STEWARDSHIP IN A CHANGING WEST

FACING

Photo by Bill Crapser
UPCOMING EVENT

Facing Fire & Drought in a Changing West Webinar: Managing Federal Lands

Join us December 18th at 12:30pm MT for a live webinar, where land managers will share their experiences managing land health and livestock grazing in areas impacted by drought and unplanned fire. In a time when the West is facing changing precipitation patterns and unprecedented wildfires, there is a need to learn from each other and the dynamic ecosystems we steward.

From this panel discussion, you will learn how land managers, including federal land managers, consider drought management, post-fire recovery, building resistant and resilient communities and operations, and the importance of partnerships.

RESOURCES

FOR LANDOWNERS BATTLING FIRE AND DROUGHT

As fire season continues and drought lingers across the West, we are hopeful in the promise of cool fall days, much needed moisture and winter preparations. Many of our members, friends and neighbors have been impacted by this year’s extreme climatic events. We hope the resources provided here will assist you as you plan for the days and months ahead.

US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) DISASTER RELIEF

The USDA provides several programs to assist with disaster relief and recovery. They have developed a web-based disaster assistance discovery tool to help producers initially determine which programs may fit their circumstances. If you are interested in exploring a program or applying for a program, we recommend you contact your local USDA Service Center, as well.

Provides funding and assistance to restore fences, restore conservation structures, provide emergency water during drought and rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters

Helps non-industrial private forest landowners restore forest health damaged by natural disasters

For livestock, honey bees or farm-raised fish losses due to certain weather conditions, including wildfires, and not covered by other disaster relief programs

Offers technical and financial assistance to relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by natural disasters that impair a watershed

Provides assistance for immediate and long-term needs to help recover from natural disasters, including drought and wildfire, and to help conserve water

Provides compensation to livestock producers who have experienced pasture or forage loss due to drought or who have federally managed grazing leases they are unable to graze because of wildfire

Provides reimbursement for livestock losses up to 75 percent of the market value of animals lost to adverse weather conditions

Provides assistance to producers of non-insurable crops

STATE RESOURCES

State agencies may have resources or be able to help identify resources for those facing wildfire and drought. Contact state agencies in your state to learn about specific programs.

LOCAL RESOURCES

Many communities have resources tailored to local needs, from feeding displaced livestock to where to find masks for agricultural workers. The list below is only a start to identifying available wildfire recovery assistance or to explore opportunities to provide resources for others.

  • University Extension Offices
  • Local and State Farm Bureau Chapters
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Local farm and ranch supply stores or local feed stores

OTHER FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers assistance to those who have been affected by natural disasters during and immediately after a disaster occurs.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans to small businesses affected by natural disasters. Funds may be used to repair or replace items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.

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

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

Fire and Drought News

Snow cover critical for revegetation after fires

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

New Mexico Lawmakers Pressed to Make Water a Priority

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

Read Story

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

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

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

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

Read Story

Agri-Pulse poll: Climate change concerns many farmers, but carbon payments far too low

A majority of U.S. farmers are at least somewhat concerned about climate change, and nearly half are using or considering practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Agri-Pulse survey of U.S. farmers. But getting most farmers to participate in carbon markets will require payments of at least $40 an acre, far more than they currently earn.

Read Story

Why Questioning the Sustainability of Wool Is Misguided

In this piece, we are going to look at one example of the harmful impact of partial and misleading sustainability claims in the global north. It relates to wool; it provides pointers for the sustainability conversation around all farmed fibers; and it concerns the Navajo.

Read Story

Wildfires accelerating tree migration from climate change: study

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

Read Story

Drones help restore forests destroyed by wildfires

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

Read Story

A Water Crisis: Colorado agriculture facing changes as drought continues

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Tribes seek water-management role as Colorado River shrivels

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

Read Story

Grazing in orchards, vineyards mutually beneficial

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

Read Story

Keeping Cattle on the Move and Carbon in the Soil

Ranchers and conservationists, once unlikely allies, are teaming up to preserve grasslands, which act as a carbon dioxide sink that could support climate goals.

Read Story

Drought taking a lasting toll on ranchers and western dairies

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

Read Story

Weather whiplash: California’s historic downpour interrupts historic drought

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

Read Story

USDA Announces Initial Supporters of Sustainable Productivity Growth Coalition

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Indigo Acquires Soil Metrics, Reaffirms Commitment to Carbon Program

Indigo Agriculture, a company leveraging nature and technology to unlock economic and environmental progress in agriculture, today announced a deepened commitment to advancing discovery in soil carbon science, enabled by the acquisition of Soil Metrics — a leading technology for comprehensive soil carbon and greenhouse gas (ghg) assessment in agricultural soils.

Read Story

Marston: This rancher has radical ideas about water

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

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

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

Read Story

Dollars in the dirt: Big Ag pays farmers for control of their soil-bound carbon

The biggest global agriculture companies are competing on a new front: enticing farmers to join programs that keep atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide in the soil.

Read Story

Study: Warming climate means shortages on Pecos River

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

Read Story

UC Davis to lead groundwater & irrigation study

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Wildfire smoke disrupts bird migration in the West

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

Read Story

Great Salt Lake’s demise spurs water emergency for Utah

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Western Lawmakers Unveil Alternative to 30×30 Initiative

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

Read Story

Wildfire resilience, America the Beautiful top Forest Service priorities

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Are your cattle heat-tolerant?

Heat stress negatively affects animals’ performance, including their milk production, growth rate, and fertility. Producers often select their breeding livestock for productivity gains. As many Western regions experience hotter and longer heat waves, both genetic and behavioral traits of heat tolerance increasingly are becoming culling criteria.

Read Story

US says ivory-billed woodpecker, 22 other species extinct

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to declare the ivory-billed woodpecker — and 22 others — gone for good, tripling the number of species delisted due to extinction. Government scientists warn climate change, on top of other pressures, could make such disappearances more common as a warming planet adds to the dangers facing imperiled plants and wildlife.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Could LA water recycling be a miracle for parched West?

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

As water conservation falls short, California plans for the worst

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

Read Story

Saving the Great Plains with prescribed fire, mixed grazing

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Regan eyes November for next step in WOTUS process

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

Read Story

Digital data drives better soil management

When we think about limited resources in agriculture, water is normally the first that springs to mind. The bad news is that just like water, soil is a finite resource that is fast deteriorating as a result of human activity. The good news: Research is providing farmers, landowners and policymakers with new tools to turn the tide.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

US Forest Service hits brakes on Arizona restoration project

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

Read Story

From Hotchkiss To Hayden — A Road Trip Down The Western Slope

How are farmers, ranchers and restaurateurs navigating climate change and the pandemic? CPR reporter Stina Sieg and Harrison Topp, fruit grower and membership director for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, took a road trip down the Western Slope to find out.

Read Story

3 strategies to reduce cow herds’ environmental hoofprints

Reducing your cow herd’s environmental “hoofprints” in the pasture can often lead to money savings and increased efficiencies for the producer.

This was the key takeaway from beef sustainability research headed up by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and presented during a session at the 2021 Cattlemen’s College Aug. 9-10, in Nashville, Tenn. Overall, U.S. cattle producers are doing a better job at managing their cattle herds not only for economic sustainability, but also environmental sustainability.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Farmers restore native grasslands as groundwater disappears

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

Read Story

Wildfires Cause More Than 33,000 Deaths Globally Each Year

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

Read Story

Prized trout streams shrink as heat, drought grip US West

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Can ‘active forest management’ really reduce wildfire risk?

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

Read Story

Bill reintroduced to expedite forest projects

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Trump waters rule vacated by federal judge

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

Read Story

‘It’s not the cow, it’s the how’: why a long-time vegetarian became beef’s biggest champion

Nicolette Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer who became a cattle rancher, and didn’t eat meat for 33 years. For both the ecosystem and human health, she argues, it’s how animals are farmed that matters.

Read Story

Climate change comes for a favorite summer pastime: fishing

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

Read Story

Wildfire smoke is transforming clouds, making rainfall less likely

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

‘The Worst Thing I Can Ever Remember’: How Drought Is Crushing Ranchers

A lack of snow last winter and almost no spring rain have created the driest conditions in generations. Ranchers are being forced to sell off portions of herds they have built up for years, often at fire-sale prices, to stay in business.

Read Story

Upper Rio Grande basin: The threats ahead

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Study: Cattle grazing helps contain wildfires

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

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

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

Read Story

Trout in trouble

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

Read Story

Study proposes new ways to estimate climate change impacts on agriculture

Most scientists agree climate change has a profound impact on U.S. agricultural production. But estimates vary widely, making it hard to develop mitigation strategies. Two agricultural economists at the University of Illinois take a closer look at how choice of statistical methodology influences climate study results. They also propose a more accurate and place-specific approach to data analysis.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Researchers Explore Climate, Human and Wildlife Interactions on Rangeland in Idaho, Oregon

Study to examine the interconnectedness of the inhabitants of western rangelands, including humans, plants and animals, in the face of a changing climate and other stressors.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

NCBA announces Climate Neutrality Goal for Cattle Industry by 2040

On Thursday, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association announced a plan to address beef sustainability and solidify their commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability for the U.S. Cattle Industry.

Read Story

Water interests collide – Concern about irrigated land being subdivided

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

Read Story

Research shows that regenerative farming can deliver environmental benefits while maintaining productivity

A newly published study by Colorado State University and partners found that Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing – which involves grazing small areas with a high density of livestock for a short period of time, followed by long rest periods – can help capture carbon and boost nitrogen soil retention.

Read Story

First water cuts in US West supply to hammer Arizona farmers

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

Read Story

East Yellowstone Collaborative Working Group Recieves a 2021 Catalyst Fund Grant

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

Read Story

Grazing Cattle Can Reduce Agriculture’s Carbon Footprint

Ruminant animals like cattle contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and grasslands, and proper grazing management can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and overall footprint, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist, Richard Teague.

Read Story

Soil and its promise as a climate solution: A primer

Is harnessing the storage power of soils the global carbon solution we have been searching for? Understanding soil-formation and function is a first step to finding out.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Carbon credit market is a Wild West, for now

Companies like Land O’ Lakes have created carbon trading programs, which can benefit farmers who’ve yet to get started on conservation practices. But farmers who’ve practiced conservation for years are feeling like the time isn’t right to jump in. 

Read Story

IPCC: Climate change requires fast action; ag practices could help long-term

Time is growing short to address global climate change, whose impacts are being seen in more extreme weather events such as drought and heavier precipitation, and changes to agricultural practices could take decades to have an impact on carbon emissions, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Researchers study wildfire’s impacts a year later

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

Read Story

Push for conservation funding raises farm bill questions

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

Read Story

Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution

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

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

Read Story

A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change

A centuries-old concept in soil science has recently been thrown out. Yet it remains a key ingredient in everything from climate models to advanced carbon-capture projects.

Read Story

Unprecedented action: State shuts down big hydroelectric plant as Lake Oroville drops to historic lows

One of California’s biggest hydroelectric plants was taken offline Thursday after water levels at the Lake Oroville reservoir plummeted to historic lows, which authorities blamed on drought caused by climate change.

Read Story

What is the future of WOTUS?

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

Read Story

Western drought has lasted longer than the Dust Bowl

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

Read Story

4 questions farmers are asking about carbon markets

As producers wade through the ever-deepening amount of carbon information available in the marketplace, they are asking for answers to key questions including which program makes sense for their operation, what’s the value in participating, is it all just hype and how can one avoid being taken advantage of.

Read Story

Some drought-imposed fishing limits lifted on Colorado River

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

Read Story

Size of Oregon wildfire underscores vastness of the US West

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Bipartisan lawmakers call for united effort on wildfires

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Drought is forcing tough decisions for West’s ranchers

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

Read Story

How Animal Agriculture Is Being Impacted By Utah’s Drought

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

Read Story

New Mexico lawmakers warned about shrinking water supplies

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Klamath Basin drought: fire and drought

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Innovative ‘Soil for Water’ regenerative agriculture project expands to Montana

Building on a successful peer-to-peer network of Texas ranchers who are implementing innovative grazing techniques to improve soil health and increase profitability, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is scaling up its Soil for Water project to support livestock producers and farmers across seven southern states and Montana.

Read Story

Reservoirs are drying up as consequences of the Western drought worsen

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Tribe becomes key water player with drought aid to Arizona

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

Read Story

It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water?

A California farmer decides it makes better business sense to sell his water than to grow rice. An almond farmer considers uprooting his trees to put up solar panels. Drought is transforming the state, with broad consequences for the food supply.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Bipartisan agriculture climate bill clears Senate

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Changes in farming practices could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2036

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory participated in a study that shows innovation in technologies and agricultural practices could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from grain production by up to 70 percent within the next 15 years.

Read Story

New study shows how loss of drought-sensitive species could affect grasslands

A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how the health of a California grassland might be affected in a future with less biodiversity and a changing climate, particularly in the case of more frequent droughts.

Read Story

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

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

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

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

Read Story

Arizona governor signs $100M wildfire funding plan

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

Read Story

Another side of the controversy over stream access

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

NAU Researchers Find Forest Treatments Have Long-lasting Effects

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

Few in Klamath Basin want 2001-style confrontation

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

Audubon Report Shows That Important Bird Habitats are Key Natural Solutions to Climate Change

A new report from the National Audubon Society shows that habitats that are important for birds now and in the future are also critical to reducing greenhouse emissions given their ability to naturally store and sequester carbon. This means that maintaining and restoring these landscapes through incentives for management and conservation are important strategies in our collective challenge to stabilize climate change.

Read Story

Amid Historic Drought, a New Water War in the West

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

Read Story

Alta Live: Ranchers Fighting Climate Change

Kent Reeves is part of a movement to fight climate change by repairing California’s native grasslands, provided he can rope his fellow ranchers and their cattle into the plan. Reeves and Alta Journal contributor Meredith Lawrence join Alta Live for a look at the cowboys trying to sustain the state. This live event will be held on Wednesday, June 23, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Read Story

Grim western fire season starts much drier than record 2020

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

Read Story

Wildfires threaten river networks in the western U.S.

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

Read Story

Climate change could give biochar a boost with farmers

(Subscription) Will 2021 be the year that biochar finally catches fire? Proponents of the charcoal-like material that’s made from trees and other plants say they hope so, as research continues to point to its ability to enrich the soil while storing large amounts of carbon.

Read Story

Communicating about climate requires more than facts

Research can inform people to take appropriate action to solve problems, but effectively communicating is key.

Faith Kearns, who works on emotional and contentious water-related issues such as climate change, drought and wildfire, has learned firsthand that the way scientists communicate can deeply affect people and communities.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Study shows grasslands are more reliable carbon sinks than forests

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

Biden’s 30×30 plan report released

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Klamath Basin water allocation cut to zero

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

EPA relaunches website tracking climate change indicators

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

Read Story

Agency plans ‘regional roundtables’ for WOTUS review

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

Read Story

California expands drought emergency to large swath of state

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

Read Story

Panel to probe farm conservation’s role in climate change

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

Read Story

Colorado restaurants are funding farming and ranching projects that suck carbon from the atmosphere

Colorado restaurants are funding regenerative agriculture projects that suck carbon from the atmosphere through Restore Colorado. Some see regenerative agriculture as a key way to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air worsening climate change.

Read Story

Ag, conservation alliance issues recommendations for USDA carbon bank

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Biden’s conservation plan puts WOTUS in the crosshairs

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

A narrow path for Biden’s ambitious land conservation plan

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Carbon Markets Stand to Reward ‘No-Till’ Farmers. But Most Are Still Tilling the Soil.

As the adoption of no-till practices has spread widely across parts of the U.S. over the past few decades, the approach has been touted as an important means of storing carbon in soil—and a key solution to solving the climate crisis.

But despite its recent growth in popularity, “no-till” has no single, agreed-upon meaning. In fact, the phrase is often a misnomer. Most no-till farmers have not cut out tillage altogether and do not engage in other beneficial practices such as planting cover crops. As a result, these “seldom-till” farmers aren’t able to permanently store carbon in their soil.

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

New Farmers Union Climate Panel Gives Diverse Group of Farmers and Ranchers a Seat at the Table

A panel organized by the National Farmers Union hopes to address climate change while reflecting the diversity of American farmers and ranchers.

“The diversity is a really big strength of the panel,” Fullmer tells Food Tank. “That is the goal of the panel: to make sure that the diversity of producers are at the table collaborating together and making sure that the proposals and the bills and the solutions actually being put forward make sense on the ground.”

Read Story

New Mexico seeing longest drought it has in years

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

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

Photos reveal how Lake Oroville is at 42 percent of its capacity while about 85% of California suffers ‘exceptional’ drought and Lake Mead may face a federal shortage.

Read Story

Study: Weather, drought fueled Oregon’s September wildfires

An unprecedented combination of strong easterly winds and low humidity coupled with prolonged drought conditions drove the spread of catastrophic wildfires in Oregon last September, a new study has found.

Read Story

‘Everyone loses’: The government is rationing water at the California-Oregon border

Along the Oregon-California border, the Klamath River Basin is a crucial water source for Indigenous tribes, endangered species, and farmers. This year, though, there is simply not enough to go around.

Read Story

Working group formed to address drought in West

The Biden-Harris Administration recently announced the formation of an interagency working group to address worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers, tribes, and communities impacted by ongoing water shortages. The working group will be co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to build upon existing resources to help coordinate across the federal government.

Read Story

‘Forest gardens’ show how Native land stewardship can outdo nature

Patches of forest cleared and tended by Indigenous communities but lost to time still show more food bounty for humans and animals than surrounding forests.

Read Story

Drought causing juniper deaths in central, northern Arizona

U.S. Forest Service officials report significant die-off of juniper trees due to drought conditions affecting the evergreens across large areas of central and northern Arizona.

Read Story

California’s wildfire season has lengthened, and its peak is now earlier in the year

California’s wildfire problem, fueled by a concurrence of climate change and a heightened risk of human-caused ignitions in once uninhabited areas, has been getting worse with each passing year of the 21st century.

Read Story

Regenerative ag, carbon sequestration in soils and 30×30 will all depend on advancing conservation on rented land

40% of US farmland is rented or leased, the majority from ’non-operator landowners’ — we only need do the math to understand the importance of these lands to stewardship.

Read Story

Study: Shade from solar panels boosts summer flowers

A new study found that shade provided by solar panels increased the abundance of flowers under the panels and delayed the timing of their bloom, both findings that could aid the agricultural community.

The study, believed to be the first that looked at the impact of solar panels on flowering plants and insects, has important implications for solar developers who manage the land under solar panels, as well as agriculture and pollinator health advocates who are seeking land for pollinator habitat restoration.

Read Story

USDA Expands and Renews Conservation Reserve Program in Effort to Boost Enrollment and Address Climate Change

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA will open enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture, including $330 million in 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement today at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change.

Read Story

Regan pledges not to return to Obama-era WOTUS definition

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan told Congress Wednesday he does not intend to go back to the Obama administration’s definition of Waters of the U.S.

Read Story

Report gives USDA options for operating carbon bank

A new report from the AGree coalition recommends alternatives for the Agriculture Department to consider in setting up a carbon bank that could be used to develop private credit markets and to assist producers who may be left out of them.

Read Story

National Audubon Society Announces Largest Market-Based Regenerative Grasslands Partnership in the U.S.

The National Audubon Society today announced the largest market-based regenerative grasslands partnership in the U.S. with Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats. The commitment will impact one million acres of certified organic U.S. grasslands and create individual habitat management plans with every family rancher in the Panorama Organic network through Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative.

Read Story

USDA Seeks Comments on Food System Supply Chains in Response to President Biden’s Executive Order to Support Resilient, Diverse, Secure Supply Chains

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a Department-wide effort to improve and reimagine the supply chains for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products.

The comments received will help USDA assess the critical factors, risks, and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains and ensure U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and nutrition security for all Americans. 

Read Story

One senator’s idea to save forests and help the climate — and create jobs

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet introduces legislation that would put billions into restoring and maintaining forests, watersheds and rangelands in the West.

More than 10.2 million acres of the United States burned last year from wildfires, killing 46 people and causing $16.6 billion in damages. Senator Michael Bennet said the country needs to be more proactive with fire prevention by putting people to work maintaining forests.

Read Story

Growing Climate Solutions Act reintroduced

The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices, was reintroduced today. The bill has broad, bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations.

Read Story

Drought Continues To Ravage Western U.S.

Extreme drought now encompasses almost 10% of the country. In Texas, only 8% of the state is considered drought-free. The entirety of North Dakota is in a drought state while 78% of its southern neighbor is considered in drought, with conditions rated from moderate (D1) to extreme drought (D3). In fact, pretty much all of the western half of the United States is parched to say the least.

Read Story

People have shaped Earth’s ecology for at least 12,000 years, mostly sustainably

New research shows that land use by human societies has reshaped ecology across most of Earth’s land for at least 12,000 years. Researchers assessed biodiversity in relation to global land use history, revealing that the appropriation, colonization, and intensified use of lands previously managed sustainably is the main cause of the current biodiversity crisis.

Read Story

US West prepares for possible 1st water shortage declaration

The man-made lakes that store water supplying millions of people in the U.S. West and Mexico are projected to shrink to historic lows in the coming months, dropping to levels that could trigger the federal government’s first-ever official shortage declaration and prompt cuts in Arizona and Nevada.

Read Story

Concern grows for widespread drought this summer

Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, said he is very concerned about widespread drought in the U.S. this summer. He said parts of California and much of the southwest including Colorado, Utah, Arizona and most of Texas are exceptionally dry.

Read Story

Three states, one river and too many straws

As drought deepens across the West, California’s decision to limit State Water Project (SWP) deliveries to 5% forced Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) to increase pumping from the Colorado River near Lake Havasu. The good news: there’s water behind Hoover Dam for them to use. The bad news: As MWD draws on what they call “intentionally created surplus” under a previous agreement, Lake Mead will fall below the threshold for Tier 1 restrictions, leading to a curtailment of water deliveries to Arizona farmers.

Read Story

US water managers warn of dismal year along the Rio Grande

It has been 30 years or so since residents in New Mexico’s largest city last saw their stretch of the Rio Grande go dry. There’s a possibility it could happen again this summer. Federal water managers released their annual operating plan for the Rio Grande on Thursday, and it doesn’t look good.

Read Story

USDA Allocates Up to $10 Million to Partner with California and Oregon to Assist Producers Impacted by Drought in Klamath River Basin

The USDA today announced the availability of up to $10 million in assistance from their Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus to assist agricultural producers impacted by the worsening drought conditions in the Klamath River Basin of California and Oregon.

Read Story

New Mexico issues 10-year plan for boosting forest health

Restoring forests, using fire as a management tool and getting more buy-in from private landowners are among the strategies outlined in New Mexico’s latest forest action plan.

“This collaboration is essential in moving forward with a solid foundation to address both human-caused and natural threats to our lands in a continually changing climate,” New Mexico Forester Laura McCarthy said in a statement.

Read Story

Wildfires Can Impact Grasslands

What are the impacts of fire on the plant community and forage production, soil erosion and animal health? North Dakota State University provides some answers.

“Let’s start with the plant community,” says Kevin Sedivec, North Dakota State University Extension rangeland management specialist and director of NDSU’s Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. “Because the wildfires to date have been classified as dormant-season fires (prior to the growing season), there should be no impact on the plant community in terms of species change on rangelands, plant density on grass hay stands or forage production of new growth.”

Read Story

Carbon Contract Reality: Why Conservation-Minded Farmers May Not Qualify for Private Carbon Programs

The chase to capture carbon continues. It’s a possible new source of income for farmers and ranchers, but it’s also bringing a set of challenges and questions. The answer could be both public and private programs.

Read Story

Grazing and Climate Change: the Influence of Livestock on Soil Carbon Storage

Rangelands make up a large proportion of the Earth’s surface, and the soils hold a significant amount of sequestered carbon (Schuman G.E et al. 2001). Rangelands are estimated to contain more than one-third of the world’s above and below ground carbon reserves (Ingram L.J. et al. 2008).

Therefore, there is interest in determining the potential for soil carbon sequestration in rangeland soils, and whether livestock grazing helps or hinders this sequestration (McSherry, M., and Mark Richie. 2013).

Read Story

The water fight over the shrinking Colorado River

Scientists have been predicting for years that the Colorado River would continue to deplete due to global warming and increased water demands, but according to new studies it’s looking worse than they thought.

Read Story

New frameworks guide conservation action on working rangelands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is unveiling new action-based frameworks to increase conservation work to address threats facing America’s working rangelands. These frameworks are designed to benefit both agriculture and wildlife in sagebrush and grassland landscapes of the western United States.

Read Story

Better management can reduce beef production emissions

A comprehensive assessment of 12 different strategies for reducing beef production emissions worldwide found that industry can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 50% in certain regions, with the most potential in the United States and Brazil.

Read Story

More water spending sought for West in infrastructure bill

As drought worsens in the West, a coalition of more than 200 farm and water organizations from 15 states that has been pushing to fix the region’s crumbling canals and reservoirs is complaining that President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure proposal doesn’t provide enough funding for above- or below-ground storage.

Read Story

Scientists ID second gene tied to heat tolerance

Researchers at UC Riverside are making progress in their understanding of how plants respond to heat, a step that could eventually lead to crops that can withstand higher temperatures as the climate continues changing.

Read Story

Droughts Longer, Rainfall More Erratic Over the Last Five Decades in Most of the West

Dry periods between rainstorms have become longer and annual rainfall has become more erratic across most of the western United States during the past 50 years, according to a study published by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Arizona.

Read Story

Warming climate clips farming gains

(Subscription) Climate change and plant science are pulling agriculture in opposite directions, and in some ways, the damage from the warming climate may be winning, a new study suggests.

Read Story

Increased winter snowmelt threatens western water resources

More snow is melting during winter across the West, a concerning trend that could impact everything from ski conditions to fire danger and agriculture, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder analysis of 40 years of data.

Read Story

Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at ‘water banking’

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials.

Read Story

Commissioners set to oppose controversial federal ’30X30′ program

The resolution says, in part, that 30 by 30 “would set (private property) aside through conservation, preventing the productive use of these lands and their resources.”

Not so much, according to one of Colorado’s leading land conservationists. Erik Glenn, executive director of Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, told the Journal-Advocate that, while he has concerns about Section 216, there is a lot of misinformation being put out about what it would do.

“We are working to try to influence the administration to adopt a set of guiding principles that honors private property, rural communities, and production agriculture,” Glenn said. “Other western-focused and agriculture-focused organizations like Western Landowners Alliance and the American Farmland Trust are working on similar statements.”

Read Story

Western rivers face pinch as another dry year takes shape

As several states in the American West face intense drought, it’s shaping up to be a very difficult year for New Mexico farmers because of limited irrigation supplies, with some saying conditions haven’t been this dire since the 1950s.

Read Story

Soil moisture drives year-to-year change in land carbon uptake

There has been significant debate over what exactly causes interannual variability in land carbon uptake. A new study published in Nature resolves this debate, showing that soil moisture is indeed in the driver’s seat in terms of how much carbon dioxide is taken up by land ecosystems. The study also concludes that the amount of moisture in the soil affects temperatures and humidity near the surface, which in turn affect plants’ ability to fix carbon.

Read Story

Advocates sue to protect monarchs, Northern spotted owls

Wildlife advocates recently sued federal officials in a bid for greater protections for monarch butterflies, northern spotted owls and eight other species. The lawsuit comes after federal officials said the species named in the lawsuit need protections, but that other imperiled plants and animals have higher priority.

Read Story

New Mexico tribes sue US over federal clean water rule

Two Indigenous communities in New Mexico are suing the U.S. EPA over a revised federal rule that narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the half-century-old Clean Water Act, saying the federal government is violating its trust responsibility to Native American tribes.

Read Story

Dry soils plague Colorado River Basin, absorbing runoff needed downstream

When it comes to water in the West, a lot of it is visible. But another important factor is much harder to see. Beneath the surface, the amount of moisture held in the ground can play a big role in how much water makes it down to rivers and reservoirs – and eventually into the pipes that feed homes and businesses.

Read Story

Carbon-negative crops may mean water shortages for 4.5 billion people

Billions more people could have difficulty accessing water if the world opts for a massive expansion in growing energy crops to fight climate change, research has found. Harvesting energy crops and capturing the carbon released when they are burned is seen as central to fighting climate change – but could leave 4.5 billion people facing water shortages.

Read Story

Forest fires leave behind charcoal—and it might be toxic for years

If you stand in the remains of a forest fire in a drizzle, even years after the burn, you can smell woodsmoke rising from the downed logs and charred stumps. The blackened remains might be hiding other things, too.

According to research published Friday in Nature Communications, Earth and Environment, that charred wood contains compounds that have recently been recognized to pose a serious health risk to humans. The environmental implications of those findings are unclear, since wildfires are key to so many ecosystems. But they could be important for understanding the environmental and health consequences of more frequent, intense fires on a warming planet.

Read Story

Megadrought: New Mexico farms face uncertain future

Historic heavy usage of Rio Grande water has left New Mexico in a particularly difficult position ahead of the impending drought. Right now, a New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission hydrogeologist says, the state is unable to store any more water from the river due to restrictions under the Rio Grande Compact, and owes a debt of 100,000 acre feet downstream to Texas. This piece questions whether farming can continue in much of the state in the future.

Read Story

Drought takes hold in West after second dry winter

Dry conditions in the Southwest largely associated with La Nina have intensified what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling the most significant U.S. spring drought since 2013, affecting an estimated 74 million people.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook map shows a giant swath of brown – meaning “drought persists” – extending from the Pacific Coast to parts of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest after a second straight drier-than-normal winter in the region.

Read Story

Biden mulls giving farmers billions to fight climate change. Even farmers are unsure about the plan.

The Biden administration’s ambitious plan to create a multibillion-dollar bank to help pay farmers to capture carbon from the atmosphere is running into surprising skepticism, challenging Agriculture Department officials to persuade the industry to get behind the massive climate proposal.

Read Story

Simple hand-built structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Building simple structures with sticks and stones — and inviting in dam-building beavers — can keep water where it’s needed to fight drought and wildfires. Backed by science, these beaver dam analogs can help set a new course for many ailing streams in the American West.

Read Story

Can cloud seeding help the West’s drought?

With three-quarters of the West gripped by a seemingly ceaseless drought, several states are increasingly embracing a drastic intervention – the modification of the weather to spur more rainfall.

The latest reports from the US Drought Monitor have provided sobering reading, with 40% of the U.S. west of the continental divide classed as being in “exceptional drought,” the most severe of four levels of drought. This is down only marginally from 47% in January, a record in the monitor’s 20-year history, and barring the arrival of a barrage of late winter storms will almost guarantee a severely parched year for Western states.

Read Story

Soils or plants will absorb more CO2 as carbon levels rise—but not both

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fuels plant growth. As carbon levels rise, it’s appealing to think of supercharged plant growth and massive tree-planting campaigns drawing down the CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning, agriculture and other human activities.

Read Story

USDA official promotes federal purchases of carbon credits

The U.S. government should be prepared to support prices farmers receive for carbon credits but avoid setting up a federally run carbon market that would compete with nascent private markets, a senior Agriculture Department official said Tuesday.

Read Story

Vilsack: US carbon market needs a focus on farmers

A priority for the USDA in the coming years will be judging the feasibility of setting up, executing and paying for a federal carbon bank to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reward them for their actions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

Read Story

How Regenerative Ranching is Revitalizing Rangelands

Duke Phillips, a third generation rancher and the CEO & Founder of Ranchlands, has spent his life on working lands. When people learn this, they generally have one of two notions—a romantic and glamorized one where he spends his days surveying the landscape while chewing on a piece of grass or that he works in an extractive industry that takes from the land and is anti-ecological.  Both are false. Phillips aims for his ranching business to regenerate ecosystems, improve the quality of life for people living near and working on ranches, and to help the public better understand the American ranching legacy.

During Regenerative Travel’s webinar How Regenerative Ranching is Revitalizing Rangelands, the panelists, including Western Landowners Alliance’s Executive Directer Lesli Allison, aimed to demystify ranching, and to share how this tradition can help to conserve our most biodiverse landscapes, reverse climate change, and deepen a connection between people, animals, and land. 

Read Story

Drought is the U.S. west’s next big climate disaster

Water scarcity is baking cropland and ramping up wildfire risk from California to Texas. Much of the U.S. West is facing the driest spring in seven years, setting up a climate disaster that could strangle agriculture, fuel deadly wildfires and even hurt power production.

Read Story

Universities prepare West for another big wildfire season

The West Coast’s land-grant universities are holding webinars, conducting community meetings and publishing booklets to urge urban and rural residents to start preparing now for what could be another devastating wildfire season. Fire experts say this year’s wet, warm winter could contribute to yet another round of destruction this summer and fall.

Read Story

America’s West Faces A Megadrought. What’s The Solution?

The western U.S. is no stranger to drought. But this isn’t any dry spell. More than 70% of the West is exceptionally parched. Could it be a permanent change?

Read Story

Scientists claim feeding cows seaweed could slash their methane emissions by a staggering 82 percent

Agriculture makes up about 10 percent of emissions in the U.S., with about half of that portion coming from cattle that belch and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Researchers suggest in a recent study that feeding cattle just a tiny bit of seaweed each day could help the agriculture industry significantly cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

Read Story

Arizona launches $24 million forest thinning effort

Staring down the barrel of a dangerous fire season, the Arizona Legislature approved a $24 million boost in state funding to protect forested communities through thinning projects.

Read Story

Bird Friendliness Index Shows Audubon Conservation Ranching is Bringing Grassland Birds Back

Populations show a jump of more than a third in some areas. The National Audubon Society created the Conservation Ranching Initiative (ACR) in order to support ranchers while protecting and renewing grassland habitats and increasing populations of grassland birds. Audubon range ecologists partner with ranchers to develop habitat management plans customized to make their land more bird-friendly through practices including rotational grazing and minimizing the use of chemicals.

Audubon’s science team has developed a Bird-Friendliness Index to quantify ACR’s impact on vulnerable grassland and aridland birds. It measures the abundance, diversity, and resilience of the bird community on ACR-certified ranchland, and compares them to conventionally managed lands.

Read Story

CAL Fire announces availability of funds for fire prevention projects

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced the availability of up to $317 million for Forest Health, Fire Prevention, Forest Legacy and Forest Health Research grant projects. CAL FIRE is soliciting applications for projects that prevent catastrophic wildfires, protect communities, and restore forests to healthy, functioning ecosystems while also sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read Story

Wildfires will keep getting worse — even in “best case” climate scenarios

Massive wildfires have shattered records across the world in recent years, including in the western United States, where deadly blazes forced mass evacuations in 2020 and filled the sky across entire regions with smoke. Globally, wildfires are becoming more frequent, destructive and burning more land — and this trend is set to continue.

Read Story

Climate Change Lays Waste to Butterflies Across American West

A new study in the journal Science documents declines across hundreds of species over recent decades, and finds years featuring warmer, drier autumns are particularly deadly.

Read Story

USDA invests $285M to improve national forest and grassland infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $285 million to help the Forest Service address critical deferred maintenance and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure on national forests and grasslands.

This $285 million investment is made possible by the newly created National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, established in 2020 by the Great American Outdoors Act. These funds will allow the Forest Service to implement more than 500 infrastructure improvement projects essential to the continued use and enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.

Read Story

Human alteration of global surface water storage variability

Knowing the extent of human influence on the global hydrological cycle is essential for understanding the sustainability of freshwater resources on Earth. However, a lack of water level observations for the world’s ponds, lakes, and reservoirs has limited the quantification of human-managed (reservoir) changes in surface water storage compared to its natural variability.

As economic development, population growth, and climate change continue to pressure global water resources, this recent study, published in Nature, aims to provide a baseline for understanding human-managed surface water storage.

Read Story

Burning Idaho to save it: Why one solution to our raging wildfires can’t gain traction

A growing number of fire scientists and land managers argue that “prescribed fire” used in conjunction with mechanized thinning of trees, limbs and brush, is one of the most effective tools available to tame the West’s worsening wildfire crisis. Yet there’s also widespread agreement that the West doesn’t make nearly enough use of prescribed fire.

Read Story

Fiercer, more frequent fires may reduce carbon capture by forests

More fierce and frequent fires are reducing forest density and tree size and may damage forests’ ability to capture carbon in the future, according to a global study.

Although forest fires are naturally occurring phenomena and natural forests regenerate, global heating and human activity have caused the frequency and intensity of fires to rise. Wildfires burn 5% of the planet’s surface every year, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere equivalent to a fifth of our annual fossil fuel emissions.

Read Story

Opinion: Mr. Secretary, start with America’s rural family forest owners to help tackle climate change

Family forest owners represent 1 in 4 rural Americans. Already, their forests provide vital benefits in addition to carbon sequestration and storage, including clean water infrastructure, habitat for our wildlife and the wood supply that goes towards our homes and everyday products.

Read Story

Climate impacts drive east-west divide in forest seed production

Younger, smaller trees that comprise much of North America’s eastern forests have increased their seed production under climate change, but older, larger trees that dominate forests in much of the West have been less responsive.

Read Story

California’s plan to save its 1,000-year-old redwoods from wildfires

Ancient giant redwoods are among the charred survivors in Big Basin Redwoods State Park after a wildfire last year. Now rangers and conservationists are developing plans to better protect them out of fear that the world’s tallest trees may not survive future blazes that are almost certain to come.

Read Story

Colorado River study means it’s time to cut water use now, outside experts say

A new academic study on the Colorado River’s future warns that the river’s Upper and Lower basin states must sustain severe cuts in river water use to keep its reservoir system from collapsing due to lack of water.

Read Story

Same force behind Texas deep freeze could drive prolonged heat waves

The jury is still out on whether climate change is playing a role in the brutal cold, snow, and ice that have wreaked havoc across Texas this week. But the same climate connection scientists are debating—Arctic warming causing the jet stream to meander further south—might also cause the southern United States to experience more persistent heat waves in the future.

Read Story

Climate change and fire suppression

The unprecedented and deadly blazes that engulfed the American West in 2020 attest to the increasing number, size and severity of wildfires in the region. And while scientists predict the climate crisis will exacerbate this situation, there’s still much discussion around its contributing factors.

Read Story

A different kind of land management: let the cows stomp

Regenerative grazing can store more carbon in soils in the form of roots and other plant tissues. But how much can it really help the fight against climate change?

Read Story

Are New York billionaires different than Colorado’s? Work group eyes new tools to stop water profiteering

Imposing hefty taxes on speculative water sales, requiring that water rights purchased by investors be held for several years before they can be resold, and requiring special state approval of such sales are three ideas that might help Colorado protect its water resources from speculators.

Read Story

Could Biden use private land to reach 30×30 goals?

The idea isn’t simply to buy up private property or establish traditional easements. Instead, groups like the Western Landowners Alliance, which represents 15 million acres across the western United States and Canada,
see an opportunity to rethink what conservation means.

“Conservation as usual isn’t working, and this is an opportunity to actually do something different and change that trajectory, but it’s going to involve economics and people who live and work on the land,” Lesli Allison, the group’s executive director, told E&E News.

Read Story

Forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk gives opportunity to new startups

The country’s overgrown forests need to be aggressively thinned to reduce wildfire risk. That creates massive piles of worthless brush and branches, but some businesses see a new market for them.

Read Story

EPA settlement with Fleur de Lis resolves oil spills affecting surface waters in Wyoming

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with Fleur de Lis Energy and Fleur de Lis Operating (Fleur de Lis) in which the companies have agreed to pay $1.9 million for alleged Clean Water Act violations associated with the operation of oil and gas facilities in the state of Wyoming.   

Read Story

With wildfire risk up, New Mexico supports controlled burns

In a bid to reduce wildfire risk, the House has advanced a bill making it easier for residents to burn brush and wood debris on their property. The bill, passed unanimously Thursday, removes severe liability provisions written into territorial law 20 years before New Mexico became a state.

Read Story

After record wildfire season, lawmakers increase focus on Wyoming’s forest health

After the worst fire season in the nation’s history, state leaders are looking to take a more aggressive track to reduce fire risks in state and national forestlands across Wyoming, with solutions ranging from aggressive invasive species management policies to identifying potential ways to increase logging activity on federal lands.

Read Story

While farms and cities make good water partners, they’ll keep their options open

New research shows that coastal cities and farming regions can maximize their supply potential if they team up on water sharing. This offers more water reliability during dry times—and could serve as a linchpin for addressing critical infrastructure issues and creating more flexible water trading policies. But proponents are quick to say it is no silver bullet.

Read Story

Latest report on prescribed burning shows an encouraging, upward trend in its utilization nationwide

Natural forest disturbances change the structure and composition of forests and allow for regeneration. Many forest types need one natural disturbance in particular to regenerate, and that’s fire. Many land managers have increased their use of prescribed fire to actively manage landscapes that are at higher risk of wildfire.

Read Story

Proposed river authority would assert Utah’s claims to the Colorado’s dwindling water

Without public involvement or notice, Utah legislative leaders unveiled plans for a new $9 million state agency, the Colorado River Authority of Utah, to advance Utah’s claims to the Colorado River in hopes of wrangling more of the river’s diminishing flows, potentially at the expense of six neighboring states that also tap the river.

Read Story

Management effects outweigh plant diversity on restored animal communities

According to a new study, land management practices are better at increasing animal biodiversity and creating more resilient ecosystems. Prescribed fires and reintroducing bison to natural habitats attract more animal species than other restoration methods like increasing plant biodiversity.

Read Story

They Want to Start Paying Mother Nature for All Her Hard Work

The global system is built on buying and selling, but often, no one pays for the most basic goods and services that sustain life — water to drink, soil to grow food, clean air to breathe, rain forests that regulate the climate.

Continuing to ignore the value of nature in our global economy threatens humanity itself, according to an independent report on biodiversity and economics, commissioned by the British government and issued Tuesday. The study, led by Partha Dasgupta, a Cambridge University economist, is the first comprehensive review of its kind.

Read Story

Colorado River getting saltier sparks calls for federal help

Water suppliers along the drought-stricken Colorado River hope to tackle another tricky issue after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation installs a new leader: salty water.

Read Story

Forests with diverse tree sizes and small clearings hinder wildland fire growth

A new 3-D analysis shows that wildland fires flare up in forests populated by similar-sized trees or checkerboarded by large clearings and slow down where trees are more varied. The research can help fire managers better understand the physics and dynamics of fire to improve fire-behavior forecasts.

Read Story

Biden executive order seeks to involve ag in battling climate change

Addressing climate change is the focus of one of the Biden administration’s latest executive orders, which pauses new oil and gas leasing on public lands or offshore waters, seeks to more than double the amount of land conserved in the United States, and looks to involve the agriculture sector in the federal government’s efforts.

Read Story

Western landowners respond to Biden climate and conservation executive actions

The Biden administration’s announcement today of a package of executive actions on climate and conservation includes several elements that the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has insisted are critical to making conservation and climate action successful in the West. While many in the rural West are taking a prudent wait-and-see approach, the administration’s directive on engaging people whose livelihoods are tied directly to stewarding land and water was a step in the right direction. In particular, WLA is heartened by the administration’s emphasis on engagement with farmers and ranchers and the interest in creating good jobs in land stewardship and restoration in rural communities and on working lands. 

Read Story

New U.S. strategy could create massive $10B fund to fight climate disasters

One of the latest Biden administration plans introduces a new framework that will shape U.S. policy to tackle climate change by allocating about $10 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to proactively address natural disasters related to climate change.

Read Story

“We need to act”: Colorado forests primed for megafires without large-scale action, federal managers warn

Federal officials entrusted with managing millions of acres of forest in Colorado and surrounding states say they’re facing accelerated decline driven by climate warming, insect infestation, megafires and surging human incursions. They’ve been struggling for years to restore resilience and ecological balance to western forests but they’re falling further behind.

Read Story

Denver Water concerns rise as drought lingers and reservoir levels dip below norms

As of mid-January, Denver Water’s reservoir storage is down about 4% below normal levels and about 91% of Colorado is currently considered to be in a severe- to exceptional-drought range. Most of Denver Water’s collection system is described as being in an “extreme drought” based on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map of Colorado.

Read Story

San Luis Valley ranchers see dividends in water for fish. Are they on to something?

A winter flow initiative in the San Luis Valley that is giving farmers and fishermen cause for hope and which may offer important clues to making drought-stressed water supplies go farther toward meeting the needs of different water users.

Read Story

Researchers plan to use satellites to improve sustainability, yield

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are joining colleagues to create and use artificial intelligence to help farmers in the Colorado River Basin and Salinas Valley, CA, improve their management of irrigation, fertilization, and pests. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded the University of California, Riverside-led project with a 5-year, $10 million grant.

Read Story

USDA offers new forest management incentive for Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices.

Read Story

Add drought to watchlist for 2021

As if there was not already enough uncertainty facing cattle and beef markets, worsening drought conditions have affected many important cow-calf production areas and could play a major role for the national industry as we move into 2021. The U.S. Drought Monitor in recent months has reported rapidly deteriorating conditions.

Read Story

A river used to run through it: how New Mexico handles a dwindling Rio Grande

A finite amount of water flows through the Rio Grande every year, so when there are shortages, every city along the river is affected. Now in Las Cruces, humans, fish and plants are vying for water in the arid landscape. Due to climate change, hotter and drier seasons are reducing the snowpack that melts to feed the Rio Grande, and rising temperatures are increasing evaporation from the reservoirs.

Read Story

When wildfire burns a high mountain forest, what happens to the snow?

Record-breaking wildfires in 2020 turned huge swaths of Western forests into barren burn scars. Those forests store winter snowpack that millions of people rely on for drinking and irrigation water. But with such large and wide-reaching fires, the science on the short-term and long-term effects to the region’s water supplies isn’t well understood.

Read Story

U.S. Department of Interior seeks to increase broadband access, reduce wildfire hazards across rural communities

On Monday, January 11, the Department of the Interior announced three new actions by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service to aggressively increase broadband internet access in rural communities and reduce wildfire risks.

Read Story

Hope after rangeland fire

Recalling the Murphy Complex Fire thirteen years later, Idaho rancher Kim Brackett shares her story of fear, anger, partnership, and hope for collaborative conservation.

Read Story

USDA announces availability of Quality Loss Assistance; adds drought as qualifying disaster

Today, the FSA announced a signup for the Quality Loss Adjustment Program for eligible producers affected by 2018, 2019 natural disasters. For this signup, FSA added drought as a qualifying disaster event for counties rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having an extreme drought or higher during calendar years 2018 or 2019. The deadline to apply for QLA is Friday, March 5, 2021.

Read Story

Wall Street eyes billions in the Colorado’s water

Investor interest in the river could redefine century-old rules for who controls one of the most valuable economic resources in the United States. Transferring water from agricultural communities to cities, though often contentious, is not a new practice. What is new is for private investors to exert that power.

Read Story

Montana officials release plan aimed at forest health, wildfire risk

State officials last week released the final version of a new forest action plan that prioritizes forest management and restoration efforts on 3.8 million acres across Montana. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation released the completed 2020 revision to the Montana Forest Action Plan last Tuesday.

Read Story

More must be done to protect Colorado River from drought

A set of guidelines for managing the Colorado River helped several states through a dry spell, but it’s not enough to keep key reservoirs in the American West from plummeting amid persistent drought and climate change, according to a U.S. report.

Read Story

First time in years, chinook salmon spawn in Columbia River

For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system. For decades, tribal leaders and scientists have dreamed of bringing the fish back to their native beds. Since 2014, the Columbia River tribes have worked on a plan that examines habitat, fish passage and survival among other things.

Read Story

Is farming with reclaimed water the solution to a drier future?

In drought-prone California, several farms are demonstrating the benefits of growing food with relatively abundant post-treatment water supplies.

Read Story

Restoring wetlands near farms would dramatically reduce water pollution

Previous research has shown that wetlands improve water quality, but how much of an impact are wetlands having on nitrate removal now, and what improvements could wetland restoration deliver in the future? A new study examines the positive effects of wetlands on water quality and the potential for using wetland restoration as a key strategy for improving water quality, particularly in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico regions.

Read Story

Climate change calls for better breeding, conservation and water resilience, says soil scientist

(Subscriber Only) A UC Davis soil scientist says three themes should drive research and policy in sustaining California agriculture under climate change. “We need plant breeding for traits such as heat tolerance, for pollination, for fruit quality, so that crops can produce effectively in their environment,” she said. “This isn’t just an issue of production, it’s also an issue of efficient use of resources.”

Read Story

Study uses remote sensing to monitor groundwater along river corridors in the Southwest

A recent study led by UC Santa Barbara’s Marc Mayes investigates how patterns in tree water loss to the atmosphere, tracked with satellite imagery, relates to groundwater supplies.

Read Story

New conservation bill from Senator Bennet would fund wildfire mitigation and river clean-ups, create 2 million jobs

The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would set up a $60 billion fund to support a range of projects from wildfire mitigation to river clean-ups. The money would be split, $20 billion for state and local governments and $40 billion for federal efforts at the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Read Story

Can organic farming solve the climate crisis?

With regenerative agriculture gaining traction, the organic industry is positioning itself as leading the way on carbon sequestration. The research is promising—but inconclusive.

Read Story

Co-op sparks interest in fire to improve North Dakota grasslands for cattle, wildlife

Fire, along with grazing disturbance, helped maintain the diversity of plant species on the prairie. It suppressed cool season grasses, trees and brush and increased stands of native grasses and forbs. “In the Northern Plains, grasslands were driven by three disturbances — grazing by large ungulates, drought and fire,” said Mark Hayek, North Dakota NRCS state rangeland management specialist.

Read Story

Columbia River conference highlights importance of Indigenous perspective in conservation

community’s health is tied to the health of its land and rivers, scientists, environmentalists and Indigenous people agreed last week at a two-day Columbia River conference. Speakers at the “Lower Columbia River Estuary: One River, Ethics Matter” conference shared the myriad ways that the Columbia River shapes their lives and why it needs to be protected.

Read Story

USDA seeks public input on guidance defining Nonindustrial Private Forest Land eligibility

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public input on Nonindustrial Private Forest Land (NIPF) related to technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS invites input on this technical guidance through January 19, 2021.

Read Story

Clean water, effective manure: Specially designed biochar key to research project on fertilizer

Dairy manure is a natural crop fertilizer, and Texas A&M AgriLife scientists believe they have discovered a way to make sure that the valuable resource stays on crops, where it is applied as a fertilizer, and out of waterways, where it is a potential pollutant.

Read Story

Could spotted owls benefit from forest fires?

It may seem counterintuitive, but forest fires are actually beneficial to spotted owls, according to Penn State biologist Derek Lee. Lee analyzed the results from every published scientific study about the effects of wildfire on the threatened birds, summarizing his results in a paper published in 2018 in the journal Ecosphere. His results have important implications for management of forests inhabited by spotted owls, which assumes that fire is a major threat to the owls.

Read Story

Wildfire risk rising as scientists determine which conditions cause blazes

As wildfires burn more often across the Western United States, researchers are working to understand how extensively blazes burn. Their investigation not only reveals that the risk of wildfire is rising, but also spells out the role moisture plays in estimating fire risk.

Read Story

Program expanding to map Colorado mountain snowpack

Front Range water providers are hoping to expand a program that uses a new technology they say will revolutionize water management in Colorado. But for now, the expensive program isn’t worth it for smaller Western Slope water providers.

Read Story

Truterra will pilot carbon project with Nori

Truterra, the sustainability business unit of Land O’ Lakes, has launched a pilot program through the 2022 growing season with Nori, a startup with blockchain technology for a carbon removal marketplace. The goal of the pilot is to explore the scalability of an ecosystem services marketplace and provide farmers a view for what they could gain in a carbon market. 

Read Story

Scientists say Washington wildfire management must go beyond forests

Better management of dry rangelands east of the Cascades is key to slowing catastrophic fires. Many of Washington’s largest fires have burned through rangeland, not timber forests, particularly during the megafires propelled by hurricane-force winds over Labor Day weekend.

Read Story

Winter’s dry start prompts low California water allocation

California’s water managers yesterday preliminarily allocated just 10% of requested water supplies to agencies that together serve more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The state Department of Water Resources cited the dry start to the winter rainy season in California’s Mediterranean climate, along with low reservoir levels remaining from last year’s relatively dry winter. Winter snow typically supplies about 30% of the state’s water as it melts.

Read Story

In fire-prone West, plants need their pollinators – and vice versa

A new study grounded in the northern Rockies explores the role of wildfire in the finely tuned dance between plants and their pollinators. Previous studies have looked at how fire affects plants, or how fire affects animals. But what is largely understudied is the question of how fire affects both, and about how linkages within those ecological networks might respond to fire disturbance.

Read Story

Judges grill Ore. ranchers on tribal rights

(Subscription Required) Federal judges yesterday questioned Oregon ranchers’ claims that the process for local tribes to exercise their water rights is threatening agriculture and lacks any “political accountability.” The complicated case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concerns a long-running dispute between tribes in southern Oregon and irrigators over water that is in increasingly short supply.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Trump administration will raise California dam, expand reservoir

(Subscription Required) The Trump administration yesterday announced it has finalized its plan to extend one of the largest dams in Northern California, one of its most ambitious and controversial water projects. At issue is a proposal to raise the 600-foot Shasta Dam by about 18.5 feet, to store more water. The dam impounds one of the largest reservoirs in the state, and that water is then shuttled to farmers in California’s Central Valley.

Read Story

U.S. agricultural water use declining for most crops and livestock production

A comprehensive University of Illinois study looked at water withdrawals in U.S. agriculture and food production from 1995 to 2010. The main trend was a decline in water use, driven by a combination of factors.

Read Story

Coalition of farm, conservation groups unites on climate proposals

Leading farm groups united with two major environmental groups to release more than 40 policy recommendations aimed at helping farmers benefit economically from reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while helping growers become more resilient amid climate change.

Read Story

Thinking harder and smarter about wildland fire

Widespread scientific consensus indicates that poor management over the last century has made remote forests more vulnerable to wildfire. To bring these remote forestlands back to health, America needs to change the way it manages them.

Read Story

Fate of climate payment plans in hands of researchers

A dizzying array of ongoing research projects, with sponsors ranging from the Energy Department to multinational food industry giants, will go a long way toward determining whether carbon credit markets can become a reliable, meaningful source of income for farmers.

Read Story

Will the West figure out how to share water?

As droughts become more persistent and urban growth across the Mountain West continues to skyrocket, agricultural communities are increasingly worried about losing their water to far away cities — turning the towns into dust bowls with few job prospects.

Read Story

NRCS announces WaterSMART funding

USDA NRCS plans to roll out $13 million in funding to help producers on private working lands better conserve water resources in coordination with investments made by water suppliers.

Read Story

As wildfire threat grows, Colorado has a $4.2 billion forest management to-do list

As 2020’s historic fires are brought under control thanks to colder, wetter weather, the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) on Tuesday released its 2020 Colorado Forest Action Plan, laying out its vision for the future of the state’s 24 million acres of forestland. The report finds 10% of Colorado forests are ‘in urgent need of treatment’ to mitigate fire risk

Read Story

Study reveals patterns that shape forest recovery after wildfires

New University of Montana research suggests recurring continent-spanning drought patterns set the tempo for forest recovery from wildfire. A recent study shows that forest recovery from fire follows a drought seesaw, called a climate dipole, that alternates between the Northwest and the Southwest every few years.

Read Story

Wildfires emerge as threat to water quantity across parched West

How wildfires can affect water quality are well documented. But increasing—and increasingly intense—Western conflagrations are leading to fears they also could constrict the water quantity available in some of the nation’s most water-stressed areas.

Read Story

Conservationists say Oregon dam blocks struggling salmon

A coalition of environmental and fishing groups are suing a water district in southern Oregon over an aging, privately owned dam that they say hinders the passage of struggling salmon populations in the pristine North Umpqua River.

Read Story

Congressman Panetta introduces Save our Forests Act to increase staffing and decrease wildfire risk in national forests

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) has announced the introduction of the Save Our Forests Act to address chronic staffing shortages in National Forests, to improve risk mitigation and response to wildfires. The legislation directs the Chief of the Forest Service to fill vacancies in National Forests for recreation and management planning staff, authorizes funding to fill positions, and prioritizes filling vacancies in National Forests facing a high risk of wildfires.

Read Story

What 13,000 wildfires teach us about Washington forests

Washington State DNR has kept records of every reported wildfire in the state since 2008. With the help of DNR’s assistant division manager of plans and information for wildfire, Crosscut took a deep dive into these 13,452 fire records to highlight some numbers that help put this year into context and tell the broader story of [Washington’s] fires.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Baker Institute-led group develops proposed nationwide protocol for storing carbon

A working group led by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has developed an innovative measurement-based standard – “BCarbon” – for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil as organic carbon. BCarbon is a soil carbon storage standard designed to work for landowners and soil carbon storage buyers. The proposed standard allows landowners to monetize soil carbon storage as a property right.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Belching cows and endless feedlots: Fixing cattle’s climate issues

The United States is home to 95 million cattle. Changing what they eat could have a significant effect on emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that are warming the world

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Indigo Ag’s carbon credits help farmers, environment

The Boston-based startup Indigo Ag has fashioned itself into a Swiss Army knife for regenerative agriculture, selling transport and trading along with treatments. Now, it’s selling carbon credits from regenerative agriculture to a cohort that includes two giant banks, a couple of breweries, a worldwide management consulting firm, and IBM. Verification and innovation will determine how this business line evolves.

Read Story

Grass, greenhouse gas and grazing: Why North America’s prairies are key to cutting emissions

In North America, prairie grass used to be everywhere. Today, just a fraction of it remains. It sits at a critical intersection of agribusiness and the environment — cattle can graze it much like the bison did, keeping the grassland healthy, which in turn pulls carbon from the atmosphere. Nurturing those grasslands, and helping ranchers preserve them, is one of the most potent steps we can take to fight climate change and support producer livelihoods.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Does overselling regenerative ag’s climate benefits undercut its potential?

A new white paper from the Rodale Institute and the Carbon Underground says that regenerative practices, if adopted around the world, could sequester all annual carbon dioxide emissions. Critics warn the scientific data doesn’t support these claims, and may oversell the benefits.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Are carbon markets for farmers worth the hype?

Private markets promise farmers monetization of a secondary crop: carbon stored in the soil. But questions loom about data ownership, consolidation, and increased pollution in communities of color.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Can loans tied to soil health save agriculture? A new $250 million fund wants to find out

America’s soil health is in dire straits and a new investment fund, rePlant Capital, has been formed to help clove the crisis with capitalism by tying interest rates for farm loans to improvements in soil’s carbon and water storage as a way to save farmers from the disastrous impacts of climate change.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

‘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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Benefits of Cattle Grazing for Reducing Fire Fuels and Fire Hazard

The widespread and severe wildfires in California during the past several years highlight the importance of understanding how land management practices such as cattle grazing affect wildfire risk. The California Cattle Council recently funded a UC Cooperative Extension project to evaluate how much fine fuel (grasses and other plants) are eaten by cattle on rangelands, and how this may affect wildfire behavior. These results have not yet been published, but preliminary results are presented here.

Read Story

‘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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

HSBC teams up with Pollination for ‘natural capital’ venture

HSBC Global Asset Management  has teamed up with climate change advisory firm Pollination Group to create an asset management venture focused on “natural capital”, which seeks to put a value on resources such as water, soil and air to help to protect the environment.

Read Story

‘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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

Plants take in less carbon in a warming world

As world temperatures rise, the rate at which plants in certain regions can absorb carbon dioxide is declining, according to University of Queensland research.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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?

Read Story

Letter on climate change from hunting and fishing groups to Congress

A coalition of nearly 50 hunting, fishing, birding and conservation groups recently sent a letter to the House of Representatives, united in calling for market-based tools and incentives to help combat climate change.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.

Read Story

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.)

Read Story

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 abando