- Mountain West News
- A climate trial and tribulations
THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
A climate trial and tribulations
These stories are part of a series on the youth-led constitutional climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana, which goes to trial in Helena on June 12.
Montana youth prepare for trial in bellwether climate case against state
Landmark lawsuit alleges Montana’s government knowingly contributes to climate change by approving policies and projects that promote a fossil-fuel based energy economy, violating the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment.”
'To a clean and healthful environment'
When Montana’s constitution was ratified by voters in 1972 it enshrined a citizen’s right to a clean and healthful environment into the future. The youth-led climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana is predicated on this right and its interpretation through Montana’s courts.
Who is ‘Held’ of Held v. State of Montana?
Early exposure to scientific rigor and climate change’s impact on ranches led Rikki Held to confer her name to the nation’s first constitutional climate change lawsuit to reach trial.
For the Busse brothers, climate change is a reality — and a violation of constitutional rights
Two Kalispell brothers cite changes to skiing and hunting seasons as reasons for joining the coalition of Montana youth in Held v. Montana suing several state agencies over failure to secure their “right to a clean and healthful environment.”
Running toward a future in the face of climate change
Mica Kantor, 14, says he has felt the impacts of the changing climate on the roads, tracks and trails he runs on, prompting his inclusion as a plaintiff in Held v. Montana.
Montana lawmakers double down on fossil fuels in 2023 legislative session
How the recent legislative session passed a slew of laws that highlight lawmakers' energy priorities, and took direct aim at the pivotal case, Held v. Montana.
Montana attorney general asks state Supreme Court to dismiss climate Case
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Monday filed an emergency petition asking the state Supreme Court to vacate the trial date of a youth-led constitutional climate change lawsuit slated to begin next week.
Coalition sues Montana in federal court for coal mining laws passed by legislature
A coalition of Montana groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that newly passed laws that lawmakers say will speed up permitting of surface coal mines would have made the Copper Kings of Montana proud by gutting protections for the citizens and clean water.
Citing new Montana law, DEQ avoids carbon pollution review
Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality will move forward with a court-ordered environmental review of the controversial gas-fired power plant in Laurel, now that a new state law banning regulation of carbon dioxide is on the books.
The battle for clean energy in coal country
Montana has a long history of making money by extracting and exporting its natural resources, namely coal. State politicians and Montana’s largest electricity utility company seem set on keeping it that way.
Oregon youths’ climate lawsuit against U.S. government can proceed to trial, judge rules
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit brought by young Oregon-based climate activists can proceed to trial years after they first filed the lawsuit in an attempt to hold the nation’s leadership accountable for its role in climate change.
Amount of warming triggering carbon dioxide in air hits new peak, growing at near-record fast rate
Carbon dioxide levels in the air are now the highest they’ve been in more than 4 million years because of the burning of oil coal and gas. The last time the air had similar amounts was during a less hospitable hothouse Earth before human civilization took root, scientists said.
Summers are getting hotter in the West
Over the last half century, summers have gotten progressively hotter in the U.S., especially in the West, according to new analysis. Reno, Nev., has seen average summer temperatures soar by more than 11 degrees, the biggest increase in the country. Boise, Idaho's 5.8-degree spike ranks No. 2, followed by Las Vegas (5.8 degrees) and Salt Lake City (5.5 degrees).
Climate crisis is on track to push one-third of humanity out of its most livable environment
As conditions that best support life shift toward the poles, more than 600 million people are already living outside of a crucial “climate niche,” facing more extreme heat, rising food scarcity and higher death rates.
Indian Country matters
Is Harriet Hageman an ally of Indian Country?
The rookie congresswoman says she wants to advance tribal autonomy.
Federal court allows international mining giant to oppose tribes in Oak Flat lawsuit
The U.S. District Court in Arizona granted mining giant Resolution Copper permission on Monday to join the U.S. government as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by grassroots group Apache Stronghold.
Chaco Canyon moratorium sparks calls for wider oil ban
“Protection of Chaco Canyon is a great first step, but protections for the Greater Chaco Region, where there are living communities of Diné relatives, wildlife, and plant life, including countless sacred sites throughout the region are just as critical,” said Robyn Jackson, executive director of Diné CARE, an Indigenous environmental group in the Southwest. “The Biden administration must phase out fossil fuels.”
Four tribal chairs: We need a Columbia Basin Initiative for salmon, tribes and energy
“For our people to survive, we need salmon. Without salmon, there can be no Salmon People. We have a sacred relationship with – and obligation to – the salmon populations that call Nch’í Wána (Columbia River) home.”
In Alaska, tribal governments push for larger conservation role
To preserve their food supply, Native Alaskans are teaming up with federal officials and state scientists.
The remains of five Native American children will be returned to living relatives
The remains of five Native American children who died at a notorious Indian boarding school more than a century ago will be returned to their living relatives.
'We can't just let them go': Arizona tribes rely on law to reclaim remains, other items
Thirty years after a federal law mandated the return of Native human remains and funerary items, Arizona still has one-third of them in storage.
Big Medicine’s long journey home
For more than six decades, the rare white bison’s remains have been on display at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.
More public lands news
FWP statement on corner crossing in Montana raises public land access advocates' hackles
“Corner crossing remains unlawful in Montana, and Montanans should continue to obtain permission from the adjoining landowners before crossing corners from one piece of public land to another,” FWP Deputy Director Dustin Temple said.
Colorado corner-crossing property legislation poised for comeback following Wyoming ruling
Colorado Rep. Brandi Bradley wonders if she should revive corner-crossing legislation after Wyoming judge dismisses civil trespass complaint against hunters.
Ranch owner in corner-crossing case drops Waypoint 6 trespass claim
Hunters also agree not to seek attorneys’ fees after judge rules they did not trespass when corner crossing.
Lawmaker claims state authority in private-to-fed land sale
A freshman state lawmaker says the federal government must obtain the consent of the Wyoming Legislature to acquire more property — even private property from a willing seller — in the state. Legal experts say the argument smacks of debunked legal posturing in a long-simmering fight against federal land ownership and management in the West.
What the new Supreme Court wetland ruling means for hunters
Damaging a couple of wetlands won’t have a drastic effect, but the cumulative sum of losses adds up to something significant—and quickly, too.
Colorado’s wetlands are endangered by climate change and invasive species. New federal money will help protect them
As the BLM invests $160 million nationwide in what it calls "restoration landscapes," Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner speaks with BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning about two wetlands in Colorado that will benefit.
Controversial grayling project to proceed in wildlife refuge
deeply controversial proposal to increase dissolved oxygen for Arctic grayling in a shallow lake within the Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is moving forward.
Editorial: BLM rule puts conservation on equal footing with oil and gas on public lands
The time has come to put conservation on equal footing with the private enterprises that have benefitted enormously from using and sometimes abusing our lands.
The Grand Canyon, a cathedral to time, is losing its river
The Colorado River, which carved the Grand Canyon over millions of years, is now in crisis from climate change and overuse.
Hay – yes, hay – is sucking the Colorado River dry
Desert farming, wasteful irrigation and the profoundly thirsty crop is bringing the critical river to the brink.
As the Supreme Court debates a Navajo water rights case, climate change adds new questions
Climate change tightens existing water supplies and can worsen conditions in communities where hauling water is a necessity.
Arizona will halt new home approvals in parts of metro Phoenix as water supplies tighten
Arizona's water agency will stop approving new development that relies solely on groundwater after a new model shows a projected shortfall.
Colorado Supreme Court ends long river access dispute by ruling fisherman has no standing in right-to-wade argument
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled an angler has no standing to sue for river access by arguing the state's rivers were navigable at statehood.
The Supreme Court just made it easier to destroy wetlands and streams
The decision strips federal protections from the ephemeral streams that are crucial for life in the arid West.
Does oil and gas production consume too much water?
With water use growing, arid Western states are asking for new regulations.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Project Bison, a large carbon removal proposal, faces delays
Project Bison, a closely watched Wyoming proposal intended to suck massive quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is running behind schedule.
How much cobalt can be mined in the U.S.? Study examines domestic mining site in Idaho
The Iron Creek site in east-central Idaho could produce at least 6,000 metric tons of cobalt, but possibly much more.
New solar project in southwestern Montana will double solar production in state
Boise-based Clēnera said the company’s 600-acre solar array, located along U.S. Interstate 15 near Dillon, is in its final phase before launching within weeks.
Should this rural Utah county be managing a nuclear research lab?
Emery County's San Rafael Research Center, where the county hopes to invent its post-coal future, is caught in a political fight.
Essay: The atomic hereafter
Reporter Alicia Inez Guzmán describes her personal and family history with the Los Alamos National Laboratory as the U.S. moves to modernize its stockpile of nuclear weapons, which presages enormous, inevitable changes for New Mexico.
Colorado adopts a new climate-minded statewide building code
The new construction standards are meant to ensure homes and buildings are built for efficiency, electric cars and solar panels.
What makes these Four Corners towns tick?
A study of the economies and cultures of Durango, Cortez and Farmington, three Western towns with roots in resource extraction and processing that have taken different career paths.
In oil-rich New Mexico, officials restrict new drilling
Two separate decisions limit fossil fuel extraction on public lands, protecting schools and Indigenous sites.
Abandoned oil and gas wells emit carcinogens and other harmful pollutants, groundbreaking study shows
The release of cancer-causing benzene and other toxic gases from sites in Pennsylvania raises concerns about millions of other abandoned wells across the U.S.
Wyoming sues over feds' tardiness on grizzly delisting decision
A Gov. Mark Gordon-led petition targeting the U.S. Department of Interior is intended to compel action on the state’s earlier petition. Ultimately, the goal is for Wyoming to gain control over — and hunt — its grizzly bears.
In a changing ecosystem, Yellowstone grizzly bears are resilient
Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been able to gain the body fat they need for hibernation even as population densities have increased and as climate change and human impacts have changed the availability of some foods, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners.
Gianforte announces leadership change at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Deputy Director Dustin Temple will assume Hank Worsech’s position.
Fishing outfitters' urgent appeal to Gianforte receives no reply
Fishing guides and outfitters alarmed about declining trout populations in the Big Hole River receive no reply from Gov. Gianforte after urgent appeal.
This group is reintroducing wolves to Colorado — on stage … and with puppets
The reintroduction and management of gray wolves has sparked many conversations across Colorado. Now it has also inspired a new opera.
Wyoming spends record $4.2 million to kill coyotes, other predators
Ammunition, gas, aviation fuel price hikes drive costs higher as hard winter boosts interest in coyote culls.
Approval for Idaho phosphate mine reversed after judge rules U.S. didn't assess prairie bird impact
A federal judge has yanked approval for a phosphate mining project in southeastern Idaho, saying federal land managers in the Trump administration didn’t in part properly consider the mine’s impact on sage grouse, a bird species that has seen an 80% decline in population since 1965.
What makes a horse wild? Advocates push back against ‘feral’ classification of historic equids
Roughly 500 horses inhabit an area along the Black River in eastern Arizona. Some say the herd descends from Spanish colonial horses. Others say the herd is more recent and doesn’t belong on the land it now grazes.
What else we’re reading today
How do you count the elusive lynx?
Wildlife cameras may be key to understanding the threatened species’ response to climate change.
Disappearing bugs: Insect declines documented by Missoula team
A local team is getting hard data on insect population declines in the Missoula area.
Eagle County will pay homeowners if they rent to local workers instead of vacationers
Eagle County, Colo., property owners are incentivized to rent their houses to local workers instead of renting them out as short-term vacation homes. If an Eagle County homeowner chooses to rent to a local worker, they will get a stipend ranging from $2,000 to $12,000, depending on how long the lease is.
The lie of a cleaner oilsands
Pollution protections are stripped while Canada boasts progress. This is the history of promises made and betrayed.
Montana banned TikTok. Now these Montanans are fighting back.
How a highly politicized social media ban in Big Sky Country sparked a nationwide debate over freedom of speech.
Former gun company executive explains roots of America’s gun violence epidemic
Ryan Busse once worked for a major gun-maker. He now warns about the danger of growing radicalization in the industry.
Journalists at Gannett newspapers walk out over deep cuts and low pay
Journalists at 24 Gannett newspapers decimated by financial cuts are protesting the failure of contract negotiations to resolve what they say is low pay and increasingly stressful working conditions.
Edited by Matthew Frank, associate director of regional journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana
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