THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
How to save Yellowstone's wolves
Biologist Doug Smith looks back on a quarter century leading one of the most historic and controversial government conservation initiatives of all time. He shares critical observations on the way wolves are seen, managed, and killed in the Northern Rockies.
The book that teaches us to live with our fears
“Wolfish” explores the question of what, exactly, we perceive as threats.
U.S. to focus bison restoration on expanding tribal herds
U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that calls for the government to tap into Indigenous knowledge in its efforts to conserve the burly animals that are an icon of the American West.
Bison resolution stirs debate about Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge
The resolution is the latest volley fired in what has been a long-running battle against bison in Montana.
Essay: Bringing back bison is a genetic challenge
The rescue of the American bison from the brink of extinction is a conservation success story, but the DNA of today’s herds is very different from those that once roamed the Great Plains, writes University of Montana philosophy professor Christopher Preston.
Grim task with a vital goal
Idaho Fish and Game has killed about 300 deer in Slate Creek area to curb the spread of chronic wasting disease. “It’s tough on us, tough on landowners, tough on the deer. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the right thing to do.”
In Jackson Hole, good news about CWD — for now
Senior biologist with National Elk Refuge says chronic wasting disease hasn't shown up there yet. But any sense of solace is probably short lived.
The odd phenomenon of moth-eating bears — and the dangers they face
In the Northern Rockies, adventurous grizzlies climb mountains to feast on as many as 40,000 moths a day, a mysterious ecological marvel.
Utah Legislature passes bill to allow year-round cougar hunting by any hunter
With virtually no discussion, the Utah Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would radically alter the rules around cougar hunting.
Enjoy your public lands responsibly
Can air tourism and peaceful national parks coexist?
The last thing you want while looking out over Bryce Canyon contemplating the millennia is a tourist helicopter buzzing overhead. That’s why some parks, like Glacier, are working to end air tourism
Glacier Park’s advanced reservations continue to sell out fast ahead of summer
As prospective visitors complain of being "locked out," park officials acknowledge the first-come, first-served system isn’t perfect; but they say it has helped manage high traffic volumes and protect natural resources.
Wyoming hunters pan legislative inaction, call for citizen response on corner crossing
A hunters’ group wants Wyoming residents to debate corner-crossing laws and other trespass issues, saying it won’t wait on a foot-dragging Legislature to have a robust statewide conversation.
Opinion: Utah wants to disable the law that led to the creation of four of its magnificent national parks
A lawsuit all but invited by the country’s chief justice threatens one the most consequential authorities granted to presidents by Congress.
Ending national parks
Public lands only exist because tribes have been removed and excluded from their traditional homelands. National parks, forests,
and shorelines are painful reminders for Indigenous people that this history of separation is ongoing.
Colorado’s Mount Evans could soon be Mount Blue Sky
Mount Blue Sky has attracted unanimous support from Colorado’s geographic naming advisory board and from the tribes that sent representatives to the meeting.
Dispatches from the energy transition
West warms to geothermal energy as a path to clean power goals
In Colorado’s quest to transition to renewable energy, the state’s leaders want to take an old-school approach: Drill, baby, drill. They won’t be prospecting for oil, though, but instead mining the Earth’s underground heat to power geothermal electricity plants. Other Western states are paying close attention.
'Silicon Valley of lithium': Nevada mine breaks ground
With the nation's second lithium mine starting construction this week, Nevada is moving toward creating a full-fledged lithium industry.
Xcel Energy has a backlog of people waiting to get their solar panels plugged into the grid. Why?
At its peak, at least 4,000 households were stuck in an application review bottleneck.
This region has the fewest electric vehicles. Here's why.
North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota have the fewest EV registrations in the nation.
New Mexico’s latest hydrogen bill dies while oil and gas reform act advances
A bill to overhaul New Mexico’s 88-year-old Oil and Gas Act passed out of its first committee hearing this week on a straight party vote, while a bill that would have promoted hydrogen production from natural gas disappeared from the Legislature’s calendar.
Wyoming investigates massive methane release
Satellites in December detected a methane plume nearly 5 miles long, originating from a natural gas processing plant just north of Douglas.
Utah legislators breathe a little life into coal power plant due to be retired
GOP lawmakers’ effort to forestall the demise of Utah’s largest power plant cleared the Legislature on the final day of the session in an amended form that requires a close study into how the coal-fired Intermountain Power Project may continue operation beyond its scheduled retirement in July 2025.
Court sticks with Signal Peak Mine expansion ban
Signal Peak, an underground coal mine north of Billings, has been ordered to stop mining federal coal at least until a study can be done to determine the environmental impacts of burning the fuel.
Potential oil spill in Colorado River prompts lawmakers to oppose railway project
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse are urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to block the controversial Uinta Basin Railway Project from progressing.
As coal declines, oil and gas emerge stronger than ever
Call it a tale of America’s two energy transitions. In one, utilities are rapidly closing coal plants, with consumption of the fossil fuel falling to levels not seen since the Eisenhower administration. In the other, American oil and gas drillers are on track to set new pumping records, driven by high demand at home and abroad.
Wind, solar, and batteries increasingly account for more new U.S. power capacity additions
In 2023, these three technologies account for 82% of the new, utility-scale generating capacity that developers plan to bring online in the U.S.
Brighton, Alta breach 600 inches of snow — and there’s another powder day coming
Five hundred inches? That was so two weeks ago. Two Utah resorts have now surpassed 600 inches of snow on the season and they won’t be stopping there.
The key for these 1st-time Utah skiers is seeing ‘people on the slopes like me’
Not everyone feels comfortable enjoying the outdoor culture the state has to offer. For the second year in a row, Ski Utah is working to change that.
What goes into the ‘cat-and-mouse game’ of forecasting Colorado’s avalanche risks?
Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasters need intricate knowledge of snowy layers that sit below the surface as they warn public of hazards and risks.
After an avalanche buried him in snow, a backcountry skier reflects on his survival — and what he could have done differently
“It’s always been one of my biggest nightmares ... and I can tell you, it's much scarier living through that than you can ever imagine.”
Heather Hansman chased ski bum dream through ups and downs of ‘Powder Days’
The author drew on a decade of personal experience and another winter of reporting to craft her book on the history and future of skiing.
In excerpt from ‘Powder Days, a key Aspen resort official tackles ski industry sustainability
Author Heather Hansman talks with Auden Schendler about the bumps ahead for an industry facing climate and economic challenges.
What else we’re reading today
Increasingly large and intense wildfires hinder Western forests’ ability to regenerate
A new study suggests that reducing forest fire severity in the next few decades could make all the difference for future generations of trees in the West.
The West's iconic forests are increasingly struggling to recover from wildfires – altering how fires burn could turn that around
Over 50 fire ecologists across the Western U.S. took an unprecedented look at how forests in thousands of locations are recovering from fire in a changing climate. The results were alarming.
Saving a forest of one
Overgrazing by deer poses a threat to a giant quaking aspen tree colony in Utah — one of the largest organisms in the world.
One tiny zebra mussel was found in a Colorado reservoir. It will be 5 years before the water gets an all-clear.
Aquatic biologists began spraying to kill the invasive species at Highline Lake State Park on Wednesday. Park managers are worried decontamination procedures will kill boat traffic.
How to catch and cook bullfrogs
A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employee shares his best tips for catching and cooking invasive bullfrogs.
Aging activists have fought for decades to clean up a Colorado Superfund site. Who will fight once they're gone?
The Cotter Uranium Mill Superfund site near Cañon City has an estimated 5.8 million tons of radioactive waste buried within 2 miles of homes.
Western resort towns see record-breaking real estate prices – and housing woes
Demand to live in mountain communities is through the roof, and that’s putting a strain on local workers.
Moab, Park City cry foul as Utah lawmakers target rules for vacation homes
Tourist towns worry that the Legislature will harm their efforts to ease the affordable housing crisis.
Landowner will close access to two Colorado 14ers after lawmakers rejected legislation limiting liability
Mount Lincoln and Mount Democrat, two 14ers in the Mosquito Range, will be closed to the public after lawmakers rejected increased protections for landowners.
The trouble with normal
The trouble with normal — especially when dealing with temperature — is it (almost) always gets worse.
‘Dean of Montana political journalists’ Chuck Johnson dies
Johnson reported on Montana politics and government for Montana’s largest newspapers and wire services for 45 years.
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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