GRAZING THAT WORKS

WLA LEADS THE WAY
SUBMITTED TO THE BUREAU

Collaborative Letter on Revisions to BLM Grazing Regulations

Lands managed under the jurisdiction of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are an integral part of conservation and livestock operations on western landscapes and the BLM is a key partner in their health and productivity. The undersigned groups agree that successful stewardship, conservation and management is achievable when the BLM, grazing permittees and lessees and invested stakeholders work together as partners, focused on shared and synergistic goals: ecosystem health, fish and wildlife habitat and sustainable livelihoods that support resilient rural communities and food and fiber systems. Grazing regulations that work well provide flexibility and resources to meet those goals across large landscapes of matrixed ownership including private, state and federal lands, while valuing economic stability of permittees and rural communities. 

ISSUE SUMMARY

BLM is currently revising its grazing regulations. This is a rare opportunity for a win-win.

This is an opportunity for BLM to adopt limited, durable, and strategic revisions to the regulations that better allow all partners to optimize ecological and economic benefits for the American public. 

The coalition agrees on the importance of reflecting concretely these shared values in any revisions to the grazing regulations:

1. PROMOTING FLEXIBILITY IN RESOURCE AND LIVESTOCK MANAGEMENT

To truly manage for ecological and economic health, the BLM should further promote flexibility in livestock management. The rigidity of existing plans and prescriptive nature of federal programs often prevent managers and producers from responding quickly to the inter-annual variation common in western landscapes. By developing plans tiered to outcomes rather than tied to rulesets, producers can adapt management while meeting rangeland health objectives.

2. OPTIMIZING FORAGE UTILIZATION

Current regulations trap graziers in use-it-or-lose-it management patterns that harm the resource and prevent adaptive management. Resting an allotment, in whole or in part, should be encouraged if doing so benefits the resource and/or the permittee. By acting in the best interest of the resource, permittees should not risk losing their preference or access. At the same time, protections are needed to ensure temporary non-use does not erode the role of these pastures as working grazing lands and the long-term ecological value of grazing on these lands by becoming permanent.

3. ENSURING USE OF THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RANGELAND HEALTH

The Fundamentals of Rangeland Health (Fundamentals) are foundational range management principles for the Bureau that should guide all management decisions and apply to all permitted users of BLM lands.

We ask the BLM to reinforce their importance by including language in the regulations of other permitted uses, including grazing, to the requirements of these Fundamentals. Doing so will 1) reinforce their application at watershed or other appropriate landscape scales; 2) help better distinguish the impacts (beneficial, neutral and detrimental) of one use from another, and; 3) create room for broader application of flexible and adaptive management to adjust use as conditions and circumstances require. 

Finally, we encourage the federal government to match the mission with the resources required to achieve it. We believe improving the current regulations can create better outcomes for people, the environment and all uses of our public lands. It is essential that the BLM utilize its funding to hire, train and retain a talented workforce capable of fulfilling obligations to manage for rangeland health and provide for flexibility within livestock grazing permits and leases.

WLA'S LEADERSHIP

Building a broad coalition to improve stewardship on public lands through sustainable and adaptive grazing management.

The following organizations (alphabetical order) signed our collaborative letter to the BLM. But there is still time to join our advocacy effort! Contact us below.

Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
California Rangeland Conservation Coalition
Malpai Borderlands Group
National Association of Conservation Districts
North American Grouse Partnership
National Audubon Society
Pheasants Forever
Public Lands Foundation
Quail Forever
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Society for Range Management
The Nature Conservancy
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
United States Cattlemen’s Association
Utah Association of Conservation Districts
Western Landowners Alliance
World Wildlife Fund

Join the Coalition

If your organization shares our goals to improve the flexibility and effectiveness of BLM grazing regulations, please contact WLA policy associate Jessica Crowder to discuss how you can engage. 

Making recommendations through compelling stories and voices.

By sharing the latest science, best practices, and leading voices on range management directly with the Bureau, we are helping them form regulations that optimize ecological and economic benefits for the American public.

Are you a BLM permittee with a story to tell?

How were you able to improve stewardship, land health, conservation, their bottom line within existing regulations? How have the current regulations been barriers to improved stewardship or adaptive management? We would love to share your story with the Bureau as we help them update these regulations. Send us a few sentences and we'll be in touch before we do anything with it. 

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White House seeks $45B for agencies

Congress is rushing to respond to the novel coronavirus on multiple fronts, including eyeing a new $45 billion White House request to bolster agencies and a far broader $1 trillion package that would include help for the ailing airline industry.

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Temporary hours of service exemption for livestock haulers

Due to the COVID-19 emergency relief effort, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has exempted livestock haulers from compliance with federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time until at least April 12. Drivers wishing to haul under this exemption are suggested to print out and keep in their cab a copy of the Expanded Emergency Declaration, available here. The Expanded Emergency Declaration provides relief to those drivers hauling “food” and “immediate precursor raw materials… that are required and to be used for the manufacture of … food.”

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Letter requests federal support to rural areas for COVID-19 response

A bipartisan group of 24 senators is asking FEMA to coordinate with USDA and the Interior Department to deploy federal workers trained in emergency response to rural communities overwhelmed by the pandemic. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are “uniquely qualified,” the senators wrote. Link is to PDF of the letter. Thanks to Politico’s MorningAgriculture report for the tip.

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USDA will ‘remain open’ as it allows employees to telework

The Department of Agriculture aims to keep offices around the country open as it responds to the novel coronavirus outbreak, even as employees are given more opportunity to work from home.

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U.S. Department of the Interior approves paintballs to haze grizzly bears

According to a Facebook post from Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor, people may now legally shoot grizzly bears with paintballs if they come too close to homes or other possible areas of threat, such as barns, grain bins or schools. 

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Study looks at realities of increasing Yellowstone fees to pay for wildlife conservation

Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund set for Senate floor vote

One day after President Trump tweeted his support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to take steps today to bring to the floor legislation that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the national parks maintenance backlog, senators said.

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Legislation introduced in US House to require delisting of gray wolves

Legislation proposed Friday by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would require Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

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BLM may be forced to repay $125M in latest legal setback

A federal judge’s order nixing yet another attempt by the Trump administration to revise greater sage grouse protections may prove to be a costly bureaucratic mess. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush yesterday threw out rule changes adopted by the BLM in 2018 that shortened public comment times and administrative protest periods involving oil and gas lease sale parcels that overlap sage grouse habitat. Bush’s order requires BLM to conduct a “notice-and-comment rulemaking” to adopt these changes and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.

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Arizona bill would shield info on endangered species on private land

Biologists looking for endangered species on private property would be required to keep much of what they find secret under a proposal poised for quick approval by the Arizona Legislature. Opposition has unsuccessfully argued that if the new policy becomes law it will hinder public monitoring of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. Supporters say the shield is needed to protect private property rights.

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A comprehensive new federal roadmap for climate action on farms

Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation that would set a national goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions from the U.S. agriculture sector by 2040. The Agriculture Resilience Act also introduces sweeping changes to federal conservation and agriculture programs to reach that goal.

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Western yellow-billed cuckoo clocks in renewed habitat debate

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a noticeably shrunken but still sprawling critical habitat for the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo. In a long-awaited revision today, the federal agency proposed designating approximately 493,665 acres across seven Western states as critical habitat. The move would extend ESA protections to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

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BLM calls wild horses ‘existential threat’ to public lands

The Bureau of Land Management is now formally referring to wild horses and burros as an “existential threat” to federal lands, mirroring acting BLM chief William Perry Pendley’s controversial characterization of growing herd sizes.

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Colorado’s western slope prepping for wolves

This well-reported article from Elizabeth Stewart-Savery covers all the angles of the wolf reintroduction controversy in the state. A comprehensive and nuanced introduction to this important issue at a time of outsized rhetoric.

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Groups want cows corralled to protect endangered jumping mouse habitat

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, environmental groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to keep livestock and wild horses out of streams and other wetlands on forest land in southeastern Arizona, resulting in damage to habitat required by the New Mexico jumping mouse, an endangered species found only in the Southwest.

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California challenges Trump administration’s new water management rules

The state of California has opened another front in its expanding war with the Trump administration over environmental protections, this time with a legal challenge to new water management rules designed to aid farmers. In a lawsuit filed yesterday, California officials contend the administration violated laws including the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act with two biological opinions concerning water project management.

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Idaho extends wolf hunting and trapping seasons

On February 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted nine proposed modifications to wolf hunting and trapping for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, extending wolf hunting opportunity, opening more areas to wolf trapping and extending trapping seasons.

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Perdue outlines green goals for farmers

The USDA will redouble its efforts on carbon sequestration and reducing farming’s environmental impact, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said today — without referencing global climate change. Perdue said the department would encourage more practices that limit carbon emissions, a goal that would also improve soil health and boost farm productivity as the world’s population continues to grow.

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Washington lawmakers want to fund solutions for healthier soil and less gassy cows

Bipartisan proposals before the Washington Legislature would help scientists learn about storing carbon in agricultural soils and invest in GPS-guided tractors and climate-friendly cattle feed.

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.

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California bill would bar insurers from declining fire coverage

Amid mounting cries of California homeowners being denied wildfire insurance in high-risk areas, state lawmakers want to require insurance companies to cover all existing homes, as long as they meet new safety standards. The measure would also require insurance companies to give homeowners financial incentives for fire safety upgrades.

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Trump to California farmers: here’s more water

In a controversial record of decision signed today, the Trump Administration commits to delivering additional irrigation water to farms south of the California’s ecologically sensitive and hydrologically crucial Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

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Interior announces grants to 11 western states for big game winter range and migration corridor scientific research

Today, the Department of the Interior announced another round of $3.2 million in grant funding for 11 western states, bringing the Department’s and other stakeholders’ support of big game species habitat conservation and scientific research for migration corridors and winter ranges to more than $22 million. These grants are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to execute on Secretary’s Order 3362.

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BLM to fund 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in West to help fight wildfires

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced plans to fund 11,000 miles of strategic fuel breaks in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, California, Nevada and Utah in an effort to help control wildfires. The fuel breaks are intended to prop up fire mitigation efforts and help protect firefighters, communities and natural resources.

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New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Act: public meetings and comment

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held state wide and public comments will be accepted through April 18, 2020.

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Utah legislation proposes predator hunting to achieve deer and elk objectives

Utah House Bill 125, which expands the use of hunting predators to manage ungulate herds such as elk and deer, is one of the predator wildlife management bills moving through this year’s legislative agenda.

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Jaguars, snakes derail Arizona copper mine

A federal judge yesterday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service must redo an endangered species analysis that allowed other agencies to approve the Rosemont Copper project in the Coronado National Forest. The site lies within the range of America’s only jaguars, northern Mexican gartersnakes and other endangered species in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson.

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Administration proposes deep energy, environmental cuts

President Trump’s $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 budget request released today proposes major cuts to energy and environmental programs to help shore up national security spending.

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Emergency water rights bill heads to Idaho governor’s desk

Legislation granting an emergency water right when crews are trying to clean up spills in Idaho waterways passed the House on Tuesday and is headed to the governor’s desk. The House approved the measure the state Department of Environmental Quality says is needed to prevent someone from contending their water right is being violated due to an emergency cleanup.

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BLM struggles to fill top positions in new Western HQ

When the Bureau of Land Management moves its Washington-based headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., this year, more than half of the senior leaders there may be as new as the office itself. BLM has been scrambling to fill more than a dozen high-level positions in the new agency headquarters.

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Opinion: Conservation and restoration of our precious land

The future of New Mexico over the next 100 years will depend on actions taken today to ensure our natural resources continue to provide our most essential needs. The New Mexico Land Conservancy, the New Mexico Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and Audubon New Mexico urge New Mexicans to speak up during the current legislative session in favor of the New Mexico Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Fund Act.

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Saving water for Utah farms: ‘Banking’ may be the key in face of growth

Most states across the West have adopted some sort of water sharing program that provides more flexibility for users in time of need, or in time of excess. Called “water banking,” the strategy essentially allows water right holders to allow others to use their water and make revenue from it. On Wednesday, Utah inched closer to implementing its own program via a legislative proposal, that if passed, would institute a 10-year pilot project.

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USFWS: Trump regulations boost risk for migratory birds

The Trump administration’s controversial narrowing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will reduce environmental protections that can be expected from industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted today. In proposed new regulations that have immediately prompted heated debate, the federal agency today acknowledged diminished private mitigation as one likely result of limiting the law’s coverage to the intentional killing of migratory birds.

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House committee votes to overturn Trump ESA revisions

The House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a suite of bills along party lines, including legislation that would overturn the Trump administration’s controversial rules revising the Endangered Species Act. The full committee also voted to approve two bills that would advance the establishment of wildlife corridors on federal and Native American lands nationwide.

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Idaho agency wants to spend $408,000 a year to count wolves

Idaho’s top wildlife official on Tuesday requested authorization from state lawmakers to spend $408,000 to count wolves. The expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. Idaho stopped counting wolves in 2015 after it was no longer required to do so by USFWS following the lifting of protections for wolves under the ESA.

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New Mexico needs realistic, sustainable water plan

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has long talked about the importance of water to the arid state, even campaigning on the idea of creating a 50-year plan to guide management of the finite resource. Her administration is now asking lawmakers for more money and manpower to start what some experts say will be a multiyear endeavor.

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New California groundwater regulations could reshape water use and agriculture

California’s first attempt at regulating a precious resource — groundwater — begins Friday, and experts expect a rocky start. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires critically overdrafted basins to balance their pumping and get on a “sustainable” path by 2040, could fundamentally reshape water use and agriculture in California. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are expected to be forced out of production.

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Conservation reserve program is ‘competitive’ this year, despite lower rental rates

Despite lower rental rates, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program is “competitive” this year, a USDA official said at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. The 2018 farm bill raised the cap on the number of acres to be enrolled in the CRP from 24 million to 27 million.

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California budget proposal includes $6.7B toward natural resources

The state budget proposal delivered earlier this month by California Governor Gavin Newsom includes billions of spending on natural resources and the environment.

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Editorial: Using oil surplus to help restore habitat worth the investment

A bill that would dedicate a portion of the state’s record oil and gas revenues to a permanent fund for habitat restoration and sustainable agriculture projects deserves serious consideration from lawmakers, and it’s good to see support for it from a broad coalition of agricultural and environmental groups.

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ACEP interim rule comment deadline extended

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the public comment period on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).Comments will now be accepted through March 20, 2020.

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Final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule unveiled

The final Waters of the U.S. rule unveiled by the Trump administration today eliminates Clean Water Act protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands and more than 18% of streams, and replaces regulations set in the Reagan administration.

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Lawmaker proposes wolf-free zones in southern Idaho

Some areas in Idaho would be declared wolf-free zones and other areas where the animals have killed livestock would have increased wolf-killing opportunities under legislation proposed yesterday by state Sen. Bert Brackett. The state Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the measure.

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New Mexico bill would divert oil and gas money to restoration

Skyrocketing oil and natural gas production in southeastern New Mexico continues to produce record-setting state revenue. A broad coalition of agricultural and environmental groups believe some of that money should help restore the state’s land and water.

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Petition seeks federal protections for Rio Grande fish

Environmentalists are asking federal wildlife managers to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a fish found only in the Rio Grande in Texas and the Pecos River in New Mexico. WildEarth Guardians filed the petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, saying it is part of a campaign focused on vulnerable species found in rivers and streams across the West.

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ESA scores a win with Colorado River fish

A humpbacked Colorado River fish that’s been federally protected for more than half a century has escaped from the edge of doom, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. In what officials are calling an Endangered Species Act success story, the federal agency is proposing to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened status. The move would retain protections for the fish but also signify its “partial recovery” and ease some regulatory requirements.

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BLM to consider proposed revisions to grazing regulations

The Bureau of Land Management has published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to consider proposed revisions to the agency’s grazing regulations. The proposed revisions aim to “update, modernize and streamline the grazing regulations and provide greater flexibility for land and resource management.” Comments on the proposed revisions may be submitted in writing until February 28, 2020.

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Wyoming executive order includes landowners in corridor designation process

In one of the most significant changes proposed by the new executive order, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers won’t be the only people at the decision-making table when it comes to migration corridors. The governor will also have help from landowners and others on the ground and the state will support the formation of local working groups to help inform the designation of new corridors.

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Wyoming legislation proposes to compensate ranchers for wolf depredation

A new bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature this week would create a new compensation program for ranchers whose livestock is killed or damaged by gray wolves outside of game hunting zones. the legislation would create a $90,000 fund to compensate ranchers for any losses related to gray wolf attacks, and would be active for two years.

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Montana releases new bison management plan

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this week released a document nearly eight years in the making that outlines how bison could be restored in the state as publicly managed wildlife

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Final Trump WOTUS rule expected soon

The Trump administration is expected to finalize a rule limiting which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act this month.

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Oregon governor proposes new wildfire protection plan

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling for a major expansion in the state’s wildfire response plans in a new legislative concept. The draft proposal outlines the governor’s long-term vision for how the state should adapt to wildfire, reduce wildfire risks on forestland and improve fire suppression.

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Trump admin launches review of grizzly bears

The grizzly bear’s future as a protected species will get another gander, as the Fish and Wildlife Service today initiated a full-bore study of the iconic animal. The review will mark the federal agency’s first comprehensive update on the grizzly bear since 2011 and could lead to proposed revisions of its Endangered Species Act status.

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Ahead of vote, wolves may already be living in Colorado

One day after a measure to introduce wolves was placed on this year’s ballot, CPW announced that a wolf pack was spotted, photographed and video recorded by hunters in Colorado back in October.

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New bill would encourage native plants on federal land

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) want the Interior Department to create a five-year pilot program promoting native plant species to preserve ecosystems and help reverse land and water degradation. Their new bill, S. 3150, aims to prevent and eradicate devastating invasive species through greater use of native plant material for federal land maintenance and restoration.

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NRCS seeks comments on ACEP interim rule

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), USDA’s premier conservation easement program that helps landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. Comments will be accepted through March 6, 2020.

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Wolves on the ballot in Colorado

It’s official, wolf reintroduction will be decided on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced the campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.

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California eases way for land clearing to prevent wildfires

California regulators said Tuesday that they have streamlined the state’s permit process to make it faster to approve tree-thinning projects designed to slow massive wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years.

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Interior Department to formally define “habitat” in the ESA

The Interior Department is moving to formally define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act, part of an anticipated second wave of changes to the bedrock conservation law under the Trump administration. According to a notice published Monday, the addition to the ESA is undergoing interagency review.

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Wyoming governor releases draft executive order on migration corridors

A draft executive order released by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon lays out rules for how the governor will designate wildlife corridors. Rancher Marissa Taylor served on the advisory group that helped shape the EO. She responded positively to the draft order, with particular praise for its acknowledgement of private landowners’ efforts to preserve migration habitats.

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Delisting gray wolf leads end-of-year legislation blitz

Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills before leaving the capital for the holidays, including legislation to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. S. 3140 would direct the Interior Department to issue a rule removing the gray wolf from federal protections.

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Bennet unveils discussion draft to create new tax credit for farmers and ranchers to capture carbon in the land sector

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released a discussion draft of legislation to establish a new tax credit for farmers and ranchers, state and local governments, and tribes, to sequester carbon in agriculture, forestry, rangelands, and wetlands.

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New in-stream flow rights in New Mexico

Surface water rights in the state of New Mexico are typically granted to individuals for diverting water from streams and rivers to irrigate crops and support food production. Now, the state has granted its first water rights permit to keep water in a river.

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Jennie Gordon: unique background positions First Lady to help

There’s a link between the first lady’s hunger initiative and her connection to Wyoming’s agricultural industry, according to Jessica Crowder, policy director for Western Landowners Alliance. “The health of the land and the health of the people who live on the land really are tied to the values that we appreciate in Wyoming,” Crowder said.

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Debate over extended elk hunt proposal

A debate recently heated up in Montana caused by the complexities of tying elk conflict reduction to access to private land.

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Groups strike consensus in debates over Wyoming’s migration corridors

A series of recommendations sent to the governor Monday laid out a possible blueprint for how Wyoming could protect and preserve its iconic migration corridors for years to come.

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Allison: Farm bill is a big win for every American

It didn’t appear in many front-page headlines, but Congress just passed a five-year, $867 billion piece of legislation in a bipartisan, landslide vote. In today’s political climate, this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it should be newsworthy.

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