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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.

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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

First local advisory group named to shape migration corridor policy in Wyoming

Gov. Mark Gordon has selected seven members to serve on the state’s first local migration corridor working group to offer guidance on one of the most critical big-game migratory pathways in the region, located in south central Wyoming.

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Commentary: Congress would be wise to listen to landowners on wildfire bill

WLA’s executive director Lesli Allison, writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, commends congress for taking up National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020, and urges a continued focus on solutions that work across land management boundaries and that empower landowners to use prescribed fire as a tool in wildfire risk mitigation.

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The biggest trees capture the most carbon: Large trees dominate carbon storage in forests

Older, large-diameter trees have been shown to store disproportionally massive amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees, highlighting their importance in mitigating climate change, according to a new study.

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When a drought is over, here is what happens to forested areas where trees have died

An international team of researchers has found that forested areas that experience tree loss due to drought have a wide range of regrowth possibilities after the drought ends. In comparing the data, the researchers found that only 21 percent of the forests grew back into their prior state. They also found that 10% of them shifted to non-forested plant growth, from shrubbery to grasslands.

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Self-watering soil could transform farming

A new type of soil created by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin can pull water from the air and distribute it to plants, potentially expanding the map of farmable land around the globe to previously inhospitable places and reducing water use in agriculture at a time of growing droughts.

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Idaho’s sockeye salmon run falters again; experts perplexed

A meager return of sockeye salmon to central Idaho this year despite high hopes and a new fish hatchery intended to help save the species from extinction has fisheries managers trying to figure out what went wrong. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans to form a working group to understand why only 27 of 660,000 juvenile fish raised in the hatchery and released in central Idaho in 2018 survived the two-year, 1,800-mile round trip to the ocean and back to return as adults. Fisheries managers expected about 800.

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Trump administration returns management and protection of gray wolves to states and tribes following successful recovery efforts

More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the ESA, the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the USFWS monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.

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Feds to announce gray wolf delisting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday will announce a new rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states. The move will hand wolf management back to individual states and tribal governments.

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USDA updates EQIP rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule for its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The rule updates USDA’s flagship program as directed by the 2018 farm bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others.

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In grasslands plagued by invasives and drought, wildfires fuel calls for new solutions

Across the West, the increasing prevalence of invasive plants, and the growing influence of climate change, is changing the relationship between vast rangelands, drought, and wildfire.

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Increasing more targeted cattle grazing is a ‘Win-Win-Win Opportunity’

A team of ten researchers looked closely at cattle grazing in California and determined that the practice has a great deal of potential in combatting catastrophic wildfires.

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Scientists say they can predict Colorado River’s annual water supply. What does that mean for agriculture, wildfires?

Scientists can now predict drought and overall water supply on the Colorado River years in advance, according to a new study published by researchers at Utah State University. If the scientists are able to accurately forecast water levels years in advance for such an influential river, it would give policymakers a powerful new decision-making tool.

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Biochar helps hold water, saves money

The abstract benefits of biochar for long-term storage of carbon and nitrogen on American farms are clear, and now new research from Rice University shows a short-term, concrete bonus for farmers as well. That would be money not spent on irrigation. In the best-case scenarios for some regions, extensive use of biochar could save farmers a little more than 50% of the water they now use to grow crops.

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Drought in western U.S. is biggest in years and predicted to worsen during winter months

The drought has already been a major contributor to record wildfire activity in California and Colorado. Its continuation could also deplete rivers, stifle crops and eventually drain water supplies in some western states.

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Decades of mismanagement led to choked forests — now it’s time to clear them out, fire experts say

For decades, federal, state and local agencies have prioritized fire suppression over prevention, pouring billions of dollars into hiring and training firefighters, buying and maintaining firefighting equipment and educating the public on fire safety. Many experts say it’s long past time to shift the focus back to managing healthy forests that can better withstand fire and add to a more sustainable future.

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Soils contribute greatly to forest fire carbon emissions

As climate warming stokes longer fire seasons and more severe fires in North American boreal forests, calculating how much carbon each fire burns grows more urgent. The amount depends more on available fuels than fire weather, shows new research published this week in Nature Climate Change.

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USDA issues $1.68 billion in payments to producers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA is issuing $1.68 billion in payments to agricultural producers and landowners for the 21.9 million acres enrolled in CRP, which provides annual rental payment for land devoted to conservation purposes. CRP participants with contracts effective beginning on October 1, 2020, will receive their first annual rental payment in October 2021.

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Researchers look into the effects of repeated droughts on different kinds of forests

Scientists are only beginning to understand how the effects of multiple droughts can compound to affect forests differently than a single drought alone. A variety of factors can increase and decrease a forest’s resilience to subsequent droughts. However, a new study published in Nature Climate Change, concluded that successive droughts are generally increasingly detrimental to forests, even when each drought was no more extreme than the initial one.

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Trump signs order backing 1 Trillion Trees effort

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to make his pledge to help plant, restore, and conserve a trillion trees a reality. The executive order puts some federal government muscle behind Trump’s announcement in January that the United States would help plant a trillion trees as part of a World Economic Forum initiative designed to address climate change.

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Restoring California’s forests to reduce wildfire risks will take time, billions of dollars and a broad commitment

Many of California’s 33 million acres of forests face widespread threats stemming from past management choices. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that of the 20 million acres it manages in California, 6-9 million acres need to be restored.

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Court weighs tribes’ aboriginal water claims for Jemez River

A decadeslong battle over a northern New Mexico river has taken another turn, as a panel of federal appellate judges has reversed a lower court ruling by determining that the aboriginal rights of Indigenous communities were not extinguished by Spain when it took control centuries ago of what is now the American Southwest.

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USFWS pulls wolverine protection proposal


The US Fish and Wildlife Service has denied protection to wolverines under the Endangered Species Act, frustrating conservation groups who argue the species faces an existential threat from the climate crisis. According to the ruling announced on Thursday, the FWS considers wolverine populations in the lower 48 states to be stable and threats against wolverines to be less significant than they previously thought. The agency is consequently withdrawing a proposal to federally protect the species.

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USDA publishes Final Rule for Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA today released the final rule for its Conservation Stewardship Program. The rule makes updates to the popular conservation program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill as well as integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others.  NRCS received more than 600 comments on the interim final rule published Nov. 12, 2019.

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These hay fields may know something we don’t: how to save the Colorado River

Timothy hay, a native to Colorado which feeds thousands of cattle in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and other hay species are being closely watched this year as part of a far-reaching $1 million science experiment, one designed to see if ranchers can take water off of hay fields and successfully measure how much was removed, how much evaporated, and how much was used by plants. They also need to know how reducing their irrigation in this fashion affects the nutritional value of the hay.

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Nevada dam changes give rare trout new life 115 years later

U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34 million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a threatened trout species to return to some of its native spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century.

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Suit aims to force listing of bistate grouse on NV-CA line

Citing the government’s repeated reversals and refusals to protect a cousin of the greater sage grouse the last two decades, conservationists are suing again to try to force the federal listing of the bistate sage grouse along the California-Nevada line. The Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in San Francisco last week against the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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A.I. gets down in the dirt as precision agriculture takes off

Widespread use of precision agriculture methods could reduce farming costs by $100 billion while saving 180 billion cubic meters of water by 2030, according to a McKinsey study done for the World Economic Forum

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Wyoming officials call for endangered species reform with grizzly population ‘booming’

Wyoming Game and Fish Director and Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President have penned a joint editorial calling for changes to grizzly bear protections under the ESA citing a booming population and expanded range.

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After wildfires stop burning, a danger in the drinking water

Experts are warning that existing water safety rules are not suitable to a world where wildfires destroy more residential areas than in the past.

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Researchers use satellite imaging to map groundwater use in California’s central valley

Their work could be revolutionary for managing groundwater use in agricultural regions around the world, as groundwater monitoring and management have been notoriously difficult to carry out due to lack of reliable data.

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Biden’s CSP expansion could face Hill resistance, staffing questions

The centerpiece of Joe Biden’s plan to help farmers address climate change is a “dramatic” expansion of the Conservation Stewardship Program, but he’ll quickly find skeptics on Capitol Hill and among environmental groups if he gets elected and tries to carry out the proposal. “You are not going to be able to double the size of CSP or EQIP without increasing the staff at the local level,” said Coleman Garrison, director of government affairs for the National Association of Conservation Districts

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Western politicians from both parties back wildfire bill

The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020 would require the U.S. Forest Service to pick forests in three western states on which to carry out landscape projects to reduce fire risk. It includes numerous provisions to speed up removing dead trees and other fuels from public lands, including a couple that would loosen up existing environmental regulations. It would exclude removing fuels along Forest Service roads, trails and transmission lines from environmental review, and raise the threshold for what is considered “new information” requiring an Endangered Species Act review of some land management actions.

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Washington wildfires deliver devastating hit to wildlife

The immediate public concern as wildfires have ravaged portions of Eastern Washington this month is the human suffering, destruction of property and the pall of hazardous smoke. Behind the headlines is the silent anguish of wild creatures. The rate of wildlife survival and recovery will hinge on nature’s cooperation with rain, a fall green-up and a mild winter.

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The BLM to award contracts for seven new wild horse off-range pastures

The BLM is completing contracts with ranchers in four states to place as many as 5,000 wild horses and burros rounded up off federal rangelands onto private pastureland. As part of a strategy to reduce overpopulation of wild horses and burros on public lands, the BLM announced today that it will award the first of seven contracts for new wild horse off-range pastures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington.

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Colorado soil health program one-pager

A “one-pager” describing a proposal soil health program for Colorado which outlines the need, legislative proposal, and background on the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils stakeholder engagement process.

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USDA awards $5 Million to support wetland mitigation banking

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $5 million for eight new wetland mitigation banking projects through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program. This program helps conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs.

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USFWS proposes listing New Mexico thistle

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protecting as threatened the Wright’s marsh thistle. Along with the litigation-pressured Endangered Species Act listing, the federal agency proposed designating as critical habitat 159 acres in Chaves, Eddy, Guadalupe, Otero and Socorro counties in New Mexico.

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Reintroduction of gray wolves to be on Colorado ballots this November

Gray wolves stood on the top of nature’s food chain in Colorado over eight decades ago, but were eradicated from most of the western united states by the 1930s. Now after 80 years, the reintroduction of gray wolves will be on the ballot for Colorado. Voting yes to proposition 114 means getting the first wolf paws on Colorado ground by 2023.

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Colorado’s 3rd largest recorded wildfire continues to spread

Winds fueled a northern Colorado wildfire that emergency officials said has damaged structures and moved beyond barriers established by firefighters to slow the fire’s spread. The fire designated as the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County had burned 194 square miles (502 square kilometers) as of early Sunday.

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Judge rules Pendley illegally leading BLM

A federal judge in Montana has ordered William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, to leave the position after finding that he had served unlawfully as acting director for 424 days. Mr. Pendley was also prohibited from using any authority to make decisions about federal lands. “Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting B.L.M. director,” the judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, wrote in a 34-page ruling he issued on Friday.

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Utah asks U.S. to delay decision on tapping Colorado River

Facing opposition from six states that rely on the Colorado River for water for their cities and farms, Utah asked the federal government to delay a fast-track approval process for building an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water to the southwest part of the state. Utah cited the need to consider roughly 14,000 public comments on a draft environmental impact statement, released in June by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, for the Lake Powell pipeline project.

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Proposition 114 explained: What’s at stake with the effort to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado

The question on Colorado’s November ballot marks the first time that voters, not the federal government, would direct state wildlife managers to script a recovery plan for wolves.

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Combined droughts and heatwaves are occurring more frequently in several regions across the U.S.

The frequency of combined droughts and heatwaves – which are more devastating when they occur in unison – has substantially increased across the western U.S. and in parts of the Northeast and Southeast over the past 50 years, according to a new study.

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Groups threaten suit over rare bird’s fate in Colorado, Utah

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project said yesterday they intend to file a lawsuit contending that several federal agencies are relying on an outdated plan to save the Gunnison sage grouse, a rare bird found only in Colorado and Utah.

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Forest margins may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought

A warming climate and more frequent wildfires do not necessarily mean the western United States will see the forest loss that many scientists expect. Dry forest margins may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought if managed appropriately, according to Penn State researchers.

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Tree planting has potential to increase carbon sequestration capacity

USDA Forest Service scientists have published an in-depth study on the value of tree planting as a means of offsetting carbon emissions in the United States. An analysis based on publicly available data from more than 130,000 forested plots in the Forest Service’s Forest Inventory & Analysis Program found that fully stocking non-stocked and poorly stocked forests would result in an annual increase of 20 percent in the amount of carbon sequestered by forests.

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Yellowstone’s grizzly numbers are up. Is it time to turn bear management over to states?

Idaho senators say grizzly bears in the GYE are a conservation success story and Congress should remove them from the threatened species list. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in July reversing the delisting of the great bear because of a lack of “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” to “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly.” Now a bill making its way through the U.S. Senate’s committee process may remove the bear from the protected list, at least in the Yellowstone area.

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USDA to provide additional direct assistance to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus

President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced up to an additional $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21 and run through December 11, 2020.

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Focus on California: PERFACT investments spark widespread progress

Strategic investments by PERFACT over the last dozen years are transforming California’s approach to fire management. The Fire Learning Network (FLN), Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net), Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) and Indigenous Peoples Burning Network (IPBN) have helped develop a bold vision and leadership.

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FEMA announces notice of funding opportunities for hazard mitigation assistance grants

The two grant programs, the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant and the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) will provide funds to states, local communities, tribes and territories for eligible mitigation activities to strengthen our nation’s ability to build a culture of preparedness. These programs allow for funding to be used on projects that will reduce future disaster losses. The application period opens on September 30, 2020.

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The science connecting wildfires to climate change

Climate change has inexorably stacked the deck in favor of bigger and more intense fires across the American West over the past few decades, science has incontrovertibly shown. Increasing heat, changing rain and snow patterns, shifts in plant communities, and other climate-related changes have vastly increased the likelihood that fires will start more often and burn more intensely and widely than they have in the past.

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Shared leadership for wildfire protection in Teton County

In Teton County, Wyoming, forested lands are a major part of the landscape. In 1988, as the Yellowstone Fires raged in three states, the county realized those devastating fires could happen at home. To work to prevent that, a group of fire managers formed the Teton Area Wildfire Protection Coalition (TAWPC) to support the community in preventing wildland fire.

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USDA invests $50 million in innovative, partner-driven conservation projects

USDA’s NRCS today announced a $50 million investment in 10 conservation projects across 16 states through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). Through these projects, partners will contribute more than $65 million to amplify the conservation work that can be performed on agricultural land and privately owned forests across the nation.

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A Colorado dashboard seeks to put a price on future wildfires, other natural disasters amid a warming climate

Future Avoidance Cost Explorer (FACE:Hazards) is a proactive attempt to explore Colorado’s resiliency in the face of disaster. Dashboard users can view the estimated economic costs of natural hazards under various scenarios out to 2050. They can adjust variables to explore degrees of population growth and climate change, look at economic sectors like agriculture or recreation, and examine the impacts different programs have on disaster resilience.

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America is on fire, and it’s an inequality nightmare

The wildfires raging along America’s West Coast could prove especially catastrophic to families experiencing poverty. As entire towns evacuated from wildfires in southern Oregon this week, many families launched GoFundMe pages for their lost homes, with some explaining that they had no insurance, and had lost everything in the blaze. In a year that has already driven a coronavirus-shaped wedge between classes, the fire recovery efforts stand to widen the gap between the well-off—who still face the unenviable task of rebuilding—and everyone else.

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Oregon’s historic wildfires: unusual but not unprecedented

The most common word being used to describe Oregon’s ongoing wildfire cataclysm is “unprecedented.” That’s certainly the case in modern recorded history when it comes to the sheer number of conflagrations and megafires that erupted starting Labor Day. Yet while last week’s hellfire was unusual, it was not, in fact, unprecedented.

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A cuckoo keeps its protections, but debate continues

The Fish and Wildlife Service declared today the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo still warrants federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In a noteworthy defeat for mining and ranching organizations, the federal agency rejected a petition to strip away the bird’s status as a threatened species.

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Troubled timber market hampers wildfire efforts

Efforts by the Forest Service to clear the woods of potential wildfire fuel are bumping up against troublesome headwind in the timber market: The material coming out of the forest isn’t worth much.

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Water shortages in US West likelier than previously thought

Water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead could dip to critically low levels by 2025, jeopardizing the steady flow of Colorado River water that more than 40 million people rely on. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released models suggesting looming shortages are more likely than previously projected.

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6 western states blast Utah plan to tap Colorado River water

Six states in the U.S. West that rely on the Colorado River to sustain cities and farms rebuked a plan to build an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water through the desert to southwest Utah.

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As wildfires grow more intense, iconic western forests may not come back

High-severity fires leave behind massive burn areas with almost nothing alive. And any baby trees simply can’t thrive in the increased heat and drought brought on by climate change. If there is forest regeneration, it happens in bands along the forest edge, where surviving trees can still drop their seeds. But even that isn’t happening at lower elevations, where it’s hotter and drier.

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Water speculators could face more obstacles based on work by new group

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources announced an 18-member work group to conduct a study of how to strengthen Colorado’s water anti-speculation law. Currently, Colorado water law prohibits speculation by requiring water to be used for a beneficial purpose. The purpose of a recent bill that created the work group was to make sure that Colorado’s water speculation law has enough legal teeth to “go after” any speculative behavior.

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Cold Springs Fire threatens homes and Sage Grouse

More than 300,000 acres have burned in Washington state since Labor Day, when high winds and temperatures created perfect conditions for fast, destructive fire. Ashley Ahearn headed to Bridgeport, Washington, where the Cold Springs Fire has burned more than 170,000 acres and is still threatening homes and wildlife.

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‘Growing Climate Solutions Act’ gives farmers a seat at the carbon market table

At last, farmers and foresters might have a seat at the carbon market table. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House to create incentives and remove barriers for farmers and foresters to receive credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing soil organic matter – carbon.

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New study: Cattle grazing significantly reduces wildfire spread

University of California Cooperative Extension researchers just completed a timely study showing cattle grazing is an essential tool in reducing wildfire — a tool they say should be expanded and refined. Researchers say their study shows that without the 1.8 million beef cattle that graze California’s rangelands annually, the state would have hundreds to thousands of additional pounds per acre of fine fuels on the landscape, and this year’s wildfires would be even more devastating.

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Much of the American West is on fire, illustrating the dangers of a climate of extremes

Parts of a half-dozen states from coastal California to the Rocky Mountains are being charred by more than 70 wildfires fed by tinder-dry vegetation, record heat and blustery winds across the region. Smoke has cast a worrisome pall over vast areas of terrain, turning the sky an ominous red and threatening those with allergies and asthma. The West’s climate is becoming one of extremes — periods of soaking rains followed suddenly by high heat.

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Report: Great Salt Lake shrinking more than a foot annually

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is shrinking every year, but experts are implementing measures to slow the water loss, a new report said. The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council says the water depth has dropped about 11 feet over the past 10 years.

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Climate change concerns guide California post-fire plantings

Forest managers replanting trees in areas of California scorched by the Camp Fire in 2018 are learning how to bow to climate change while fighting it. Instead of replanting the same type of trees that grew in the area before the fire, foresters are introducing species like gray pine that are native to the state but not to the burn area — and which may thrive in the hotter, drier climate that scientists say is coming over the next few decades.

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South Revilla old growth logging proposal moves forward in Tongass

The federal government proposes to offer more than 5,000 acres of old growth forest in Tongass National Forest for commercial logging. While Conservationists are sounding the alarm over the project near Ketchikan, the timber industry has raised questions over whether it would be viable.

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Trump administration plans to remove endangered gray wolf protections by end of year

The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of the year, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday. “We’re working hard to have this done by the end of the year, and I’d say it’s very imminent,” Aurelia Skipwith told the Associated Press.

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EPA office to focus on western lands cleanup, from the West

The EPA announced a new Colorado-based office that will oversee Western land cleanup. The Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will focus especially on mining cleanup and will provide oversight, guidance, and technical assistance

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How coronavirus and drought have combined to affect Colorado’s limited water supply

While two of Colorado’s largest water providers noticed big drops in some water use when the pandemic hit, those savings were erased as people watered their parched grass through a hot, dry summer.

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Council identifies bold efforts needed to save Great Salt Lake

Bold water conservation strategies and changes in long-standing law and water policies are needed to slow the alarming shrinking of the Great Salt Lake, according to recommendation released Tuesday by an advisory panel. Upstream diversions have long prevented vast quantities from replenishing the lake, reducing the lake by half its normal size with further declines predicted.The council’s latest report describes 12 “actionable” measures that could keep the Great Salt Lake from evaporating into a dusty playa.

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Trillion trees effort gets corporate buy-in

Over the next decade, Salesforce plans to conserve and restore 100 million trees. Mastercard plans to reach the same number in five years. Timberland is also planting trees: 50 million of them. Clif Bar is adding 750,000. Microsoft, which plans to invest in reforestation as one piece of a strategy to become carbon negative, is developing technology for conservation organizations. The companies are among 26 businesses, organizations, and cities that make up the new U.S. chapter of 1t.org, the movement to plant and conserve a trillion trees globally.

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‘Living with fire’ may lead to less destructive wildfires, say Indigenous land stewards

As wildfires rage across California, leveling structures and taking lives, Indigenous leaders say the lessons of the state’s first inhabitants might have mitigated this disaster and could still help avoid others. Although unpredictable weather and dry conditions have fueled the fires, Indigenous Californians wonder what might have been had state and federal land managers adopted some of the millennial-long stewardship practices of the state’s Indian tribes, who have learned to live alongside wildfire instead of trying to erase it from the landscape.

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Forests scorched by wildfire unlikely to recover, may convert to grasslands

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study offers an unprecedented glimpse, suggesting that when forests burn across the Southern Rocky Mountains, many will not grow back and will instead convert to grasslands and shrublands.

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USDA and Wyoming sign Shared Stewardship Agreement to improve forests and grasslands

The Shared Stewardship Agreement establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to promote active forest management, improve collaboration, and respond to ecological challenges and natural resource concerns in Wyoming.

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Wyoming governor: $250M in initial state cuts, more coming

Wyoming has finalized initial state spending cuts of 10%, or $250 million, as part of efforts to address an over $1 billion budget shortfall due to the coronavirus and downturns in the coal, oil and natural gas industries. The cuts follow a freeze in state hiring and large contracts announced in April. They are still “just the tip of the iceberg,” Governor Gordon said. They will be followed by a second round of cuts totaling another $250 million.

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‘Driest I’ve seen’: Without summer rains, Arizona cattle ranchers confront tough choices

As the monsoon storms have failed to materialize, much of Arizona has baked in one of the driest summers on record. Cattle ranchers have been forced to adapt. Some are buying hay to feed their cows. Some are hauling water in trailers to fill troughs for their livestock to drink.

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Utah looks to expand mountain goat range, but at what cost to alpine landscapes?

In Utah, mountain goats are among the most interesting wild ungulates, but Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials’ effort to expand the nonnative species’ range is drawing criticism because the goats could harm the fragile alpine environments and rare plant communities.

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Colorado mulls joining massive water conservation project

A statewide public effort to determine whether Coloradans should engage in perhaps the biggest water conservation program in state history — a Lake Powell drought contingency pool — enters its second year of study this summer.

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Drought taking a toll on Colorado agriculture “in all corners of the state”

The hot, dry weather that’s fanning fires on tens of thousands of acres across Colorado is also battering the state’s agriculture industry as it stunts crops, dries up the flow of water to farms and shrivels grazing land.

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California looks to battle mega wildfires with fire

The effort marks a milestone in California’s pivot away from a century of suppressing fire at all costs and toward working with it instead—using controlled flames to restore ecosystems that evolved to burn in frequent, mostly low-intensity blazes.

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Forest thinning, fire can boost Western watersheds

We know there are ways to actively manage our Western forests to improve water quality, provide for jobs, reduce the cost of firefighting and increase forest resiliency. Now we have new tools to assess how proper management of watershed vegetation can increase water yield.

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BLM looks to establish new wild horse and burro corrals in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah

The BLM has taken an additional step forward in implementing a strategy focused on removing excess wild horses and burros from federal rangelands. BLM announced yesterday that it has completed an environmental assessment evaluating the addition of three privately contracted off-range corrals, and the expansion of an additional one, to hold thousands of additional wild horses and burros rounded up and removed from federal herd management areas in the West.

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Pine Gulch Fire grows to 2nd-largest in Colorado history

wildfire burning in remote terrain in western Colorado is now the second largest in the state’s history, fire officials said Wednesday. As of Wednesday morning, the so-called “Pine Gulch” fire spread across 125,108 acres, or 195.5 square miles, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, the inter-agency which coordinates wildfire and other hazard incidents throughout the area.

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Grizzly bear advisory council nears completion of state plan

A citizen-led council’s work writing the state’s long-term vision for grizzly bear management nears the end. Members of the governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council tweaked recommendations addressing bear distribution, outdoor recreation and proposed hunts, reaching a consensus on all items except hunting. The council will present its final report to the governor’s office Sept. 1.

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Warmer winters spark boom in tree-devouring beetles

A plague of tiny mountain pine beetles, no bigger than a grain of rice, has already destroyed 15 years of log supplies in British Columbia, enough trees to build 9 million single-family homes, and is chewing through forests in Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. Now, an outbreak of spruce beetles is threatening to devour even more trees in North America just as similar pests are decimating supplies in parts of Europe, creating a glut of dead and dying logs.

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Governor Gordon launches first local area working group for Platte Valley Mule Deer Corridor

The working group will review the effectiveness of corridor designation on the migratory herd and evaluate the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s draft risk assessment report. It will also make recommendations about additional opportunities for conservation as well as examine the impacts of all restrictions on development and use of lands encompassed in the designated corridor. To apply to serve on the working group apply through this form. Applications are due September 18, 2020.

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Planning for New Mexico’s water future

Every drop of water matters in a dry state such as New Mexico. But state efforts to create a 50-year water plan have been complicated by a tight budget, limited staff and persistent drought.

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Hundreds have been evacuated after wildfires destroy more than 90,000 acres across 3 states

Firefighters across three Western states are battling wildfires that have destroyed more than 90,000 acres.Evacuation orders have been issued in areas threatened by the Lake Fire and Ranch2 Fire in California’s Los Angeles County; the Mosier Creek Fire in central Oregon; and the Pine Gulch, Grizzly Creek and Cameron Peak fires in Colorado.

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Western states face reckoning over water but avoid cuts for now

The white rings that wrap around two massive lakes in the U.S. West are a stark reminder of how water levels are dropping and a warning that the 40 million people who rely on the Colorado River face a much drier future. Amid prolonged drought and climate change in a region that’s only getting thirstier, when that reckoning will arrive — and how much time remains to prepare for it — is still a guess.

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Giant Idaho forest project on hold again after court ruling

A giant Idaho forest project favored by some environmental groups but decried by others is on hold again following a federal court ruling. The decision Tuesday halts for the second time a 125-square-mile project on the Payette National Forest that includes commercial timber sales, work to improve fish passage, prescribed burning, the closing of some roads and restoration of Ponderosa pine ecosystems.

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As the climate warms, ranchers keep their eyes on the grass

In drought years like this one, ranchers are faced with a number of tough choices and unpleasant trade-offs, according to Lawrence Gallegos, New Mexico field organizer at the Western Landowners Alliance. Decisions about how many cattle to raise are made early in the year. But if there’s not enough rain later in the year, there’s not enough forage to support the cattle, triggering a cascade of impacts to ranchers and their operations.

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This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water

Here, on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year. A 20-year drought is stealing the water that sustains this region, and climate change is making it worse.

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Great American Outdoors Act signed into law

President Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $900 million annually in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps secure land for trails and parks. The legislation would also provide billions of dollars over five years to address a maintenance backlog at national parks. 

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Wildlife agencies float definition of ‘habitat’ in ESA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing to define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act for the first time, in response to a 2018 Supreme Court decision.

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Anatomy of a wildfire: How fuel sources, weather and topography influence wildfire behavior

On the surface, wildfires seem simple. There’s a spark, a few small twigs flare up, and it spreads throughout a forest landscape until it runs its course or is doused by firefighters. But how exactly do wildfires happen, and what factors determine whether a fire will stay calm or burst into an unpredictable and uncontrollable force of nature?

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In western Colorado, wary ranchers eye wolves’ arrival and fear urban voters will introduce more

Ballot measure to widen wolves’ comeback could threaten partnership between conservation community and agriculture. Colorado’s statewide wolf-reintroduction ballot initiative is rankling rural communities, rekindling old conflicts over the purpose of public lands. It’s straining the hard-won partnership that ensures, if not pure nature, the conservation of open landscapes in the face of Colorado’s population growth and development boom.

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The hardest working river in the West

As the gap between supply and demand widens, the water resources that people and ecosystems depend on are more vulnerable than ever. This StoryMap is an introduction to the key challenges and opportunities, a primer for informing conversations and decisions about managing the Colorado River for all. In the final section, Tools for a Resilient Future, we highlight some of the creative and notable responses of different organizations and communities as they collectively come to terms with the state of water sustainability in the Basin.

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Treated wastewater may be the irrigation wave of the future

With the need to feed a growing population, scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are looking for ways to safely expand agriculture’s supply of usable water. USDA will stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the shared goal of increasing U.S. agricultural production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050.

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Memory of a river

Santa Fe reporter Laura Paskus recounts how every year since 2002, when the Rio Grande dried up, she’s reported on it. Included: how many miles are dry, why and how the climate is warming, what biologists are doing to protect rare fish as the waters heat up and evaporate or sink into the sands, and through time, what agencies and irrigators have done to deny, ignore, or nowadays, try to alleviate the drying. Sadly, this year’s report is nothing new. But some things are important enough to be repeated (over and over again.)

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Colorado water rights at risk

Thousands of water rights across Colorado are at risk in this decennial abandonment cycle. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has proposed over 4,000 water rights for abandonment—a marked increase from years past.  Water right owners should check the lists online at http://water.state.co.us.  The lists will also be published in the local papers of record throughout the state in July and August.  While the agency is required to notify the “last-known owner or claimant” of a water right included on the list by July 31st, the State’s ownership records are not always up-to-date. Fortunately, the deadline for written objections to be submitted to the appropriate Division Engineer (along with a $10.00 fee for each water right) is July 1, 2021.

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Wild horses home on the range

As of March 1, approximately 95,000 federally protected wild horses and burros were estimated to roam on BLM-managed public lands in the West — more than three and a half times what the land can sustainably support and the most ever estimated by the BLM in a given year. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond highlighted the BLM’s challenging mission to preserve and protect these animals in an op-ed published last week in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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Texas, USDA Forest Service join forces to conserve and protect natural resources, lives and property

The State of Texas and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service signed a historic agreement to formalize the framework for collaborative responses to wildfires, natural resource concerns and ecological challenges in the state.

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2020 Colorado Drought and Beef Marketing Discussion

Check out this recorded discussion on long-term and short term forecast, tools for predicting forage production, and beef market outlook during 2020 drought. Featuring: Annie Overlin and Kevin Jablonski – CSU Range Extension, Justin Derner- USDA-ARS, David Augustine-ARS, Dannele-USDA-ARS, John Ritten- UWY, Steve Oswald and Kenny Burk- southern CO ranchers.

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Federal regulators throw wrench into Klamath River dam-demolition plan

Federal regulators have thrown a significant curveball at a coalition that has been planning for years to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border in order to save salmon populations that have dwindled to almost nothing. Federal regulators refused to let the current owner fully transfer the impoundments to a nonprofit to carry out the demolition.

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Colorado, Texas give New Mexico permission to use stored water

Low runoff, top-of-the-thermometer temperatures and little rainfall have translated into a dismal summer on the Rio Grande, with large river stretches south of Albuquerque already dry. But water managers are finally breathing a sigh of relief. The state of New Mexico has received permission from neighboring states to access up to 38,000 acre-feet of water, or more than 12 billion gallons, that is currently stored under the Rio Grande Compact agreement.

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Service Completes Initial Review of Petition to List Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its initial review of a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has concluded that the petition presents substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. Accordingly, the Service will now begin an in-depth review of this species to determine whether it should be listed under the ESA. 

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Dems’ tree-planting plan highlights agency’s mixed mission

House Democrats have proposed planting trees on tens of millions of acres of land to help head off climate change. On federal land, though, the goal raises a question: How many of those trees will one day be cut down?Reforestation on land overseen by the Forest Service isn’t strictly about planting new trees. The agency’s mixed missions of protecting wild areas and watersheds while providing timber supplies are bound to keep playing out as Democrats push the agenda, according to congressional and industry sources.

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USDA announces more than 1.2 million acres accepted in recent signup for Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the acceptance of more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands during the recent signup period that began March 16 and ended May 15. The number of acres offered during this signup period was 1.9 million acres, over 3 times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016.

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Agencies, group take ‘step forward’ with Mexican owl talks

Negotiations among environmentalists and state and federal officials in Arizona and New Mexico have resulted in a set of recommendations and other provisions that environmentalists say will help protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl while allowing forest thinning projects to move forward.

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Ninth Circuit rules to restore protections for Yellowstone grizzlies

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed a 2018 Montana District Court decision that struck down federal efforts to remove Yellowstone grizzlies’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act. The delisting in 2017 turned over management of the species to the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, allowing the states to plan bear hunts.

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In parched Southwest, warm spring renews threat of ‘megadrought’

Rapid melting this year showed that good snowpack doesn’t necessarily translate into full reservoirs. At 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide, only vestiges of the winter snowpack remain. That’s normal for mid-June in the Rockies. What’s unusual this year is the speed at which the snow went. And with it went hopes for a drought-free year in the Southwest.

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Northwest forest threats include climate change, insects, disease and wildfire

Pacific Northwest forests face increased threats from severe wildfires, insects, disease and climate change, according to a new assessment released Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service. The Bioregional Assessment evaluated 19 national forests and grasslands across the Pacific Northwest. It found that the Northwest Forest Plan and other directives were not fully achieving desired outcomes when it comes to the forests’ potential social, economic and ecological benefits. 

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Federal report shows bark beetles, disease kills trees across Southwest

The lack of monsoon rains last year likely caused bark beetles and other diseases to kill trees across more than a half million acres of the Southwest, according to a U.S. Forest Service report. The report was sourced from a combination of radar flyovers and ground surveying across 23.2 million acres of the Southwest region as a forest health status check for land managers. The survey reported a majority of the tree deaths from bark beetles were ponderosa pine and pinyon trees.

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University to update, digitize century-old water rights maps

New Mexico State University is working to digitize the state’s water rights database and develop maps that will help with management of limited groundwater and surface water resources. The project is expected to be done later this year. Creating a geo-referenced and digital library will help the state better archive and protect water rights documentation and help with the allocation of water rights in the future.

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As wildfires flare up across West, research highlights risk of ecological change

Following high-severity fire, scientists have found forest recovery may increasingly be compromised by lack of tree seed sources, warmer and drier post-fire climate and more frequent reburning. The loss of resilience means that fire can catalyze major, lasting changes. As examples, boreal conifer forests can be converted to deciduous species, and ponderosa pine forests in the southwest may give way to oak scrub. These changes, in turn, lead to consequences for wildlife, watersheds and local economies.

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Water diversions paused to ensure Rio Grande keeps flowing

One of New Mexico’s largest drinking water providers will stop diverting water from the Rio Grande to help prevent the stretch of the river that runs through Albuquerque from going dry this summer, officials said yesterday. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority said the curtailment is expected to last until the fall as the utility switches to using groundwater exclusively over the summer to provide drinking water to customers in the metro area.

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Remarkable drop in Colorado River water use a sign of climate adaptation

Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river’s lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region’s water supply in a drying and warming climate. Arizona, California, and Nevada combined to consume just over 6.5 million acre-feet last year, according to an annual audit from the Bureau of Reclamation, which is about 1 million acre-feet less than the three states are entitled to use.

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Arizona starts talks on addressing dwindling Colorado River

Arizona is getting a jump start on what will be a years-long process to address a dwindling but key water source in the U.S. West. Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada have been operating under a set of guidelines approved in 2007. Those guidelines and an overlapping drought contingency plan will expire in 2026.

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Outside of Colorado, revamped WOTUS rule takes effect

The Trump Administration has taken action throughout 2020 to narrow the scope of which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The recently limited rule took effect on June 22, 2020, which in essence, opens the doors for developers anxious to get to work ahead of future legal action and the 2020 presidential election. Colorado’s position as being the sole state refusing to comply with the WOTUS rule is significant, and is worthwhile to monitor.

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New findings share how prescribed fire, no-till impact soil microbes

Using no-till and prescribed fire management are two potential ways to manage crop residue. Both practices help keep organic matter and nitrogen in the soil. However, research was needed to understand how these two practices can affect long-term soil health.

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Self-powered alarm fights forest fires, monitors environment

Smokey the Bear says that only you can prevent wildfires, but what if Smokey had a high-tech backup? In a new study, a team of Michigan State University scientists designed and fabricated a remote forest fire detection and alarm system powered by nothing but the movement of the trees in the wind. “The self-powered sensing system could continuously monitor fire and environmental conditions without requiring maintenance after deployment.” 

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Governor Polis enacts drought plan for 40 Colorado counties

Gov. Jared Polis has ordered a task force to assess initial damage and recommend mitigation measures for severe drought conditions affecting 40 of Colorado’s 64 counties, or roughly a third of the state. Polis’ order follows dwindling mountain snowpack, a warmer-than-average spring and far less precipitation than normal.

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Center for American Progress launches “Race for Nature”

“To save family farms, ranches, and rural communities from economic collapse, the United States should launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature”—that pays private landowners to protect the water, air and natural places that everyone needs to stay healthy.” The report focuses on expanding conservation easement programs and increasing conservation easements nationwide, setting aside as much as 55 million acres by 2030 under long-term or permanent protections.

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Colorado’s snowpack is nearly gone, which is not a good sign for fire season

Colorado’s rivers and streams are still filled with plenty of cold, rushing water from this season’s snowmelt. But that natural water source won’t last much longer. Colorado’s snowpack has all but melted, according to official data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) this week.

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When planting trees threatens the forest

Campaigns to plant huge numbers of trees could backfire, according to a new study that is the first to rigorously analyze the potential effects of subsidies in such schemes. The analysis reveals how efforts such as the global Trillion Trees campaign and a related initiative (H. R. 5859) under consideration by the U.S. Congress could lead to more biodiversity loss and little, if any, climate change upside. The researchers emphasize, however, that these efforts could have significant benefits if they include strong subsidy restrictions, such as prohibitions against replacing native forests with tree plantations.

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NACD examines Executive Order on bolstering economic recovery in the COVID-19 era

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) outlines key information from President Trump’s Executive Order (EO), titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities.” The EO streamlines infrastructure investments by instructing agencies, including executive departments, to use “emergency authorities” for swift implementation of projects.

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Colorado’s oldest water rights get extra protection from state engineer

Some water experts say preserving these pre-compact water rights, even though they aren’t being used, could give Colorado stronger footing in potential negotiations with lower basin states by propping up Colorado’s consumptive-use tally on paper.

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Scientists believe invasive grass poses a threat in desert wildfire

Scientists have been warning of the dangers of buffelgrass invading the desert for decades. But while there have been numerous efforts led by public agencies and nonprofit groups to fight buffelgrass, the spreading continues. “The extent of the problem at this point requires much more resources than the Forest Service can throw at it,” said Kim Franklin, a Desert Museum research scientist.

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Nevada groundwater order could help save endangered fish

Conservationists say Nevada’s unprecedented interpretation of state water laws to restrict groundwater pumping for development in the desert northeast of Las Vegas could help prevent the extinction of a tiny endangered fish. The order that the state engineer issued this week in a decades-old legal battle is expected to curtail development across 1,500 square miles that share the same groundwater supply in the driest state in the nation.

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New Mexico water managers end work on Gila River proposal

A panel of New Mexico water managers voted Thursday to end work on an environmental review related to a proposal to divert and store water from the Gila River. The Interstate Stream Commission’s 7-2 vote comes in a years-long battle over the future of the river.

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Crews on Arizona wildfires contend with wind-driven flames

Wildfires in Arizona are typical this time of year, but high winds have been a key factor in driving the size of the blazes that are threatening rural communities, state highways and popular recreation spots. Weather forecasters say the wind will stick around for a couple of weeks before temperatures build and the rain that the monsoon season is known for starts falling — part of the usual pattern in Arizona and New Mexico.

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Senate approves $2.8B plan to boost conservation, parks

The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands, a measure supporters say would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.

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Groups call on Supreme Court to rule on ‘takings’ issue

The Klamath Basin battle over irrigation rights and private property has been in a legal dispute for 18 years. The Klamath “takings” case (Baley v. United States) stems from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cutting off irrigation water to the federal Klamath Project, located in Northern California and southern Oregon, in 2001. Klamath water users sued the United States to assert that Klamath Project water users have a Fifth Amendment property interest, which entitles them to compensation for the 2001 shutoff. The case will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Up in Smoke: Fire and Invasives on Western Rangelands

Check out this 5-minute film that introduces the colossal conservation challenge of invasive annual grasses in sagebrush habitats and the rangeland fire it can facilitate. Learn about the scale and gravity of the fire and invasives cycle, hear from people fighting these weeds and their impact every day, and access the calls-to-action that different viewers can select to learn more.

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Secretary Perdue announces modernization blueprint for the USDA Forest Service

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued a memorandum to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen providing direction that will serve as a blueprint to help modernize the agency’s systems and approaches to ensure national forests and grasslands continue to meet the needs of the American people.

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Bedrock type under forests greatly affects tree growth, species, carbon storage

A forest’s ability to store carbon depends significantly on the bedrock beneath, according to Penn State researchers who studied forest productivity, composition and associated physical characteristics of rocks in the Appalachian ridge and Valley Region of Pennsylvania.

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Western Colorado water purchases stir up worries about the future of farming

Water Asset Management, a New York City-based hedge fund, is buying irrigated land on the western slope of Colorado as an investment in the future potential value of the water. Although the company isn’t doing anything illegal, its actions have rekindled deep-seated and long-held fears about water in the West—that it could hasten the death of agricultural communities’ way of life and create an unregulated market for water that would drive up prices and drive out family farms.

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Rule change would cause more migratory bird deaths — FWS

The Trump administration’s proposed narrowing of Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections will have a “likely negative” impact on birds that includes “increased” mortality, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service study made public today.

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Bill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits

The agriculture industry would be able to participate in a growing carbon credit market under bipartisan legislation introduced recently that would funnel money to farmers who use sustainable practices. The legislation tasks the U.S. Department of Agriculture with creating a certification program to assist farmers and forest landowners in “implementing the protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices.”

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Trump signs order to waive environmental reviews for key projects

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order directing agencies to waive the requirements of environmental statutes like the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in order to expedite federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects, according to four people briefed on the matter. The president cites the current “economic emergency” in his rationale for the order.

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In rare bipartisan bill, U.S. senators tackle climate change via agriculture

U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would direct the Agriculture Department to help farmers, ranchers and landowners use carbon dioxide-absorbing practices to generate carbon credits, a rare collaboration on climate change. The proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program that would help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets.

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Where the worst wildfire activity is expected this summer

Hot, dry weather and increasing drought conditions across the western United States this summer may result in above-average wildfire potential into September, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) outlook. June through early July is the peak season for fires in the Southwest, before the onset of the summer monsoon. Summer is the dry season for the rest of the West, making June through September the peak of the fire season there.

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Climate change is driving widespread forest death and creating shorter, younger trees

Forests across the world are transforming as the Earth heats up and as more frequent and severe droughts, wildfires and disease outbreaks destroy trees. In a new report published in Science magazine, researchers warn that climate change is accelerating the death of trees, stunting their growth and making forests across the world younger and shorter.

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BLM proposes streamlining timber rules to reduce wildfires

The BLM is proposing to streamline rules governing timber harvests, sales and other forest management activities in the name of reducing wildfire risks across the West. The BLM announced a proposal to establish a new categorical exclusion (CX) under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would streamline the agency’s review of routine timber salvage projects and operations.

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Invoking the Defense Production Act for the rest of the food supply

President Donald Trump’s executive order late last month invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat and poultry plants open got a ton of media attention, but there’s one big thing that was largely missed: The EO could actually grant USDA the same sweeping authority over, well, the rest of the country’s food production.

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EPA report: Dams play large role in raising water temperatures

The EPA issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams. The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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USDA announces details of direct assistance to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

USDA announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

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Shrub encroachment on grasslands can increase groundwater recharge

A new study modeled shrub encroachment on a sloping landscape and reached a startling conclusion: Shrub encroachment on slopes can increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. The effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected during climate change.

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To reach sustainable wild horse levels, feds say it will take more than $1 billion and years of work

Federal land managers say it will take two decades and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels necessary to protect U.S. rangeland. The BLM’s latest plans envision capturing 200,000 mustangs over the next two decades, building corrals to hold thousands more than current capacity and adopting regulations allowing the permanent sterilization of horses roaming federal lands.

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Biologist looks into how native plants survive in the driest soil

What limits the ability of plants to draw water from dry soil? That is the question Cal State Fullerton plant biologist H. Jochen Schenk and his international research collaborators asked in an effort to solve the mystery of how plants suck water from the driest soil. In their study, the researchers found why plants can’t survive and function in this dry soil, including the physical limits to the amount of suction plants can produce to move water up to their leaves.

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New Mexico to consider river protections as mining plan looms

More than 200 miles of the Pecos River, its tributaries and other parts of the upper reaches of the northern New Mexico watershed would be protected from future degradation under a petition being considered by state regulators. A coalition of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and local officials filed the petition last month, seeking an “Outstanding National Resource Waters” designation for the river, nearby streams and surrounding wetlands. The Water Quality Control Commission agreed Tuesday to consider the request and set a public hearing for November.

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Water quality can impact livestock production

Providing adequate water to livestock is critical for animal health and production. Canadian studies have shown the quality of water accessible to livestock is directly tied to the amount of forage they consume. Studies report improved gains by as much as 0.24 pound per day in yearlings and 0.33 pound per day in calves receiving good-quality water.

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Rethinking (waste)water and conservation

In an article published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, [Kurt] Schwabe and his co-researchers [from the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside] take a close look at how water conservation measures taken in Southern California in the wake of a major drought affected the availability and quality of regional wastewater.

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NM Supreme Court asked to weigh in on stream access dispute that no one can agree on

Kendra Chamberlain at New Mexico Political Report unpacks the controversy over New Mexico’s stream access law, and the pending lawsuit between pro-access groups and the state. She writes, “Groups on both sides of the dispute all have different ideas about what’s at issue, and what’s at stake, but all parties are quick to point out the dispute is incredibly complicated. And while there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic, stakeholders on both sides of the fence seem to agree on one thing: it was a 2014 opinion issued by then-Attorney General Gary King that started the whole thing.” 

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Agencies revamp strategy to address crews’ virus risk

In new plans that offer a national reimagining of how to fight wildfires amid the risk of the coronavirus spreading through crews, it’s not clear how officials will get the testing and equipment needed to keep firefighters safe in what’s expected to be a difficult fire season. A U.S. group instead put together broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes, with agencies and firefighting groups in different parts of the country able to tailor them to fit their needs.

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Colorado AG, top water quality regulator vow to challenge new Clean Water Act rule

Colorado and other Western states will be hard pressed to shield their rivers and streams under a new federal Clean Water Act rule finalized last month, largely because hundreds of shallow Western rivers are no longer protected, and writing new state laws and finding the cash to fill the regulatory gap will likely take years to accomplish, officials said. Though many agricultural interests and water utilities support the new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, as it is known, Colorado Attorney General and director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said they will take legal action to protect streams that are no longer subject to federal oversight.

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Washington state makes historic decision to protect salmon from rising water temperatures

In a game-changing decision for struggling Southern Resident orcas and endangered salmon, Washington state will exercise its authority—for the first time ever—to require federal dam operators to keep the Columbia and Snake rivers cool enough for salmon survival. Washington state issued Clean Water Act 401 Certifications that require eight federal dams on the Lower Columbia and Lower Snake rivers to meet safe limits for temperature and oil pollution.

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Understanding moisture and rainfall

The role that atmospheric water vapour plays in weather is complex and not clearly understood. However, U.S. researchers say they are starting to get a handle on it after teasing out the relationship between morning soil moisture and afternoon rainfall under different atmospheric conditions. “The prevailing wisdom… is that if you have wetter soil in the morning, you’ll have a greater occurrence of rainfall in afternoon, but it’s more complicated than that,” says Josh Welty from the University of Arizona, lead author of a paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

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Fire, mixed-species grazing enhance livestock production in research project

Researchers from Oklahoma State University are partnering with university scientists and researchers in two other states on a project using fire and mixed animal species to graze in an effort to enhance livestock production and more sustainable rangelands.

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Supersizing USDA’s farm relief arsenal

There’s momentum in Congress to expand the borrowing authority of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, the Depression-era agency that’s funding part of the department’s stimulus payments to farmers and ranchers (and that’s facilitated the Trump administration’s trade bailout program since 2018). It’s one of the primary funding options on the table as lawmakers consider more agricultural aid in their next coronavirus response package.

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USDA announces $5 million for wetland mitigation banking program

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $5 million for wetland mitigation banks. This funding through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program is to help conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Applications must be submitted by July 6, 2020.

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US, Wyoming urge rejection of ruling that blocked bear hunts

Attorneys for the U.S. government and the state of Wyoming urged an appeals court yesterday to throw out much of a judge’s ruling that blocked the first grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 in almost three decades. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It involves more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park that had their protections stripped away and then restored by a judge in Montana just as hunting was scheduled to begin.

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Irrigated crops underestimation risks water shortages

The area of agricultural land that will require irrigation in future could be up to four times larger than currently estimated, a new study has revealed. Research shows the amount of land that will require human intervention to water crops by 2050 has been severely underestimated due to computer models not taking into account many uncertainties, such as population changes and availability of water.

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Appeals court rejects lawsuit against Oregon grazing authorizations

Environmentalists have failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that grazing authorizations unlawfully harmed bull trout on seven allotments in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. The appellate court has rejected allegations from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Center for Biological Diversity that more than 100 federal grazing decisions — including permit approvals and operating instructions — violated the forest’s management plan over a decade.

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Funds for climate-tied Colorado Water Plan drying up due to virus

Plummeting oil and gas tax revenues and a state budget thrashed by the coronavirus pandemic means water projects in Colorado are facing a financial double-whammy. And the odds are long that sports gambling—which launches in the state Friday and was supposed to provide supplemental funding for water priorities—will provide any short-term rescue, state water and gaming officials say.

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California snowpack measures below normal for spring

The last seasonal survey of snow in the Sierra Nevada confirms that California had a dry winter that will leave much-needed runoff levels below normal, authorities said yesterday. Sierra snowmelt typically provides about 30% of the state’s water supply.

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California agencies sue state as irrigation war escalates

California water agencies yesterday sued the state over endangered species protections they claim threaten their ability to provide water to more than 25 million residents and thousands of acres of farmland. The lawsuit is an extraordinary step, underscoring that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) now has multiple crises on his plate: the coronavirus pandemic and a rapidly devolving water war.

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Feds, tribes raise concerns about cuckoo habitat proposal

The Fish and Wildlife Service has rekindled an Endangered Species Act debate with its proposal for a large, multistate critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The Army Corps of Engineers cautions that the proposal could complicate operations of a key California dam. Tribes have worries of their own. Some bird lovers, meanwhile, want more than the proposed 493,665 acres spanning seven Western states.

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Colorado governor signs five major water bills into law

Gov. Jared Polis, even as COVID-19 swept across the state, gave his stamp of approval to five major pieces of water legislation, paving the way for everything from more water for environmental streamflows to a new study on how to limit water speculation. Three of the new laws address water for streams, fish and habitat, allowing more loans of water to bolster environmental flows, protecting such things as water for livestock from being appropriated for instream flows, and using an existing water management tool, known as an augmentation plan, to set aside water rights for streams.

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Forest Service debuts state-by-state statistics on carbon

For the first time, a new publication by the USDA Forest Service delivers an overview of the status and trends of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from forest land, woodlands, hardwood products, and urban trees nationally for 49 U.S. states.

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Early shots fired in legal fight over WOTUS rewrite

Property rights advocates today filed one of the first lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s Clean Water Act rule, arguing that the regulation does not go far enough in limiting the law’s reach. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers last week finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, opening the door for what is expected to be dozens of lawsuits. Most challenges are expected to come from environmental groups and blue states arguing that the rule improperly guts much of the law.

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New Mexico senators weigh in on stream access

New Mexico’s two U.S. senators are wading more deeply into a stream access debate that’s been simmering for years. U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, this week urged the state Game Commission to repeal a 2017 rule that allows private landowners to restrict public access to water flowing across their land in certain circumstances. Supporters of the rule, such as the Western Landowners Alliance, say it protects sensitive streambeds and enables habitat restoration work on private property.

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Long-term efficacy of managed wildfires in restoration efforts

Land managers are increasingly interested in using lightning-ignited wildfires as a tool to restore forests and reduce fuel loads. But little is known about the effectiveness of managing wildfires to meet restoration goals.

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‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science

A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts groundwater science at the center of decisions about how to regulate water pollution. Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies.

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Idaho still seeks land exchange with timber company, feds

Idaho hasn’t given up on a three-way potential land swap and cash deal involving a private timber company and the Forest Service that is running into opposition from the Nez Perce Tribe. Republican Gov. Brad Little said the potential deal could increase Idaho’s state-owned lands with timber-producing forests that make money mainly for public schools. The tribe is concerned it could lose access rights for fishing, hunting and other activities it has with the U.S. government if Idaho ends up owning what is now federal land.

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EPA finalizes Trump administration rollbacks on stream and wetland protections

The Trump administration published a final rule Tuesday rolling back Obama-era environmental protections. The final rule, written by the Engineers Corps and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), redefines the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, passed under President Obama in 2015.

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Report: Washington’s wolf population grows at least 11 percent in 2019

Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the death of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. The state’s annual wolf survey, published Monday, sets a minimum number of wolves and packs in the state and guides management decisions for the year to come.

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Plan calls for diverting, storing water from Gila River

Water from two rivers that span parts of New Mexico and Arizona would be diverted and stored under a project proposed by the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity. The BLM and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission are gathering public comments on an environmental review of the proposal. The fight over the Gila River has prompted protests and legal fights over the years. Environmentalists have suggested the effort to divert water would result in a $1 billion boondoggle, but supporters argue that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation districts in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water as drought persists.

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First-of-its-kind water conservation project on sold Colorado ranch

The sale of Little Cimarron Valley Ranch in southwest Colorado represents a successful partnership with a number of different stakeholders and the culmination of an innovative water conservation initiative that sets precedent for a new approach to Alternate Transfer Methods within the Colorado Water Plan. This solution is an attractive alternative as it alleviates the need for “buy-and-dry” transfers. This kind of split-water agreement, whereby water rights are utilized for both irrigation and in-stream flow, has never been completed in the western US until now.

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Las Vegas giving up bid to pump, pipe from rural valleys

Las Vegas water officials said Friday they’re giving up a decades-long plan to pump and pipe groundwater from rural northeast Nevada to suburbs and tourist resorts in the state’s largest metropolitan area. The Southern Nevada Water Authority said it won’t appeal a judge’s order for the authority to recalculate the amount of water that might be available below ground to supply the project.

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USDA announces coronavirus food assistance program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new USDA program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

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California moves toward protecting mountain lions

California took a major step yesterday toward giving mountain lions protection as an endangered species. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to approve Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for California Endangered Species Act designation. That launches a yearlong status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will prepare a peer-reviewed status report. The commission will make a final decision at the end of that period.

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USDA extends timber company contracts

The USDA yesterday said it will allow timber companies to extend contracts with the Forest Service as the industry struggles from the economic downturn linked to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Contracts may be extended for up to two years — and three years in Alaska — to give the timber industry time to rebuild demand and pull out of the slowdown, USDA said.

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Study: Warming makes U.S. West megadrought worst in modern age

A two-decade-long dry spell that has parched much of the western United States is turning into one of the deepest megadroughts in the region in more than 1,200 years, a new study found. Scientists looked at a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico, plus a sliver of southwestern Montana and parts of northern Mexico.

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USDA Wildlife Services to use $1.3 M to implement, evaluate nonlethal predation management tools

The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.

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Listed species grow as protections shrink

The Fish and Wildlife Service today increased the number of species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even as the agency prepares to narrow the law’s protections. In the first revision of its kind since 2013, FWS added a net total of 67 bird species to the protected list, which now numbers 1,093.

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Coronavirus forces new approaches to firefighting

They are two disasters that require opposite responses: To save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are being told to remain isolated. But in a wildfire, thousands of firefighters must work in close quarters for weeks at a time. Wildfires have already broken out in Texas and Florida, and agencies are scrambling to finish plans for a new approach.

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Trump admin reopens Mexican wolf study

The Fish and Wildlife Service today reopened a debate over the best way to protect the Mexican wolf. Facing legal pressure, the agency announced plans to revise the “nonessential experimental population” designation and management of the wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. The plans require drafting an environmental impact statement supplement.

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Scientists worry agency plan to prevent fires could do opposite

Scientists say the Trump administration’s proposed program to cut down trees to gain an upper hand over wildfire and protect sage-grouse may in fact do the opposite: increase the wildfire threat and risk ecosystem “collapse.” The proposed plan, which the BLM published last week, aims to reshape the ecology of sagebrush ecosystems across 38.5 million acres of federal land in six states to reduce the severity of wildfires and help restore sagebrush.

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Historic agreement to protect monarch butterfly issued by FWS

The candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) potentially applies to over 26 million acres managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. Via the agreement, public and private partners can voluntarily adopt conservation measures that are beneficial to the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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BLM plan eyes 1,000 miles of new fuel breaks in 3 states

A plan to help in the battle against devastating wildfires creates fuel breaks 400 feet wide along 987 miles of roads in southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon that will be tied into an existing fuel break system in northern Nevada. The BLM on Friday released a final environmental impact statement for the Tri-State Fuel Breaks Project, opening a 30-day comment period. The agency said creating fuel breaks by clearing vegetation will help firefighters stop wildfires and protect key habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife.

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Deadline for Joint Chiefs extended to May 1

USDA’s NRCS New Mexico assistant state conservationist for programs announced today that sign up for fiscal year 2020 Joint Chiefs Initiative has been extended. All New Mexico agricultural producers who would like to be considered for financial assistance under the Joint Chiefs Initiative need to apply by Friday, May 1, 2020. While producers can apply year-round for EQIP assistance, this extended application cutoff announcement is specific to the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed and Taos Valley Watershed Coalition Joint Chiefs Initiatives.

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USDA announces May 29th application cutoff for CSP funding in 2020

The next deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding this year is May 29, 2020. Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques.

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Public comment open on programmatic EIS for rangeland restoration in Great Basin

Draft PEIS Available for Public Comment: April 3 – June 2, 2020. The BLM has prepared a Draft Programmatic EIS for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin. The Programmatic EIS analyzes several options for carrying out fuels reduction and rangeland restoration projects. The project area covers nearly 223 million acres and includes portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The project’s purpose is to enhance the long-term function, viability, resistance and resilience of sagebrush communities in the project area. Functioning and viable sagebrush communities provide multiple-use opportunities for all user groups as well as habitat for sagebrush-dependent species. The BLM is inviting the public to review and comment on the Draft Programmatic EIS.

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Researchers forecast longer, more extreme wildfire seasons

In California, a changing climate has made autumn feel more like summer, with hotter, drier weather that increases the risk of longer, more dangerous wildfire seasons, according to a new Stanford-led study.

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Arizona Hazardous Fuels Reduction Grant program accepting applications

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) Hazardous Fuels Reduction Grant Program is now accepting project applications. DFFM is soliciting project proposals from $20,000 to $200,000 for mitigation of fire risk in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas and for the protection of Arizona communities through reduction of hazardous forest and woodland fuels. Applications are due May 15, 2020.

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Arid forests are becoming more drought tolerant in response to climate change

Using the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis database, researchers at UC Santa Barbara, the University of Utah and the U.S. Forest Service have studied how the traits of tree communities are shifting across the contiguous United States. The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that communities, particularly in more arid regions, are becoming more drought tolerant, primarily through the death of less hardy trees.

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Largest US dam removal stirs debate over coveted West water

The second-largest river in California has sustained Native American tribes with plentiful salmon for millennia, provided upstream farmers with irrigation water for generations and served as a haven for retirees who built dream homes along its banks. With so many competing demands, the Klamath River has come to symbolize a larger struggle over the increasingly precious water resources of the U.S. West, and who has the biggest claim to them.

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USDA seeks public comment on revised conservation practice standards

USDA’s NRCS is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 49 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions posted this week with the public comment period closing April 23, 2020.

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Department of State waives interview requirement for H-2A workers

The Department of State is taking steps to reduce delays in the processing of H-2A workers caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of State suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates on March 20, creating alarm about potential delays in H-2A worker availability. A March 26 move by the Department of State should ease that potential bottleneck, especially for workers from Mexico, the source of the majority of U.S. guest agricultural workers.

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Federal court rejects California water ‘takings’ case

A federal court yesterday rejected a case from a California city and irrigation districts that claimed the Bureau of Reclamation violated their constitutional property rights when it did not deliver water during a drought. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims case touches on the broad questions of whether the water in a delivery contract is property and whether a contract holder must be compensated if Reclamation doesn’t deliver it. Judge Elaine Kaplan ruled they do not.

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New water fellowship for young farmers

National Young Farmers Coalition excited to launch the first Young Farmers Water Fellowship in Colorado. Through in-person and virtual trainings, the Fellowship will guide ten young farmers and ranchers towards water leadership positions in Colorado. Selected fellows will receive a $2500 stipend and support from Young Farmers to run for a seat on a water board or commission. Application deadline is April 13, 2020

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1st rural county COVID-19 case in Montana

Montana added four new cases of the coronavirus Thursday night, including the first in a rural eastern Montana county. There are now 16 cases within the state’s borders.

The patient from Roosevelt County is a woman in her 70s, who acquired COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, through international travel, according to a press release from Gov. Steve Bullock’s office Thursday night.

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Judge asked to force decision on wolverine protections

Wildlife advocates yesterday asked a U.S. judge to force the government into deciding whether the snow-loving wolverine should be federally protected as the rare predator becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. The request comes in a lawsuit filed in Montana almost four years after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to take swift action to protect the animal.

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Scientists predict above-average U.S. wildfire activity for 2020 after sharp drop in 2019

Last year brought the U.S. its lowest amount of wildfire destruction since 2004, but it’s likely an anomaly in a period of increasing wildfire threats, according to a new analysis. The sharp decrease was likely due to heavier rainfall, but it doesn’t change the long-term patterns.

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Court rejects critical habitat for jaguar

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Reversing a trial judge’s 2017 opinion that had been hailed by environmentalists, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal agency was “arbitrary and capricious” in its decisionmaking.

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White House seeks $45B for agencies

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

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Temporary hours of service exemption for livestock haulers

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

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

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

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Farmers take water fight to the Supreme Court

Nearly 20 years after Oregon and California farmers stormed irrigation canals in protest of a decision to cut off water deliveries, they have taken their case to the Supreme Court. The farmers want the Supreme Court to rule on whether curtailing water deliveries can amount to a “taking” of property without just compensation under the Constitution’s 5th Amendment.

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

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

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West’s biggest reservoir is back on the rise, thanks to conservation, snow

The largest reservoir in the Western U.S., Lake Mead, is rising again after more than a decade of decline. Colorado River water consumption has decreased by 25 percent over the past two decades, even as the population it serves has grown around 50 percent.

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USDA investing $1 million in California water quality improvements and wildfire mitigation

The USDA will be investing more than $1 million in California this fiscal year for wildfire mitigation and improving water quality. The efforts are being made possible through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.  The Partnership allows the USFS and NRCS to work with farmers and landowners in implementing conservation and restoration projects on a substantial scale.

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Farmers to face water shortages as new century unfolds

Farmers will deal with a myriad of issues in the coming decades that will impact production in the fields. One problem that has been increasing is the lack of water. From 2020 to 2080, the number of irrigated acres in the U.S. is projected to drop by several million acres, according to the USDA.

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

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

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

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

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USDA invests more than $2M in Oregon to improve forest health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $2 million this fiscal year in Oregon through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to improve forest health.

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New model improves management of wetland, floodplain and river habitats

Wetlands, floodplains and aquatic habitats are some of Utah’s most important ecosystems. But in recent years these habitats have faced mounting pressure from encroaching land use and increased demand for water. Now researchers at Utah State University are developing new tools that help preserve and increase the area and quality of wetland, floodplain and aquatic habitats.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund set for Senate floor vote

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

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Legislation introduced in US House to require delisting of gray wolves

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

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

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

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Arizona bill would shield info on endangered species on private land

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

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A comprehensive new federal roadmap for climate action on farms

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

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Western yellow-billed cuckoo clocks in renewed habitat debate

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

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BLM calls wild horses ‘existential threat’ to public lands

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

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U.S. Forest Chief: ‘tough choices’ to fund wildfire prevention

The U.S. Forest Service has been working with states and other partners to treat more acres every year in hopes of reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire, but Forest Chief Vicki Christiansen acknowledged that a budget proposal for the next fiscal year reflects “tough choices and trade-offs” that could mean no funding for some programs.

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Utilities and enviros paddle together on Lower Snake River

Environmentalists and Pacific Northwest power producers are urging elected officials to seek “collaborative solutions” for the myriad complicated issues roiling the Lower Snake River. In a letter to the governors of Washington state, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, 17 leaders of energy companies, utilities and conservation organizations called for a “new dialogue with all sovereigns and constituents” with a stake in the river and its bounty.

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Colorado’s western slope prepping for wolves

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

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About 40 million people get water from the Colorado River. Studies show it’s drying up.

Scientists have documented how climate change is sapping the Colorado River, and new research shows the river is so sensitive to warming that it could lose about one-fourth of its flow by 2050 as temperatures continue to climb.

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Soaking up soil health

Rainfall is scarce throughout New Mexico, which is hard on soil and crops. Farmers can’t change the weather, but they can change how they manage soil to retain more water and grow flavorful, high-nutrient produce.

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Groups want cows corralled to protect endangered jumping mouse habitat

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

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California challenges Trump administration’s new water management rules

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

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Idaho extends wolf hunting and trapping seasons

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

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Perdue outlines green goals for farmers

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

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Work to reduce wildfire risks in Colorado and other Western states has economic benefits

Projects to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect water sources in the U.S. West have created jobs and infused more money in local economies, researchers say, and they were funded by a partnership between governments and businesses that has become a model in other countries.

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

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

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

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

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California bill would bar insurers from declining fire coverage

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

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Trump to California farmers: here’s more water

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

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Arizona farmers push back against tracking data on groundwater wells

The agriculture industry is pushing back against efforts in the Arizona Legislature to track the amount of water being drawn from large groundwater wells in rural areas around the state. State water officials say getting the data would help Arizona better plan for future water use. But the agriculture industry sees bills to install measuring devices and submit annual reports, for example, as moves toward regulation.

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

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

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

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

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New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Act: public meetings and comment

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

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As groundwater depletes, arid American West is moving east

Even under modest climate warming scenarios, the continental United States faces a significant loss of groundwater—about 119 million cubic meters, or roughly enough to fill Lake Powell four times, a first-of-its-kind study has shown. The results show that as warming temperatures shift the balance between water supply and demand, shallow groundwater storage can buffer plant water stress—but only where shallow groundwater connections are present, and not indefinitely.

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Colorado ranchers get help from unexpected source

Agricultural producers in Southwest Colorado, mostly cow-calf ranchers, expended less labor to access the same amount of water to irrigate their pastures since implementing improvements to their irrigation ditches as part of a community-wide project. They also have seen improvement in riparian habitats. A new video portrays the impact to the community of these project improvements.

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Nearly broke, Oregon forestry department seeks emergency infusion

Seven months into the state’s two-year budget cycle, officials at the Oregon Department of Forestry say they’ve blown through most of the budget that lawmakers approved for the entire biennium and are asking lawmakers for an emergency cash infusion – from $52 million to $132 million – otherwise, agency officials say, they’ll have exhausted their budget by March.

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Utah legislation proposes predator hunting to achieve deer and elk objectives

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

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Jaguars, snakes derail Arizona copper mine

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

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Oregon timber companies, environmentalists sign ‘historic’ pact

Environmental groups and timber companies in Oregon, which have clashed for decades, yesterday unveiled a road map for overhauling forest practice regulations. The agreement came after the two sides quietly held meetings in Salem and Portland over the last month to try to find common ground, instead of filing competing initiative petitions and lawsuits.

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Administration proposes deep energy, environmental cuts

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

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Army Corps trades Alaska wetlands for sewage system fixes

By law, the Army Corps of Engineers must ensure that Alaska wetlands damage is offset by restoring or preserving other wetlands nearby. But that’s not what’s happening on Alaska’s Arctic tundra, and a precedent-setting permit there could have significant consequences for other developers, including those behind the controversial Pebble mine.

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Emergency water rights bill heads to Idaho governor’s desk

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

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California governor launches water management plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new plan for California’s water yesterday that he said would boost conservation, double the state’s salmon population and avoid drawn-out courtroom battles. The vision relies on “voluntary agreements” that will move the state away from the water wars that pit agricultural interests against environmentalists, and the wet northern part of the state against its arid south.

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BLM struggles to fill top positions in new Western HQ

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

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Opinion: Conservation and restoration of our precious land

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

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Forestry pioneer retires from Northern Arizona University

A Northern Arizona University forestry expert who was ahead of his time in urging communities across the West to thin dense stands of trees and set fire to the landscape as a way to ward off catastrophic wildfires has retired from his position at the school. Members of Congress, state legislators, the U.S. Forest Service and countless others looked to Wally Covington for science-based advice on how to restore forests to a condition when natural fires regularly would burn the undergrowth and small trees.

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

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

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Prescribed burns benefit bees

Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species than similar forests that have not burned in over 50 years, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

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New synthesis on ecology, history, ecohydrology, and management of pinyon and juniper woodlands

This synthesis reviews current knowledge of pinyon and juniper ecosystems, in both persistent and newly expanded woodlands, for managers, researchers and the interested public. They draw from a large volume of research papers to centralize information on these semiarid woodlands.

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With wildfires on the rise, indigenous fire management is poised to make a comeback

As the world watches bushfires take a massive toll on Australia, experts in indigenous fire management are reporting an uptick in interest in their work. While challenging at times, the USFS is already incorporating indigenous techniques into fire management projects and is working with tribal leaders on land stewardship efforts, thanks to collaborative partnerships that have been piloted in ancestral territories of the Karuk tribe in northwestern California.

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USFWS: Trump regulations boost risk for migratory birds

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

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Emails show administration manipulated wildfire science to promote logging

Political appointees at the Department of the Interior have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

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House committee votes to overturn Trump ESA revisions

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

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

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

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New Mexico needs realistic, sustainable water plan

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

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New California groundwater regulations could reshape water use and agriculture

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

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

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

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California budget proposal includes $6.7B toward natural resources

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

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

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

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ACEP interim rule comment deadline extended

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

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

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

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Is mowing or close grazing of rangelands as beneficial as prescribed burning?

When it comes to restoring rangeland habitats, there is no replacement for “prescribed fire,” according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) ecologists. A recent study shows that fire is better than mowing because it restores soil health and promotes growth of grass that is more nutritious for grazing cattle.

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Lawmaker proposes wolf-free zones in southern Idaho

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

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New Mexico bill would divert oil and gas money to restoration

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

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Petition seeks federal protections for Rio Grande fish

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

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Trump admin fast-tracks Colorado River pipeline

The Trump administration has put one of the largest new water projects on the Colorado River on the fast track, raising concerns among environmentalists. Utah first proposed building a 140-mile pipeline from Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border more than a decade ago. Last fall, the Utah Division of Water Resources updated the proposal, removing a hydropower plant and cutting $100 million from its price tag.

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Wetlands conservation program marks 30 years, over $6B in grants

The conservation grant program that has helped preserve and restore nearly 30 million acres of wetlands across the continent has turned 30. President George H.W. Bush signed the North American Wetlands Conservation Act into law in December 1989, establishing the grant program as waterfowl populations declined because of habitat loss.

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Study finds flooding damage to levees is cumulative–and often invisible

Recent research finds that repeated flooding events have a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of earthen levees, suggesting that the increase in extreme weather events associated with climate change could pose significant challenges for the nation’s aging levee system.

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Ag water users profiled in new Colorado River report

A year-long effort to bring the perspectives of key agricultural water user interests into the current Colorado River Compact discussions culminated in the release of two special “Water Review” reports.

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ESA scores a win with Colorado River fish

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

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Last year’s historic floods ruined 20 million acres of farmland

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, heavy spring rains across the nation in 2019 caused nearly 20 million acres of farmland to go unplanted. Farmers incurred, collectively, billions of dollars in losses, disrupting rural economies across the country as well as the communities they support.

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BLM to consider proposed revisions to grazing regulations

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

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Wyoming executive order includes landowners in corridor designation process

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

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Wyoming legislation proposes to compensate ranchers for wolf depredation

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

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California moves toward single water tunnel under delta

California is moving forward with its biggest water project in decades, a single tunnel beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that will help move Northern California water south to cities and farms.

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Montana releases new bison management plan

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

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Final Trump WOTUS rule expected soon

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

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New research finds ranchers consider diverse factors in managing their land

A new study evaluates the complex decision-making process of how ranchers choose to manage their land, more specifically how they choose to irrigate their land and why. They found that various reasons go into deciding how land is managed—not just money.

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Oregon governor proposes new wildfire protection plan

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

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Trump admin launches review of grizzly bears

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

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Tipping point identified for deforestation that leads to rapid forest loss

University of Cincinnati geography researchers have identified a tipping point for deforestation that leads to rapid forest loss. Global satellite imagery shows transitions occur quickly after blocks of forest are cut in half.

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Ahead of vote, wolves may already be living in Colorado

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

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Worsening wildfires stoke health concerns

Increasingly intense wildfires are scorching forests from across the Western U.S. to Australia and stoking concern among residents and health professionals about long-term health impacts from smoke exposure.

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New bill would encourage native plants on federal land

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

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Research to help land managers take risk-analysis approach to wildfires

New digital tools developed by Oregon State University will enable land managers to better adapt to the new reality of large wildfires through analytics that guide planning and suppression across jurisdictional boundaries that fires typically don’t adhere to.

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NRCS seeks comments on ACEP interim rule

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

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Wolves on the ballot in Colorado

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

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California eases way for land clearing to prevent wildfires

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

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Interior Department to formally define “habitat” in the ESA

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

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Wyoming governor releases draft executive order on migration corridors

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

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Delisting gray wolf leads end-of-year legislation blitz

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

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Colorado water rights abandonment list forthcoming

On July 1, 2020, the Colorado Division of Water Resources will publish its initial decennial list of water rights considered to be abandoned. Water right holders may object, and if necessary, protest in water court. Objections to the initial list will be due to DWR on July 1, 2021.

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

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

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New in-stream flow rights in New Mexico

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

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Jennie Gordon: unique background positions First Lady to help

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

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Rebuilding forests post-fire

A legal battle over a plan to clear dead trees and burn them in a biomass plant is an example of a philosophical divide in California over how best to manage forests as wildfires grow larger and more deadly and destructive.

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Study identifies key western forests

A study by Oregon State University researchers has identified forests in the western United States that should be preserved for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, as well as to enhance biodiversity.

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Debate over extended elk hunt proposal

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

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Importance of restoration projects on private lands

The ponds, wetlands and streams on Idaho’s private working lands provide critical hydrologic, ecological and habitat benefits that extend far beyond the fence lines.

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Groups strike consensus in debates over Wyoming’s migration corridors

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

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Allison: Farm bill is a big win for every American

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

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