THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Books, pencils and erasure
The following stories are part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s investigation into the legacy of reservation boarding schools for the Ute Indian Tribe and their childrens’ later transition to public schools.
The Ute Tribe’s kids have been failed by the public school system more than any other students in Utah
The Salt Lake Tribune has examined hundreds of pages of records, from the boarding school era to the transition to public schools to recent grades, ACT scores and graduation rates in Uinta Basin school districts. Decade after decade, Native children have been the students most likely to drop out of the districts’ high schools — at a rate worse than most anywhere in the state.
Utah’s education system is failing Ute kids, and a former tribal education leader thinks that’s intentional
Former tribal education leader Forrest Cuch believes shortcomings are intentional because it “keeps the Indian down.”
Ute Tribe members say their kids are being denied an effective education. The data backs them up.
Today, members of the Ute tribe say — and the data shows — Utah has been failing to effectively educate their children for decades.
The Ute Tribe is trying to make up for the state’s education shortcomings, but resources are limited
The school districts in the Uinta Basin haven't done much to incorporate Ute language and culture into the curriculum, which experts say would help them succeed.
The Ute Tribe has its own high school. It outperforms its public school neighbors.
At Uintah River High, Rosalia Cornpeach takes classes on looming, beading and speaking Ute. “We get to learn our own language,” the 16-year-old said excitedly. Her school is an outlier in providing those cultural lessons in the classroom. And that’s because of who runs it — the Ute Indian Tribe.
Ute Indian boarding schools saw nearly 60 student deaths
The number of student deaths documented by The Salt Lake Tribune is likely an undercount, as no official tally was kept.
Paiute Tribe confirms bodies of 12 children buried at former boarding school site in southern Utah
Tribal leaders say they are now considering “how best to honor and memorialize” the children who died at the Panguitch Boarding School, which operated from 1904 to 1909.
What was life like in the Indian boarding schools for Utes in eastern Utah?
Explore first-person accounts.
This is fine
Day and night Phoenix has sweltered from heat that will break a record for American cities
Phoenix’s relentless streak of dangerously hot days is finally poised to smash a record for major U.S. cities on Tuesday, the 19th straight day the desert city is to see temperatures soar to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
Arizona heat wave causes utilities to break electricity use records — twice
Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service both reported record power use over the weekend, and usage in coming days could eclipse the new highs
Salt Lake City still sweltering after weekend heat broke records
After smashing a heat record and coming within a degree of the all-time hottest day ever recorded in Salt Lake City, more triple-digit temperatures are expected this week.
The world is reeling from record heat and flooding. Scientists say its the cost of climate inaction
A record-hot June, followed by a disaster-packed July has climate scientists “shocked” by just how extreme the extreme weather has been, including some ocean waters feeling like “a hot tub.”
How Canada’s record wildfires got so bad, so fast
Wildfires in Canada have burned a staggering 25 million acres so far this year, an area roughly the size of Kentucky. With more than a month of peak fire season left to go, 2023 has already eclipsed Canada’s previous annual record from 1989, when over 18 million acres were scorched. And the country’s worst wildfire season on record continues to rage.
'Zombie fires' in the Arctic: Canada's extreme wildfire season offers a glimpse of new risks in a warmer, drier future
Large stretches of the Arctic are carbon-rich peat bogs. As the region warms and dries, lightning strikes can spark underground fires that can burn for years.
How climate change is making us sick
People around the world are living longer, healthier lives than they were just half a century ago. Climate change threatens to undo that progress.
The land report
Feds walk back BLM boss’ corner crossing directive
BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said she directed her state offices to “implement” corner crossing, the Billings Gazette reported Thursday, even though a high-profile Wyoming dispute over the act is headed for appeals court. On Friday, the BLM walked it back.
Two steps back for ranch owner in corner-crossing fight
A wealthy Carbon County landowner who has tried to block public access to public land enmeshed in his sprawling ranch has hit a legal snag. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has told the Elk Mountain Ranch owner Fred Eshelman he cannot yet appeal a federal judge’s decision that corner crossing is OK.
FEMA has so far paid out less than 1% of what Congress allocated for victims of New Mexico wildfire
Congress gave FEMA $3.95 billion to compensate victims of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire in northern New Mexico. Seven months later, just $3 million has been paid, and most hasn’t gone to households.
Montana sees climate pressure on waterways amid warmest global temperatures in decades
Drought and a quick-melting snowpack have put Flathead Lake at record-low levels, and anglers are under the first fishing restrictions of the season on portions of the Sun and Madison rivers due to warm water temperatures and low flows.
Frustration builds as Flathead Lake continues to drop
Days after federal managers rejected a plan to release more water from the Hungry Horse Dam, Flathead Lake was almost two feet below full pool.
Steve Running explains Flathead Lake level connection to climate change
“Everything we know about climate change is little by little it is going to keep getting warmer, the snowpack is going to start melting earlier,” says Dr. Steve Running, a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist.
Program plants, collects Seeds of Success on Fort Belknap Reservation
On the northern plains of Montana, several persistent professional women have connected to create a program based on humility, healing tribal relationships and Indigenous people, working to restore native habitat.
Ten years in, the emerald ash borer breaches the Western Slope as it continues its steady — but slow — spread in Colorado
Evidence of the ash-devouring beetle was found in Carbondale in June.
Shorn down, growing back: Woolgrowers eye opportunity
The winter of 2022-’23 walloped large-scale sheep operations in western Wyoming, even putting some ranchers out of business. There’s hope in the industry, however, and new niches are growing.
As farms and ranches face development threats, feds renew push to preserve open space
Farm and ranch lands across the West face many threats – like inflation and outside development. But the federal government is working with agricultural producers to preserve open space and the benefits it provides.
UDOT’s gondola renderings changing opinions in Little Cottonwood Canyon
Images of cabins floating above campsites, iconic vistas creates conflicting reactions in canyon visitors.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Twin Falls County, Idaho, considers a pause on renewable projects
As more and more renewable projects are proposed for both public and private lands in southern Idaho, the Twin Falls County Commission has heard from a lot of residents who don’t want to see any additional projects in the area. With the feedback of the community in mind, the commission wants to hit the pause button on large-scale commercial energy development.
9th Circuit denies bid by environmentalists and tribes to block Nevada lithium mine
The latest bid by conservationists and tribal leaders to block construction of a huge lithium mine already in the works along the Nevada-Oregon line was denied by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.
Free speech or interference? In rare move, Lithium Americas sues Thacker Pass protesters
After getting hammered with lawsuits aimed at halting development of a lithium mine at Northern Nevada’s Thacker Pass, a Canadian-based mining company has turned the tables and is suing the mine’s protesters.
New court order seeks to block lithium project at Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge
A new court order is seeking to block the launch of a lithium exploration project on the border of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near the Amargosa Valley.
Enviro groups file to halt drilling by mining firms in Southern Arizona mountains
A coalition of conservation groups asked a federal judge to halt drilling in the Patagonia Mountains on Friday afternoon. At the same time, they issued notice of their intent to sue the Forest Service over breach of the Endangered Species Act.
Xcel Energy wants to mix hydrogen into the natural gas system. It’s starting with this neighborhood.
The company plans to test the controversial climate strategy in Box Elder Creek Ranch, a subdivision near Hudson, Colo.
Colorado Springs Utilities among group seeking future renewable natural gas developers
Colorado Springs Utilities and three other utility companies operating in Colorado are seeking new sources of renewable natural gas as part of ongoing statewide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lesser prairie chicken could see protections via renewable energy projects in New Mexico
The lesser prairie chicken was listed as endangered in southeast New Mexico and West Texas but could see conservation from renewable energy projects.
Links from the brink
Grizzly bears sighted in Helena, Clancy areas after long absence
Over the last couple of months, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff have confirmed grizzly bear sightings in the North Hills and Grizzly Gulch areas near Helena, the Elkhorn Mountains near Clancy, near Ulm, in the Pryor Mountains southeast of Billings, the Shields Valley, Little Belt Mountains, near the Judith River east of Denton, and on the lower Dearborn River.
The cougar whisperer
Maurice Hornocker, whose work in the 1960s and ‘70s unraveled the secret lives of mountain lions and led to their classification as big game animals across the West, has published a memoir, “Cougars on the Cliff: One Man’s Pioneering Quest to Understand the Mythical Mountain Lion.”
The Great Plains: Bringing back an ‘American Serengeti’
Ecologist Curtis Freese’s new book, “Back From the Collapse: American Prairie and the Restoration of Great Plains Wildlife,” is a call to protect and restore the northern Great Plains and the biodiversity it once held in great numbers.
Animal-rights groups urge Ottawa to ban strychnine poison for causing unnecessary suffering
A coalition of animal-welfare groups, conservationists and veterinarians is urging Ottawa to ban the use of strychnine poison, saying it causes undue suffering to animals and is leading to the deaths of non-target animals such as dogs and grizzly bears. Alberta is the only province in Canada still to use strychnine to kill animals, including wolves and coyotes, and it has asked Ottawa, which regulates the poison’s use, for permission to continue using it.
B.C. sanctions shooting, logging in endangered spotted owl habitat
Only one spotted owl remains in Canada’s wild. The B.C. government says it is committed to recovering the species, even as it approves new clearcuts and recreational shooting in a Fraser Valley wildlife area set aside for the owl.
Meet the tiny owls that nest at Snowbasin, keeping Utah wildlife researchers busy
Studying the small owls has taught researchers about Utah’s changing environments.
Colorado wildlife managers plan to kill off existing fish, restock lake with native trout
Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Thursday a plan to treat a small lake with an organic poison to wipe out its current population of fish in order to restock the lake next year with a vulnerable species of native trout.
As the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers heat up, managers try to keep fish cool
In the latest story in Aspen Public Radio’s four-part climate series “Adaptation,” we look at how stressful conditions impact the coldwater fish who live in our rivers and streams.
‘Beaver believers’ see impacts of rewilding via NASA data
A NASA-supported effort in Idaho adds remote sensing data to the suite of tools used to predict which streams can support beavers and to monitor how water and vegetation change once they return.
What else we’re reading today
A river runs above us
Atmospheric rivers can cause catastrophic flooding and landslides but are crucial for water supply. In an era of increasing weather whiplash between flood and drought, can we learn to embrace the rains?
How a Saudi firm tapped a gusher of water in drought-stricken Arizona
Lax rules let the foreign-owned company pump water from state land to grow alfalfa for the kingdom’s cattle. After almost a decade, the deal is in jeopardy.
Fort Belknap tribes are closing in on a bipartisan water rights deal in Congress
The Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of north-central Montana are closing in on a bipartisan deal to settle their water rights in Congress. The more than $1 billion policy comes after decades of negotiation and would close out a century of tribal water disputes in the state.
Workers lack protections when wildfire smoke makes the air dangerous
Experts are calling on federal regulators to adopt standards protecting outdoor workers from worsening air quality, potentially modeled after the few states that have such standards, including California and Oregon.
Parts of Colorado’s Front Range have topped ozone limits for nearly 20 years. Will they ever do better?
Can the 9-county nonattainment area ever meet EPA air quality thresholds, as Atlanta did, or will it be a perennial offender like, Sheboygan?
Gliding to the Sun: E-bikes make light work of Glacier goal
Battery-assisted e-bikes make a trip over Glacier Park's Going to the Sun Road easy for all, but raise challenges for park managment.
This Utah company wants to change the way people work from home
Backyard Office Utah specializes in building custom stand-alone offices in clients’ backyards.
The cost of a state line
Eastern Oregon wants to join the state of Idaho. But can Oregon afford to leave Oregon?
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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