THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Extraction and resistance
At Thacker Pass, extraction and resistance come to a head
Police and private security for a Canadian mining company arrested an Indigenous protester and demolished a protest blockade on Wednesday that was erected by descendants of a survivor of the 1865 massacre at the site, according to land and water defenders who were there.
Meet the climate activist demanding action against Colorado’s only oil refinery
“I want people to know that it’s possible to fight these big, multimillion-dollar entities,” says Alessandra Chavira.
States fight to save coal plants as EPA cracks down
Some jurisdictions have passed laws to make it harder for state regulators to approve plans to retire coal plants or to conduct climate analyses.
Youth climate activists are finally getting their day in court
This will be the first time a youth-led climate lawsuit actually goes to trial.
Montana kids' climate case set to make history
The nation's first climate trial will open Monday. It promises to have implications far beyond Montana's borders.
Battle for a better future
Bigfork teenager Kian Tanner was raised beside the Flathead Valley’s scenic mountains and rivers. Now, he’s fighting to save them.
Montana gas power plant can resume construction, judge rules
NorthWestern Energy will resume construction of a natural gas power plant along Montana’s Yellowstone River following a two-month delay, a company spokesperson said Friday, after a state judge revived a pollution permit for the project despite lingering concerns over its climate-changing emissions.
Navajo officials say a mining and drilling ban at Chaco Canyon will hurt local residents
Deb Haaland's action "undermines our sovereignty and self-determination," Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said.
Mining critical to renewable energy tied to hundreds of alleged human rights abuses
A report released Wednesday faults the U.S. and other nations for providing incentives for the mining of rare metals like lithium and cobalt without enacting adequate labor and environmental safeguards.
In Colorado, fossil fuel-free energy comes with controversies
Residents of Montezuma County, Colorado, mostly support the development of solar farms. But concerns about farmland loss, wildlife, and more persist.
Las Vegas won't save the water it needs by just removing lawns
Drought-plagued Nevada pledged to do away with 3,900 acres of grass in the Las Vegas area within six years, but a ProPublica analysis found that the state grossly overestimated how much of that grass would likely be removed.
Can Phoenix grow without groundwater? Only if the price is right.
Arizona has paused new housing construction around the city, citing a water shortage.
Arizona’s water troubles show how climate change is reshaping the West
The decision by Arizona to limit residential construction in some parts of the fast-growing Phoenix suburbs is another major warning about how climate change is disrupting lifestyles and economies in the West.
The land report
Why could Montana Republicans reshape land use but Colorado Democrats couldn’t?
While the states’ bills are distinct and the political dynamics in both places are vastly different, some Democrats in Colorado have begun to wonder: How could conservative Montana accomplish what increasingly blue Colorado could not?
BLM 'conservation rule' divides Wyoming public land users
The rule is a recognition of mounting pressures from the effects of climate change, supporters say, while others say it's a threat to Wyoming's way of life.
Proposed rule for public lands expected to have outsized impact in New Mexico. Here's how to weigh in.
A coalition of conservation and outdoor recreation enthusiasts is urging New Mexicans to support the proposal. Opponents, in turn, question whether the rule will be used to curtail drilling, grazing and similar activities.
How heritage breeds could rescue ranching
A team of scientists and ranchers are studying Criollo cattle with a mission to think of solutions for agricultural producers threatened by climate change.
Decorated climate scientist says Montana should expect climate-driven water and wildfire woes
Steve Running, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, discussed the global causes and local implications of climate change at an event in Billings.
Colorado's updated climate projections
How will Colorado's climate change in the next 30 or so years? Hotter, yes. Definitely. Precipitation? That's a fuzzier picture.
Feds speed up abandoned oil well cleanup
The U.S. Department of Interior rolled out its long-awaited Orphaned Wells Program Office for capping orphaned oil and gas wells on federal lands Thursday, a move that included the $63.8 million to cap wells in 16 states including Montana.
Former Secretary of the Interior James 'Jim' Watt dies at 85
Wyoming born, bred and educated, Watt made a national name for himself as a staunch pro-development, anti-environmentalist heading up Reagan’s Department of the Interior.
Wildlife tracking collar powers itself as animals roam
Replacing worn-out batteries in animal tracking devices can be a time-consuming, expensive duty for wildlife scientists. It’s stressful for the animals, too. Now, inspired by the technology behind a self-charging smartwatch, researchers have invented a tracker powered by the animals’ own movement. The approach could help researchers monitor animals across their entire life spans, making things easier for both the scientists and the creatures they follow.
Study finds land mammals moved farther during pandemic lockdowns
The researchers say their results show that animals have the ability to change their behavior in a relatively short period, from just several weeks to a few months.
Grizzlies, environmentalists win toothless victory in court of appeals
Judges’ reversal of a grazing allotment decision that allows up to 72 grizzly deaths over a decade won’t impact contested range activity, plaintiffs and defendants say.
Could a federal 'Grizzly Protection Act' make delisting more palatable for both sides?
Is federal legislation to protect grizzlies — similar to legislation that protects bald eagles — warranted? Chris Servheen, who spent 35 years as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator, thinks so.
What’s in store for the devastated Wyoming Range Deer Herd?
The deadly winter that decimated the state’s largest mule deer herd also brought some silver linings: Soaked soil and richer habitat pressured by fewer animals can lead to fat, healthy and fecund survivors.
Bison management group discusses deadly winter for Yellowstone bison, plans for next season
“It was the hardest winter in over a decade,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.
Wild horses have clear impact on environment, but does the good outweigh the bad?
Conservationists say the presence of horses in national forests contributes to the decline of numerous endangered species, but others point to environmental benefits like reducing wildfire risk.
FWP wades into roiling waters about trout population declines in southwest Montana
Potential contributors to the disturbing declines include climate change, increased nutrients, warming water temperatures, irrigation withdrawals, fungus, parasites, a dramatic increase in angling days on the river, and trout stressed by catch-and-release fishing, algal blooms and more.
'No magic wand' for ailing rivers
Declining trout populations in southwest Montana rivers was the focus of a Wednesday night gathering in Butte and state meeting in Helena on Thursday.
What else we’re reading today
Burnout: Stresses of wildland firefighting recognized as treatment options grow
Fighting bigger blazes — sometimes in areas where homes or whole neighborhoods are destroyed — firefighters, their families and support crews have seen their stress levels increase exponentially.
How real is smoke brain?
Researchers are only just starting to ask how wildfire smoke affects cognition.
Ahead of new Colorado River talks, governments and tribes weigh in on the future
After a Colorado River conservation agreement between California, Arizona and Nevada, states and tribes are turning their attention to a new round of pre-2026 negotiations.
Wyoming's Snake River can't quench Idaho's thirst
No matter how much snow or rain falls each year, demand exceeds supply.
Great Salt Lake boaters return as water rises more than five feet
The water at Great Salt Lake State Park and Marina is up five and a half feet since the lake hit a record-low elevation in November. It swelled more than a foot in just the last month, thanks to a record-breaking snowpack and subsequent runoff. And the salty lake sailing aficionados couldn’t be happier.
Colorado cities may have to eliminate growth caps under new state law
Gov. Jared Polis signed a ban on certain growth laws Wednesday.
Vail Resorts declines voluntary recognition of Crested Butte lift mechanics union, forcing a formal election
Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski patrollers were among the first to form a union in the 1970s. Now the ski area’s lift crew is seeking to unionize as part of a resort labor renaissance.
Tenants group calls on Bozeman to ban many short-term rentals
Bozeman Tenants United says a ban is needed to increase city’s housing supply.
Colorado charges ahead with e-bike rebates for low- and moderate-income residents
It's official: Colorado will launch one of the country's largest statewide e-bike rebate programs in August.
Storing power in a spinning wheel? Utah startup sells flywheels as a battery alternative.
Torus, a Utah-based startup, is selling a mechanical alternative to lithium batteries. It's a large flywheel that can spin for days and generate electricity.
Montana, climate-change pioneer
The state’s politics pit liberals trying to preserve the state constitution against conservatives trying to rewrite it
Oregon's Wallowa County votes for ‘Greater Idaho’ talks, Crook County schedules vote
Wallowa County voted for the "Greater Idaho" movement, joining 12 Oregon counties in a long-shot effort to redraw the state’s boundary.
Opinion: I was a wilderness therapy success story. Then my PTSD surfaced.
“As a teen, I credited the therapy with reversing the downward spiral I was on. But in college, the nightmares began.”
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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