THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Biden dedicates new monument for Arizona tribes and 'the soul of the nation'
President Joe Biden visited a windswept sage flat at Red Butte, a sacred Havasupai landmark, on Tuesday to proclaim it and nearly 1 million acres of federal lands as Arizona’s newest natural preserve, Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.
President Biden announced new monument at Red Butte. Here's why it is sacred to tribes
Wii'l Gdwiisa, or "Clenched Fist Mountain," stretches more than 1,000 feet over the high plateau about 12 miles south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is known to the Havasupai as the abdomen of Mother Earth. Red Butte, and nearby Mat Taav Tiivjunmdva, a meadow about 3 miles north of Red Butte close to the Canyon's South Rim, is her navel.
New national monument comes after more than a decade of advocacy by Native nations
The new national monument that President Biden is designating in Arizona today comes after Native nations advocated for decades to protect the area
Biden protects land by Grand Canyon but will still allow mining
The monument isn’t expected to block Energy Fuels Inc. from mining for uranium at its existing Pinyon Plain Mine, which will be within the monument about 13 miles south of the Grand Canyon.
New Arizona national monument is ‘frustrating news’ for Utah Gov. Cox
At a time when the Biden administration is pursuing a carbon-free economy and pouring millions upon millions of dollars into the development of next generation nuclear technology, the Tuesday designation of a new national monument in Arizona is confounding to Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox.
More from Indian Country
We carry the burden of repatriating our ancestors. Here’s what it’s like to report on the process as an Indigenous journalist.
Mary Hudetz describes the financial cost and emotional distress that tribal communities face as they continue to wait for the return of the remains of their ancestors, thousands of which are held in museums across the country.
Native students learn how to preserve threatened languages and pass them on to the next generation
Fort Lewis College’s All Our Kin Collective is meant to help students find a deeper sense of belonging within their communities.
Interview: Lorelei Cloud makes history in a critical time as first tribal council member on the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Lorelei Cloud joined the Colorado Water Conservation Board in March as the first tribal council member to serve in the position. She spoke to Colorado Matters about including Indigenous voices in water discussions and the challenges ahead for the Colorado River.
Billions spent on hatcheries, habitat fails to help native Columbia River salmon, study finds
An Oregon State professor and U.S. Geological Survey biologist reviewed 50 years of data on fish survival and hatchery costs.
Tribes call for feds to ban chemical in car tires that is linked to salmon deaths
Two tribes in Washington are asking federal regulators to ban a chemical widely used in car tires that scientists have identified as highly toxic to salmon and other fish.
More public lands goings on
Summit County to lease federal land to build housing under new Farm Bill rules
A potential lease between Summit County, the Town of Dillon and the U.S. Forest Service would be the first in the country to allow a local municipality to build affordable housing on National Forest land.
Happy trails? Lessons from Curt Gowdy on outdoor recreation design
Visitation to Wyoming’s Curt Gowdy State Park mushroomed by more than 900% since crews started building a trail system there in 2006. As it strives to balance benefits with impacts, what can the state learn from Gowdy?
In a tale as old as the West, wealthy Californians moved to Montana and blocked historic river access
A conflict in the state’s richest valley pitted out-of-state landowners against local hunters and anglers over a few crucial feet of land.
Whitebark pine restoration projects funded in Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton national parks
The project includes working with partners and tribes to plant blister rust resistant seed and seedlings, identify rust resistant trees, monitor seedling survival, and identify climate refugia, the Department of Interior announced. The project builds on 20 years of work at Glacier National Park and within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
A trillion trees could cool the planet. But where to get them? There’s a massive disconnect.
The team of scientists, which included federal U.S. Forest Service researchers, conducted what is essentially an audit of the nursery system, ticking off a number of shortcomings that could hobble tree planting initiatives.
Big Oil holds more federal leases than previously known
An analysis provided to E&E News from Accountable.US cross-referenced leasing data from the Bureau of Land Management with oil majors’ Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Watchdog urges BLM to boost tracking of idle oil and gas wells
The Office of Inspector General found the agency is failing to fully track and monitor wells that risk becoming abandoned.
Judge orders Forest Service to consult again on forest travel plans, impacts on grizzlies
A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to consult again with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the road closure effectiveness in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, saying it may have affected grizzly bears.
Hitting reset: Forest Service approves rainbow trout removal project in Buffalo Creek
The U.S. Forest Service approved a plan last week to remove invasive rainbow trout from the Buffalo Creek drainage near Yellowstone National Park as agencies struggle to stop the fish from hybridizing with Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Daines reintroduces bill declassifying 100,000 acres of wilderness study areas
Montana Sen. Steve Daines has said he will continue to refuse to support Sen. Jon Tester’s Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, also reintroduced this summer, unless these wilderness study areas are declassified as general public lands.
Fatal grizzly attack renews debate over how many bears are too many
Authorities have been unable to find the bear that killed a woman near Yellowstone National Park late last month. The attack has renewed calls to take grizzlies off the endangered species list.
FWP reports grizzly bear sightings in Missoula area, 3 confirmed in Bitterroot in 3 days
With grizzly bears getting captured in the Sapphire Mountains and photographed on the fringe of the Missoula Valley, state wildlife officials are expanding their outreach efforts to avoid conflicts this summer.
Environmentalists sue Alaska over sanctioned killing of 99 bears
Activists say that a program intended to protect a declining caribou herd in Southwestern Alaska was approved without a public comment period or proper environmental review, at the expense of 99 black and brown bears in southwestern Alaska.
‘Wolverines really need Colorado’: Federal decision looms over another reintroduction plan
Wolverines — also called “mountain devils” and “skunk bears” — could be the next large mammal reintroduced in Colorado after wildlife officials implement the voter-mandated reintroduction of wolves by the end of the year.
Groups threaten to sue over Montana's wolf trapping laws due to potential threat to Canada lynx
Two Montana conservation groups have told federal authorities that they plan to sue within 60 days if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t reconsider its agreement with the state regarding exporting wolf pelts.
Migration concerns stall ‘Path of the Pronghorn’ bottleneck development
Citing concerns over migration, the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments delayed finalizing a lease sale that could allow development to occur in a Path of the Pronghorn bottleneck area for the price of $19 an acre.
Feds can allow gas drilling in sage grouse habitat, Tenth Circuit rules
Gas drilling can go ahead in the Wyoming land where sage-grouse live and migrating pronghorns pass through, a Tenth Circuit panel ruled.
People are shooting birds off power lines in the West
Gunshots outnumber electrocution as a cause of death, according to a new study.
Birds, bullfrogs and bison: NPS outlines 'restoration and resilience' projects
The Inflation Reduction Act is providing $44 million for park service work in 39 states. The project list includes $481,000 to control invasive bullfrogs and restore native amphibians in parks in New Mexico and Arizona and $300,000 to advance bison reintroduction efforts at Glacier National Park in Montana.
Snake River sockeye run sputters
The promising start to the Snake River sockeye run appears to have melted away as the adult fish progressed upstream.
State focuses on research for answers to trout woes in southwest Montana
If any uncertainly lingered about whether people care deeply about the Big Hole River and its sister streams, all doubt evaporated last Wednesday afternoon.
Pitkin County aims to bring back beavers
Pitkin County Healthy Rivers is hoping to teach landowners how to coexist peacefully with beavers, correct beaver misconceptions and maybe even reintroduce them onto carefully chosen areas of the watershed.
Insects are in dramatic decline in Colorado, 35-year-long study reveals
Dramatic insect declines previously reported around the world are also occurring in Colorado. Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, or RMBL, report that flying insects in the mountains outside of Crested Butte have declined more than 60% since 1986.
A 20-mile hike in the Tetons rewarded bumble bee researcher Ellen Keaveny with a special Bombus occidentalis sighting.
The Nocturnal Pollinator BioBlitz, a collaboration between Montana Moth Project and Glacier National Park Citizen Science Program, allows participants to capture and identify nocturnal insects with the help of experts.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Early closure of Pueblo coal plant could force Xcel customers to pay up to $89M for water it doesn’t need
Customers of the state’s largest utility also are responsible for $27M spent on never used southeastern Colorado ditch rights.
Colorado gas rule ignites debate over pace of electrification
The state's largest gas utility says electrification is just one part of decarbonization. Environmentalists want it to be more.
Tech companies look to set example by providing clean energy to Idaho Power’s grid
Micron, Meta invest in renewable energy facilities in Idaho to offset energy demand.
The Kemmerer nuclear project looks to Ohio for their fuel problem
The nuclear facility project that is planned for the Kemmerer area has a key issue: it lacks a fuel source. But officials say they now have an answer to that problem.
As feds look to cut red tape, more local governments are curbing wind and solar
The number of counties with ordinances on wind turbines quadrupled from 2018 to 2022, a new federal study found.
EIA hikes forecast for record U.S. oil production
The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday raised its U.S. oil production forecast for this year and next, predicting output would reach record levels for both years as high energy prices keeps drilling activity humming.
Alberta risks losing billions in renewable energy investments with moratorium, companies say
The renewable energy industry says it was blindsided by the Alberta government’s moratorium on new wind and solar projects, and some executives warned the move could cause billions of dollars in green investments to flow to the United States and Europe instead.
A plan to protect Utah from US Magnesium’s toxic waste relies on something that is disappearing
Add another potential disaster to the growing list associated with the shrinking Great Salt Lake: the implosion of the cleanup plan for the US Magnesium Superfund site.
Golf course operators are teaming up to survive Colorado River water cuts and a future that’s less green
Golf professionals and course owners in the Southwest will meet for the first time to discuss how an industry defined by manicured grass can survive climate change, government water cuts and attract players to fairways and greens nourished with less Colorado River water.
Greens press Biden to curb alfalfa exports to save Colorado River
Environmentalists will press the Biden administration to restrict exports of water-intensive crops like alfalfa and ask Western state lawmakers to curb the growth of new tree nut farms, in a bid to address fallout from the shrinking Colorado River Basin.
Heat from global warming is drying up the Colorado River, UCLA says
It’s not just drought impacting the snowpack, researchers say. Higher Western temperatures are sucking vital water from the seven-state basin.
Idaho’s water supply is declining. Officials discuss challenges at state summit.
Officials recognized that water levels in Idaho are in decline, and some of the main challenges they discussed at the Governor’s Water Summit include population growth, outdated water infrastructure and climate change.
Summer water supply 'bouncing between extremes,' hydrologist says
This summer the Bozeman area has seen above normal precipitation, keeping Gallatin County from seeing extensive drought conditions after a fast melting of the snowpack raised concerns.
What else we’re reading today
Carcinogens found at Montana nuclear missile sites as reports of hundreds of cancers surface
The Air Force has detected unsafe levels of a likely carcinogen in samples taken at a Montana missile base where a striking number of men and women have reported cancer diagnoses.
The terrible emptiness of ‘Oppenheimer’
The blockbuster movie leaves out the real story’s main characters: New Mexicans.
People are starting a lot of fires in the Pacific Northwest
The Forest Service reports 197 human-caused or undetermined starts since the beginning of June.
Yellow jerseys of the fireline: A day fighting wildfires can require as much endurance as riding the Tour de France
Twenty-five years of research show what it takes to fuel wildland firefighters through an average day, and the toll the long seasonal work takes on their bodies.
Hail storms, slim margins and regulations leave Colorado farmers with an uphill battle
This year’s wheat harvest season has been particularly difficult. And many farmers are saying it’s hard to stay profitable.
Colorado’s biggest buildings clash with air regulators over coming greenhouse gas rules
State regulators will vote this month on demanding emissions savings from landlords as the next key step in the climate change battle.
Colorado cities with residential growth caps start to contend with new state law banning the limits
The law prohibits cities from imposing residential growth caps and requires municipalities with existing caps to remove them. The measure is aimed at boosting housing stock to drive down prices.
How a mobile-home park saved its community from a corporate buyout
In southwest Colorado, a cooperative and a land trust partnered to preserve affordable housing.
New housing model in Montana turns tenants into shareholders
A statewide organization that helped craft a new design for affordability is using the first-of-its-kind model in a second project.
How one family is carrying on generations-long ecological research near Crested Butte
The overlapping career paths of David Inouye, his son Brian Inouye and daughter-in-law Nora Underwood have them all “outside looking at stuff” at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
The Montana youths behind a historic climate lawsuit, and the places they love
It has been described as “landmark” litigation, “groundbreaking” and “first-of-its-kind.” But behind one of the nation’s most watched climate lawsuits — aimed at demonstrating that Montana’s promotion of fossil fuels violates the state’s constitution — are 16 young people, driven by passionate dread over the places they cherish.
On vanishing in the age of surveillance
Contemplating the mystery of those who have gone missing and remembering a lost friend.
U.S. tech groups back TikTok in challenge to Montana state ban
Two tech groups on Monday backed TikTok in its lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of a Montana state ban on use of the short video sharing app before it takes effect on Jan. 1.
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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