THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
The fever of extremism
Oregon’s Greater Idaho movement echoes a long history of racism in the region
Over time, Greater Idaho—the movement the seeks to slice off almost everything east of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and add it to Idaho—has slowly revealed itself to be something of a poisoned apple: framed as a gift to discontented rural people, but actually a front for far-right culture war talking points, including racist ones.
Despite setbacks, far-right extremists are winning positions in mainstream Northwest politics
The Greater Idaho movement is an example of how commonplace once extreme views have become. The state boundary change would require an extremely unlikely act of U.S. Congress. But even if it never succeeds, Joe Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon, said it still functions as a vehicle to spread far-right ideology and shape Republican identities.
How wingnuts made violent extremism the new normal
From Ruby Ridge to January 6 and beyond, the radical right has unrelentingly attacked democratic norms for almost half a century.
A discussion with David Neiwert, author of the new book ‘The Age of Insurrection’
“The book is like body armor for the mind of anyone who cares about democracy,” writes Leah Sottile.
How the loss of local newspapers is fueling political divisions in the U.S.
Over the past few decades, more than 2,000 newspapers across the country have closed, leaving many communities without a reliable source of local information. Researchers say this crisis in journalism, driven by changes in technology, is fueling the country's political divisions
The land report
BLM proposes end to new oil leases on 1.6M acres in Colorado
The Bureau of Land Management proposed Thursday removing more than a million acres of public lands in Colorado from future oil and gas leasing, while also designating tens of thousands of acres of new protected areas in the western part of the state as part of an effort to resolve a series of legal challenges from environmental groups.
An antiquated law rules mining in the West
Hardrock mineral exploration on public lands is governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, which makes “all valuable mineral deposits” in public lands “free and open to exploration.” The law hasn’t fundamentally changed in 151 years, making it one of the most persistent of what the late scholar Charles Wilkinson dubbed the “Lords of Yesterday,” the old and obsolete laws governing natural resource use and extraction.
Judge rejects request to halt ruling that corner crossing is not trespassing
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Monday refused to temporarily suspend his decision that corner crossing is not trespassing, denying a request by Elk Mountain Ranch owner Fred Eshelman.
In the Utah desert, can golf justify itself?
The struggle for water is straining St. George, Utah, where golf – and grass – are sacred cows.
What the snowy winter gives, the heat takes away
“We can’t be lulled into complacency by a good snow year, even a record-breaking one, or some flash-flood-triggering downpours.”
‘Sell them for nothing or watch them starve’: Farmers face difficult decisions amid B.C. drought
As B.C.’s drought worsens, farmers are scrambling to protect their livestock and crops. The impacts could be felt for years to come.
Environmentalists sue to stop Utah potash mine that produces sought-after crop fertilizer
Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit to prevent the construction of a new potash mine they say would devastate a lake ecosystem in the drought-stricken western Utah desert.
'A fighting chance': Forest Service whitebark pine orchard helping restore the keystone species
The Forest Service hosted a tour its Little Bear Orchard on Monday to teach people about the threatened whitebark pine and share details on efforts to restore the keystone species.
Lawsuit: BLM ignored residents in approving Wyoming power line
Environmentalists and a retired government biologist say a project designed to carry wind-generated power across the West is "fatally flawed."
Dispatches from the energy transition
Nevada shows states how to build workforce for solar energy boom
Phasing out fossil fuels requires a lot of clean energy infrastructure like solar farms. And one sun-soaked part of the Mountain West is grabbing a share of that green gold rush by retraining workers to handle the growth.
The first generation of solar panels will wear out. A recycling industry is taking shape
The largest solar panel recycling plant in North America has opened in Yuma, Arizona, just as the flow of used and spent solar panels sharply ramps up.
The 'future of housing' has arrived in all-electric Colorado developments
Colorado is promoting all-electric buildings, which reduce utility costs, to help the state achieve its emissions reduction targets.
Xcel Energy’s latest climate plan sparks a heated fight over heat pumps
As Colorado races to cut its climate impact, environmental groups have united around all-electric heat pumps as the best replacement for natural gas furnaces. Now it’s clear one major player isn’t entirely on board: Xcel Energy.
Two big nuclear regulatory milestones for Idaho NuScale SMR project
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on July 31 accepted a standard design approval application for NuScale Power’s VOYGR-6, a plant design that will be featured in the 462-MWe Carbon-Free Power Project proposed at an Idaho National Laboratory site.
Big Flat lithium exploration back on the table
The Bureau of Land Management has reopened public comment on a lithium exploration project that was suspended in April for further environmental analysis, per an agency statement.
Oil driller Pioneer tests lithium mining from shale wastewater
Pioneer Natural Resources Co. CEO Scott Sheffield says the company started doing tests about three years ago to see whether it’s feasible to extract minerals from the large amounts of dirty water generated by drilling in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico.
A cold snap boosted Wyoming revenue by $175M
The extreme temps that sent demand and prices soaring for natural gas this past winter sapped ratepayers, but boosted Wyoming's revenue outlook.
A sweltering world is likely to match record coal use of 2022
Growing coal consumption by China and India is offsetting cuts by U.S. and Europe and shows the difficulty of meeting climate targets.
Fire all around us
‘We have fire all around us and we can’t get out’
What happened when two experienced hikers got caught in the Bolt Creek Fire.
A giant Oregon wildfire shows the limits of carbon offsets in fighting climate change
To help counter their greenhouse gas pollution, Microsoft and other companies invested millions in a project to store more carbon in Southern Oregon trees. The 2021 Bootleg Fire upended that plan.
As unprecedented fire year rages on, experts warn of longer, more destructive season
Wildfires sparking earlier in the spring and burning longer into the fall have prompted government agencies to change how they plan to fight and prevent them.
Threatened by wildfire smoke, West Coast cities are piloting clean-air centers
Libraries, community centers, and other buildings are getting air-filtration upgrades so residents can stay safe during hazardous smoke.
Links from the brink
Secretive federal agency’s days of killing pets with poison bombs may finally be ending
Banning the cyanide bombs — planted throughout the American West in service of the livestock industry — has been the Mansfield family’s mission.
Wyoming is expanding its sage grouse protections. Will it work?
Skepticism has enveloped a fraught process that’s proposing to increase protected acres for the embattled western bird, but policymakers remain hopeful their map revision can help avert an Endangered Species Act listing.
Wyoming elk feedground draft management plan out for public comment
In an attempt to address concerns over disease spread, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released a Draft Wyoming Elk Feedgrounds Management Plan for public review and comment.
Federal judge halts U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Arctic grayling plans in southwestern Montana
A federal judge has said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to install a permanent pipeline and several other modifications to help protect the imperiled Arctic grayling, a species of native fish, would likely violate the Wilderness Act, and granted a preliminary injunction that will halt work at the Red Rock Lakes Wilderness Area in southwestern Montana.
Brook trout reappear in Yellowstone creek, 7 years after eradication
Despite intensive efforts to eradicate nonnative brook trout in Yellowstone National Park’s Soda Butte Creek, the fish have reappeared.
FWP to anglers: Catch, kill and report smallmouth bass in Bitterroot River
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has enacted an emergency regulation for the lower stretches of the Bitterroot River after officials last week announced the “first confirmed smallmouth bass in the Bitterroot.” The department is asking anglers who catch the species to keep it, kill it, and report the catch.
Big Hole algal bloom tied to low flows, warm water, nutrients
A miles-long algal bloom on the Big Hole River has been linked to warm water, low flows and nutrient loading. Dense algal blooms can harm aquatic life.
8 Colorado lakes suspected of toxic algae blooms. Here’s why it’s getting worse.
Colorado’s lakes serve as a needed respite during sweltering summer days, but as the days become warmer the state’s lakes are becoming more susceptible to toxic blooms of algae.
Meet the $2.7 billion frog
There’s political peril in the whopping price tags the Fish and Wildlife Service attaches to recovering some endangered species.
Interior wants advice on first-of-its-kind nature study
The Interior Department wants the public to help shape an ambitious, first-of-its-kind study called the "national nature assessment," which is designed to probe the impacts of a warming planet and communicate those potentially dire findings.
What else we’re reading today
Swaths of the U.S. are living through a brutal summer. It's a climate wake-up call for many
Across the U.S., many people are living through one of the most brutal summers of their lives. And some psychologists believe the attention on a cascade of record-shattering heat, wildfire smoke, extreme flooding and Jacuzzi-hot ocean water could be “another turning point” in efforts to raise awareness about the everyday impact of climate change.
Phoenix has ended 31-day streak of highs at or above 110 degrees as rains ease a Southwest heat wave
A record 31-day streak in Phoenix of daily highs of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit has ended as the dangerous heat wave that suffocated the Southwest throughout July starts abating with cooling monsoon rains.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is selling to insiders
Rather than sell to Vail Resorts or Alterra Mountain Company, the two giants in the American ski industry, the Kemmerer family, which has owned the resort since 1992, intends to sell the western Wyoming ski mountain to two board members — Eric Macy and Mike Corbat — their families, and a small group of co-investors.
Maryland hospitality company buys Chico Hot Springs for $33 million
“Chico Hot Springs Resort is another example of DiamondRock’s leadership in identifying attractive investment opportunities that align with our focus on unique, leisure-oriented experiential hotels and resorts,” DiamondRock President and Chief Executive Officer Mark W. Brugger said.
Boulder’s NOAA leads international blitz of research as battle against air pollution escalates
Boulder’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is leading a three-nation summer blitz of air pollution sensors ranging from high-altitude aircraft to rooftops to backpacks, in a massive escalation of the battle against ozone and particulate toxins, scientists announced Thursday.
160 acres of sculptures are on display in rural Colorado through June 2025
Marguerite Humeau’s “Orisons,” the largest earthwork by a single female artist, will be open in Colorado through June 2025.
In the Flathead Valley, the homeless crisis is at a crossroads
The violent death of 60-year-old Scott Bryan forced a reckoning in the northwest Montana community, where the loss of critical mental health resources has intensified the plight of unsheltered individuals.
‘Father of Indian Education’: Blackfeet legend Earl Barlow dies at 96
Earl Barlow, a prominent Blackfeet leader who advocated for Indigenous education and helped shape the state’s Constitution, died on July 26.
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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