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THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Fish are feeling the heat
Montana considers ‘hoot owl’ restrictions on northwest Montana rivers for first time
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials in northwest Montana are considering instituting “hoot owl” fishing restrictions for the first time on the Flathead River, as well as others, as warm weather and low streamflows threaten the region’s trout, particularly westslope cutthroat and bull trout.
In lieu of mandatory restrictions, FWP urges anglers to minimize stress on Flathead River trout
Northwest Montana rivers and streams are historically low, prompting agency officials to ask anglers to take voluntary steps to reduce stress on native cold-water trout species, or else face the prospect of closures.
County commissioners seek disaster declaration to offset economic losses on Flathead Lake
The Flathead County Commissioners on July 24 requested Gov. Greg Gianforte issue a disaster declaration for both Flathead and Lake counties to alleviate the economic impacts of Flathead Lake’s historic low water levels.
Heat prompts more fishing restrictions on southwest Montana rivers
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks implemented fishing restrictions on additional rivers in southwest Montana this week, adding to a growing list of area waterways impacted by high temperatures and low stream flows.
Sockeye begin epic Northwest journey
Snake River sockeye salmon are making a good showing at Bonneville Dam, but the endangered fish must contend with rising water temperatures to complete their daunting 900-mile journey back to Idaho.
Groups plan to sue to remove Snake River dams over hot water troubles for salmon
Several groups say the Snake River dams are making the river too hot for sockeye salmon. Now, they’re planning to sue the federal government.
Drought conditions threatening B.C. salmon as river levels drop
Last week, the River Forecast Centre reported 74 of roughly 350 river monitoring stations across the province measured record low flows, including a number of stations in the Fraser Valley. "This is unprecedented," said Dave Campbell, RFC head.
New public-land drilling rules would overhaul the Western oil industry
Under the new rules, bonds for a new oil or gas lease would jump from the current level of $10,000 to a minimum of $150,000. The rules would also raise the royalty rate from 12.5% to 16.67%, with the potential for further increases after 10 years — a major influx of cash to the budgets of Western oil states.
BLM proposes sweeping changes to oil and gas reclamation program
If finalized, the rule would put companies under more pressure to see their drilling projects through — a notable change to a federal program that has struggled to prevent wells from being abandoned in the past.
New BLM leasing terns challenge Montana's marginal oil plays
Both conservationists and the petroleum lobby say the higher bonding amount would scuttle leasing in low-probability areas, which is mostly what Montana has.
Nevada’s oil speculation rush fades as interest drops, fees rise
This week’s federal oil and gas lease sale of just four parcels of land in Nevada shows that an Obama and Trump-era rush by drillers to lease land in a state with little oil has ended for now, even as it has inspired anti-speculation legislation in Congress.
Colorado adopts groundbreaking methane emissions measurement requirements for oil and gas
Colorado on Thursday approved the nation’s first requirements for having oil and gas companies measure and document methane emissions from their wells in ways state regulators can validate.
No oil-train risk analysis performed, Union Pacific safety chief tells Colorado lawmakers
Public concerns about rail safety have grown in the wake of the East Palestine disaster and the approval of the Uinta Basin Railway.
The land report
‘Airbnb for outdoors’ comes to Idaho, backed — and used — by billionaires Wilks brothers
A website that has been described as “Airbnb for outdoor recreation” is being backed by two Texas billionaire brothers who’ve drawn criticism in Idaho after discontinuing public access on roads that cross their properties. Now they’re offering entry to some of those properties through the site — for a fee.
14,000 feet up, liability fears block access to iconic Colorado peaks
Battles over public and private lands throughout the American West have played out for generations, often over the massive swaths of territory owned by the federal government or the vast expanses closed off by wealthy landowners. This is a different sort of tussle, perhaps a distinctly 21st century one, featuring property owners who don’t want to keep others out but fear potential liability and litigation.
Corner crossers: Halt of court ruling would harm public’s land access
Four hunters are fighting a Wyoming landowner’s effort to temporarily block a judge’s order that corner crossing is not trespassing.
Climbers want to know whether they can use fixed anchors to improve safety on public lands
Climbers in western Colorado know the thrill of working their way up the tricky rock faces of desert canyons and mountain crags. But those who enjoy practicing the sport in remote areas worry they could lose safe access to some routes, if a key piece of safety equipment is banned on some public lands.
Hanging in there
Lander’s International Climbers’ Festival hits 30 years. A founder looks back on three decades of sending and celebration.
See what the Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola might actually look like
Utah’s Department of Transportation released renderings of the finished product, and people are surprised.
Dispatches from the energy transition
Martin Drake Power Plant demolition underway, study of 'once-in-a-century opportunity' takes shape
In the coming weeks — slowly, deliberately, piece by piece — the recognizably tall smokestacks of the now-closed Martin Drake Power Plant that pepper the skyline of Colorado Springs' downtown will be no more.
New global solar plant plans to bring 350 jobs to Colorado Springs
A solar cell production facility is coming to Colorado Springs and soon, hundreds of new jobs will open for the Switzerland-owned Meyer Burger Plant.
As solar harvesting booms in Nevada, conservationists call for a state-specific development plan
“We are about to see another energy industrial revolution, and Nevada is at the center of that,” said Jaina Moan, Nevada external affairs director for the Nature Conservancy. “But there’s no one master plan to guide all of this development.”
One big battery: Thousands of homes joined in a ‘virtual power plant’
Rocky Mountain Power program gives rebates to customers who let the utility use their home-battery systems when needed.
Another lithium-ion battery factory in Colorado
Windsor chosen by Microvast for its second U.S. factory. Unlike its plans in Kentucky, this one is getting no pushback from members of Congress.
As Colorado's electric vehicle charging infrastructure grows, the question remains: Who will pay for it?
Private companies are already making major investments in EV charging. But should monopoly utilities, like Xcel, support them or build their own?
Ready to mine: Uranium industry execs say preparations for mining nearly complete
Checking roads. Running tests. Fixing pipes. But most important? Watching prices. That's how life goes for Donna Wichers, the vice president of Wyoming operations for Uranium Energy Corp., which has mining and processing facilities in Johnson County that are primed for launch – when the price is right.
Bill Gates on next-generation nuclear power technology
In Wyoming, Bill Gates and his energy company TerraPower are planning their first cutting-edge nuclear power plant. He talks with correspondent Barry Petersen about building a more efficient power plant that creates significantly less nuclear waste.
Another Western state says it won’t send wolves to Colorado, citing ‘enormous price’ of managing the species
Idaho will not provide wolves for Colorado’s reintroduction efforts, citing federal regulation and disagreements about how wolves should be managed.
What does the reintroduction of wolves mean for Colorado’s deer and elk herds?
While livestock drew much of the focus during wolf reintroduction meetings, deer and elk will also share the state with Colorado’s new lupine residents.
Idaho removed mountain lion quotas. Other states went further. Is the animal in peril?
Several states in the West, including Idaho, have loosened hunting laws to promote culling more cougars. But the belief that this will lessen conflict ignores what we know of how mountain lions structure their societies, critics say.
Banished to a remote Idaho valley, beavers created a lush wetland
Beavers relocated to a remote Idaho valley have transformed the landscape into a lush wetland and a haven against fire and drought, satellite imagery shows.
Woman found dead after grizzly bear encounter near Yellowstone National Park
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in a statement on Sunday that the woman was found deceased on a trail near West Yellowstone, a Montana town nestled in the Custer Gallatin National Forest just west of Yellowstone National Park.
48-year-old Kansas woman confirmed as the victim in Montana grizzly bear attack
The victim of the fatal grizzly bear mauling on a popular trail system west of the town of West Yellowstone last Saturday was a 48-year-old woman from Kansas, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office announced, and efforts to trap the bear will cease on Tuesday.
What else we’re reading today
Climate change leaves fingerprints on July heat waves around the globe, study says
Climate change’s sweaty fingerprints are all over the July heat waves gripping much of the globe. A new study finds these intense and deadly hot spells in the American Southwest and Southern Europe could not have occurred without it.
Colorado River Basin has lost water equal to Lake Mead due to climate change
From 2000 to 2021, climate change caused the loss of more than 40 trillion liters (10 trillion gallons) of water in the Colorado River Basin — about equal to the entire storage capacity of Lake Mead — according to a new study that modeled humans’ impact on hydrology in the region.
To prop up Lake Powell, water managers drained Flaming Gorge. Are they sacrificing the wrong reservoir?
Colorado River researchers say the system’s mega-reservoirs will likely never fill to half way. Smaller ones higher in the watershed are less prone to evaporation.
Parched in ‘Podunk,’ New Mexico
Timberon has water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink (or flush). Blame the pipes.
Tar balls are being found 100 miles downstream from Yellowstone River train derailment
More than 66 tons of the black, gooey stuff have been removed from the river since the June 24 accident, officials said. Most of the spilled material — a binder for asphalt that sticks to river rocks and gets harder to handle as it warms — is expected to get left behind.
Opinion: Restoring our waters is restoring ourselves
Using water quality research to bring healing and sovereignty to the Apsáalooke.
The ‘Veggie Lady’: Wyoming’s locally grown food broker
LeAnn Miller works to connect rural producers with urban consumers in a state of vast highways and harsh growing conditions.
Your organic trash is this business’ treasure at composting facility near Durango
Table to Farm Compost strives to capture food waste across La Plata County.
A travel guide's warning to avoid Lake Tahoe may jolt the region into managing huge tourist crowds
Tourism officials at Lake Tahoe were surprised when a respected international travel guide included the iconic alpine lake on a list of places to stay away from this year because of the harmful ecological effects of overtourism.
Trinity nuclear test’s fallout reached 46 states, Canada and Mexico, study finds
The study also documents significant deposition in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Idaho, as well as dozens of federally-recognized tribal lands, potentially strengthening the case for people seeking expanded compensation in those areas.
Despite victory in the Supreme Court, a dark ruling hangs over tribal nations
The recent Haaland v. Brackeen victory for Indian children is undermined by a 2022 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Far-right activist Ammon Bundy loses defamation case and faces millions of dollars in fines
A far-right activist who led the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon now must pay millions of dollars in damages after a hospital in Idaho won a defamation lawsuit against them.
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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