THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Inside the dissident fringe, where the New Right meets the far left, and everyone’s bracing for apocalypse
Preppers, techies, hippies, and yuppies are converging on the American West, the safest place to “exit” a society gone haywire.
‘Christian patriots’ are flocking from blue states to Idaho
North Idaho offers a window into what a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics.
Idaho House passes nonbinding measure calling for formal ‘Greater Idaho’ talks
The proposal is rooted in the so-called Greater Idaho movement, which seeks to include about 11 counties, or 63% of Oregon’s landmass, within Idaho’s borders because proponents of the plan think eastern Oregon is more politically and culturally aligned with Idaho than Oregon’s larger progressive cities in the western part of the state.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort wants Rock Springs, Green River canyons
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort wants to expand south, looking to lay claim to 620 acres of Rock Springs and Green River canyons. If formally proposed, the move could spark a clash with backcountry skiers and bighorn sheep advocates. In concept, it already is.
Opinion: Kissing the 'quieter side of the Tetons' goodbye?
Will Grand Targhee Resort expansion put Teton Valley, Idaho, on course to become a doppelgänger of Big Sky? A county commissioner voices her concerns.
Opinion: In ‘America’s playground,’ the rich go skiing and the workers go couch-surfing
Colorado's housing crisis threatens resort town with worker shortages, but development poses its own challenges.
Bear Lake is a well-loved Utah tourist gem. A state lawmaker wants to see if the lake is being loved to death.
Utah state Sen. Chris Wilson wants to fund a study on how best to manage and maintain Bear Lake in northern Utah, an area where over 1 million people visit every year.
Montana bills to expand e-bike use on trails elicit access concerns
Opponents say a pair of proposals to redefine electric bikes would have unintended consequences on multi-use trails that span management jurisdictions.
Great Burn: 'One of the last best places' — but for whom?
Advocates for wilderness and snowmobiles agree on at least one thing about the Great Burn: The 252,000-acre jumble of peaks and lakes along the Montana-Idaho border still holds qualities increasingly hard to find elsewhere. What they disagree about is whether snowmobiles and snowbikes should be allowed into the Great Burn in the winter.
Who shoulders Mother Nature's cut of the Colorado River?
Persistent drought could finally force resolution of the debate over how to account for evaporative losses in the West's major waterway.
A reprieve for Powell?
Lake Powell’s record low is actually a good sign — if looked at from a certain angle — because it indicates that water managers are confident enough in this year’s snowpack to release a bit more water from Lake Powell than they otherwise would.
Upper Basin states want to pause some releases from a major Colorado River reservoir
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico are asking the Bureau of Reclamation to pause water releases at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which has been used to help prop up Lake Powell.
Paid not to farm? An expanded Colorado River conservation program divides agriculture community
The System Conservation Pilot Program was recently rebooted with $125 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to fight shrinking water levels in Lake Powell.
Amid drought, wealthy homeowners in New Mexico are getting a tax break to water their lawns
A New Mexico law providing a tax break meant to help subsistence farming throughout the state has also been granted to “hobby farmers” and wealthy landowners who don’t farm at all and use water meant for crop irrigation on what are expansive yards in the state’s most populous county, according to a new study.
Here's why Arizona says it can keep growing despite historic megadrought
Phoenix has long been one of America's fastest growing cities. But central Arizona may finally be facing a reckoning as much of its groundwater supplies are becoming tapped out.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Railroad’s plan to haul waxy crude through Colorado’s mountains needs $2 billion in government-approved bonds
Opposition to taxpayers helping foot the bill for Uinta Basin Railway’s “massive carbon bomb” is lining up.
Xcel Energy played a leading role in a stealthy plan to defend natural gas in Colorado
Tax documents show an Xcel Energy executive served as a board member for Coloradans for Energy Access, a group dedicated to battling climate measures.
Utah legislators want to talk about ‘hazards of net-zero energy’ but not the ‘social cost of carbon’
It’s the tale of two resolutions, and it clarifies the Legislature’s priorities around energy and climate.
U.S. judge won't block huge lithium mine on Nevada-Oregon line
A federal judge has sided again with the Biden administration and a Canadian-based mining company in a high-stakes legal battle with environmentalists and tribal leaders trying to block a huge lithium mine in Nevada near the Oregon line.
Western cities vote to move ahead with novel nuclear power plant
Plans for the first U.S. small modular nuclear power reactor got a boost on Tuesday as some Western U.S. cities vowed to continue with the NuScale Power Corp project despite a jump in projected costs. NuScale plans to build a demonstration small modular reactor power plant at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Lava Ridge draws multi-sided opposition
The wind project is exactly the type the Biden administration says is needed to transition the country’s energy supply away from fossil fuels. But locals are opposed.
Proposed Idaho wind farm near former Minidoka prison camp sparks concern in Oregon
Oregon’s Japanese American community is raising concerns about a proposal to build hundreds of wind turbines just miles from the historic site of the Minidoka prison camp in Idaho.
BLM explores utility-scale solar in Montana
The effort is part of a broader federal initiative to permit enough renewable energy on public land to power five million homes by 2025.
Wyoming seeks more control over its burgeoning rare earths industry
A new law authorizes the governor’s office to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to delegate authority over rare earth mines’ often-hazardous byproducts to the state.
Desire to save coal plants drives Wyoming energy legislation
Whether through litigation, ban or mandate, energy legislation has centered on helping fossil fuels while erecting cautionary sideboards for wind and solar.
Utah power plant bill won’t save coal-fired electricity
The bill’s sponsor told conservative host Glenn Beck that there was an agreement to save the plant, but the final bill doesn’t do that.
'Buffalo take care of us': First Blackfeet buffalo hunt open to all was a success
For the Blackfeet Buffalo Program, the hunt represented new efforts to build trust with outside communities and organizations. It symbolized a new phase in the tribe’s bison management strategy and, above all, it affirmed the ways in which bison continue to help Native communities thrive.
Tribal hunting bill dies, but not before ‘poisoning the well’
Sovereign-to-sovereign agreement, once the top legislative priority for wildlife managers, fell apart once it lost tribes’ support. Clarifying off-reservation hunting parameters now falls more squarely in the courtroom.
‘This is unprecedented’: Avian flu has killed 12,000 birds in Colorado
The highly pathogenic avian influenza — or bird flu — sweeping across the globe has killed more than 12,000 wild birds in Colorado and the virus is jumping into mammal populations as well, state wildlife officials say.
Can camera traps relieve our species’ loneliness?
A community science project reintroduces humans to their fellow mammals.
Colorado wolf reintroduction plan evolves as challenges threaten early 2024 deadline to have predators roaming Western Slope
Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners hosted the fifth and final public meeting on wolf reintroduction plan Wednesday, with possible plans to allow the killing of wolves the most controversial topic.
Wolf restoration in Colorado shows how humans are rethinking their relationships with wild animals
Less than a century ago, Colorado hunted, trapped and poisoned all the wolves within its borders. Today it’s restoring them – a change that reflects a profound shift in human thinking.
Lone wolf trekked across southwest Montana into Pryor Mountains before deadly decision
A male wolf trekked from the Dillon area to the Pryor Mountains last year before killing livestock and being shot. This is the first documented wolf in the island mountain range.
Montana lawmakers consider bills expanding wolf trapping, hound hunting for black bears
The sponsor of a trio of bills expanding territory for wolf trapping and hound hunting for black bears said the legislation would better delineate areas where certain restrictions apply as he continues negotiations with state wildlife managers. But opposition expressed concern that the bills could jeopardize efforts to delist grizzly bears.
Where do all the problem bears go?
As grizzly populations expand and more people move into bear country, wildlife officials in the lower 48 struggle to find places to relocate bears.
Wyoming ecologist-turned-activist tapped for top U.S. Fish and Wildlife post
Federal agency’s new deputy director, Siva Sundaresan, advocated for environmental causes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for nearly a decade.
Q&A: UM professor explores rewilding in new book
University of Montana environmental philosophy professor Christopher Preston's new book is called "Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife recoveries that change how we think about animals."
What else we’re reading today
In a battle for truth in a small Montana mining town, newly revealed records show how the EPA sided with polluters
Emails obtained by InvestigateWest reveal a cozy relationship between EPA officials and mining companies in Butte. Thousands of pages of documents detail how the EPA coordinated with the very companies they’re supposed to be regulating to attack researchers and smear peer-reviewed science that has raised alarms over current mining practices.
The 90-foot sentinel of Butte, Montana
What does a statue dedicated to mothers reveal about women’s rights?
U.S. Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit challenging New Mexico stream access ruling
Conservation groups are hailing the decision as a significant win for public access.
Bondurant billionaire buys ‘elite enclave’ up Greys River, eyes land swap
Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, expands his presence in northwest Wyoming with acquisition of remote inholding, though that property may be a pawn for larger plans.
A billionaire and the BLM brokered a Colorado land swap meant to benefit rivers and the public. Not everyone is cheering.
A major land exchange 22 years in the making is moving toward completion, barring public opposition — the loudest of which is coming from a Basalt-based public lands group with a history of opposing such deals.
Colorado's air pollution permitting process for oil and gas, other industries may get a lot stricter
Colorado’s pollution regulators would have to scrutinize permits for pollution sources more strictly, under a proposed bill backed by clean air advocates.
Utah looks to rein in US Magnesium emissions
The US Magnesium plant on the southwest shore of Great Salt Lake may be a critical source of the nation’s magnesium, but it also contributes heavily to Utah’s air quality woes. Now state regulators are seeking greater latitude from federal authorities to force the plant to reduce emissions.
The government will pay you $30 an hour to sort through Telluride’s trash in the name of social science
Picking through trash left by high-season tourists will help towns in San Miguel County figure out how to change what people toss and why.
Navajo community residents wary of 'devastating' plan to move uranium tailings nearby
A proposal to allow a company to move uranium tailings close to a Navajo community worries residents, who believe their plight has been ignored.
Buu Nygren leads the nation
Can the Navajo Nation’s youngest-ever president improve the path on the largest reservation in the U.S.?
The plight of the trees
“Sentinels” exhibit explores juniper and piñon pines in Southeast Utah
In the once-cool forests of the Pacific Northwest, heat poses a new threat
Drought can stress trees to death, but heat’s effects are less known. New research could hold the keys to protecting conifer forests.
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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