THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Breaches and battles across Indian Country
How Arizona stands between tribes and their water
As it negotiates water rights with tribes, Arizona goes to unique lengths to extract concessions that limit tribes’ opportunities for growth and economic development, according to a ProPublica and High Country News investigation.
Colorado River officials weigh how to cut water, include tribes ahead of looming negotiations
Tribal, state and federal officials converged on Boulder to discuss key concerns and make wish lists to address the river basin’s uncertain water future.
As the West’s dam removal movement presses on, could the Lower Snake be next?
The controversy over removing the four Lower Snake River dams in the Columbia basin has simmered for decades as salmon runs struggle. Yet Indigenous leaders and other proponents are watching closely as the nation’s biggest dam removal project gets underway in Northern California.
Battle for Oak Flat: How Apache opposition to a copper mine became a religious liberty test
Apache tribe members say Arizona land slated to be destroyed for a copper mine is sacred. Their legal battle is now a major religious liberty test.
‘An ethical failing:’ Nevada tribes continue to seek repatriation of ancestral remains
Today, hundreds of ancestral remains and funerary objects have still not been returned to the Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin under decades-old federal and state laws. Repatriation to tribes can be a frustratingly delayed process.
Bill could grant San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe its own reservation
The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe may finally get its own reservation after nearly two centuries of fighting for its homelands.
Interior Secretary cancels plans at Chaco Canyon after opponents of drilling ban block roads
Opponents of a plan to halt oil and gas drilling near Chaco Canyon blocked roads leading to the site on Sunday and forced a disappointed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to cancel a planned event and address the situation in Albuquerque.
'If you’re not white, you don’t get justice': Dozens in Arlee, Montana, urge action
Tuesday marked the first of four walks centered on Mika Westwolf, a 22-year-old woman who was hit and killed while walking along Highway 93.
Small Town Summit uplifts rural, Indigenous voices
The Missoula event allowed for more than 250 participants to create conversations about breaking borders, strategizing and addressing issues their communities face.
‘This is our homeland’: Idaho tribes gather in Boise to commemorate ancestral lands
In an area that was once an ancestral burial ground, about 150 members of five regional American Indian tribes gathered at a park in East Boise on Friday to commemorate their ties to the Boise Valley, and to pay tribute to their culture and history.
American Buffalo: Ken Burns' new film includes Native voices
"The hunting of bison to near extinction is one of the most heart-wrenching and tragic stories in all of America," said Germain White, a CSKT information and education specialist who speaks in the film.
From the Montana climate trial
Montana youth take climate change case to court
On first day of Montana climate trial, youth plaintiffs testify to hardships of growing up in a warming world as scientists describe scope of crisis
Climate expert: 'The harm will get worse'
Scientific testimony figures prominently into second day of youth-led constitutional climate trial Held v. Montana.
‘Inspirational’ landscape of Glacier National Park emerges as thread in climate trial
Testimony from renowned Earth scientist, glaciologist figures prominently into second day of youth-led constitutional climate trial Held v. Montana.
Floods, fires and drought offered as evidence of Montana’s changing climate
“Montana’s promotion of fossil fuel production is making the problem worse, because every ton of CO2 makes a difference,” climate scientist Cathy Whitlock testified Tuesday, the second day of Held v. Montana taking place in Lewis and Clark County District Court.
Young athlete in Montana climate change trial testifies he uses inhaler due to forest fire smoke
A high school athlete who along with 15 other young people took Montana to court over climate change testified Tuesday that increased smoke from forest fires makes it difficult for him to compete and that a doctor prescribed an inhaler to help his breathing problems.
How science will take the stand
“The decision in this case ultimately will be part of a larger set of decisions that can help shape the course of climate, governance and the future,” says Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law in New York City.
In other climate news…
Living with [surviving?] climate change
RANGE talks to Brian G. Henning, the director of Gonzaga Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment, about the role climate change plays in driving extreme weather.
The future of water
A new book from water expert Peter Gleick urges a rethinking of how we use, manage and value one of our most important resources.
Canadian fires signal new frontier in climate change
Scientists and residents see changes in the ecosystem of forests that make the regions ripe for conflagration.
Why Canada’s wildfires are extreme and getting worse, in 4 charts
Statistics on the fires — which help place their scope in historical context — continue to show how extreme they are. And they’re part of a trend toward larger, fiercer fires and more-damaging fire seasons.
Ponderosa forests struggle in the face of Southwest megadrought
As temperatures increase and prolonged drought continues, a new study of ponderosa forests in the Four Corners region underscores the importance of summer monsoons.
Future forests of America
Across the American West, forests are failing to regenerate after high-intensity wildfires, but that doesn't have to mean they're gone for good.
PacifiCorp could be on the hook for billions after jury verdict in devastating Oregon wildfires
A jury in Oregon has found the electric utility PacifiCorp responsible for causing devastating fires during Labor Day weekend in 2020, ordering the company to pay tens of millions of dollars to 17 homeowners who sued and finding it liable for broader damages that could push the total award well into the billions.
No criminal charges for Xcel Energy in Marshall fire, but civil liability another matter
Attorney in class action lawsuit against Xcel Energy says investigation results confirm law firms’ findings.
Dispatches from the energy transition
TransWest Express poised to expand reach of Wyoming renewables
The 732-mile high-voltage line will connect Wyoming wind to the Southwest and potentially boost other low-carbon power ambitions along the way.
As nuclear power gains steam, uranium mining and its impacts may grow in the Mountain West
“The world is looking at nuclear in a new light,” says Wayne Heili, the CEO of a uranium mining company that’s ramping up production in Wyoming.
Nevada mines test boundaries of 150-year-old mining law
Nevada is emerging as a major battleground to determine the fate of a century-and-a-half-old mining law as demand for critical minerals in the U.S soars.
PNM transfers reservoir to Reclamation for Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project
The Public Service Company of New Mexico handed over the virtual keys to the reservoir that once provided water from the San Juan River for San Juan Generating Station operations to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for use in the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.
A scathing audit blasts Utah Office of Energy Development as adrift at a crucial moment
The Utah Office of Energy Development lacks defined goals and internal governance and should be doing more to implement state energy policy, according to a blistering audit released today from the Utah Legislative Auditor General.
Summit County Commissioners eye program to require installation of renewable energy to offset emissions from outdoor amenities like hot tubs
Similar programs requiring fossil-fuel consuming outdoor amenities to be offset have been adopted elsewhere in Colorado.
Will faster federal reviews speed up the clean energy shift? Two legal scholars explain what NEPA does and doesn't do
Legal scholars J.B. Ruhl and James Salzman explain recent changes to the National Environmental Policy Act and what they mean for protecting the environment and expanding clean energy production.
Natural gas production in the Permian region established a new record in 2022
Gross natural gas withdrawals in the Permian region set an annual record high in 2022 at 21.0 billion cubic feet per day, 14% above the 2021 average. Annual gross natural gas production in the Permian region, which extends across western Texas and eastern New Mexico, has been rising steadily for over a decade and continued to grow in the first four months of 2023.
The land report
CPW slashed hunting licenses to save wildlife. What about Colorado towns that rely on hunters?
Thousands fewer hunting tags in Colorado means thousands fewer hunters spending money in towns like Craig, Meeker and Rangely.
‘A 30,000 foot conversation’: Groups push for Paradise Valley wildlife crossings
The view from a tiny plane Friday morning showed the grandeur of Paradise Valley, making clear a patchwork of human attempts to tame a wild space.
When the water recedes: The historic floods of 2022 in Yellowstone National Park and Park County, and what came next
A year later, the flood scars aren’t visible to the untrained eye. But for some who live and work along the river, the flooding reshaped the way they view their homes.
Corner crossers’ ordeal: surprise, fear, faith
After a judge determined they did not trespass while stepping through the airspace above the corner of a private ranch, Missouri hunters describe their ordeals.
Montana FWP's declaration that corner crossing is 'unlawful' scrutinized
When asked for an interpretation of the two cases Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks cites in determining that corner crossing is unlawful in Montana, University of Montana law professor Michelle Bryan said, “While the cases the state cites do address air rights and trespass in other contexts, I think the law is more complicated than those two cases, neither of which deal with the unique situation of corner crossing to access public lands.”
Outdoor recreation, ‘bleisure’ and how they impact tourism in Utah
Recent county reports and a dashboard from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute show tourism jobs and visitor spending had largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, though some counties lagged behind.
A Great Salt Lake national park? It’s unlikely, but don’t despair.
Utah lawmakers are notoriously resistant to ceding any land to federal control, but supporters say it could help with conservation efforts.
Climate-smart cowboys hope regenerative cattle ranching can heal the land and sequester carbon
Grazing livestock to mimic how wildlife forages can prevent the erosion of topsoil, protect water quality and keep carbon out of the atmosphere, but it requires big changes in how the beef industry operates.
James Watt, Ted Kaczynski and power over lands
Two very different men are gone, but their legacies are undoubtedly intertwined.
Hunter mistakenly kills grizzly bear north of Priest Lake
An endangered-male grizzly bear was killed last week by a Washington hunter in North Idaho who told wildlife officials that he mistakenly identified the bruin as a black bear before he fired the fatal shot.
FWP: Hunter kills grizzly bear in self-defense encounter in Madison Range
A hunter killed a grizzly bear in self-defense last week in the Madison Range southeast of Ennis, according to a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Montana to dramatically increase mountain lion hunting quotas
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday voted to dramatically increase hunting quotas for mountain lions across the state, aiming to reduce their populations by up to 40% in the next six years in the hopes of boosting the numbers of sheep, mule deer and moose.
Opinion: Mountains don't need hardware
The Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act sends a loud message: Recreation interests are more important than preserving the small bit of wilderness we have left.
What else we’re reading today
Charles Wilkinson, CU professor who advocated for key land and water rights for Native American tribes, has died
Those who knew him described him as an unstoppable force in the legal world but mainly someone who brought everyone into the conversation.
Cormac McCarthy was the great novelist of the American West
His fiction faces a bloody past and never looks away.
High housing costs could be reason why Boise lost (yes, lost) population last year
U.S. Census Bureau estimates show Boise lost nearly 1,400 residents, while the other top 19 most populated Idaho cities gained residents.
Watergate: Did someone monkey wrench Jackson Lake Dam?
Reclamation officials investigating suspicious spike in dam flow May 25.
Crypto mines arise in Campbell County and neighbors have questions
Last week, construction began on a 5,200 square-foot cryptocurrency mine, one of at least two crypto mines currently being built in Campbell County, Wyoming.
Suncor pollutes into nearby neighborhoods more often than similar facilities, EPA vows tougher enforcement
The Colorado regional office of the EPA vowed tougher enforcement action against Suncor in Commerce City, issuing a report showing the refinery releases air pollutants into nearby neighborhoods more often than many similar facilities around the U.S.
Fast snowpack melt may increase southwest Montana's drought, fire risk
Officials are looking ahead to wildfire and drought risk this summer as southwest Montana’s above-average snowpack melts faster than area hydrologists had hoped.
Home insurance providers backing out of Summit County, Utah, due to wildfire risk
Home insurance is becoming increasingly expensive and harder to find in the Wasatch Back.
Pueblo Chieftain workers blast owner for shutting down Colorado printing press
Newspaper Guild says it "believes Gannett’s decision will further degrade the newspaper’s reputation in the community.”
Eugene Register-Guard languishes under Gannett, nation’s largest newspaper chain
Parent company Gannett's massive debt has exacted a toll on local newspapers.
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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