THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Inside the Colorado River crisis
The 100-year-old mistake that’s reshaping the American West
Vox reporters explore the interconnected causes of the Colorado River crisis, the startling consequences that are already reshaping life in this important region of the world, and the difficult trade-offs we may need to accept to avert disaster.
The worst-case scenario for drought on the Colorado River
One in eight Americans depend on a river that’s disappearing.
You — yes, you — are going to pay for the century-old mistake that’s draining the Colorado River
A huge amount of U.S. food is grown in the desert using water from a river that’s drying up.
The Colorado River is going dry to give us milk, steak, and hamburgers
Let’s talk about the biggest cause of the West’s water crisis.
The devil lurking in the dust
How extreme weather is driving a deadly fungus further into the American West.
The forgotten victims of the Colorado River crisis
As the river shrinks, there’s less water for farms and cities but also for birds, fish, and other animals in the basin.
With projections showing a 50-foot rebound coming, Lake Powell resumes Grand Canyon’s experimental floods
For the first time in five years, high volumes of water are gushing from the drought-depleted Lake Powell, replicating the spring floods that would naturally occur were the Colorado River not dammed at Glen Canyon.
Colorado’s big snowpack powers massive ‘pulse’ of water being shot through Grand Canyon
Simulated spring flood through Colorado River will use almost as much water as Denver uses in a year.
Lorelei Cloud is the first-ever tribal member on Colorado’s top water board. Here’s how she plans to tackle her new role.
With Western water challenges in mind, Lorelei Cloud has a message for policymakers: There should be room for partnerships — not fear — when Native American tribes join the negotiating table.
50 million gallons of water begins daily diversion to Great Salt Lake
Fifty million gallons of water equals about 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Each day over the next few weeks, that amount of water will be heading to the Great Salt Lake through existing pipelines and aqueduct systems.
Boulder v. Big Oil
Boulder’s blockbuster climate lawsuit against Suncor and Exxon Mobil has a path forward
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to weigh in on a significant climate lawsuit brought by Colorado communities Monday, paving the way for a state court to consider whether Exxon Mobil and Suncor Energy should help pay for damages wrought by climate change.
The Supreme Court unleashed a flood of lawsuits against Big Oil
The justices rejected petitions from Chevron, Shell, BP, and other oil companies to move these cases from the state courts where they were filed to federal courts, an arena considered more friendly to the industry. The Supreme Court’s rejection brings an end to a long jurisdictional battle, meaning that cases in Colorado, Maryland, California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and more can finally proceed — potentially toward jury trials.
Supreme Court unlocks climate cases by rejecting oil industry bid
The industry had argued that the cases carry “potentially enormous consequences for an entire sector of the global economy.”
Public lands matters
Utah asks federal court to hear monument challenge
Utah officials urged a federal court Friday to allow their challenge to a pair of national monuments to proceed, asserting that it is losing revenues from activities like uranium and coal mining. They say the combined Bears Ears, Grand-Staircase monuments should protect less than 6,500 acres instead of a total 3.23 million acres.
Can a new rule fix the Bureau of Livestock and Mining?
The BLM’s proposed Public Land Rule might actually have some real on the ground impacts –that is, if the Biden administration implements it quickly enough to insulate it from future efforts to rescind it.
Planned Senate bill would counteract Mining Law ruling
A Nevada Democratic U.S. senator is looking to Congress to ensure mining companies can use established mineral claims to dump waste on neighboring federal lands as they always had before a federal appeals court adopted a stricter interpretation of a 150-year-old law.
The National Park Service is one of the worst places to work in the federal government, a new survey suggests
In a survey measuring employee satisfaction across government workers, NPS staff ranked in the bottom 15%.
To pave or not to pave
Along the primitive and pot-holed North Fork Road, residents are split on how to address the wear and tear on an increasingly busy corridor bordering Glacier National Park.
Corner-crossing hunters claim ‘shared airspace’ in trespassing defense
In a federal civil lawsuit that claims more than $7 million in trespass damages, four Missouri hunters tell how they hunted on public land near Elk Mountain Ranch without stepping on private ranch land.
Controversial BLM ranch purchase gets more public input
Gov. Gordon objected to an agreed-upon sale between private landowners and the federal land agency in 2022, demanding more public and state agency input.
Bill requiring license to use Montana fishing access sites passes Legislature
The bill makes a substantial change for many recreationists who previously used state fishing access sites or wildlife management areas free of charge, now requiring the purchase of an $8 license.
Groups push U.S. land managers for lasting Chaco protections
Native American activists and environmentalists are pushing the U.S. Interior Department to move ahead with its promise to include tribal perspectives when making management decisions that could affect culturally significant areas beyond the boundaries of Chaco Culture National Historical Park .
Headlines across Indian Country
San Carlos Apache call for international intervention over copper mine at Oak Flat
The San Carlos Apache Tribe has taken its fight to the United Nations to save its traditional territory in Arizona from a massive copper mine. Chi’chil Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, is home to one of the largest sources of copper in North America, and it is also the tribe’s most sacred site.
Tribal leaders converge in front of White House with message: 'Save Oak Flat'
Opponents of a proposed copper mine that would wipe out a site considered sacred by Arizona tribes prayed and protested in front of the White House.
The Oak Flat mining battle isn't over. What's next in the fight to save the Apache site
Arizona's Oak Flat is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Resolution Copper wants to mine it. Republic reporter Deb Krol explains the case.
A transition to clean energy was supposed to be equitable. Instead, it’s hurting Indigenous communities.
“I constantly receive information that Indigenous Peoples fear a new wave of green investments."
CSKT: ‘It is time for Canada to end the poisoning of our natural resources’
Coalition of Indigenous leaders demands action on transboundary coal mining pollution in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia as bilateral Canada-U.S. talks are set to begin.
Denver's first Native American affordable housing project aims to make amends for U.S. policy
The 187-unit apartment building with a symbolic circular design will include an Indian Health Services clinic and cultural programming.
Is the Metropolitan Museum of Art displaying objects that belong to Native American tribes?
Only a small percentage of works donated by Charles and Valerie Diker have clear ownership histories. Experts say this could mean objects are stolen or fake. Meanwhile, the Met has been slow to ask tribes for information about the items.
Photo essay: 54th Annual Kyiyo Pow Wow
People from across the region gathered to sing, drum, and dance at the University of Montana last weekend.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Colorado leaders are rallying against a railway project that would carry crude oil along the Colorado River
While opponents of the project note the catastrophic consequences of a major spill into the Colorado River, those working to get the rail built say the likelihood of contamination is overstated.
Colorado Springs takes major step toward cleaner energy with completion of $200 million natural gas units at Martin Drake
In a landmark moment in Colorado Springs' move toward cleaner electricity generation, six new natural gas generating units now stand where coal once piled up near the closed Martin Drake Power Plant downtown.
La Plata County approves new gas and oil regulations
Over two years have elapsed since La Plata County officials first began redrafting the gas and oil regulations contained in chapter 90 of the land-use code. The flare of that process was extinguished ...
Fossil-fuel sabotage comes to Hollywood
The director of “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” discusses the value of popular media for environmental ends and whether destroying pipelines is an act of self-defense.
E.P.A. to propose first controls on greenhouse gases from power plants
If the regulation is implemented, it will be the first time the federal government has limited carbon emissions from existing power plants, which generate 25 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases.
Editorial board: Embracing change will help, not hurt, Wyoming coal communities
Rather than fighting the market, there are solutions that can help our coal communities transition to a more sustainable future.
Editorial board: There’s nothing left to say about Lava Ridge. Now we wait.
It could, in truth, be years before we hear another word of significance from the federal government about Lava Ridge.
Under solar panels, desert restoration gets a leg up
Sprawling solar farms could pull double duty as nurseries growing microscopic plants to help restore deserts and other dryland ecosystems, according to a new study. Researchers say the approach could benefit ecosystems, public health, and solar power’s bottom line alike.
In protecting land for wildlife, size matters
How American Prairie has reframed the scale at which conservation success is measured in the Great Plains.
Stoney Nakoda Nations elders, knowledge keepers share traditional ways to respect bears
Over the weekend, a panel of speakers shared traditional knowledge passed down for generations and explained to a Canmore, Alta., audience just how important it is to respect bears in their habitat as human and animal conflicts continue to be an issue in the Bow Valley.
Wildlife officials: Please, please, don't stop for Felicia
A famous Togwotee Pass grizzly bear briefly showed her and her cubs’ snouts last week, prompting a now annual plea from wildlife managers to wildlife watchers: lease, don’t stop illegally to watch grizzly 863.
I-90 fence project splits engineers, bear biologists
Montana Department of Transportation intends to raise the fences between Helmville Road underpass and the Gold Creek interchange, east of Drummond.
Court blocks logging project proposed on Cabinet-Yaak grizzly habitat
Injunction on 56,000-acre Kootenai National Forest project area requires the Forest Service to assess how logging roads will impact isolated grizzly bear population.
‘Unprecedented’ shed hunting delay ordered in much of Wyoming
Winter range conditions prompt two-week postponement of antler season in the final year of nonresident equal access.
Colorado lawmakers could delay gray wolf reintroduction until management agreement reached with feds
A bill from Western Slope lawmakers could push gray wolf reintroduction into next year despite the state’s long-standing plan to begin releasing them into Colorado’s wilderness by December.
Colorado has first case of deadly, devastating bat disease
The first Colorado bat infected with white-nose syndrome was found near La Junta, state wildlife officials announced, raising fears of a disastrous spread of the fungus-caused disease wreaking havoc in an important species across dozens of states.
Mission Valley osprey camera captivates global audience
The recent return of osprey pair Charlie and Charlotte to their Charlo nest coincides with a bailing-twine cleanup campaign organized by the Owl Research Institute.
Wyoming fisheries biologists adapt to elude controversy on cutthroat trout restoration
Wyoming biologists had proposed restoration projects for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout on streams identified as the best places for success, but some vocal members of the public disagreed.
The fire next time
The federal government accidentally burned down their houses, then made it hard to come home
FEMA told survivors of the largest wildfire in New Mexico history that it aimed to put temporary housing on their land. But because of its strict, slow-moving bureaucracy, that has happened only twice.
Prescribed burns need insurance. It's increasingly hard to get
Why companies that conduct controlled burns are having a harder time finding insurance policies willing to cover them.
Pollution lawsuit could curb use of aerial fire retardant
A legal dispute in Montana could drastically curb the government’s use of aerial fire retardant to combat wildfires after environmentalists raised concerns about waterways that are being polluted with the potentially toxic red slurry that’s dropped from aircraft.
Despite wet conditions, officials warn Colorado’s ‘moderate’ wildfire season could quickly change
The highest wildfire risk is in southeastern Colorado, where officials are seeing “Dust Bowl-type conditions.”
What else we’re reading today
Mountain West states at center of movement to make a clean environment a constitutional right
New Mexico and Nevada are among at least a dozen states that have considered so-called "green amendments" to their state constitutions so far this year. The amendments are modeled after Montana's constitutionally guaranteed right to a clean environment.
What does it mean to have the right to a 'clean and healthful environment'?
The Montana Constitution says "The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." How did that get included, and what does it mean for Montana?
Montana House passes controversial, 11th-hour MEPA bill
House Bill 971, which directs the state not to analyze greenhouse gas emissions in environmental permits, is set for a hearing in the Senate.
Stakes are high in dispute about EPA's lead levels in Butte
A biogeochemist and others raise concerns about the EPA's reliance on what they described as an outdated standard for when to remove soils contaminated by lead from mining and smelting.
Tester introduces bipartisan bill to deregulate industrial hemp
The Industrial Hemp Act would loosen testing restrictions and other regulations for varieties of hemp plants grown for industrial purposes, like fiber, grain, biofuel or “hempcrete.”
Colorado becomes 1st to pass ‘right to repair’ for farmers
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado has signed legislation forcing manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, tools, parts and software to farmers so they can fix their own machines.
Colorado ski areas may be overlooking a key inclusionary effort: diversifying instructors
Industry leaders have worked to draw underrepresented skiers and snowboarders in recent years, but little attention has focused on diversifying frontline staff.
Alta Ski Area hit a mythical snow total — two days after it closed
Alta Ski Area has seen 900 inches of snowfall since its 2022-23 season began in November.
What oily, sticky tar seeps can teach us about saving Great Salt Lake
As the lake level drops, more tar seeps are exposed — entrapping birds and small mammals. Writer Gretchen Henderson says the hauntingly beautiful phenomenon is a barometer of climate change.
The very bad math behind the Colorado River crisis
A century-old miscalculation has California and Arizona fighting over water. Again.
Nearly 25% of Arizona Daily Star newsroom laid off
From the top editor on down, the Arizona Daily Star staff was cut by nearly one-quarter on Monday, as the Tucson newspaper's corporate chain owners told local journalists they were being laid off.
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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