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Making fire a tool and not a threat requires smart policy

The West is a complex patchwork of public and private lands, ecosystems and habitat types. Resource management authority may stop at a fence line, but resource destruction knows no bounds, highlighting the need for comprehensive resource stewardship strategies. Private landowners and federal land permittees/lessees play a pivotal role in providing habitat for wildlife species, mitigating wildfire risk and connecting working landscapes. It is essential that public policies and programs are informed by those working closest to the ground. 

The 2020 fire season saw catastrophic wildland fire expand to a scale rarely seen in recent memory. Our own members and neighbors are experiencing devastating losses from catastrophic wildfires. These fires have destroyed decades of conservation efforts, agricultural production and livelihoods. At the same time, we recognize that ecosystems are dynamic and fire is natural in many ecosystems. 

That's why WLA supports a far more proactive approach to wildland fire mitigation: fire, when deployed well, can be used to both reduce the frequency and destructiveness of catastrophic wildfires, and restore ecosystems and native species to health and abundance. The U.S. Congress has the ability to take big strides toward making this happen. We encourage them to do so.

Contact your Senators

Let your senators know how important proactive and cross-boundary wildfire mitigation is to you. Tell a personal story of how your land is suffering, has been transformed, or would benefit from controlled burning or other sensible management strategies.

Want more information about fire and drought resources or actions you can take?

Become a member of WLA today. It's free, and it helps us grow the influence of private land stewardship in the halls of power. Plus, you'll always be in the loop.

Fire and Drought News

Does this fisherman have the right to be in this billionaire’s backyard?

In 2018, Hill, 81, a retired nuclear weapons scientist, filed a lawsuit asking the state to clarify its notoriously muddy stream-access laws vis-à-vis one of his favorite trout fishing grounds. To the ire of many landowners, who see it as a threat not only to their privacy but to their property values, that suit has been progressing through the state court system like a slow-moving missile.

A victory against the landowners would “have staggering implications for settled agreements governing the use of our state’s rivers,” according to a statement from the office of Colorado’s attorney general, Phil Weiser.

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“I’d Have to Bury You Out Here.” The New Mexico Stream Access Battle Is Far From Over

The Western Landowners Alliance sees things differently. The alliance’s mission is to sustain working lands, connected landscapes, and native species, and executive director Lesli Allison says this argument is misguided.

“What’s happened in this debate too often is that proponents of opening streams have cast the issue as greedy landowners trying to exclude the public and privatize streams for their own enjoyment, their own profit,” she says. “By saying that, you create an enemy to rally people around.”

Allison explains that this argument also overlooks the critical role that landowners play as environmental stewards of these streams. She says that some of these individuals bought land specifically to invest in conservation, and together they’ve made significant investments to restore the waterways that flow through their property.

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CPW Commission hears SAG draft, public comment on wolves

The Stakeholders Advisory Group delivered their draft report and recognize that wolves have both positive and negative impacts and will be allowed to remain where they are if they’re not causing problems. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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USDA partners with Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem landowners to conserve wildlife habitat 

Wyoming landowners in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have long allowed wildlife to migrate through their private lands, and now, a new partnership will financially compensate them.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the pilot program Friday. The agency is partnering with the state of Wyoming to commit an initial $15 million to landowners willing to conserve their land for big game migration.

It is part of a broad concept called “habitat leasing,” which means the land is essentially “rented out” by the government for wildlife and ranching operations. The land cannot be subdivided into residential units or developed for things like solar infrastructure.

Lesli Allison, the executive director of Western Landowners Alliance, said ranchers are being compensated for what they have already been doing.

“They can’t do that endlessly for free. And it’s part of the reason we’re losing these lands to development is because they’re not able to compete economically with other land uses,” she said.” And that’s because the value they’re providing to public wildlife has never really been recognized.”

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Drought cost California’s ag industry $1.1 billion last year, UC Merced researchers say

A new report led by UC Merced researchers estimates California’s drought cost the state’s agriculture sector about $1.1 billion and nearly 8,750 full- and part-time jobs last year.

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USDA to Provide Payments to Livestock Producers Impacted by Drought or Wildfire

The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that ranchers who have approved applications through the 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for forage losses due to severe drought or wildfire in 2021 will soon begin receiving emergency relief payments for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021 through the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) new Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP).

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President Biden Releases FY23 Budget Proposal

The White House officially released their fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget request on March 28, 2022. The release of the President’s budget proposal which outlines the administration’s spending priorities, is the first step in the FY23 appropriations process.

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Water availability, regs spur farmland value chasm

It took a few years, but ag land values in California now reflect action taken by legislators eight years ago to pass the state’s landmark groundwater law. A growing chasm is evident as land values rise and fall significantly across the state.

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Senators Fischer, Grassley, Tester, Wyden unveil updated cattle market reform bill

U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today released an updated version of their legislation, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act. The senators first introduced the bill in November.

“Our family farmers and ranchers have told us about the need for both robust price discovery and transparency in the cattle markets. The updates to our legislation incorporate a variety of stakeholder feedback to achieve our goal of ensuring more fairness in cattle markets. It’s encouraging to see our bill gain momentum and I am hopeful we will have a hearing on this important legislation in the Senate Agriculture Committee in the coming weeks,” said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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Corner crossers reach for federal court, access to 1.6M Western acres

Four hunters charged with trespassing in Carbon County Wyoming seek a federal court where their case could resolve the legality of corner crossing to access 1.6 million acres of public land across the West.

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As drought pushes east, more intense wildfires are sparking in new areas

Only a few months into 2022 and it’s already a dreadful year for wildfires. More than 14,781 separate wildfires have scorched over half a million acres as of this week, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, the largest number of fires year-to-date the agency has recorded in the past decade.

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New Legislation Would Improve Grazing and Wildlife Habitat Potential of Conservation Reserve Program

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, have introduced the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Improvement Act. This legislation would bolster CRP by improving access to grazing, providing more enrollment options to producers, and addressing CRP implementation issues following the 2018 farm bill.

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Colorado hits a “hard pause” on water demand management as it waits for other states to catch up

Colorado is taking a “hard pause” on investigating the viability of demand management, a program that would allow the state to pay water users to temporarily and voluntarily conserve water and store what’s saved in Lake Powell for future use. The Colorado Water Conservation Board wants to instead focus on what can be done to help Colorado water users this year.

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Forest Service interactive map spotlights connection between water and ANF

Have you ever wondered where your drinking water comes from? To help land managers and the public understand where their water comes from and what affects it, the USDA Forest Service launched an enhanced interactive map called Forests to Faucets 2.0. The map shows that forests are a critical link in providing dependable water for drinking across the country.

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New Mexico agencies: defining conservation key to 30×30

Defining what it means to conserve land and assessing existing conservation projects will be key to meeting New Mexico’s climate goals, state agency leaders said this week.

Sarah Cottrell Propst, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, said the initiative builds on existing healthy soil projects, conservation easements and habitat restoration work.

“We want to preserve a role for natural working lands,” Cottrell Propst said.

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Drought amplifies beetle damage to Colorado’s forests

Insects and drought are taking an increasing toll on Colorado’s forests, challenging the long-term sustainability and resiliency of the state’s roughly 24.5 million acres of forest, a new report says.

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CPW no longer final arbiter of wolf reintroduction after court relists species as endangered

A federal court ruling in February relisting gray wolves as an endangered species across much of the United States could complicate Colorado’s wolf reintroduction effort.

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Race to the bottom: How big business took over Oregon’s first protected aquifer

In Malheur County’s Cow Valley, state regulators have ignored known issues with overpumping groundwater, leaving the region at risk of economic and ecological damage that will be difficult to reverse.

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Climate change hearing focuses on what farmers need

More technical assistance and streamlined application processes for conservation programs would help farmers adopt practices to reduce greenhouse gases, lawmakers were told at a hearing on how the next farm bill should address climate change.

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Congressional members call for WOTUS pause

As the Supreme Court looks to hear a crucial wetlands case later this year, over 200 House members called on the Biden administration to drop its current rulemaking to revise the definition of the “Waters of the United States.”

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Appeals Court Dismisses “Product of the U.S.A.” Labeling Lawsuit

A federal appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by cattle ranchers over the alleged mislabeling of beef as a “Product of the U.S.A.” The original lawsuit named Tyson Foods, Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS USA and National Beef Packing Co., with plaintiffs claiming the companies mislead consumers by labeling beef as “Product of the U.S.A.” when the cattle may have been born and raised in another country.

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The USDA is issuing grants to disadvantaged farmers and ranchers

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on March 9 that it is accepting grant applications to provide “historically underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners” with technical support for programs and services including agricultural capital and credit as well as agricultural production.

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Coloradans will now automatically be charged $29 for a state parks pass when they register their cars

Keep Colorado Wild pass will be $29 and require an opt-out during vehicle registration to avoid paying. The program could raise as much as $54M a year for State parks, search and rescue, avalanche safety and wildlife programs and maintenance on non-park lands.

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Size of drought in US increased by the area of California in the past month

More than 61% of the contiguous US is in some classification of drought this week, according to the US Drought Monitor.

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Conservationists hail $5 million investment in preserving Oregon’s farmland

As part of the supplemental budget approved in the short session, lawmakers invested $5 million in the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, which is tasked with preserving farmland. But since it was set up in 2017 under the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, a state agency that offers grants to preserve waterways, wetlands and natural areas, the heritage program has never been funded. Now the program has money to do its job – and at an opportune time.

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Leaks are a missed opportunity for water savings

Before a drop of treated water in California ever reaches a consumer’s faucet, about 8% of it has already been wasted due to leaks in the delivery system. Nationally, the waste is even higher, at 17%.

This represents an untapped opportunity for water savings, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

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House approves $1.5T government funding deal

Congressional leaders announced agreement on a $1.5 trillion, government-wide spending bill for fiscal 2022 that includes new funding for rural broadband expansion and authorization of a cattle contract library at USDA to address concerns about market power in the beef sector.

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Will Releasing Captive-Raised Sage Grouse Help or Hurt Dwindling Populations?

As wild sage grouse populations decline and the species teeters on the brink of being listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Wyoming House is considering legislation that would extend certification of the state’s only captive sage grouse breeding farm. The legislation would extend certification of the Diamond Wings Upland Game Birds, which otherwise expires due to a five-year sunset clause this year.

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AZ House passes bill to strip wildlife officials of authority to stop killings of endangered wolves

The Arizona House has passed a bill that would strip state wildlife officials of the authority to stop the killing of Mexican gray wolves in certain circumstances. The Arizona Republic reports the measure would bar the Game and Fish Commission from prohibiting a person from killing a wolf if the person feels threatened or if their livestock or pets are in danger.

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President Biden and USDA Invest More Than $166.5 Million in Infrastructure to Protect American Communities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing more than $166.5 million in 108 infrastructure projects as part of implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The second round of applications is due March 31.

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President Biden and USDA Invest More Than $166.5 Million in Infrastructure to Protect American Communities

President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $166.5 million in 108 infrastructure projects as part of implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with local communities in 23 states to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure, which are all part of USDA’s broader national infrastructure investment.

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Private Forest Accord passes Senate, clearing way for House vote

The Private Forest Accord passed the Oregon Senate on Wednesday, making its way to a final House vote before the end of the February short session. The bill would change the way more than 10 million acres of private forests in the state are managed to protect at-risk animals and water quality in rivers and streams.

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Tiny New Mexico river fish deemed ‘endangered’ by feds despite State’s opposition

A rare river fish in northern New Mexico received the highest federal protections as an endangered species Monday, following legal actions from environmentalists and backlash from state agencies. 

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NM Supreme Court throws out stream certification rule

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed that a Game Commission rule that allows landowners to restrict access to water that flowed through private property is unconstitutional. The ruling opens can of worms for landowners and anglers, and puts stream restoration projects on private lands at risk. “As a result of development, recreation and intensive agriculture, we continue to lose wildlife habitat and wildlife species at an alarming rate,” WLA said in a statement. “Yet people continue to demand more and more access to places where wildlife have traditionally sought refuge, including on private land.”

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NM cattle shooting hearing vacated

A hearing regarding the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) decision to shoot estray cattle in the New Mexico Gila National Forest was vacated Feb. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. The hearing was set for Feb. 22 and was brought on by the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) and other industry groups with a lawsuit against the Feds.

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Preventing future ‘wrongs’: new USDA equity panel looks to expand agriculture resources to minority communities

Members of a new equity commission advising the U.S. Department of Agriculture said they want to make sure the USDA does a better job providing resources to Black farmers and other minority communities following decades of racial discrimination.

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Nonprofits Petition Federal Government to Ban Harmful Pesticides on Wildlife Refuges

The years-long fight over the use of pesticides on wildlife refuges has now entered a new season, with environmentalists petitioning the USFWS to end the practice, which so far has survived legislative and litigation efforts to permanently curtail it. In a recent petition, groups urged the federal agency to ban agricultural pesticide use on the nation’s 560-plus refuges.

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Arizona governor outlines plan to boost water supplies

Arizona Governor Ducey and a top leader in the state Legislature recently filled in a key part of a developing plan to boost the desert state’s increasingly strained water supply. They plan to create a state agency to acquire new supplies and develop and fund projects, with deep pockets and the authority to go out and find sources that can secure the state’s water future.

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USFS sued for shooting estray cattle in NM

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA), along with the New Mexico Federal Lands Council and two cattle companies, filed suit Feb. 9 in federal district court for New Mexico against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for shooting estray cattle in the Gila National Forest.

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Wildfires are getting worse across the globe. How does California compare?

A new report shines a light on the hard lessons California is learning — including what it’s getting right and what more needs to be done. In the fire-prone American West and around the world, too much focus remains on response instead of preparation.

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UN: Wildfires getting worse globally, governments unprepared

A warming planet and changes to land use patterns mean more wildfires will scorch large parts of the globe in coming decades, causing spikes in unhealthy smoke pollution and other problems that governments are ill prepared to confront, according to a recent U.N. report.

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Idaho wildlife boss: State’s wolves won’t be wiped out

Ed Schriever, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, does want to significantly reduce the state’s wolf population. But he says those who claim Idaho is marching toward a 90% lobo reduction are wrong or pushing an agenda. “We are trying to balance healthy, sustainable wolf populations with other needs, desires and uses. That is an incremental in the iterative process and it’s science-based. We do monitor. We do know what is going on.”

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NEPA Reviews Moving Faster Under Biden

Federal agencies have been issuing decisions on infrastructure permits faster than average by nearly four months, according to a new study.

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$1 Billion USDA Program Will Fund Pilot Projects For The Development Of Climate-Smart Commodity Markets

On February 7, 2022, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a $1 billion competitive grant offering to fund pilot projects through its “Partnerships for Climate-Smart-Commodities” program. The program was developed at the USDA with input from stakeholders during a comment period in 2021. It is designed to encourage the voluntary development of markets for products of agriculture and forestry that are particularly beneficial from a climate change perspective.

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State shuts down wolf hunting and trapping in southwest Montana after threshold is met

The wolf hunting and trapping season ended in the southwest corner of Montana on Thursday after total kills in Region 3 hit the threshold of 82 wolves. An order from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks directed wolf hunters and trappers in the region to remove their equipment from the field as quickly as possible. It applied to wolf management units 313 and 316, which encompass the area directly north of Yellowstone National Park.

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Marijuana Bill Spurs Water Rights Debate in Arid New Mexico

Hispanic farmers and rural residents in New Mexico are concerned legislation that would allow small cannabis producers to boost their plant counts lacks a provision to ensure the producers have valid water rights.

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OSU research suggests Forest Service lands not the main source of wildfires affecting communities

National forests are more in danger of wildfires that spread from private lands than the other way around, researchers concluded in a study that turns a head on a common narrative in forest policy. The finding runs against a popular storyline among advocates for more intensive forest management: that overgrown national forests are a tinderbox waiting to light and need to be thinned and logged to reduce the risk to surrounding non-federal property. A better approach, researchers said, would be to put heavier emphasis on ways to make populated areas more resilient to wildfire, such as defensible space and fire-resistant construction.

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Bill would bar Idaho’s lands and animals from ‘personhood’

A bill that would prevent animals, natural resources and artificial intelligence from being granted “personhood status” in Idaho was introduced by the House State Affairs Committee. The legislation seeks to prevent any future efforts to increase environmental protections for animals or inanimate objects by granting them some of the same legal rights a person would have.

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Addressing Institutional Barriers to Native American Water Marketing

Federally recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin hold the combined rights to 3.6 million acre-feet of water — but at times, more than half of that resource might simply flow unused. That’s in large part because tribes with water rights on the Colorado River are prohibited from marketing those rights to off-reservation users without congressional authorization. This report argues for Congress to grant new blanket authority for tribal water rights holders to be allowed to market their water off-reservation.

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Department of the Interior to Solicit Nominations for First-Ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee

The Department of Interior is requesting nominations for Tribal member representatives for the new Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC). The STAC, which was announced as part of the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, will ensure Tribal leaders have direct and consistent contact and communication with the current and future Department officials to facilitate robust discussions on intergovernmental responsibilities, exchange views, share information and provide advice and recommendations regarding Departmental programs and funding that impact Tribal nations.

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Conservation funding essential for state’s well-being

Opinion: It is absolutely critical to New Mexico’s future that significant conservation funding cross the finish line this legislative session. Intensive use has impacted the land’s capacity to support the watersheds upon which our economies depend. The state lacks capacity at almost every level, from resource management agencies to partners such as acequias, soil and water conservation districts, and restoration contractors. Along with increased funding for restoration projects, agency capacity must be expanded quickly, and our commitment to such objectives must be steadfast and long term.

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Why experts say the West’s deer population is at ‘inflection point’ after another drop in 2021

Utah wildlife biologists fear there was another 10% drop in the statewide mule deer population in 2021 as mostly dry conditions reigned through the first half of the year.

The projection is based on below-normal adult and fawn survival rates, as well as fawn production in the second half of the year, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials told KSL.com.

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One Colorado farmer is going against the grain to use less water. It’s working.

Regenerative agriculture methods have helped one Western Slope farmer be more mindful of how much water he uses.

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Story Short: USFWS to shoot estray cattle

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) notified the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) it would shoot estray cattle in the Gila National Forest via helicopter flyover Feb. 8-10.

Despite efforts by Rail Lazy H to remove the estray cattle, only 20 head were removed, and the remaining moved to rugged terrain. NMCGA said it “adamantly opposes the mass shooting of estray cattle in contradiction to New Mexico’s livestock code” and has concerns USFWS will not be able to discern branded and unbranded livestock.

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Judge restores protections for gray wolves across much of US

A judge restored federal protections for gray wolves across much of the U.S. after their removal in the waning days of the Trump administration. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to show wolf populations could be sustained in the Midwest and portions of the West without protection under the Endangered Species Act. The ruling does not directly impact wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and portions of several adjacent states.

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US Forest Service unveils long-awaited forest plan

After six years of extensive public engagement, the U.S. Forest Service on Jan. 28 released an overarching revised land management plan for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Left without updates since the 1980s, the plan will serve as the guiding document for the highly diverse, more than 3-million-acre forest for up to 15 years.

Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson signed the record of decision for the plan, a long-awaited moment which resulted from far-reaching collaboration across diverse stakeholders including 18 tribes, local governments, state and federal agencies and numerous individuals.

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New Online Tool Allows Farmer, Ranchers to Easily Report Anticompetitive Practices

Farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers now have a one-stop shop to help ensure they are treated fairly.  The new farmerfairness.gov portal developed jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) allows you to report potential violations of livestock and poultry antitrust laws, including the Packers and Stockyards Act.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently expressed concern that producers across the country have for too long faced a marketplace that benefits a few large companies over the farmers and ranchers who grow and raise our food.


As part of these efforts, this portal makes it easy for farmers and ranchers to register a complaint or tip and provide details that would aid an investigation.
Read more about the reporting process here!

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Montana Ag Network: grasshopper outlook is concerning

Grasshoppers had a devastating impact on Montana’s range and farmlands in 2020 and 2021. This year, farmers, ranchers, landowners, and federal agencies are cautiously awaiting to see what is in store for 2022. “There’s still some high risk,” said Hannah Lewis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “I think that’s the big takeaway.”

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Speaks Up On Wolves, But Is It Enough?

Tribes, conservation groups, even former Fish and Wildlife Service director say she should emergency re-list wolves with federal protection. Why does she balk?

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Beaver Dams Help Wildfire-Ravaged Ecosystems Recover Long after Flames Subside

Beaver dams mop up debris that would otherwise kill fish and other downstream wildlife, new observations suggest.

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Feds will spend $1 billion to spur farmers and ranchers to fight climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend $1 billion on projects for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use practices that curb climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions or capture and store carbon, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday.

For many U.S. farmers who have endured major losses from worsening floods, storms and droughts, addressing climate change has become a matter of survival. The United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change has warned that humans must change the way they produce food and use land to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

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Landowners have until March 15 to apply for FWP support programs for public access

Landowners have until March 15 to submit applications to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for enrollment in the Unlocking Public Lands (UPL) Program or the Public Access Land Agreement (PALA) Program.

These programs are designed to provide recreational public access to state (Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) or federal (Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service) land where no or limited legal public access currently exists.

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Public comment period closing soon as BLM eyes new sage grouse regulations

The Bureau of Land Management is once again reviewing how it manages sage grouse habitat across 10 Western states.

“The BLM will examine new scientific information, including the effects of stressors like climate change, invasive grasses, wildfire and drought, to assess actions that may best support sagebrush habitat conservation and restoration on public lands to benefit sage grouse and surrounding communities,” the agency stated.

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California water officials warn state could face third consecutive dry year as early snowpack dissipates

California water officials warned on Tuesday that the state is set to face another dry year after experiencing a significant lack of snow in January, potentially marking its third consecutive year of dry conditions. The department’s warning comes as California grapples with worsening wildfire seasons, water shortages and historic drought conditions fueled by climate change.

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Tribal nations are locked inside the U.S. water regime

New Mexico’s water-management agencies are having trouble keeping their rivers wet, and the problem will only get worse, according to a 50-year climate change and water study that was completed last year. So the agencies have begun planning for a future of dwindling water supplies in the San Juan and Rio Grande basins. For tribal nations, the big question is: Will they finally have input in water management decisions?

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CRP Seeking Millions More Acres

The USDA Farm Service Agency has opened enrollment in the General Conservation Reserve Program (starting this week) and will open Grasslands CRP enrollment in April.

Robert Bonnie, Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, says with 2-and-a-half million acres enrolled in Grasslands CRP, 2021 was the largest signup in history and is ideal for livestock producers.

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Idaho working to delist grizzly bears

Idaho is preparing to ask the federal government to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears, writes reporter Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. 

The intention was announced during a presentation to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at Boise on Thursday. It was unclear how far the state’s petition, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, will go and whether it will include all of the grizzly bear populations and recovery areas within Idaho or even all of those in the Lower 48. But officials said it will be timed to take advantage of grizzly bear delisting petitions recently submitted by Montana and Wyoming.

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Extreme drought creates unlikely farming allies in the Arizona desert

As control of the river water that allows desert farming shifts, a deep love of agriculture unites groups that have historically been at odds.

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Following Marshall Fire, Neguse calls for review of the National Fire Plan

A group of Western lawmakers are asking the Biden administration to update the Forest Service’s long-term plan for wildfires and potentially scale back certain uses of fire for forest management.In a letter to President Biden yesterday, Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) said the agency’s National Fire Plan hasn’t been updated in more than a decade.

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Just what is a ‘resilient’ forest, anyway?

What does a “resilient” forest look like in the Sierra Nevada? A lot fewer trees than we’re used to, according to a study of frequent-fire forests from the University of California, Davis. More than a century ago, Sierra Nevada forests faced almost no competition from neighboring trees for resources. The tree densities of the late 1800s would astonish most Californians today. Because of fire suppression, trees in current forests live alongside six to seven times as many trees as their ancestors did — competing for less water amid drier and hotter conditions.

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USDA Urges Producers to Submit Applications for 2021 Grazing Loss Assistance by Jan. 31

USDA is reminding ranchers and livestock producers that they may be eligible for financial assistance through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for 2021 grazing losses due to drought. The deadline to apply for 2021 assistance is Jan. 31, 2022. Click here for more Information

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USDA Announces Conservation Reserve Program Signups for 2022

Agricultural producers and landowners can sign up soon for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a cornerstone conservation program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a key tool in the Biden-Harris Administration effort to address climate change and achieve other natural resource benefits. The General CRP signup will run from Jan. 31 to March 11, and the Grassland CRP signup will run from April 4 to May 13. 

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States want grizzlies’ ESA protections removed

Fulfilling a promise made in September, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. The petition, filed with the support of Idaho and Montana, affirms that grizzly bears, by all measures, have been fully-recovered since 2003.

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Idaho Landowners Granted Limited SCOTUS Look at Wetlands Dispute

Two Idaho property owners can proceed in their challenge to a Washington, D.C., appeals court’s holding that their land contains wetlands subject to protection under federal water law, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday. 

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New bill has Washington tribes, farmers divided over salmon protective zones

House Bill 1838, also known as the Lorraine Loomis Act — named after a Swinomish Tribe member who was a salmon recovery advocate in the state — would set up salmon protection zones known as “riparian management zones” along rivers, streams, and other similar bodies of water that are home to migrating salmon.

The bill states that public and private property owners with land along the designated riparian protective zones will be responsible for protecting those zones, including planting trees and shrubbery to cool down the water temperature. The zones would cover 100 feet on either side of a river or stream in non-forested areas, and different amounts based on tree height in forested areas.

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Watch: The Need for Flexibility: Exploring Innovation in a Public Land Grazing System

The Bureau of Land Management’s Outcome-based Grazing program offers a more collaborative approach between the BLM and its partners within the livestock grazing community when issuing grazing authorizations. The program allows for necessary, timely grazing adjustments that benefit the health of the rangeland for wildlife as well as its availability of forage for livestock. These flexibilities help to create both ecological and economic resiliency throughout the West.

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Watch: Wolves in Yellowstone Part I: Can hunting and tourism co-exist?

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – As of today, 21 wolves that are part of Yellowstone National Park packs, have been killed by hunters this season. Most of those were killed in Montana.

Reacting to the wolf hunters’ success, Emil McCain the owner of Yellowstone Wild Tours said, “There’s no reason to hunt Yellowstone wolves.”

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Prescribed Fires Can Help Restore Biodiversity to Great Plains

A recent study published in Ecological Solutions and Evidence suggests that large, intense and controlled burns can halt and reverse the encroachment of woody plants into grasslands and help restore declining grassland bird populations.

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Secretary Vilsack Announces New 10 Year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore have launched a comprehensive response to the nation’s growing wildfire crisis. The strategy outlines the need to significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments to address the escalating crisis of wildfire danger that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States

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Secretary Vilsack Announces New 10 Year Strategy to Confront the Wildfire Crisis

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore recently announced a comprehensive response to the nation’s growing wildfire crisis – “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests.” The strategy outlines the need to significantly increase fuels and forest health treatments to address the escalating crisis of wildfire danger that threatens millions of acres and numerous communities across the United States.

The Forest Service will work with other federal agencies, including the Department of the Interior, and with Tribes, states, local communities, private landowners, and other partners to focus fuels and forest health treatments more strategically and at the scale of the problem, based on the best available science.

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With less water on the surface, how long can Arizona rely on what’s underground?

In Arizona, verdant fields of crops and a growing sprawl of suburban homes mean a sharp demand for water in the middle of the desert. Meeting that demand includes drawing from massive stores of underground water. But some experts say those aquifers are overtaxed and shouldn’t be seen as a long-term solution for a region where the water supply is expected to shrink in the decades to come.

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Water scarcity is about to get a lot worse. Irrigated agriculture doesn’t have a plan.


In much of the West and Southwest, the climate crisis is projected to raise average temperatures while reducing snowpack for much of the foreseeable future. These trends will significantly increase the risk of drought in an area heavily dependent on irrigation for food production. So what’s the plan? For many farming communities, according to a new report on drought preparedness, there is none.

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Land on Fire

Ranchers are at the helm of a highly cost-effective tool to reduce fuel loads.
​That tool is called grazing.

​More and more, government agencies, including fire departments, have realized the value of enlisting sheep or cattle producers that can truck their animals to locations where ground cover “ladder fuels” like grass and shrubs need mowing. The ranchers themselves could use the forage, and their animals, unlike mechanical mowers, don’t throw off sparks that could accidentally start a blaze.

​Strategic deployment has yielded positive results, especially in the wildland-urban interface. Vineyard operators are increasingly partnering with livestock producers for the service. A valuable co-benefit is noxious weed control. In the wine country of Sonoma County, where the housing density, and thus the fire risk to property, has increased at a staggering pace in the past two decades, the University of California Ag Extension created a new online service called match.graze where landowners seeking fuel reduction can enlist ranchers.

​That niche, called “target grazing,” is one that Jaime Irwin, her husband Robert and their family are filling. Their company, Kaos Sheep Outfit, based in Lake County, California, has been enlisted by local towns, fire departments, land trusts, watershed protection groups, vineyards, local airports and homeowners. Their flocks have been chomping grass and forbs primarily between Interstate 5 and US Highway 101 close to the Pacific Coast.

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WLA’s statement on removal of Jeremy Vesbach from NM Game & Fish Commission

Santa Fe, NM – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham properly understands that agriculture, recreation and conservation are all important to New Mexico and that the rights and interests of diverse stakeholders need to be respected and balanced. The governor’s actions Tuesday reaffirm that the commission’s job is to maintain the delicate balance of state interests that many stakeholders, the legislature, the game commission and the Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) have worked hard to achieve.

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Another Game Commission member gone amid stream access fight

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has dismissed another member of a state panel that oversees wildlife conservation and hunting and fishing regulations as a dispute percolates over public access to streams and rivers that flow through private property.

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Release: NRCS Announces Improvements to CSP and EQIP

Earlier this month, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) made a series of changes to its premier conservation programs to better support farmers’ ability to face climate change. First, NRCS improved the re-enrollment process within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). NRCS eliminated the requirement that farmers with expiring contracts who are not selected to renew those contracts must wait two full years to reapply to the program, a change for which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has long advocated.  

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USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program Opportunities to Support Climate Smart Agriculture in 2022

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate smart agriculture in 2022. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). These improvements to NRCS’ working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities in all states, are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.

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Nebraska will spend $500 million to claim South Platte River water from Colorado

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a $500 million plan Monday to divert water out of Colorado under a 99-year-old compact between the states that allows Nebraska to seize access to Colorado land along the South Platte River and build canals.

Ricketts said Nebraska would invoke its rights under the South Platte River Compact amid concerns that Colorado’s plans for the river could reduce water flows into his state by as much as 90%, taking a potentially huge toll on Nebraska’s agricultural and power industries and likely affecting water supplies in the state’s two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln

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Documentary focuses on biologists’ effort to save San Juan cutthroat trout following 416 Fire

A new documentary, “The Fish & the Flame,” highlights the successful recovery of the San Juan cutthroat trout in the wake of Durango’s 416 Fire of 2018. The 14-minute film details how Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist Jim White collaborated with Banded Peak Ranch Manager Tim Haarmann to save one of the last remaining populations of the recently rediscovered San Juan cutthroat trout as the 416 Fire threatened to decimate the fish that until 2018 was believed to be extinct.

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“The Fish & the Flame” tells the story of rescuing cutthroat trout during the 416 Fire

Newly discovered San Juan cutthroat trout were saved during the 416 Fire in Durango. “The Fish & the Flame,” a new documentary film, tells the story of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist and a ranch manager who teamed up to recover some of the last remaining populations of the fish species.

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Fish and the Flame

The successful recovery of the San Juan cutthroat trout in the face of Durango’s 416 Fire of 2018 is the subject of a new documentary film produced by Days Edge Productions and presented by Western Landowners Alliance and Chama Peak Land Alliance.

A free virtual film screening of “The Fish & the Flame” will be held at 5 p.m. Jan. 10. The 14-minute showing will be followed by a question and answer session with Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist Jim White, Banded Peak Ranch manager Tim Haarmann, Western Landowners Alliance executive director Lesli Allison, Chama Peak Land Alliance executive director Caleb Stotts and producer Page Buono.

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Biden’s Action Plan Draws Mixed Reviews From Cattlemen

The Biden Administration’s Action Plan to invest $1 Billion to expand competition in the U.S. meat packing industry and strengthen enforcement of antitrust regulations drew mixed reactions from cattlemen. Biden said Monday he believes concentration in the meat packing sector helps allow for “massive profits” and reflects a “market being distorted by lack of competition.”

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Montana’s Tracy Stone-Manning: BLM director has lots of acres and a big to-do list

When Montanans talk about “public lands,” in the abstract, usually there’s a very specific place that has impressed on them what public lands are — a place they’ve formed an emotional attachment with, be it from hiking, camping, fishing, hunting or cowboying.

And so it is with Montanan Tracy Stone-Manning, who, as the new director of the federal Bureau of Land Management, suddenly has 245 million acres of America in her care.

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Scientists: Phase out grazing, logging in ‘forest reserve’

The United States should immediately move to create a collection of strategic forest reserves in the Western U.S. to fight climate change and safeguard biodiversity, asserts a scientific collaboration led by an Oregon State University ecologist.

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Corporations are consolidating water and land rights in the West

With farms, ranches and rural communities facing unprecedented threats, a worrying trend leads to a critical question: Who owns the water?

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Should cultured meat be labeled identically to traditional meat?

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service is asking consumers for their thoughts.

Consumers, traditional meat producers and emerging meat producers continue to spar over what to call this new technology meat. The U.S. government has joined the naming and labeling battle, and it wants consumer and industry input. The question is, are these cultured cells the same as traditional cells, and therefore should the government permit identical labeling, or does the methodology of growing and harvesting necessitate an alternate naming scheme?

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New Mexico among states overusing depleted Colorado River, conservationists say

New Mexico is among three Upper Basin states exceeding their agreed-upon allotment of Colorado River water, a trend that could lead to the possible curtailment of water use in the future, a conservation group said in a newly released report.

Consuming less water will become more imperative as a changing climate causes hotter, drier weather that further depletes the Colorado River — and yet the four Upper Basin states have made no formal plans to cut their water use and at least two propose more diversions from the river as if there’s no shortage, according to a report by the Utah Rivers Council.

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Senators request additional assistance for livestock producers affected by drought

United States Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont) and John Thune (R-S.D.) this week led a bipartisan group of senators in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) to address a gap in coverage under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). In September, USDA announced it would provide ELAP assistance for the cost of transporting feed to livestock, but producers who are transporting their livestock to feed are not eligible for the program.

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USDA Invests $633 Million in Climate-Smart and Resilient Infrastructure for People in Rural Communities

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced earlier this month the Department is investing $633 million to reduce the impacts of climate change on rural communities.

“Rural America is on the front lines of climate change, and our communities deserve investments that will strengthen all of our resilience,” Vilsack said.

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USDA promised to invest in regional markets. Now, it’s happening

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has said many times since taking office that the agency would invest in local and regional markets in an effort to make the food system more resilient.

Now, it’s happening. So, what does that investment look like in the West?

USDA on Monday announced a $90.2 million investment in 203 projects nationwide. Across California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, 21 projects received funding.

The funding comes through two grants run by the Agricultural Marketing Service: the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs and the Regional Food System Partnerships.

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Snow cover critical for revegetation after fires

How much and how long a severely burned Pacific Northwest mountain landscape stays blanketed in winter snow is a key factor in the return of vegetation according to new research. Findings are important because the severity and frequency of wildfires in the Northwest are increasing, the blazes carry many short- and long-term impacts, and the length of those impacts is linked with vegetation’s re-establishment and recovery.

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The Bureau of Land Management begins evaluation of plans for sage-grouse conservation

In order to protect the long-term health of sage-grouse populations, review new science and comply with court direction, the Bureau of Land Management is beginning a process to consider updates to the range-wide management plans for sagebrush habitat adopted in 2015 and amended in 2019. More than 70 resource management plans currently guide habitat conservation and restoration on 67 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat the bureau manages in 10 Western states.

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Fall rains can’t undo pains of drought in Oregon and Washington

Withered crops and puny livestock; dead fish and swarming insects; laid off workers, shriveling economies, and rural homes stranded without running water — these are just some of the calamities unleashed by a historic drought affecting all of Oregon and parts of Washington.

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New Mexico Lawmakers Pressed to Make Water a Priority

With a high-stakes case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and more forecasts calling for hot and dry weather, New Mexico’s top water official says lawmakers can’t afford not to adequately fund the state agencies that oversee water resources.

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Ridgway grants “rights” to its river, joining several Colorado towns in push for new water protections

The Ridgway town council has voted to give “rights of nature” to the Uncompahgre River that flows on the edge of its downtown, joining Nederland and a long list of international locations saying they want to be better stewards of their wild spaces.

The natural rights movement has gone as far afield as New Zealand and Nigeria, with some efforts focused on protecting revered tribal lands, others to stop dams from forever changing valued waterways. 

Legal critics of the strategy, though, contend that water can’t have rights unto itself, and that the people proposing to speak for Colorado’s rivers may have narrow views that don’t serve the state as a whole. 

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Wildfires accelerating tree migration from climate change: study

Migrant trees are finding new homes in forests across the Western U.S., as changing climate conditions — accelerated by wildfires — force them to seek out cooler, wetter locations, a new study has found. The research provides the first empirical evidence that fires are hastening the movement of trees, likely by diminishing competition from established species.

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Drones help restore forests destroyed by wildfires

Millions of acres of U.S. forestland go up in smoke every year due to wildfires, in some cases leaving nature struggling to regenerate. CBS News’ Anthony Pura shows us how drones are now being used to restore those areas.

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Interior and Agriculture Departments Take Action to Strengthen Tribal Co-Stewardship of Public Lands and Waters

During the White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Biden announced that the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture have created the “Tribal Homelands Initiative.” This collaborative effort will improve federal stewardship of public lands, waters, and wildlife by strengthening the role of Tribal communities in federal land management. Through a joint Secretarial Order (Order), the two Departments codified a policy to facilitate agreements with Tribes to collaborate in the co-stewar

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A Water Crisis: Colorado agriculture facing changes as drought continues

An estimated 40 million people rely on water that originates in the Colorado River Basin, but the river can no longer keep up with demand, and it’s raising serious questions about the future of water in the West.

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The West-wide drought and the struggles of Idaho, Utah

Snow needs to be on the main menu for states like Utah, Idaho and others in the West to help them counter the effects of a vicious drought that shut down boat ramps across reservoirs, led to an early end of outdoor watering and yellowed lawns. Idaho’s drought remains a concern, as do conditions in Utah because it is so early in the

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Feds reverse Trump-era rule that dramatically reduced critical habitat for spotted owls

The USFWS recently announced a decision to maintain protections on over 3 million acres of forest habitat deemed critical for the survival of the threatened northern spotted owl. Those protections, in parts of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, were removed in the waning days of the Trump administration. The revised designation under the Endangered Species Act determined that removing those protections would cost the owl critical habitat necessary for its continued survival.

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What’s in the Build Back Better Act for ag?

The reconciliation bill includes $28 billion for conservation, $2 billion for ag research and $12 billion for farmer debt relief. According to a fact sheet released by the House Agriculture Committee, the Build Back Better Budget Reconciliation bill will make timely investments that will “provide resources to mitigate climate change, improve quality of life in rural communities and commit millions of dollars to agricultural education across the country.”

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New River Forecast Model Integrates Artificial Intelligence for Better Water Management in the West

For farmers, ranchers, foresters and water managers in the West facing extreme and debilitating drought conditions, water supply forecasts have never been more critical to their operations and livelihoods. However, major forecasting improvements are needed because of narrowing margins between water supply and water demand in the ever-more-thirsty American West. NRCS has unveiled a new computer application to address this pressing need: the multi-model machine learning metasystem, or M4. This first-of-its-kind model will be the largest migration of artificial intelligence, also known as AI, into real-world river prediction programs.

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Tribes seek water-management role as Colorado River shrivels

In the mid-2000s, seven states, the federal government and Mexico negotiated critical rules for the Colorado River that established how to divvy up its water in a severe drought like it is now facing.
Thirty Native American tribes — with rights to roughly a quarter of all the water in the river — were shut out of those talks. Tribes want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The effort offers new challenges for the seven Colorado River basin states and the Biden administration, which has repeatedly pledged to be more inclusive in regulatory efforts that affect Native Americans.

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Ranchers, USDA, other agencies gathering to discuss working lands, carnivores and conflict

Beyond Conflict online conference will focus on how to respond to increasing carnivore pressure in ways that keep ranches whole so they can continue to provide vital habitat.

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Feds and conservation groups reach agreement on Canada lynx

More than 20 years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed the Canada lynx a threatened species, the agency has agreed to prepare a recovery plan for the elusive, forest-dwelling carnivores. Last week the agency entered into a settlement agreement with six conservation groups that sued USFWS in 2020 over its management of lynx.

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Grazing in orchards, vineyards mutually beneficial

Livestock grazing can serve several purposes. It feeds the livestock, regenerates plant and soil health, and—when animals are grazed in orchards or woodlands—lessens wildfire severity by reducing fuel loads. Mark Batcheler, a Washington State University PhD student, is studying how silvopasture managed grazing compares to unmanaged grazing of forested areas, ungrazed woodlands, and grazed pastures with no trees.

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Idaho officials reject grazing-fee increase, costing schools

Idaho officials have rejected a plan to raise grazing fees on state-managed land, costing K-12 public schools more than $530,000 annually. The Idaho Land Board voted 2-2 to defeat the proposal, with Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra voting against the plan, citing concerns by ranchers who said drought was hurting their businesses.

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Senators urge emergency protections for wolves in U.S. West

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday urged the Biden administration to enact emergency protections for gray wolves in the U.S. West in response to Republican-backed state laws that make it easier to kill the predators. Twenty-one U.S. senators asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to shield wolves from being killed for 240 days while permanent protections are considered.

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USDA conservation vacancies pose challenge for Biden agenda

The trillion-dollar budget bill pushed by the Biden administration would pour billions of dollars into the Agriculture Department’s conservation programs at a time when the agency’s field staff is already stretched thin. Staffing shortages at the NRCS and other USDA agencies that work directly with producers have troubled the department for several years. Farm policy and conservation groups said the expanded conservation funding in the “Build Back Better Act” highlights the need to fill those gaps and may just help USDA finish the job.

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Drought taking a lasting toll on ranchers and western dairies

The drought stretching through much of the Great Plains is pushing cattle ranchers and dairy farmers to the breaking point – and sometimes past it – as producers scramble to feed their animals.

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More protections for Mexican wolf proposed

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to amend management regulations for Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The proposed changes would remove limits on the current number of wolves allowed and restrict previously allowed methods of population control on public and private land.

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Weather whiplash: California’s historic downpour interrupts historic drought

Over the span of two days, dramatic scenes of dried landscapes and wildfires that have defined California’s summer were replaced with surging rivers, floods and mudflows as a historic rainstorm – deemed a category 5 atmospheric river – pummeled the state. For scientists, the storm – though shocking in its magnitude – was not a surprise. It’s been clear that the climate crisis would intensify the extremes between wet and dry seasons, but many wonder whether this weather whiplash is a preview of catastrophes to come.

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USDA Announces Initial Supporters of Sustainable Productivity Growth Coalition

USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that more than 50 organizations and countries have officially declared their support for the Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation (SPG) Coalition, which the United States launched at the UN Food Systems Summit. The goal of the coalition is to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems through productivity growth that optimizes agricultural sustainability across social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

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Wildlife agencies to cancel Trump-era endangered species rules

The Biden administration moved to rescind two Trump administration environmental rollbacks that crimped the designation of critical habitat to protect threatened or endangered species.

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The resurgence of waffle gardens is helping indigenous farmers grow food with less water

In the face of climate change and persistent droughts, a growing number of people from Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico and elsewhere are adopting the traditional farming practice called waffle gardens, sunken garden beds enclosed by clay-heavy walls. This practice is well-suited for the semi-arid, high-altitude desert.

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Marston: This rancher has radical ideas about water

If Jim Howell, a fourth-generation rancher in western Colorado, has a guru, he’s Allan Savory, the champion of intensive cattle grazing even on semi-arid land.

Howell, 52, says Savory’s methods, which require moving cattle quickly from pasture to pasture, enable him to keep adding thousands more animals as the ground recovers. He says the method is so efficient he can even foresee leasing out irrigation water that he doesn’t need.

If all this sounds unbelievable, Howell, who is ranch manager for Eli Feldman in Ridgway, Colo., understands the skepticism. But he says the ranch speaks for itself.

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Court strikes down Trump EPA water permitting rule

A federal judge on Friday struck down a Trump-era regulation that limited the ability of states and Native American tribes to regulate water pollution.

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White House Announces Nomination of Martha Williams as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service

The White House today announced the intent to nominate Martha Williams as Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Martha has been serving as Principal Deputy Director since January 20, 2021, exercising the delegable authority of the Director. The nomination will now be considered by the U.S. Senate.

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Study: Warming climate means shortages on Pecos River

Federal water managers warn that like other basins across the western U.S., the Pecos River Basin in New Mexico is likely to experience growing water shortages as temperatures continue to rise over the next century. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation discussed the findings of a recently completed study on the basin, saying the goal of the work was to better understand the threats to water supplies in the region due to climate change. Officials also looked at what tools could be used to stretch resources to help sustain viable agriculture over the coming century as challenges grow.

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UC Davis to lead groundwater & irrigation study

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, have been awarded a $10 million grant by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to find ways to sustain irrigated agriculture while improving groundwater quantity and quality in the Southwest under a changing climate.

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‘Self-serving garbage.’ Wildfire experts escalate fight over saving California forests

Over the past few years, as California has endured record-breaking wildfires, a legion of fire scientists is delivering a blunt message to those who oppose forest thinning: Get out of the way. In a series of articles published in scientific journals, fire scientists are attacking claims that the woods need to be left alone and saying activists are bogging down vital work needed to protect wildlife, communities and make California’s forests more resilient to wildfire, namely through fuels reduction and thinning.

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Wildfire smoke disrupts bird migration in the West

Early fall wildfires in the western states and the smoke they generate pose a risk to birds migrating in the Pacific Flyway, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. GPS data from the 2020 wildfire season indicate that at least some migratory birds may take longer and use more energy to avoid wildfire smoke.

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Great Salt Lake’s demise spurs water emergency for Utah

Utah’s iconic Great Salt Lake, long neglected by regulators, is collapsing due to a historic drought and climate change. And, in a cruel twist, the demise of the lake — which shriveled to a record low level in July — may threaten Utah’s posh ski towns and even the state’s water supply. At issue: the “lake effect.”

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USDA launches first phase of soil carbon monitoring efforts through Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA is investing $10 million in a new initiative to sample, measure and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to better quantify the climate outcomes of the program.

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Idaho reaches deal to reimburse hunters who kill wolves

Idaho officials will make available up to $200,000 to be divided into payments for hunters and trappers who kill wolves in the state through next summer. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game late last month entered into an agreement with a nonprofit hunting group to reimburse the expenses for a proven kill. The agreement follows a change in Idaho law aimed at killing more wolves that are blamed for attacking livestock and reducing deer and elk herds.

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As drought worsens, California farmers are being paid not to grow crops

The farmers are paid to leave a portion of their lands dry and fallow, and the water saved over the next three years is expected to translate into three feet of additional water in Lake Mead, which has declined to its lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam.

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Western Lawmakers Unveil Alternative to 30×30 Initiative

U.S. Senator Steve Daines, chair of the Senate Western Caucus, today unveiled a blueprint for responsible, effective conservation supporting Montana and the West. Daines’ “Western Conservation Principles” serves as an alternative to the Biden administration’s “30 by 30 initiative” and America the Beautiful report.

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Forest Service: Prescriptive easements on Crazy Mountain trails ‘likely non-viable’

A lawsuit over Custer Gallatin National Forest’s handling of disputed trails is nearing resolution, and could have national implications for public access.

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Wildfire resilience, America the Beautiful top Forest Service priorities

Better wildfire resilience in America’s forests is a top priority for the U.S. Forest Service, but so is the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful Initiative to set aside more land for parks and other uses, an agency official says. The initiative’s goal is to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and water by 2030 with focuses on collaborative conservation and restoration of lands and fish and wildlife habitat, voluntary conservation, creating more parks, increasing access for outdoor recreation and creating jobs.

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Biden signs bill providing $10B to cover wide range of ag disasters

A stopgap-funding bill that will keep the government operating this fall includes a $10 billion expansion in agricultural disaster aid and temporarily extends authority for USDA’s livestock price reporting system.

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USDA Announces $3 Billion Investment in Agriculture, Animal Health, and Nutrition; Unveils New Climate Partnership Initiative

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced a comprehensive set of investments to address challenges facing America’s agricultural producers. These include assistance to address challenges and costs associated with drought, animal health, market disruptions for agricultural commodities, and school food supply chain issues. He also outlined and requested public comments on a new climate partnership initiative designed to create new revenue streams for producers via market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.

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Moore launches bill to boost U.S. Forest Service staffing

The leaders of numerous conservancy groups have endorsed bipartisan legislation proposed by Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) to bolster U.S. Forest Service staffing to mitigate wildfire risks. The Save Our Forest Act would allocate $46 million to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to fill longstanding personnel vacancies in the U.S. Forest Service.

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How Biden’s 30×30 conservation plan may affect western ranchers, federal grazing lands

President Biden’s “America The Beautiful” executive order mandates the federal government to work on conserving 30 percent of land by 2030. Here is how the Bureau of Land Management is working towards that goal on federal grazing lands. Deputy Director Nada Culver said the BLM is hoping to move forward with a collaborative approach.

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With 7,000 Sheep and Goats, This Mother-Daughter Team Is Playing a Part in California’s Fight Against Wildfires

Bianca and Andrée Soares transport their herd to wildfire-prone areas where the animals eat dry vegetation that can fuel flames near homes and businesses.

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Enviros aim to eliminate states’ funding over wolf hunting laws

(Subscription) States would lose federal wildlife funding if they “excessively” target predator species like wolves, cougars and grizzly bears, under a new petition to the Interior Department filed by myriad environmental groups. The petition seeks to add enforcement teeth to an existing requirement that states not compromise healthy wildlife populations.

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BLM to round up half of Wyoming’s wild horses

The BLM will round up most wild horses in five herd management areas in southwestern Wyoming, beginning as soon as Oct. 7. Removed horses will be “freeze branded, vaccinated, dewormed and given a Coggins test,” a blood test for viral Equine Infectious Anemia. Officials will then return about 1/4 of the removed horses to the range, administering temporary fertility controls to all returned mares, in an effort to reduce the wild horse population in those areas, the agency said Friday.

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Could LA water recycling be a miracle for parched West?

With severe drought strangling the West, the country’s largest water provider has embarked on a multibillion-dollar project that could help it cope with increasingly frequent shortages exacerbated by climate change. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California wants to recycle Los Angeles’ wastewater, creating a new supply stream that would significantly reduce the city’s reliance on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

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OSU study: Thinning moderates forest fire behavior even without prescribed burns – for while

Mechanical thinning alone can calm the intensity of future wildfires for many years, and prescribed burns lengthen thinning’s effectiveness, according to Oregon State University research involving a seasonally dry ponderosa pine forest in northeastern Oregon.

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As water conservation falls short, California plans for the worst

As California’s drought stretches into 2022, state and federal water agencies are working on a plan for the worst-case scenario. This comes as the state cut water use by less than 2% in July.

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Saving the Great Plains with prescribed fire, mixed grazing

Ranchers in the Great Plains are under increasing stress due to changing environmental conditions and subsequent losses of rangelands to woody plants, but a relatively new management approach shows promise in turning the tide against encroaching brush and shrubs.

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The American West’s drought isn’t a disaster. It’s our new, permanently arid normal.

“Accepting aridity, and rejecting shortsighted and maladaptive responses, is central to managing drought risks for the more than 60 million people reliant on the West’s dwindling water — and for the generations to come. An era of drought in the Western United States has begun. Our focus should be on adapting to this dry run, rather than hoping for it to end.”

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Regan eyes November for next step in WOTUS process

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan says a proposal to restore regulations defining “waters of the U.S.” to those that were in place before the Obama administration’s 2015 rule could be issued by November, with another proposal redefining WOTUS to follow a year after that.

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From Western Slope to Eastern Plains, Colorado agriculture under pressure to adapt to warming world

Paul Bruchez, a fifth generation farmer and rancher, acknowledges the fight farmers and ranchers are in could determine not just the future of his family’s ranch, but the future of agriculture in Colorado and beyond. The hotter, drier weather is threatening water supplies and crop yields, and is driving ranchers to cut herd sizes or find greener pastures elsewhere for the animals.

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USDA Accepts More Than 2.5 Million Acres in Grassland Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA has accepted more than 2.5 million acres into this year’s Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup. This is double last year’s enrollment and brings the total acres enrolled across all CRP signups in 2021 to more than 5.3 million acres, surpassing the administration’s 4-million-acre goal. USDA also noted that the enrollment of more than 2.5 million acres of grazing land into Grassland CRP will mitigate an additional estimated 22,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

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Wyoming to ask US to lift Yellowstone grizzly protections

Wyoming will ask the federal government to remove its protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region and permit the region’s three states to manage and potentially allow hunting of the big bruins in certain areas. Wyoming will submit the request after which the USFWS will have 90 days to determine whether delisting under the ESA might be warranted in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

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US Forest Service hits brakes on Arizona restoration project

The U.S. Forest Service has put the brakes on an effort to thin hundreds of square miles of land in Arizona to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, drawing sharp rebukes from elected officials.

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Feds consider re-listing wolf as state hunts start

Gray wolves in the West could go back under federal ESA protection due to the risk of “potential increases in human-caused mortality,” the USFWS announced. The decision to start a 12-month review of the wolf’s status came on the same day Montana and Idaho opened hunting and trapping seasons on the predator.

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US tribes demand emergency protection for wolves

Dozens of American Indian tribes asked the Biden administration Tuesday to immediately enact emergency protections for gray wolves, saying states have become too aggressive in hunting the animal.

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USDA Expands Assistance to Cover Feed Transportation Costs for Drought-Impacted Ranchers in California

In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today its plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing. USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for drought impacted ranchers. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide more details and tools to help California ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center later this month at fsa.usda.gov/elap

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Depleted by drought, Lakes Powell and Mead were doomed from the beginning

A glimpse into the history of the Colorado River Basin system, how it was designed and the impacts of climate change shed light on why it was destined to fail.

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Grassland Conservation Reserve Program acres grow to more than 2.5 million

Landowners and agricultural producers enrolled more than 2.5 million acres of grassland in the 2021 Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, double the number of acres they enrolled last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Friday, Sept. 10

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Working Lands, Working Communities Initiative Survey Results

WGA distributed a survey to state and local agencies and interested stakeholders soliciting feedback on the interdependent relationships between western communities and state and federal land / resource management entities, and the role that local communities play in successful land planning and management processes.

The survey included questions addressing land management and planning, cross-boundary collaboration, forest and rangeland management, and rural development, as well as two general questions. 

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Farmers restore native grasslands as groundwater disappears

Across the Southern Plains, groundwater that sustained generations is drying up, creating another problem: Without enough rain or groundwater for crops, soil can blow away — as it did during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Farmers are facing tough choices. Some are growing less-thirsty crops or improving irrigation. Others are replacing some cash crops with cattle and pastureland.

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USDA expands ELAP to cover feed transportation for drought-impacted ranchers

USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for drought impacted ranchers. USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides more details and tools to help ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center at fsa.usda.gov/elap.

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Wildfires Cause More Than 33,000 Deaths Globally Each Year

Wildfires are killing people around the world — even those with limited exposure to wildfire-related pollution, an international team of researchers reports. The new research revealed that short-term exposure to wildfire-related fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air is increasing deaths worldwide from any cause as well as from respiratory and heart-related causes.

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Biden administrator charts path for dramatic solar growth

The U.S. could get as much as 40% of its electricity from solar by 2035 if the country commits to federally-backed decarbonization efforts and adopts policies to promote the technology, the Department of Energy said in a recent report.

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Wildlife damage mitigation payment debate heats up

Late last October, the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act was signed into law. It was described as “the most significant wildlife conservation and sportsmen’s law in decades,” by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who introduced the bill. The act includes a little-known provision, promising to help compensate ranchers for lost livestock from predator attacks. Local leaders were excited by the prospects of future budget relief, yet Wyoming game and fish continues to foot the bill for compensation as funding from the bill has yet to be appropriated.

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Prized trout streams shrink as heat, drought grip US West

Both torrent and trickle have afflicted storied trout streams in the American West in recent years amid the havoc of climate change, which has made the region hotter and drier and fueled severe weather events. Blistering heat waves and extended drought have raised water temperatures and imperiled fish species in several states.

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‘Good fires’ gave forest managers a useful tool. Climate change may take it away

Lightning-caused wildfires can help renew forest ecosystems, but with warmer, drier landscapes, the risk of allowing them to burn is increasing. Without natural fire as a management tool, agencies would be left to rely on forest thinning and prescribed burns to mitigate future wildfires, which come with social and economic constraints.

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Can ‘active forest management’ really reduce wildfire risk?

As with conversations about natural resource management more broadly, public discourse about whether forests can be managed to effectively reduce wildfire risk is incredibly heated. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines frequently calls for active forest management and reform of the environmental review process to address “catastrophic” and “deadly” wildfires. During a recent wildfire briefing Sen. Daines said “frivolous litigation” has tied up thinning projects in courts and caused the U.S. Forest Service to fall short of its timber harvest targets in Montana.

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Bill reintroduced to expedite forest projects

The Resilient Federal Forests Act seeks to restore forest health on over 80 million acres of national forests through active management, increase resiliency to wildfire and support rural communities. The bill would expedite thinning and logging projects up to 30,000 acres by “ending frivolous ligation” and remove interagency consultation requirements that delay forest management activities. Additionally, it would accelerate salvage operation and reforest activities, improve existing authority on insect and disease infestations and codify the principles of the Good Neighbor Authority.

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Why The South Is Decades Ahead Of The West In Wildfire Prevention

As western states contend with increasingly catastrophic wildfires, some are looking to the Southeastern U.S., where prescribed fire is widespread thanks to policies put in place decades ago. From 1998 to 2018, 70% of all controlled burning in the country was in the Southeast.

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Trump waters rule vacated by federal judge

The Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule has been vacated by a federal judge in Arizona who said allowing it to remain in place risks “serious environmental harm,” particularly in the arid Southwest.

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House Democrats Agree to $100 Million Allocation for Critically Endangered Species

In a memo released by the House Natural Resources Committee, House Democrats will provide $550 million to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the upcoming budget reconciliation package, including $100 million for some of the most critically imperiled species in the United States.

The legislation will include $25 million to conserve and restore four of the most imperiled types of endangered species in the United States: butterflies, eastern freshwater mussels, Southwest desert fish and Hawaiian plants.

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Interior Department Announces Largest Expansion of Fishing and Hunting on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Managed Lands and Waters

The Department of the Interior announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has opened new or expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities across 2.1 million acres, the largest expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities in recent history.

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Climate programs will be voluntary, incentive-based, says USDA nominee

The USDA’s climate mitigation initiatives will be built on a simple rule: “If they don’t work for producers and landowners, they’re not going to work for the climate,” said Robert Bonnie, the Biden nominee to run the USDA’s crop subsidy and land stewardship programs.

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Climate change comes for a favorite summer pastime: fishing

As the West suffers another summer of drought and fire, fishing holes there and elsewhere are feeling the heat.

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Wildfire smoke is transforming clouds, making rainfall less likely

A new study finds smoke could be making it harder for clouds to drop rain and alleviate drought, potentially kicking of a “very scary” feedback loop.

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Legislators hope to fully fund Natural Resource Trust for first time since its inception

Since its formation in 2005, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust has dedicated millions of dollars to invasive species treatments, stream bank stabilization projects and fish barrier removals. But there’s one goal the program has never reached, according to Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Executive Director Bob Budd: being fully funded at a level of $200 million, as stipulated by state statute. If fully funded, the trust fund would generate $8 to $10 million annually to be used on projects across the state.

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New Mexico governor signs order to preserve 30 percent of public lands

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order that calls for 30 percent of New Mexico’s public lands to be protected by 2030, putting the state in line with a larger federal conservation effort.

The order directs a half-dozen state agencies to coalesce behind the “30 by 30” plan by establishing programs that conserve, protect and enhance public lands for a variety of uses. An additional 20 percent will be designated as climate stabilization areas.

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Climate-friendly ag practices need $30 billion, Democrats told

More than 60 groups are urging Democratic congressional leaders to prioritize climate-friendly agriculture, food systems and equity in their $3.5 trillion domestic spending package. About $89 billion in the budget reconciliation measure will be designated for agriculture and forestry in the package, and groups want to see $30 billion of that allocated to conservation programs.

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Upper Rio Grande basin: The threats ahead

Buffeted by drought, court orders, climate change, and Front Range diversion plans, the water supply of the San Luis Valley faces pressure as never before.

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The Colorado River’s shortage is a sign of a larger crisis

The Colorado River irrigates farms, powers electric grids and provides drinking water to 40 million people. But as its supply dwindles, a crisis looms.

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MT wildlife commission adopts new wolf hunting, trapping regulations

Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted several controversial new wolf hunting and trapping regulations, the culmination of months of debate that has drawn national and even international attention.

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Study: Cattle grazing helps contain wildfires

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers are conducting a study evaluating the use of targeted cattle grazing to create fuel breaks in order to contain wildfires. The results are in, and so far, cattle have provided extremely positive impacts.

The research is taking place in the Great Basin, where cattle grazing has successfully helped contain three rangeland fires in four years. The latest wildfire to be contained was the Welch Fire near Elko, NV, on July 18.

Targeted grazing uses cattle in the early spring to eat strips of highly flammable cheatgrass down to 2- or 3-inch stubble, which reduces the fuel load that can quickly turn small rangeland fires into megafires.

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Trout in trouble

This year’s drought has impacted Montana’s treasured cold-water fisheries, and the outfitters and anglers who rely on them. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks fully or partially closed close to twenty rivers to fishing this summer due to high water temperatures, low flows, or concerns about angling pressure.

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FWP reorganization could hamper science-based wildlife management, public input

The Gianforte administration is starting to reorganize the structure of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and the changes could make it harder for biologists and resident sportsmen to conserve Montana’s fish and wildlife in the future.

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Courts reverse course on stream access: There is no public easement to beds crossing private land

A Utah judge waded deep into Mormon pioneer history to settle a long-simmering fight over stream access, this time in favor of riverside property owners concluding the public has no right to walk or touch the bottoms of streams crossing private land.

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In a First, U.S. Declares Shortage on Colorado River, Forcing Water Cuts

With climate change and long-term drought continuing to take a toll on the Colorado River, the federal government or the first time declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, one of the river’s main reservoirs. The declaration triggers cuts in water supply that, for now, mostly will affect Arizona farmers.

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One Year After Wildfires Decimated California Rancher’s Herd and Legacy, Devastation Fuels Change

One year after wildfires ravaged Dave Daley’s herd, the California rancher is on a mission to save his family’s ranch legacy. But as his area is still scattered with scars, searching for solutions and calls for change.

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Recognizing monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act may do more harm than good

Insect populations are declining worldwide, and monarch butterflies are no exception. Efforts to reverse the trends are underway across the United States and Canada. Even with these efforts, many national insect conservation groups are advocating for the USFWS to list the monarch butterfly as “threatened” under the ESA. But a recent op-ed from scientists says that listing the monarch as endangered would trigger regulatory protections that could actually harm monarch populations and current conservation efforts.

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Water interests collide – Concern about irrigated land being subdivided

Conflicting agricultural and residential interests are coming to a head in Park County with the recent Buck Creek Estates major subdivision seeking approval before the county commissioners.

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First water cuts in US West supply to hammer Arizona farmers

Climate change, drought and high demand are expected to force the first-ever mandatory cuts to a water supply that 40 million people across the American West depend on — the Colorado River.

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Montana wolf proposals draw thousands of comments

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reported roughly 25,000 public comments were submitted ahead of the August Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting. About 90% of non-form letter comments also opposed killing wolves or expressed ethical or conflict concerns. About 1,000 comments could be identified as submitted from Montana, and those were about evenly split between support and opposition, according to FWP analysis.

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East Yellowstone Collaborative Working Group Recieves a 2021 Catalyst Fund Grant

The East Yellowstone Collaborative Working Group works to restore, protect, and steward the lands of the Absaroka Front to support healthy wildlife populations and sustain private working lands. Funding will support continued facilitation of the Working Group, including monthly partner meetings. Funding will also support targeted work with landowners to explore and prioritize potential conservation projects as the Working Group moves into implementation of its Vision Plan. Targeted investments in sustaining the collaborative capacity of the Working Group will accelerate its ability to achieve landscape-scale conservation outcomes in a landscape of global significance while maintaining the economic viability of ranches and private working lands.

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Senate OKs bipartisan infrastructure bill

The Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill Tuesday that would provide $550 billion in new funding to repair America’s rural roads, ports and waterways, while dramatically increasing high-speed internet access.

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Heat, drought and fire: how climate dangers combine for a catastrophic ‘perfect storm’

Researchers are concerned that the Dixie fire’s record won’t hold for long. The parched landscapes and increased temperatures that set the stage for bigger blazes this year are not anomalies – they are trends. And the conditions are going to get worse.

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Game & Fish asks public to help solve elk, CWD, feedground puzzle

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department last week wrapped up a six-town tour aimed at launching stakeholder groups to generate new ideas for management of Wyoming’s 22 elk feedgrounds, where chronic wasting disease threatens some 14,000 elk. Wildlife managers hope the meetings from Rock Springs to Jackson will encourage citizen stakeholders to volunteer for an 18-month effort that could lead to a new paradigm for managing the winter feedgrounds.

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‘Nothing’s safe’ as wildfire tears through California town

Shelton Douthit and his team at the Feather River Land Trust in Northern California have been working to restore the lush natural habitat and protect Indigenous artifacts around Lake Almanor.

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Dead zones spread along Oregon coast and Gulf of Mexico, study shows

Agricultural runoff from farms and livestock operations creates oxygen-depleted areas inhospitable to animal and plant life. Scientists recently surveyed the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico around Louisiana and Texas and what they discovered was a larger-than-average area of oxygen-depleted water – a “dead zone” where nothing can live.

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Researchers study wildfire’s impacts a year later

The effects from the Cameron Peak Fire can still be felt 12 months after the wildfire burned more than 208,000 acres.

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Push for conservation funding raises farm bill questions

Congressional Democrats are pushing for a historic increase in conservation program funding that would help pay farmers to address climate change, but the money also could create some challenges for the House and Senate Agriculture committees as they write the new farm bill.

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Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution

Greater buffer zones around bodies of water and more consistent enforcement of water protection regulations are needed to reduce agriculture-based pollution in the Western U.S., a recent review from Oregon State University found.

Prior research has shown that agricultural pollution, both from croplands and rangelands, is the cause of 48% of water-quality impairment in U.S. surface waters, which in turn disrupts habitat for fish and insects and reduces biodiversity in aquatic environments.

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BLM PREPARES FOR EMERGENCY ACTION TO SAVE DROUGHT-STRICKEN WILD HORSES AND BURROS ON PUBLIC LANDS

The BLM is prepared to ramp up wild horse and burro gathers over the next two months as extreme heat and drought conditions across much of the West threaten the safety of thousands of federally protected animals. BLM estimates that as many as 6,000 additional wild horses and burros need to be rounded up and removed from federal rangelands by the end of September in order to “prevent widespread thirst and mortality in wild horse and burro herds as drought intensifies across most of the West”.

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Coalition seeks relisting of gray wolves in US West

Wildlife advocates petitioned federal officials to restore federal protections for gray wolves throughout the U.S. West after Idaho and Montana passed laws intended to drastically cut their numbers. The agency is supposed to respond within 90 days on whether there is enough information for a potential listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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Rancher’s cattle reimbursement request rejected by Game and Fish

A Crandall rancher had his more than $120,000 request in reimbursement for cattle losses caused by grizzly bears and wolves in 2020 mostly rejected by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on July 15. G&F determined that Peterson used an unlawful multiplier in his calculations, and the agency can only reimburse for stock that was confirmed by G&F staff to have been killed by bears and wolves. Peterson argued that yearling losses should be compensated with the same multiplier as calves due to their similar age and size.

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Heinrich, Blunt introduce legislation to fund wildlife conservation

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which U.S. Senator Heinrich of New Mexico is introducing along with Republican U.S. Senator Blunt of Missouri, would provide $1.3 billion annually in funding to states and $97.5 million to tribes to implement projects identified in the wildlife action plans that intend to keep species off of the endangered species list and recover those that are already on the list.

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What is the future of WOTUS?

The U.S. District Court in South Carolina dismissed a challenge to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule written during the Trump administration and granted a remand without vacatur, ensuring the rule remains in effect until the Biden administration finalizes a new rule.

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Western drought has lasted longer than the Dust Bowl

It has dropped water levels perilously low at two of the nation’s largest reservoirs, forced ranchers to sell off herds and helped propel scorching wildfires. It’s lasted longer than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. And worst of all, the drought blanketing the western United States is not going away.

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OPINION | Private, public lands have common interests

Melissa Daruna: “Colorado’s virtues may have inspired the U.S. government when it titled its recently released report ‘Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful.’ The report highlights the importance of protecting both public and private lands. This is an essential component here in Colorado. Because nearly 60 percent of Colorado’s lands are privately owned, voluntary actions of private landowners can play a significant role in helping ensure conservation resiliency and connectivity across the state’s many different communities.

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Groups: Idaho wolf law will cause grizzly bear, lynx deaths

Environmental groups have notified Idaho Gov. Brad Little and other state officials of their intent to file a lawsuit over an expanded wolf-killing law they believe will result in the illegal killing of federally protected grizzly bear and lynx.

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Some drought-imposed fishing limits lifted on Colorado River

Colorado lifted some fishing restrictions along a stretch of the Colorado River, but biologists warn that historically low water flows caused by a drought in the West, high water temperatures and wildfire sediment that all starve trout of oxygen could force future bans.

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USDA Announces Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing up to $200 million to provide relief to timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses that have experienced losses due to COVID-19 as part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Loggers and truckers can apply for assistance through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) July 22 through Oct. 15, 2021. The Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers program (PATHH) is administered by FSA in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

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Size of Oregon wildfire underscores vastness of the US West

The monstrous wildfire burning in Oregon has grown to a third the size of Rhode Island and spreads miles each day, but evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California. The fire’s jaw-dropping size contrasted with its relatively small impact on people underscores the vastness of the American West.

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Can Family-Owned Forests Help the U.S. Achieve a Low-Carbon Future?

A USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project is trying to reimagine how carbon markets can work with and for small landholders. The Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) bases carbon payments on specific forest management practices. The project’s goal is to facilitate the participation of nearly 300 million acres of family-owned American forests in carbon markets.

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Bipartisan lawmakers call for united effort on wildfires

Four Western members of Congress have issued a bipartisan call for their colleagues to prioritize funding for wildfire resiliency and prevention in this year’s appropriations bill. The four are members of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, which sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders in April asking for the funding.

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Biden order to strengthen hand of small farmers in legal fights

A new executive order from President Biden targeting anti-competitive business practices is expected to give a major boost to sustainability efforts in the agriculture industry by potentially making it easier for small farmers to sue some of the biggest food producers.

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Fighting wildfires in the West: ‘I don’t think we can overdo anything’

Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., held a press call recently detailing the need for more urgent, coordinated responses to wildfires in the West, which have become routine rather than rare.

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Drought is forcing tough decisions for West’s ranchers

This year is proving to be a serious challenge for many cattle producers in the western states, with prolonged drought and high temperatures. Pasture and hay supplies are well below average and some producers are running out of forage.

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How Animal Agriculture Is Being Impacted By Utah’s Drought

While watering lawns less can be done to conserve water during a drought, using less water isn’t always possible in agricultural operations. As water availability dwindles, some farmers are noticing decreases in their agricultural outputs. Troy Forest is the Director of Grazing Improvement at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and said the drought has been negatively impacting animal agriculture in Utah for over a year now.

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Minnesota DNR calls off wolf hunt this year despite support from farmers, hunters

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, July 7, said there will be no wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota in 2021 as the agency continues to develop a new long-term wolf management plan.

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US to take longer look at contentious Montana bison proposal

Federal officials will give the public more time to comment on a contentious proposal to expand bison grazing on public lands in north-central Montana. The move comes after Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte criticized the BLM for holding just one virtual meeting on the proposal, which covers about 108 square miles (280 square kilometers) south of Malta.

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New Mexico lawmakers warned about shrinking water supplies

Some of New Mexico’s top climate and water experts warned state lawmakers Tuesday that the effects of the drought on water supplies have been worsened by climate change, specifically an ongoing, long-term warming trend.

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Amid A Megadrought, Federal Water Shortage Limits Loom For The Colorado River

Extremely dry conditions like the region is experiencing in 2021 make clear that the Colorado River is unable to meet all the demands communities in the Western U.S. have placed on it, and it’s up to its biggest users to decide who has to rely on it less.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Keystone Policy Center Launch Online Open House

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Keystone Policy Center announced today the launch of an Online Open House and detailed Comment Form available on Colorado’s Wolf Restoration and Management Plan Public Engagement Website.

The online open house and comment form offer the same information, questions and opportunity to submit feedback that is available at in-person public listening sessions that will be conducted throughout the state this summer.

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Wolf reintroduction happened so fast in Montana and Idaho, the states are expanding hunting. Here’s what Colorado can learn.

Taking Montana and Idaho as case studies, Gray wolf populations in Colorado will expand quickly once introduced. In this article, Wildlife officials highlight how hunting manages wolf populations once their populations recover.

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Klamath Basin drought: fire and drought

This week, Think Out Loud has traveled to the Klamath Basin to have conversations with people affected by the severe drought in the region. The Bootleg fire is currently the largest burning in the U.S. Rancher Becky Hyde is a mile and a half from the fire. She says, “If you take the drought, and then you add the fire on top of it … you have ranchers in this area who are in a horrible situation.”

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American west stuck in cycle of ‘heat, drought and fire’, experts warn

As fires propagate throughout the US west on the heels of record heatwaves, experts are warning that the region is caught in a vicious feedback cycle of extreme heat, drought and fire, all amplified by the climate crisis.

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USDA Announces Dates for Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Signups

Agricultural producers and landowners can apply for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands signup from July 12 until August 20. This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increase the program’s conservation and climate benefits, including setting a minimum rental rate and identifying two national priority zones.

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WDFW: Only open-and-shut wolf attacks confirmed

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials concede that they likely undercount depredations by wolves, but say the high standard is necessary to maintain scientific integrity and legal certainty.

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Colorado’s first gray wolf pack since 1940s now has 6 pups

Colorado’s first litter of gray wolf pups since the 1940s has grown to include six pups. Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Thursday that staff spotted the pups living in a den with two collared wolves in northern Colorado.

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Reservoirs are drying up as consequences of the Western drought worsen

Reservoir levels are dropping throughout the West, as the drought tightens its grip on the region and intense summer heat further stresses both water supply and the surrounding landscape.

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Biden executive order targets consolidation in ag sector

(Subscription) A wide-ranging executive order that President Joe Biden signed Friday seeks to address consolidation throughout the economy and includes a special focus on actions the Department of Agriculture could take to address the meat industry and antitrust enforcement.

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Connecting Ranchers with Land Stewards Could Be Key to Less Disastrous Wildfires

In California and across the drought-parched West, programs are springing up to help goats, sheep, and cattle eat down the plants that would otherwise become fuel for wildfires.

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Drought And Fire Conditions In Western Colorado Are Dire. Can Congress Help?

Colorado Congressmembers like Reps. Lauren Boebert and Joe Neguse can’t make it rain or control a massive wildfire. What they can do is focus attention — and money — on the issue.

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WDFW sets 3-day goal for wolf removal decisions

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has set a 3-day goal for wolf removal decisions, in order to speed up the previously lengthy decision process on whether to lethally control an individual wolf or pack that is depredating livestock

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US proposes removing Colorado River fish’s endangered status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday it plans to propose reclassifying a rare Colorado River Basin fish called the razorback sucker from endangered to threatened status after a multiyear and multistate effort throughout the Southwestern U.S.

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A grizzly bear washed up dead. Then it was found decapitated and declawed, prompting a federal investigation.

A Grizzly Bear that washed up dead on the banks of the Yellowstone River had parts taken as trophies. This is at least the fourth illegal incident involving grizzly bears in the past 14 months.

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Grizzly conflicts central to new Upper Green River grazing debate

A new management plan for Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin proposes to return cattle to allotments that were previously retired from sheep grazing. Adding flexibility to move cattle onto different pastures will allow more opportunities to move livestock to avoid Grizzly Bear conflict hot-spots.

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Producers Can Now Hay, Graze and Chop Cover Crops Anytime and Still Receive Full Prevented Planting Payment

Agricultural producers with crop insurance can hay, graze or chop cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage at any time and still receive 100 percent of the prevented planting payment. Previously, cover crops could only be hayed, grazed or chopped after November 1, otherwise the prevented planting payment was reduced by 65 percent.

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Tribe becomes key water player with drought aid to Arizona

The Colorado River Indian Tribes and another tribe in Arizona have played an outsized role in the recent drought contingency plans that had Arizona voluntarily give up water. As the state faces mandatory cuts next year in its Colorado River supply, the tribes see themselves as major players in the future of water.

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Cattle Producers win state support to watch for wolves

The Cattle Producers of Washington organization has been awarded a $397,440 state grant to prevent conflicts between cows and wolves in northeast Washington. The amount nearly doubles state support the group got in 2019 and boosts a program running low on money. The cattlemen’s group helps about 20 ranches protect herds in Ferry and Stevens counties.

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Trump roundups worked: Herds drop for first time in 9 years

(Subscription) The Bureau of Land Management’s aggressive Trump-era wild horse and burro roundup strategy, slammed by critics as cruel and unnecessary, apparently cut herd sizes on federal rangelands for the first time in nearly a decade.

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Legislation reduces taxes for veterinarians in rural areas

Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, would address the shortfall of veterinarians in rural areas by offering tax relief. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act would help meet the growing demand for veterinarians nationwide by eliminating taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas.

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Wolf reintroduction funding with no license fees is most bipartisan bill of 2021 session

Wolf reintroduction won’t be funded by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses in Colorado, and that was made a matter of state law from Eagle County on Sunday. A recent bill that passed with bipartisan support ensures that, in funding the reintroduction, the general assembly will appropriate money to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife from either the general fund, the species conservation trust fund, the Colorado nongame conservation and wildlife restoration cash fund, or the wildlife cash fund. 

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Why water levels in megadrought-impacted Southwestern states have some experts concerned

Water levels in major bodies of water in the Southwest — both natural and manmade — are approaching historic lows as the drought is exacerbated by heatwave after heatwave during a dry season that started earlier this year.

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Court ruling puts Oregon’s IP13 in new light

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision this week to send an animal husbandry initiative back to the drawing board places a spotlight on a similar measure in Oregon, which is also going through a legal review process.

Colorado’s high court on June 21 nixed Initiative 16 on the grounds that it violated a state statute that initiatives only address a single subject. The court held that given its complexity, the measure could confuse voters.

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Bipartisan agriculture climate bill clears Senate

The Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation aimed at granting farms access to carbon offset markets by a 92-8 vote.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), next heads to the House. The measure would establish a Department of Agriculture certification process through which producers can generate and sell carbon credits.

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USDA to Invest $10 Million to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry through Voluntary Conservation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $10 million to support climate-smart agriculture and forestry through voluntary conservation practices in 10 targeted states. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help agricultural producers plan and implement voluntary conservation practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on working lands.

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Vilsack says family farmers won’t be hit with new taxes

During a visit to a farm in Michigan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to allay fears that proposed tax changes by the Biden Administration would put family farms in jeopardy. Vilsack said that the act contains a provision that if the farm “continues to be owned and operated by the family, it’s not going to be subject to any tax incident…[with exemptions] We’re confident in saying that 98.9% of farms in this country will not be negatively impacted from a tax perspective.”

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Idaho Fish & Game Commission Expands Wolf Hunting Opportunities—And Criticizes State Legislature

The Idaho Fish & Game Commission officially expanded wolf hunting and trapping opportunities to align with the controversial new law, SB1211, which has been widely reported as a green light to kill 90 percent of the state’s wolves—a claim that, in turn, has been widely disputed. 

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Groups come together to fund Arizona water conservation program impacting Colorado River

As the federal government prepares to declare a first-ever water shortage at Lake Mead, Arizona state leaders, Native American tribes, and philanthropic and corporate foundations are stepping up to help conserve water.

This week, these entities committed to funding an $8 million gap to complete a landmark water conservation project with the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the state of Arizona.

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Drought maps show the western US at its driest in 20 years

Current drought conditions across the West and Southwest are more widespread and severe than they’ve ever been in the 20 years the US Drought Monitor has been mapping them. Key water reservoirs were already alarmingly dry when a heat wave blanketed the western US, straining power grids and raising wildfire risk.

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Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce holds first meeting

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce convened in Casper in June for their first meeting to begin discussions on policy issues related to hunting licenses and access facing Wyoming hunters and anglers. A recording of the 2-day meeting is available on the Taskforce website.

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Rocky Mountain subalpine forests now burning more than any time in recent millennia

High-elevation forests in Colorado and Wyoming are now burning more than at any other point in the last two millennia. According to new research, climate change is making subalpine forests in the Rocky Mountains more flammable now than at any time in the past 2,000 years. 

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California’s new overtime laws may tank its sheep industry. That’s bad for wildfire season

Starting January 1st, 2022, overtime laws for agricultural workers are going to change. That now lumps in people in the sheep, goat, and lamb industries. They’ll have to start paying herders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 40 hours of that would be normal pay; 128 of it would be clocked as overtime. Those workers wouldn’t qualify for salary, so there’s no way around the new law.

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Farm Service Agency Now Accepting Nominations for County Committee Members

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) began accepting nominations for county committee members on June 15. Elections will occur in certain Local Administrative Areas (LAA) for these members who make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally. All nomination forms for the 2021 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Aug. 2, 2021.

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Comment period for Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Water Extended

At the New Mexico State Game Commission meeting held Friday, June 18, 2021 at the New Mexico State Capitol, a ruling on five applications for landowner certification of non-navigable water was tabled until the August 12, 2021 Commission meeting, allowing additional time, until July 29th, for public input.

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Breaking down the effects of a drought that is affecting the entire Western U.S.

Almost half of the U.S. has been in a drought since the start of 2021.

Compounding factors, including low rainfall and snowpack, climate change and persisting droughts from previous years, have escalated into extreme dryness.

The prolonged dryness means low water levels are endangering fish species in Oregon and Colorado, 30% of California’s population is in a drought emergency, and the nation’s two biggest reservoirs on the Colorado River — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are two-thirds empty.

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Discovery of gray wolf pups won’t change Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s reintroduction work

Despite the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) official sighting of wolf pups in Colorado, CPW will not slow the ballot-mandated reintroduction of the predators on grounds that the state does not yet maintain a self-sustaining population.

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Arizona governor signs $100M wildfire funding plan

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed a bill rushed through in a special legislative session that provides $100 million in funding this year to battle wildfires, react to the damage they cause and to create a new force of more than 700 state inmates to clear brush.

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Lawsuit challenges gray wolf harvest near Yellowstone National Park

A dispute about the wolf population around Yellowstone National Park and the size of elk herds has become contentious, as an outdoor group sued Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the FWP commissioners for allegedly failing to follow its own policies about hunting gray wolves.

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Another side of the controversy over stream access

In a recent editorial, The New Mexican declared rivers and streams belong to the public, but this simplistic declaration masks a crucially important story that is not being told (“Rivers, streams belong to public — period,” Our View, June 13). If we care about New Mexico’s land, water, people and wildlife, it’s time to take a much harder, more honest look at the issue and what is at stake. WLA’s Lesli Allison writes “it’s time to move past the rhetoric and to a much more critical examination of the “public access at all costs” movement.”

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(Opinion) For greater sage grouse success, local control matters

North Dakota congressman Kelly Armstrong and National Association of Conservation Districts president Michael Crowder write that local experts and communities offer important knowledge and perspective that should be relied upon when making decisions that affect them, especially when it comes to protecting species that rely on their lands for habitat, like the sage grouse.

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Over half of the world’s rivers cease to flow for at least one day a year on average

Between 51-60% of the 64 million kilometres of rivers and streams on Earth, investigated in a new study, stop flowing periodically, or run dry for part of the year. The research calls for a paradigm shift in river science and management by revising foundational concepts which traditionally assumed year-round water flow in rivers and streams.

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Biden’s Proposed Tax Changes Could Cause Family Farms to Accrue Additional Debt, Study Shows

The Biden Administration’s proposed tax changes could be costly for family farms. This takeaway from a new report from Texas A&M University’s Agricultural & Food Policy Center (AFPC) conflict with reports that say the possible tax changes wouldn’t have a have a widespread impact on family farms.

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NAU Researchers Find Forest Treatments Have Long-lasting Effects

A group of researchers at Northern Arizona University recently studied the effects of thinning and burning in small areas throughout the state. Their research shows that treatments might last for at least two decades.

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Colorado ranchers are selling off cattle to survive another year of dried-up grass and parched soil

The Western Slope has suffered a drought three of the last four years, and by now, it’s taken a toll on farmers and ranchers that is both financial and emotional. VanWinkle choked up as she spoke of the “crunch” she hears with every step through the pasture. “It’s truly the grass and the flora crumbling into a million pieces with every step you take,” she said. “It’s brutal.”

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USDA Announces Dates for Conservation Reserve Program General and Grasslands Signups

The USDA has set a July 23, 2021, deadline for agricultural producers and landowners to apply for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup 56. Additionally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for CRP Grasslands from July 12 to August 20. This year, USDA updated both signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increase its conservation benefits.

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USDA to Invest $41.8 Million in Conservation Assistance for Producers in Drought-Impacted States

In response to historic drought conditions, the USDA is offering $41.8 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural producers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands. NRCS will accept applications through July 12, 2021.

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U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney Introduces NEPA Reform Bill to Streamline Regulations and Empower State/Local Leaders

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) introduced the UNSHACKLE Act (Undoing NEPA’s Substantial Harm by Advancing Concepts that Kickstart the Liberation of the Economy Act) in the House of Representatives, a bill that combines five standalone NEPA-related pieces of legislation aimed at maintaining the previous Administration’s much-needed NEPA revisions.

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USDA to Invest $41.8 Million in Conservation Assistance for Producers in Drought-Impacted States

In response to historic drought conditions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $41.8 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural producers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will make available this funding through Conservation Incentive Contracts, a new option available through EQIP. Signup for this targeted funding begins today, and NRCS will accept applications through July 12, 2021.

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Dispute over wolf cross-fostering in Catron County, New Mexico

A plan to place captive-bred mexican wolves in a den with wild wolves in New Mexico is receiving push-back due to potential for livestock conflicts with neighboring landowners. Wolves killed 151 livestock in New Mexico in 2020, with more likely going unreported, according to state biologists.

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In the face of new laws trapping and killing wolves, groups vie for greater protections

Wildlife advocates asked the U.S. Forest Service to double-up on protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana following recent pushes to dramatically cut wolf populations. The petition, submitted to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday, comes shortly after these states passed a slew of laws making it easier for hunters and trappers to hunt the canid predators.

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USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. USDA said the new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain.

Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains, USDA said. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

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Few in Klamath Basin want 2001-style confrontation

Most growers in the drought-plagued Klamath Basin don’t appear to want the kind of water confrontations that brought national attention to the region 20 summers ago, a local newspaper is reporting.

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A West-Wide Rangeland Fuel Assessment: Reading the Tea Leaves

In this monthly recorded series, Dr. Matt Reeves – an RMRS Research Ecologist specializing in remote sensing and ecological modeling –  will analyze current rangeland fuel conditions across the west, with emphasis on emerging hotspots. New episodes will be posted on the first Monday of every month and more frequently as the summer progresses.

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Dry times, dire consequences: Poor runoff adds to water woes

Ordinarily this time of year, the Colorado River would be raging on its way through Mesa County, swollen with runoff from melting mountain snow.

Said Russ Schumacher, state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, “The streamflows throughout western Colorado are not looking good at this point and there’s not that much snow up there left to melt.”

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CPW announces membership on wolf reintroduction advisory panels

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced representatives of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) and the Technical Working Group (TWG), which will help guide CPW staff and the Commission through the wolf reintroduction planning process. WLA’s programs director, Hallie Mahowald, has been chosen for the SAG and will be working hard to fight for the needs of Colorado’s landowners throughout this process.

Researchers at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University have created an index depicting the mix of social values among people across all 50 states, providing data that can be useful for wildlife conservation policy and management. The study, “Bringing social values to wildlife conservation decisions,” was published online June 3 in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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Montana’s Senators differ on details, but agree science is key to grizzly de-listing discussion

As grizzly bears reach and surpass recovery goals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Sen. Daines and Sen. Tester of Montana agree that science should guide decisions to de-list the species from the ESA.

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For Predators, Montana’s New Wildlife Laws Bring Cloudy Future

New laws allowing more liberal wolf trapping and hunting and creating leeway for citizens to retaliate to protect their property from grizzly bears are influencing debate over the relationships between people and predators in Montana.

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Montana officials kill three grizzlies after livestock attacks

Three bears were captured and euthanized in Montana that had chronically depredated livestock. Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species under federal law, but since their populations have rebounded in Montana, grizzlies have run into increasingly frequent conflicts with humans and livestock.

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California wants to buy nonlethal bear traps and pay ranchers when wolves kill their cows

California’s department of fish and wildlife’s funding will be increasing by $252 million, allowing for a range of new wildlife conservation and management initiatives, including $7 million to buy traps and other equipment to capture and relocate animals, as well as implement nonlethal deterrents such as flagging and fences to protect livestock from wolves

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Does Biden’s ’30×30′ plan trade science for popularity?

(Subscription) Some proponents of a concerted push to protect large swaths of natural spaces across the country are raising concerns that the Biden administration’s new conservation proposal is too timid, failing to lay out a plan to truly preserve vulnerable lands and waters.

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Judge sides with Game and Fish, limits grizzly-killed livestock award

A judge decided Monday to reduce an arbitration panel’s award to a Hot Springs County, Wyoming rancher for cattle lost to grizzly bears. The rancher sought $205,483 in compensation, but will receive $61,202 to cover 20 confirmed kills by grizzly bears.

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Amid Historic Drought, a New Water War in the West

A drought crisis has erupted in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border, with fish dying en masse and farmers infuriated that they have been cut off from their main water source. The brewing battle over the century-old Klamath Project is an early window into the water shortfalls that are likely to spread across the West as a widespread drought, associated with a warming climate, parches watersheds throughout the region.

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FWP seeks Citizens Advisory Council applicants in southeastern Montana

Volunteer applicants are needed to serve two-year terms on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) region 7 Citizens Advisory Council (CAC). The purpose of the southeastern Montana-based CAC is to advise FWP on various regional and statewide wildlife management issues, programs and policies.

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9th Circuit hears arguments on “grazing preference”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard earlier this month arguments on the first-of-its-kind denial of a “grazing preference” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to an Oregon family.

The case could set precedence regarding Congress’ intent when it passed the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) in 1934 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) in 1976. Both give an existing permit holder the right to stand first in line when it comes time to renew that permit—commonly referred to as a “preference” by the TGA and a “first priority” by FLPMA—or when passing the permit to a family member.

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Groups ask feds for emergency re-listing of wolves after new Montana, Idaho laws

A handful of environmental groups are seeking the emergency re-listing of Northern Rockies gray wolves after lawmakers in Montana and Idaho passed several new laws aimed at reducing their numbers.

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Colorado Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Wildlife Corridors

Recently, the Colorado Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to protect the state’s wildlife corridors, which would conserve native species while improving road safety and bolstering Colorado’s economy.

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Endangered Species Act listing proposed for lesser prairie-chicken

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing federally protected status under the Endangered Species Act for two populations of the lesser prairie-chicken that occupy parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

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USDA Announces New Initiative to Quantify Climate Benefits of Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently announced an initiative to quantify the climate benefits of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. This multi-year effort will enable USDA to better target CRP toward climate outcomes and improve existing models and conservation planning tools while supporting USDA’s goal of putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change.

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Beef lobby rift: JBS leaves NCBA

The moves stem from widespread anger among producers who say they are being squeezed with unfairly low cattle prices while consumers are paying near-record prices for burgers and steaks.

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Colorado Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Wildlife Corridors

Colorado Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to protect the state’s wildlife corridors, which would conserve native species while improving road safety and bolstering Colorado’s economy.

The bipartisan resolution was introduced earlier this month by Democratic Senator Jessie Danielson and Republican Representative Perry Will. The legislation, which marks a monumental step towards preserving Colorado’s rich biodiversity and wildlife heritage for future generations, now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote.

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Grim western fire season starts much drier than record 2020

As bad as last year’s record-shattering fire season was, the western U.S. starts this year’s in even worse shape. The soil in the West is record dry for this time of year. In much of the region, plants that fuel fires are also the driest scientists have seen.

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CPW’s 2nd wolf reintroduction info session focuses on dealing with livestock conflict

Colorado Parks and Wildlife held its second wolf reintroduction education session last week with a focus on what other states have done when releasing wolves and managing conflicts with livestock.

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Forest Service Defends Grazing by Diamond M Ranch in Wolf Case

The U.S. Forest Service asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a suit led by wolf advocates who want to drive the Diamond M Ranch’s cattle out of the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.

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Group wants to reintroduce jaguars; mining ban eyed to protect birds

Environmental groups and scientists with two universities want U.S. wildlife managers to consider reintroducing jaguars to the American Southwest. In a recently published paper, they say habitat destruction, highways and existing segments of the border wall mean that natural reestablishment of the large cats north of the U.S.-Mexico boundary would be unlikely over the next century without human intervention. 

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Vilsack wants ag conservation focus on incentives, not regulations

Vilsack said last week that in President Joe Biden’s administration, “the ultimate goal is to reduce emissions” but that his preferred method is through incentives and education, not the heavy hammer of regulatory enforcement.

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30×30 Plan: Panelists Discuss Conservation Policy for Western States

The Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) hosted a panel of landowners and land managers to share their perspective on the Biden administration’s 30×30 Plan. While the policy has not been completed, WLA is advocating the final policy should respect property rights, improve conservation outcomes and benefit rural communities. 

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Montana’s wildlife agency pulls back on science work

Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks plans to shift its research program toward short-term, in-house efforts after a decade of ambitious work helped make it a world-renowned scientific contributor.

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Wildfires threaten river networks in the western U.S.

A new study conducted by researchers from The University of New Mexico has found that wildfires—which have been increasing in frequency, severity and extent around the globe—are one of the largest drivers of aquatic impairment in the western United States, threatening our water supply.

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Forest Service moves to weaken bighorn protections in Wyoming Range

Domestic sheep could graze anew on national forest land in the Wyoming Range where conservationists bought grazing rights to separate them, their pathogens and their impacts from bighorn sheep and their habitat.

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As the West Faces a Drought Emergency, Some Ranchers are Restoring Grasslands to Build Water Reserves

In the face of ongoing drought, western ranchers are restoring diverse, grassland ecosystem practices that can improve the land’s capacity to hold water—and help them hold onto more cattle. Will it be enough to survive harder years ahead? Article features WLA members Julie Sullivan and George Whitten.

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Climate change may be causing an early start to fire season in the West, experts say

Severe drought during the winter is leading to matchbox conditions in the West. Drought conditions from California to Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico have been so bad that officials began preparing for the fire season in April. For some states, the staggering drought could be the worst in centuries.

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Study shows grasslands are more reliable carbon sinks than forests

A study has found that increased drought and wildfire risk make grasslands and rangelands a more reliable carbon sink than trees in 21st century California. As such, the study indicates they should be given opportunities in the state’s cap-and-and trade market, which is designed to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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USFWS must consider petition for wild horse’s protection

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrongly refused to review an animal advocacy group’s bid to include a wild horse on the country’s list of imperiled species because its refusal hinged on a rule that is inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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Groups call for reintroduction of jaguars in US Southwest

Environmental groups and scientists with two universities want U.S. wildlife managers to consider reintroducing jaguars to the American Southwest. In a recently published paper, they say habitat destruction, highways and existing segments of the border wall mean that natural reestablishment of the large cats north of the U.S.-Mexico boundary would be unlikely over the next century without human intervention.

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Montana gov signs legislation shaping grizzly management

Governor Gianforte of Montana recently signed Senate Bill (SB) 98, with some implications towards grizzly bear management in the state. SB 98 makes a declarative statement that grizzly bears should be delisted. The bill also states that under state law, a person who kills a grizzly bear that is attacking, killing or threatening to kill a person or livestock has an “absolute” defense against being charged with a crime.

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Westerners react to ‘America the Beautiful’ 30×30 conservation plan

Despite being called a “federal land grab” by at least one legislator on the far right, landowners from across the West gathered with leaders in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior in a webinar hosted by the Western Landowners Alliance Thursday to discuss the Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful” 30×30 conservation plan.

“I think the thing that has everybody worried that we just have to tackle head-on is this question about federal lands, this idea that has been pushed out there quite a bit that this is a federal land grab, or that there could be uses of eminent domain and massive federal land expansions and taking of private properties,” WLA Executive Director Lesli Allison said during the live online session.

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Biden’s 30×30 plan report released

Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, called the report “an overdue national conversation” that should occur from those closest to the matter and not from the top down.

“We are pleased to see that the administration is taking seriously that conservation is more than just setting land aside. It is really about how we steward the land,” Allison said in a statement. “The report suggests they understand that economics matter. Farmers and ranchers need to be able to earn a reasonable livelihood providing the many goods and services that society needs, such as food and fiber, but also things like wildlife habitat and healthy forests.”

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Montana has made killing wolves easier. Some hunters are pushing back.

New laws in Montana make it easier to trap and hunt wolves. Yet, hunters disagree on whether new laws passed, particularly ones allowing neck snares, qualify as sportsmanlike hunting.

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Biden nominee says Yellowstone area grizzly population ‘doing very, very well’

While she did not directly answer questions regarding grizzly bears should be removed from Endangered Species List protection, one of President Joe Biden’s nominee’s for the U.S. Fish and wildlife service said Wednesday that grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are doing “very well”.

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Tolerance key to grizzly conservation, state says

The success of the Bear Wise program — the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore educational outreach program — has helped keep both bears and people safe, according to state officials. But the department is at a crossroads: Its goal of building tolerance among landowners and residents is in jeopardy of wearing thin as conflicts continue to increase.

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Another dangerous fire season is looming in the Western U.S., and the drought-stricken region is headed for a water crisis

Drought conditions are so bad, fish hatcheries are trucking their salmon to the ocean and ranchers are worried about having enough water for their livestock.

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Klamath Basin water allocation cut to zero

Due to extreme drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced May 12 it will reduce the Klamath Irrigation Project’s already minuscule initial allocation of 33,000 acre-feet to zero. The project’s “A” canal, which normally carries water to some 200,000 acres of farms in Southern Oregon and Northern California, will remain closed for the 2021 season.

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USDA names key NRCS staff

USDA announced Wednesday the appointment of Meryl Harrell as deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment and the appointment of Terry Cosby as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Biden’s Climate Corps could help preserve soil and water, say advocates

(Subscription) Some conservation and environmentalists say the new Civilian Climate Corps should create private landowner partnerships with the Agriculture Department to protect soil, both to reduce greenhouse emissions and protect water quality.

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EPA relaunches website tracking climate change indicators

The EPA last week announced the relaunch of its website tracking climate change indicators in the U.S. for the first time since the beginning of the Trump administration. The assessment, delayed under the Trump presidency, includes information on 54 phenomena associated with climate change, including temperature increases, flooding, droughts, rising sea levels and ocean acidity.

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Agency plans ‘regional roundtables’ for WOTUS review

President Biden’s pick for EPA’s water office said today that the agency is planning “robust stakeholder engagement” and “regional roundtables” this summer to discuss its review of which waterways and wetlands qualify for federal protections. 

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California expands drought emergency to large swath of state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

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Panel to probe farm conservation’s role in climate change

(Subscription) A House Agriculture subcommittee this week will explore the impact of farmland conservation programs on climate change, potentially giving clues on how the next farm bill will address the issue in 2023.

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Bill lifts cover crop penalties for grazing, animal feed

The Cover Crop Flexibility Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill introduced to the U.S. senate, would permanently lift crop insurance penalties for farmers who plant cover crops that can be used for animal feed or livestock grazing in response to extreme weather events.

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Ag, conservation alliance issues recommendations for USDA carbon bank

A broad coalition of farm and conservation groups says a USDA-run carbon bank should be used to test ways to establish carbon accounting guidelines, expand the use of climate-friendly farming practices and enable small-scale farms and minority producers to benefit from carbon markets.

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State Wildlife Areas, wolves discussed in CPW Commission meeting

A recent Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) commission meeting discussed the timeline for choosing representatives for the Stakeholder Advisory Group and Technical Working Group, two citizen groups that will provide input to CPW’s wolf reintroduction and management plans.

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Bill to kill up to 90% of Idaho wolves signed by governor

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law a measure that could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves. This controversial bill will expand the hunting season for wolves, and allow a number of new hunting methods including night vision equipment and snaring.

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‘Megadrought’ persists in western U.S., as another extremely dry year develops

As of May 6, 67 percent of the region was in a state of “severe” drought or worse; a stunning 21 percent is already in “exceptional” drought.
Dry conditions are nothing new in the U.S. West, which has cycled through water booms and busts for millennia. But the region has been in a state of drought nearly every year since 2000, when the Drought Monitor was established. That 20-year-long stretch rivals any drought in the last 1,200 years, a team of scientists reported last year.

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Ag groups encouraged by agriculture’s role in 30×30 plan

The Biden administration outlined ideas in achieving the nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. As the report was identified as “big on ideas, short on details,” by the American Farm Bureau Federation, several groups weighed in on how this administration will proceed in accomplishing its lofty conservation goals.

The preliminary report – Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful – is a joint effort from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Commerce and Council on Environmental Quality. It is the Administration’s initial effort toward developing the executive order signed in President Biden’s first days of office.

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EPA administrator won’t return to Obama-era WOTUS rule

In a hearing in the House of Representatives, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said he doesn’t intend to go back to the Obama-era waters of the U.S. – WOTUS – rule and again made that claim before members of the Senate.

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GOP pans 30×30 report, saying its still too light on details

Despite clear efforts to reassure property owners, farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishers that the 30×30 initiative they announced in January would not be a pretext for federal overreach, Republican lawmakers were not pacified by the “America the Beautiful” report.

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Biden’s conservation plan puts WOTUS in the crosshairs

(Subscription) A vision the Biden administration laid out this month for preserving 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030 is already fueling calls for EPA to reverse a controversial Trump-era water rule that rolled back federal protection for wetlands and streams.

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Interior Department takes steps to revoke Final Rule on Migratory Bird Treaty Act incidental take

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule to revoke the January 7, 2021, final regulation that limited the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Significant concerns about the interpretation of the MBTA have been raised by the public, legal challenges in court and from international treaty partners. This proposed rule provides the public with notice of the Service’s intent to revoke the January 7 rule’s interpretation of the MBTA and return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent.

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NCBA & PLC: Ranchers and Farmers’ Input Adopted In 30×30 Guidelines

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) recognized the inclusion of agricultural producers’ recommendations in the Biden administration’s conservation goals report.

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Biden 30×30 plan emphasizes landowners’ key role in conservation’s future

The Biden administration today released a long-anticipated report detailing their proposal to conserve 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030 (known as 30×30). While the initiative has generated significant speculation and controversy, today’s report appears to indicate a determination on the part of the administration to chart solid middle ground. 

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A narrow path for Biden’s ambitious land conservation plan

Months after President Biden set a goal of conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and waters by 2030, the administration Thursday laid out broad principles — but few details — for achieving that vision.

The “America the Beautiful” report outlines steps the U.S. could take to safeguard key areas on land and in the sea to restore biodiversity, tackle climate change and make natural spaces more accessible to all Americans.

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Do Sanctuary Gun Laws Disqualify States from Receiving Federal Wildlife Management Funds?

A series of sanctuary gun laws by certain states could disqualify their Game and Fish Commissions from receiving nearly $18 million in annual distributions from the Wildlife Restoration Act fund. Better known as the Pittman-Robertson account the funds are derived from an 11 percent tax on the manufacture of guns, ammunition, and archery products.

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USDA Investing Nearly $22 Million to Improve Soil Health and Climate Smart Ag

The USDA is investing nearly $22 million into research initiatives aimed at helping improve soil health and climate smart agriculture. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is investing in several important programs to assist ag producers navigate the effects of climate change and its impact on production.

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Farm groups, enviros to USDA: Prioritize climate, update crop insurance

Farm and environmental groups that often disagree on ag policy are urging the Agriculture Department to prioritize climate change in conservation programs and to consider changes to crop insurance that would promote the use of cover crops and other carbon-conserving practices.

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Working ag lands figure large in Biden’s 30×30 plan

Voluntary conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers play a central role in the Biden administration’s strategy for conserving 30% of the nation’s land and marine waters by 2030.

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Group asks US to cut funding to Idaho over wolf-killing bill

The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the U.S. government to cut off millions of dollars to Idaho used to improve wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities over concerns recent legislation will lead to 90% of wolves in the state being killed.

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Sage grouse supporters urge Congress: Ditch the rider

(Subscription) Sage grouse champions are asking congressional appropriators to end a recent tradition and omit an annual budget rider that bars endangered species protections for the rotund Western bird.

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Growing Drought: USDA Indicates 14 States Have No Topsoil Moisture in Surplus Conditions

Drier weather helped aid major planting progress for U.S. farmers last week, but it didn’t help the topsoil moisture situation. USDA shows 14 states have no topsoil moisture considered ‘surplus,’ and more than half of the topsoil in California, North Dakota and New Mexico is considered ‘very short,’ which is the driest category. 

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Critics say Idaho bill would kill 90% of wolves. Hunters, wildlife experts have other worries

A controversial bill recently passed the Idaho State legislature that would lift wolf hunting tag limits and allow year round wolf  hunting on private lands. While critics think this could lead to 90% of wolves in Idaho being killed, representatives of wildlife management agencies and hunting organizations say the effects will be more nuanced, with potential implications for the future of State vs. Federal management of Idaho wolf populations.

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New funding to curb wildfires pushed in Congress, as another fire season looms

As wildfires across the United States grow in size, intensity and duration each summer, members of Congress from the West are pushing for massive new investments in ecosystem management and wildfire mitigation.

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Future of the grizzly: Debate over Montana grizzly bear management carries on

While the debate over the Federal Designation of the Grizzly bear as an endangered species continues on Trina Jo Bradley, WLA member and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Front Ranchlands Group, knows what it means to run a ranch in Grizzly Bear country and how state management of grizzly bears may support her operation and her community.

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New Mexico seeing longest drought it has in years

According to the U.S. drought monitor, almost 80% of the state is in an extreme drought. This is affecting farmers, decreasing water allotments and increasing fire danger.

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U.S. agency to look at bringing back bison on Montana refuge

U.S. officials said they will consider in coming years whether to reintroduce wild bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, a million-acre federal wildlife refuge in central Montana, a move that would be at odds with Republicans in the state who want to limit where bison can roam.

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Climate-friendly farming strategies can improve the land and generate income for farmers

Agriculture has not been a central part of U.S. climate policy in the past, even though climate change is altering weather patterns that farmers rely on. Now, however, President Biden has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy.

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Stabenow pushing for big boost in conservation, says Biden plan falls short

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says President Joe Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan is “woefully inadequate” when it comes to funding for climate-friendly farming practices, and she’s pushing for a major increase in funding for conservation programs.

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Legislature passes marijuana bill with conservation funding

A recent bill passed in the Montana legislature legalizing marijuana with provisions ensuring that associated taxes will go towards wildlife and public lands conservation within the state.

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Dried-out reservoir photos show extent of drought in the southwest as up to 85% of California suffers ‘exceptional’ water shortages

Photos reveal how Lake Oroville is at 42 percent of its capacity while about 85% of California su