THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Questions of coexistence
Can wolves and humans peacefully coexist?
Eli Francovich’s “The Return of Wolves” explores the wolf-human divide and can teach Coloradans what to expect with the wolf reintroduction.
Gov. Jared Polis vetoes bill that could have delayed gray wolf reintroduction
The measure, proposed by Western Slope lawmakers whose constituents largely opposed reintroduction, would have hinged the effort on a specific type of federal authorization that would allow state officials to manage (capture, relocate or even kill) wolves.
Should we manage wild horses as wildlife, pets or livestock?
The lack of sound science isn’t what’s keeping land management agencies from effectively dealing with the horse conundrum. It’s the politics.
Reaching the carrying capacity
Grizzly bear population growth has slowed significantly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, only increasing slightly for the last decade, according to a U.S. Geological Survey official.
Fatal winter puts ‘Path of the Pronghorn’ on shaky ground
Following the deadliest winter on record in which a disease outbreak compounded fatalities, the fate of the long-distance travelers that winter in the Green River basin but sojourn for the summer in Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge and along the Gros Ventre River is unclear. Wildlife scientists aren’t sure how many remain.
The last 33 caribou: Fighting for the survival of a Wet’suwet’en herd
Surrounded by industrial development and human habitation, less than three dozen caribou remain on Wet’suwet’en territory. As government biologists fight to keep the herd alive, recovery efforts will need to look to the past to plan for the future.
On the lithium rush
Inside the 'white gold' rush to mine American lithium and make millions
Lithium could power the 21st century. But the methods used to find it are largely from the 1800s.
Biden administration clarifies 1872 Mining Law; says huge Nevada lithium mine can proceed
The Biden administration says it has completed a court-ordered review that should ensure construction continues at a Nevada lithium mine, despite legal challenges brought by conservationists and tribal leaders.
'Peaceful protest' staged at Thacker Pass to halt construction of lithium mine
Members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Oglala Sioux Tribe erected a roughly 20-foot-tall tipi in the path of a water pipe set to be installed across the property.
'Apprehensive but optimistic': Nevada's least populated county braces for industrial development
“There’s mining companies drilling all over the place looking for lithium right now. We don’t know what else is gonna pop up.”
More from the energy transition
How is Colorado doing in shutting down coal power plants?
Colorado is ahead of its own targets of eliminating 80% of the greenhouse gases from power generation by 2030. The main remaining question is whether green groups can force Colorado’s most notorious coal plant, Xcel Energy’s Comanche 3, to close even sooner than the current schedule of 2031.
Nuclear is on the table in Colorado
Can nuclear replace the tax base, jobs and generation of coal plants at Pueblo and Craig? Maybe, but tough questions remain to be answered.
Criminal cases for killing eagles decline as wind turbine dangers grow
The AP’s findings — that significant numbers of eagles continue to die while fewer criminal cases are pursued — underscore a dilemma facing the Biden administration as it tries to confront climate change.
Massive solar project proposed on public land in western Utah
A South Korean energy firm is proposing to build and operate a 600-megawatt array of photovoltaic panels across nearly 4,300 acres of public land in Beaver County.
Biden's got a plan for ramping up energy transmission
The White House wants Congress to pass permitting reform. In case that doesn't work, it's tapping DOE's authority to make it easier to build transmission.
Biden administration announces nearly $11 billion for renewable energy in rural communities
The Empowering Rural America program will make $9.7 billion available for rural electric cooperatives to create renewable energy, zero-emission and carbon capture systems.
Oil company cancels Colorado open space drilling proposal
Colorado’s Boulder County won’t be forced to lease oil and gas located miles below open space purchased with taxpayer dollars after an energy company withdrew the project from consideration by state regulators.
Wyoming air quality affected by oil and gas, study finds
Roughly 13 premature deaths linked to oil and gas production occurred in Wyoming in 2016, according to a peer-reviewed analysis published last week.
Opinion: Colorado is writing the national blueprint on ozone control
It’s been boring, hard work, but it promises historic results — and it was almost undone by state legislators demanding more regulations.
Multiple use, multiple disputes
Biden plan to sell land leases for conservation gets pushback
Biden administration officials on Monday sought to dispel worries they want to exclude oil drilling, livestock grazing and other activities from vast government-owned lands, as they faced pushback from Republicans and ranchers and over a contentious proposal to put conservation on equal footing with industry.
'Conservation leasing' could become an option on Wyoming public lands
As written, the Public Lands Rule would allow BLM lands to be leased not only for uses like drilling and grazing, but also for conservation. Wyoming’s top elected officials and a number of industry members have declared the measure an illegal attack on ranching and oil and gas development in the state.
BLM defends sweeping revamp of public lands rule
At an online public meeting Monday night, Bureau of Land Management officials said that the proposal adding conservation as a management priority would not undermine the bureau's multiple-use mandate.
GOP rips Stone-Manning, BLM priorities at tense hearing
House Republicans peppered Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning with an array of questions and concerns about budget spending priorities, energy development, and the legitimacy of climate change science during a hearing Tuesday that highlighted the deep partisan divide over public lands issues.
Judge scrutinizes corner-crossing claims at Casper hearing
For the first time, a legal expert questioned opposing sides in a $7 million trespass case that addresses public access to 8.3 million acres of public land in the West.
Fight over roads in Montana’s Flathead National Forest lands at Ninth Circuit
The issue of whether the U.S. Forest Service can amend longstanding protections for grizzly bear and bull trout habitat in Montana’s Flathead National Forest came before a Ninth Circuit panel in Seattle on Friday.
GOP urges Forest Service to ramp up wildfire prevention
The agency received funding to thin out national forests, but Republican lawmakers called for faster progress at a pair of House hearings Tuesday.
'We're going to need so many seedlings' for reforestation push
Forestry experts say state-run nurseries play a crucial role in reforestation, one that has lagged because of underinvestment in recent decades.
States near historic deal to protect Colorado River
After nearly a year wrestling over the fate of their water supply, California, Arizona and Nevada — the three key states in the Colorado River’s current crisis — have coalesced around a plan to voluntarily conserve a major portion of their river water in exchange for more than $1 billion in federal funds, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
This year’s record-breaking snowpack is pouring into the dried-out Salt Lake
Snowmelt is replenishing depleted ecosystems and flooding communities.
Will a Colorado Supreme Court case open thousands of miles of ‘private water’ to public fishing?
The public’s ability to fish and wade Colorado’s rivers is on the line as the Colorado Supreme Court takes up a case involving a dispute between an angler and a landowner on the Arkansas River. If the court rules in favor of the fisherman, there could be major changes to the way wade-in anglers access the legendary streams and rivers of the Centennial State.
Salmon vs. dams
The debate breaching Snake River dams exemplifies one of the trade-offs inherent in the clean energy transition: Hydropower has provided reliable, zero-carbon energy to some regions of the United States for decades, but has also contributed to driving some species to the brink of extinction.
The epic story of North America’s great waterways — and our struggle to harness their power
The story of America is, in a very real sense, the story of its rivers and the struggle to control them. Anthony Palumbi’s book, “At the Base of the Giant’s Throat: The Past and Future of America’s Great Dams,” invites readers to consider the history of North America through this fluvial lens.
This is fine
Wildfires in forests of Canada and Russia put climate scientists on alert
Wildfires in the boreal forests of Canada and Russia of rising intensity are sharply reducing air quality and pumping tons of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere, the EU’s earth observation programme has warned.
Almost 40% of land burned by Western wildfires can be traced to carbon emissions
Almost 40% of forest area burned by wildfire in the western United States and southwestern Canada in the last 40 years can be attributed to carbon emissions associated with the world’s 88 largest fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers, according to new research that seeks to hold oil and gas companies accountable for their role in climate change.
Behind the smoke, Canada’s worsening wildfires are exacting a hidden toll
The images are dramatic but the blazes are coming with a heavy ecological impact.
April 2023 was Earth’s fourth warmest on record
Earth’s global ocean temperatures were record high for the month, and the second-warmest for any month on record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Heat will likely soar to record levels in next 5 years, new analysis says
Global temperatures are likely to soar to record highs over the next five years, driven by human-caused warming and a climate pattern known as El Niño, forecasters at the World Meteorological Organization said on Wednesday.
Gianforte signs bill banning Montana agencies from analyzing climate impacts
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed into law a bill that bars the state from considering climate impacts in its analysis of large projects such as coal mines and power plants.
What else we’re reading today
The brutal past and uncertain future of Native adoptions
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 sought to keep Native children in tribal communities. The Supreme Court may change that this spring.
The implications of the case against ICWA
"It's sinister...but when you understand history, using the children of Native nations to attack tribal sovereignty is sadly something the U.S. has been doing for generations," says Rebecca Nagle, host of the “This Land” podcast.
Youth lawsuit challenging Montana's pro-fossil fuel policies is heading to trial
A Montana judge has said a climate change lawsuit from young people challenging the state’s pro-fossil fuel policies will proceed to trial despite efforts by the state to derail the case.
Montana is paying a climate denier to give expert testimony in upcoming trial
Climatologist Judith Curry, a go-to figure on the denial circuit, is expected to take the stand for the defense in the youth climate lawsuit.
Bozeman nonprofit seeks to purchase land, mineral rights on Yellowstone’s northern border
Greater Yellowstone Coalition has raised $3.9 million of the $6.25 million needed to execute the deal.
Nowhere to go: Montana mobile home residents face rising rents
Private equity firms are snapping up mobile home courts from Missoula to Great Falls to Billings and raising rents for low-income residents.
Gianforte vetoes 'mobile home tenant bill of rights' from Missoula lawmaker
A Missoula Democrat's bill to increase the rights of mobile home tenants had broad bipartisan support, but it was vetoed by Gov. Greg Gianforte.
In push for environmental justice, Colorado crafting rules to better track air pollution in low-income, minority communities
Colorado’s top air quality regulators this week will try to define what it means to live in a community that is disproportionately impacted by poor air quality and what steps should be taken to protect the people who live there from the toxins that roll out of factories and into the air they breathe.
Colorado law will require homes to be more wildfire resistant
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Friday a bill that mandates a statewide wildfire-resistant building code, a step that scientists say will help protect residents and first responders as climate change intensifies blazes.
Rockfall changes world-famous Teton skyline forever
A “big chunk of the mountain” fell off last fall, altering the profile of the Grand’s East Ridge so drastically that people can see the difference from the valley floor.
Wyoming black bear hunter accused of killing protected grizzly near highway into Yellowstone
A Wyoming hunter faces up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted of killing a protected grizzly bear he allegedly claims he mistook for a legal-to-hunt black bear outside Yellowstone National Park.
With one cub, Grizzly 399 is the oldest known grizzly mother in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Famous bruin arrives with youngster, the oldest GYE grizzly to bear a litter.
What is wildness?
Wildness, a name we give to living nature, is intangible, maybe even ineffable, but it’s not imaginary—it’s biological.
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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