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Rocky Mountain Front
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
The Rockies' Week in Review:

Top stories from Feb. 11 thru Feb. 15:

In News to track,  a federal district court judge in Colorado ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must disclose the name of the entity that nominates parcels for energy leasing.  The judge also ordered the BLM to release information sought in the lawsuit by the Citizens for a Healthy Community on who recommended parcels for leasing in the North Fork Valley last year.

A federal lawsuit was filed in California this week challenging the Interior Department's designation of solar zones in six southwestern states.  The groups filling the lawsuit are charging the government should have considered already developed areas, brownfields and even city rooftops for solar-power installations, rather than promoting industrial installations on multiuse public lands.<P>

Also this week, Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester joined with Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller to introduce legislation that would speed up the permitting process for wind and solar projects on federal lands. 

And an opinion piece from Rewire decries the effect of a failed solar-power project in the California desert, abandoned after bulldozers cut a swath through the desert.

Western Perspective

Poll: Land protection still a priority for Westeners
Feb. 13, 2013

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews David Quammen's Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
Jan. 24, 2013

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 this week's edition of Mountain West Voices at 7 a.m. Sunday.

This week Mountain West Voices' producer Clay Scott visits with Bonnie Preikszas of Laurel, Montana about her life as a rural schoolteacher in the 1930's

If you miss the broadcast Sunday morning on Yellowstone Public Radio, you can always listen online via the Mountain West Voices website.

News to Track

Federal judge rules BLM must disclose who nominates drilling parcels
A federal district court judge in Denver on Wednesday ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must release the names of companies that nominate parcels for energy leasing, upending an 18-year policy of not doing so.
Denver Post; 2/15/2013

Groups file federal lawsuit challenging Interior Dept.'s solar plans
Western Lands Project, the Western Watersheds Project and the Desert Protective Council filed a federal lawsuit in California on Wednesday challenging the federal government's creation of solar energy zones on federal lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, arguing that the federal government should have considered placing large-scale solar-energy projects in already developed areas.
Deseret News; 2/14/2013

  • Montana senator proposes bill to speed up wind, solar projects
    U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller introduced the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act, which creates a pilot project to streamline the permitting process for solar and wind projects on federal lands.
    Great Falls Tribune; 2/12/2013
  • Opinion
    Abandoned solar-energy project leaves its mark on California desert
    Bulldozers scraped areas of the California desert and built roads to clear the way for Germany-based Solar Millennium's Blythe Solar Power Project before Solar Millennium ran out of money, and now the winds whip across the destroyed desert, sending dust that likely contains valley fever spores into Blythe. Chris Clarke's first-person account of what's left behind by an abandoned solar-energy project.
    Rewire (; 2/12/2013


Montana county official raises estimate of chemical spilled into river
Carbon County emergency coordinator Darrel Krum said that an estimated 7,000 gallons of road deicer ended up on the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River in Montana after Monday's accident near Belfry, about 2,000 more than originally estimated.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); 2/13/2013

Company says spill of fracking liquid in Colorado cleaned up
The 84,000-gallon spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid at a PDC Energy drill site near Windsor ranks 55th in volume out of 5,177 spills recorded in a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission database, and one of a dozen spills PDC has reported in the state in the past year.
Denver Post; 2/15/2013

Xcel Energy pursues costs in Colorado city's SmartGrid project
Xcel Energy has asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to overturn an administrative judge's ruling that the utility was not entitled to the $16.6-million in costs for its SmartCity Grid pilot project in Boulder, and the state Office of Consumer Council is expected to ask the PUC to affirm the judge's ruling.
Denver Post; 2/13/2013

BuRec says Wyoming reservoirs have enough water this year
Although water levels in the Pathfinder, Seminoe and Alcova reservoirs are close to the lowest reported, Bureau of Reclamation area manager Coleman Smith said there will be enough water to meet contractual demands this year, but if Wyoming has another dry year, fulfilling those demands in 2014 may be difficult.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/14/2013

Wealthy buyers find Montana ranches attractive investment opportunities
Real estate companies that sell large Montana ranches are experiencing an uptick in business as American billionaires invest in working ranches.
Billings Gazette; 2/11/2013


NARA, tribes team upon biofuel research in Montana
The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are working together on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create jet fuel from woody biomass.
Flathead Beacon; 2/14/2013


Wolves take a toll on moose in national park in Wyoming
Researchers from the Wyoming Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 43 wolf-killed moose in the northern end of Grand Teton National Park in the winters of 2010 and 2011, and early data indicate 13 killed in the winter of 2012.
Jackson Hole News & Guide; 2/13/2013

Montana FWP launches moose study in 3 areas of state
Biologists have radio-collared 12 cow moose in three regions of the state to learn more about the populations in the East Cabinet study area south of Libby, the Big Hole and along the Eastern Front of the Rockies.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; 2/13/2013

Hunting on path to be lead cause of wolf mortality in Yellowstone NP
Wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have taken a toll on the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park, with 12 percent of the park's wolf population killed by hunters this year.
Great Falls Tribune (Bozeman Daily Chronicle); 2/11/2013

Wild-horse advocacy groups split over Jewell's nomination to Interior
While some wild-horse advocacy groups are optimistic about Sally Jewell's nomination to replace Ken Salazar as secretary of the Interior, others are questioning how well someone with a background in oil and banking will protect wild horses.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 2/11/2013

BLM invites public to watch wild horse roundup in Utah
The Bureau of Land Management wants to gather 262 wild horses from the Swasey herd in Utah, and the roundup, which is expected to take between a week to 10 days, began on Tuesday.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/13/2013

Public lands
Montana county commissioners challenge USFS's water-rights filings
In 2007, the U.S. Forest Service and Montana completed 15 years of negotiations over water rights that the federal agency to file for in-stream water rights on rivers and creeks on federal lands and the Forest Service has completed such filings on five streams and are working on 11 others, which has raised the concerns of the Ravalli County Commission and local residents.
Ravalli Republic; 2/12/2013

Montana senators submit bill to fully fund Land, Water Conservation Fund
Legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund was again sponsored by Montana's U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, and with Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr joining as a lead sponsor, there is optimism that the bill will get bipartisan support.
Ravalli Republic (AP); 2/15/2013

USFS considers weighted lottery in granting permits on 4 Idaho rivers
The U.S. Forest Service's Four Rivers Lottery awards permits for the main Salmon, Snake, Selway and Middle Fork of the Salmon rivers in Idaho, and the agency is contemplating establishing a weighted system, which would award points for unsuccessful applicants giving them an additional chance to win in the future.
Ravalli Republic; 2/15/2013

Montana FWP Commission proposes closing stretches of 3 rivers
At Thursday's meeting of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission in Helena, commissioners proposed closing stretches of the Blackfoot and Yellowstone rivers due to the danger bridge piers in those rivers pose to rafters and boaters, and to closing a stretch of the Clark Fork River near where the Milltown Dam was removed to allow vegetation to regrow.
Helena Independent Record; 2/15/2013

Montana high court rules landowner must open road to Pishkun Reservoir
The Montana Supreme Court overturned a Teton County District Court decision and ruled that a private landowner who closed a popular route across his property to Pishkun Reservoir in the early 2000s must reopen that route and replace the bridge connecting Boadle Road and Canal Road in Teton County that burned in a wildfire to restore access across the Sun River Slope Canal.
Great Falls Tribune; 2/15/2013

Colorado leaseholders asks BLM to suspend Thompson Divide leases
After the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that SG Interests had asked the federal agency to suspend the 16 leases the Texas company holds in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Carbondale because those leases are set to expire between May and August, Pitkin County and the cities of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale made the unusual request that the BLM open a public comment period on the suspension.
Aspen Times (Post Independent); 2/15/2013

U.S. Sen. Udall hears concerns from local firefighters in Colorado
On Sunday, Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall was in Vail, meeting with local firefighters and police to talk about the upcoming wildfire season, where drought and a lack of federal funding could further complicate firefighting, and Udall said that he was in talks with the Air Force to adapt seven C-130 transport planes to use as makeshift air tankers before the season starts, although one person at the meeting noted that an 800-acre wildfire in southeast Colorado over the weekend indicated that fire season is already here.
Vail Daily; 2/13/2013

OSHA proposes $14K fine for firefighter death in Idaho
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association for violating eight of the 10 Standing Firefighting Orders when managing the Steep Corner Fire in Idaho near Orofino where a 20-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter was struck and killed by a falling tree.
Idaho Statesman (KLEW-TV); 2/14/2013


China edges out U.S. as world's largest trader
In 2012, China's imports and exports were valued at $3.87 trillion, while the imports and exports in the U.S. were $3.82 trillion, putting China at the top in the world of trade, and still--Alberta has no way to get its oil to China. A column by Gary Lamphier.
Edmonton Journal; 2/11/2013

Oil producers in Utah's Uinta Basin need to pay for infrastructure
The projected cost of improving the roads between Utah's Uinta Basin and Salt Lake City to accommodate much heavier truck traffic to transport the crude which is too waxy to flow through a pipeline is estimated to be around $2 billion, a cost that should be borne by the oil producers not Utah's taxpayers.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/14/2013

Wyoming needs to close loophole in local preference law
The group, 307 First, is working to close a loophole in the law crafted to give local companies a leg up on securing contracts for local, county and state jobs that currently allows companies that maintain an office with 15 workers to be defined as local, and it's time the state close that loophole.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/15/2013

Deregulated power market at root of PPL Montana's decision to sell
PPL Montana's proposal to sell the five hydroelectric plants and its share of coal-fired plants in Montana is prompted by the company's desire to flee the deregulated electricity market. A blog by Marshall Swearingen, an intern at High Country News.
High Country News (The Goat Blog); 2/13/2013


U.S. Senate votes 78-to-22 to expand Violence Against Women Act
On Tuesday, more Republican senators joined the ranks to approve the expansion of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which gives more power to American Indian courts and specifically provides protection to gay victims of domestic violence.
New York Times; 2/13/2013

Group finds that top donors in Montana legislative races were Texans
The National Institute on Money in State Politics reviewed donors to state legislative races in Montana and found that the top donors were the Texas billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks and their wives, all of whom are Texas residents, and the Helena-based group also found that the Wilks and their wives backed 70 candidates -- all Republicans.
Ravalli Republic (AP); 2/11/2013


Bill limiting capacity of gun magazines prompts warning from Colorado firm
The Colorado Legislature will debate legislation today to limit the capacity of gun magazines to 15 rounds and to require manufacturers of those magazines engrave each one with a distinct code, measure that Magpul, an Erie-based manufacturer says will force the company to move out of the state.
Denver Post; 2/15/2013

Idaho House resolution addresses fire-damaged trails on federal lands
On Monday, the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee agreed to debate a resolution calling for the U.S. Forest Service to clean up years of damage caused by wildfires on the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness' trail system in eastern and central Idaho, or to let volunteers work on the trails.
Idaho Statesman (AP); 2/12/2013

Idaho Senate rejects Otter's nominee for Fish and Game Commission
For the first time in recent memory, a Republican-controlled Idaho Senate rejected a GOP governor's nominee when the state Senate voted Monday to decline to affirm Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's nomination of Jean Hurlock to serve on the Fish and Game Commission.
Idaho Statesman; 2/12/2013

Montana governor signs wolf management bill into law
On Wednesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed House Bill 73 into law that makes a number of changes to the state's wolf hunting policies.
Missoulian; 2/14/2013

Montana Senate panel advances bill to repeal eminent domain law
On Thursday, the Montana Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee voted 7-6 to send to the full Senate for debate Sen. Debby Barrett's Senate Bill 180, which would take away the power of eminent domain from developers of merchant power lines.
Great Falls Tribune; 2/8/2013

Montana legislators' bills prompted by wildlife damage to private lands
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission opposes both House Bills 375 and 376, which would require the state FWP to reimburse landowners for damage to forage caused by wildlife and would allow counties to submit plans to lethally control wildlife, respectively, submitted by Rep. Nancy Ballance from Hamilton.
Missoulian (Helena Independent Record); 2/14/2013

Utah study says lack of transportation options could strand production in Uinta Basin
A study done by the Utah Department of Transportation and local governments within Uintah and Duchesne counties found that oil and gas production in the Uinta Basin could be hindered by a lack of transportation options, and members of the Legislature's Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Committee were asked to fund a second study to explore options to improve the flow of that oil to markets.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/9/2013

Utah legislator proposes bill to give college credit for military training
The Utah Senate Education Committee unanimously approved state Rep. Paul Ray's HB254, which would give veterans college credits for military training.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/13/2013

Utah Democrats submit 6 bills to fight air pollution
On Monday, a package of six bills designed to address air-quality problems in northern Utah was introduced by Utah House Democrats.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/12/2013

Wyoming House shoots hunting-with-silencers bill to governor
The Wyoming House voted 44-14 on Wednesday to pass legislation that allows hunters to use silencers, and sent the bill to Gov. Matt Mead for action.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/14/2013

Bill to raise fuel tax in Wyoming now on governor's desk
If Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signs the bill passed by the Legislature to raise the state's fuel tax by a dime a gallon, the increase will take effect on July 1.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/15/2013


Colorado Oil, Gas Commission adopts 500-foot setback on oil, gas wells
The decision Monday by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to adopt a 500-foot buffer zone for new oil and gas wells from homes will not be the last word on the rule change, as displeased industry leaders, as well as unhappy environmental and health groups said they'll take the issue to the state Legislature.
Denver Post; 2/12/2013

After death of CEO, welding company in Montana to close doors
Arizona-based Stinger Welding came to Libby in 2009, bringing dozens of much-needed jobs to the northwest Montana community, but the bridge component fabrication company was struggling financially in 2012, and the death of CEO Carl Douglas in a plane crash near Libby, put the company in receivership and now 70 people will be out of work by the end of the month.
Missoulian; 2/13/2013

Wyoming firm to export Montana coal through Washington state port
Cloud Peak Energy Inc. announced it had signed a contract to ship up to 16 million metric tons of coal pulled from its mine in Montana through the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the coast of Washington state, which is estimated to be up and running by 2018.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/14/2013

Companies pitch plans to increase rail shipments of oil in Wyoming
Since January, two companies have announced plans to build facilities in Wyoming to load crude oil into tanker cars for shipment by rail.
Casper Star-Tribune; 2/11/2013

Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program funds Utah solar projects
The Blue Sky program of Rocky Mountain Power provides funding for community-based, renewable energy projects, and this year, the program paid out nearly $1.8 million for 20 solar projects.
Salt Lake Tribune; 2/11/2013

Delta announces direct flights this summer from Montana city to Atlanta
Beginning June 22 and running through the end of August, Delta Air Lines will offer a direct flight from Missoula International Airport in Montana and its Atlanta hub.
Missoulian; 2/15/2013

Hot springs resort near Idaho City reopens for business
The Warm Springs Resort near Idaho City has been closed for 12 years due to a septic system problem, but the Idaho resort reopens for business today, and 170 people have already made reservations to be there for opening day.
Idaho Statesman; 2/14/2013

Beyond the region

Shell sends Arctic drill rigs to China for repairs
Royal Dutch Shell's quest to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic has been beset with problems and delays, and the company's announcement Monday that it would send its two drilling rigs to China for repair signaled another setback.
New York Times; 2/12/2013

N.M. Legislature's agenda aflow with water bills
Litigation over water deliveries and water rights, the use of hydraulic fracturing, and the decline of reservoir levels are all issues with which the New Mexico Legislature will deal with this session.
Santa Fe New Mexican; 2/12/2013

As sea ice disappears, scientists discuss options for polar bears
The polar bear population around Hudson Bay may be the most at-risk as warming temperatures have melted the sea ice upon which the bears use as a platform for their hunting, and scientists say feeding the bears may be an option, while the local Inuit people are urging that nature be allowed to take its course.
Edmonton Journal (Canadian Press); 2/13/2013

Oregon senator submits bill to legalize hemp
Legislation introduced by Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, and supported by his colleague U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, is identical to legislation he submitted last session of Congress to legalize commercial hemp.
Portland Oregonian; 2/15/2013

Oregon senators submit wilderness legislation
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have reintroduced bills to expand existing wilderness areas in Oregon and to create new ones, and Wyden is hopeful that his position as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will give the measures more traction.
Portland Oregonian (AP); 2/15/2013

Starbucks follows Target to Canada
Target is opening 124 stores in Canada in 2013, with the first store opening this month, and Starbuck plans to open outlets in many of those stores, although the Seattle-based coffee giant isn't saying how many of the Target stores will get a Starbucks outlet.
Edmonton Journal; 2/11/2013

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"I t appears that the Service is rewarding long-standing intransigence by the CSKT in reaching an agreement which would keep the Bison Range in the National Wildlife Refuge System, and in doing so will encourage other tribes to follow the same disengaging playbook."

A statement from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which opposes the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to transfer the National Bison Range in Montana to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

- Missoulian

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