and protected milk prices from going up dramatically, but did not contain any funding for livestock disaster programs, even though drought conditions have adversely affected farmers and ranchers.
    Billings Gazette; Jan. 3



Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"T his decision defies common sense, and is pure folly and shortsightedness. The BLM's own environmental impact statement, in thousands of pages of analysis and disclosures, confirms that, if implemented, the project would result in certain devastation for the environment, ranching families, Native-American people, and rural communities."

Abby Johnson, president of the Great Basin Water Network, in a news release responding to the Bureau of Land Management's approval of a right-of-way for Southern Nevada Water Authority's 263-mile pipeline to move groundwater from the Utah border to Las Vegas.
- Salt Lake Tribune

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Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West



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