Western Digest – April 2018

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

Jim Berlier, Berlier Ranch, Estancia, New Mexico. Photo: V Pointeau.

The news stories and articles included in this digest point to the increasing challenges of making a living off the land, but also highlight emerging solutions and tools for landowners. Take a look at the article on using solar to keep cattle watered, for example, or the ones on putting ecosystem services to work for you.

As always, this member monthly includes pertinent working lands, water and wildlife news and opportunities from around the West. If you have any information, resources or events that you think would be valuable for this digest, or have questions or comments, please send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

Hallie Mahowald
Stewardship Services Director

Working Lands Economics

  • Succession Planning and Governance: In January, WLA hosted “Legacy on the Land: Compelling Stories and Creative Tools for Land Succession” in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the forum, Howard Weiss from US Trust provided expertise on succession planning and governance. Check out his detailed presentation, Succession Planning and Governance: Key Principles and Issues to Consider – WLA.
  • Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES): A recent analysis published in Nature provides an assessment of the trends and current status of PES mechanisms—user-financed, government-financed and compliance—across the domains of water, biodiversity and forest and land-use carbon around the world: Nature.
  • Goodbye, Independent Ranching: In Weed, New Mexico and beyond, the iconic independent ranching lifestyle is fading. Reasons for the decline include corporate consolidation of the cattle industry, drought and global economics to name a few.  In this NPR story, many ranchers who remain in business will tell you they feel like they’re being squeezed off the land by economics and a changing culture: NPR.
  • Conservation Finance blog series: WLA and WRA, Inc. have partnered to offer a nine-part, monthly blog series focused on how landowners can leverage the opportunities offered by conservation finance to further both conservation and economic goals. Read the second post here, or go directly to our blog to start from the beginning.

Forest & Range

  • Cattle and Conservation: “Cattle ranching is a historic way of life in the West, but it’s under siege, threatened by development, drought, wildfires, a shrinking number of cattle buyers and razor-thin profit margins. But land trusts, conservation easements and payments for ecosystem services (such as wetlands) offer hope that rangelands and their wildlife can survive and even flourish”: Forbes.
  • Ranchers Turn to Solar Energy: Power from the sun is making it easier for ranchers to keep cattle watered, even during periods of drought: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Decline in Grazing on Public Land: The story of Wayne Hage, a Nevada rancher, symbolizes the decline of ranching on public lands in the West driven by court rulings and policy changes to limit grazing. Over the last four decades, the number of cows grazing on public lands has dropped by nearly half: MSN.
  • Stewardship Contracting on Federal Land: A recent report shows how the use of stewardship end-results contracting is helping to accelerate the pace and scope of forest restoration activities through 15 case studies detailing recent projects: Pinchot Institute for Conservation.
  • Grazing for Soil Health: Findings from a new study out of UC Davis suggest that rotational grazing can improve soil health over continuous grazing strategies: UCRangelands.


  • CAP Report on Western Rivers: Center for American Progress’s new report, Restoring Balance: Healthier Rivers and Secure Water Supplies in the American West, provides policy recommendations for federal, state and local policymakers to protect and restore Western rivers and streams: Center for American Progress.
  • Colorado Water: The latest issue of the magazine Colorado Water is all about leasing and the alternative transfer methods (ATMs): Colorado State University.
  • AZ Taking More? Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, along with Denver’s water utility, are accusing Arizona’s largest water provider of taking more than its share of the Colorado River, threatening millions of people who rely on the drought-wracked river for water: Salt Lake Tribune.
  • Funding for CO Water Projects: Five water plans or projects concerning the Roaring Fork, Colorado and Eagle rivers are on track to receive $337,000 in state funds to study water users’ needs, plan for future water use and restore river ecosystems: Aspen Times.
  • New Book: Replenish by Sandra Postel tells the story of cities conserving and reusing water, farmers engaging in “conservation agriculture,” and a dam-removal movement that is restoring thousands of miles of free-flowing rivers. Many water managers are embracing a new mind-set of working with nature rather than trying to conquer it. Read this short summary of Postel’s latest book: New York Times.
  • CO Drought: Colorado’s snowpack is 66 percent of normal statewide, forcing an expansion of the federal drought designation to cover nearly 25 percent of the state: Denver Post.


  • Conflict Mitigation: In a collaborative effort, a fifth-generation cattleman and wildlife biologist are working to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts in northeastern Washington: The Spokesman-Review.
  • Landscape Connectivity: A new study in Science found that the growing footprint imposed on the environment by people is reducing landscape connectivity across mammals, further emphasizing the need for conservation plans that enhance landscape connectivity: Conservation Corridor.
  • Grizzly Bear Expansion: Grizzly bears in both the Yellowstone ecosystem and in the Northern Continental Divide have been showing up in new places, forcing people to think about how they’ll live with grizzly bears in the future, and how they’ll try to prevent the conflicts between humans and bears: Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
  • UT Prairie Dogs: The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in consultation with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), released a 10-year general conservation plan that aims to aid the conservation of threatened Utah prairie dogs while benefiting economic productivity in the region and reducing undue regulatory burdens: USFWS.
  • Pronghorn and Fences: A new study looking at the effect of fences on pronghorn movement highlights the importance of the height of the lowest wire on the fence and the fence type to pronghorn migration: The Nature Conservancy.
  • Sage-Grouse Strut: For the fourth straight year, you can witness the greater sage-grouse dancing to find a mate on a live-streaming wildlife camera: USFWS.
  • Bird Extinction: One in eight bird species on Earth faces the threat of extinction, according to a new definitive global study: London Guardian.


  • Mexican Gray Wolf Rule Rejected: In early April, a federal judge rejected the USFWS’s 2015 rule for managing the experimental population of the Mexican gray wolf, finding it “fails to further conservation” of the imperiled species: Arizona Capitol Times.
  • Chinese Beef Tarriffs: Cattle ranchers are concerned about President Trump’s trade policies after China’s announcement that it would charge duties on a list of American products, including beef: The Texas Tribune.
  • TTIP Stalled: The European Union isn’t eager to jump into negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The negotiations have been frozen since President Trump entered the White House in January 2017: Farm Futures.
  • USDA Undersecretary: James Hubbard of Colorado has been nominated to be USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. Hubbard worked for Colorado State Forest Service for 35 years: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • CO Lottery Bill Passes: In Colorado, the bill to continue Lottery division, SB18-066, passed the state legislature, providing another 25 years of proceeds for outdoor recreation, land conservation, wildlife protection and more.
  • USDA and SBA Join Forces: In early April, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Administrator Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the USDA and the SBA to promote stronger businesses and agricultural economies in rural America: USDA.
  • Streamlining Permitting: On April 9, at least a dozen federal agencies signed an agreement to streamline the environmental permitting process: E&E News.
  • Solar in NV: The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to establish a new leasing zone for solar power development in southern Nevada: E&E News.

Tools & Resources

  • Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program: A new fact sheet developed by the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program, a US Forest Service program, is now available. CFLR aims to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration, promote healthy forests and protect the lives and well-being of communities and landowners through large-scale, community-driven collaboration: Sustainable Northwest.
  • Finding Farmland Calculator: The Finding Farmland Calculator, developed by the National Young Farmers Coalition and Fathom Information Design, brings together innovative design and practical resources to help farmers overcome two top obstacles to starting a farm—access to land and capital: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Sell Farming & Ranching Equipment Online: Ritchie Bros., a leading innovator in equipment selling, is introducing a new solution to customers: Marketplace-E. Marketplace-E offers sellers of agriculture equipment and other assets increased control over price, location and timing of sale: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS): The global LandPKS is being developed as an open-source suite of mobile phone apps with the goals of  providing tools for 1) collecting, storing, accessing and sharing local and scientific data, information and knowledge, and 2) selecting and interpreting management- and policy-relevant information to support decision-making. LandInfo and LandCover, the initial components of LandPKS, simplify the process of 1) collecting the basic soil and topographic information necessary to determine land potential (LandInfo), 2) collecting vegetation cover data necessary to inventory and monitor major changes in plant community composition and wind and water erosion risk (LandCover), and 3) interpret them within the context of soil and climate (LandInfoi): Science Direct.



  • RCPP California: USDA NRCS California is accepting applications for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): Livestock in Harmony with Bi-State Sage-Grouse project. Applications are due April 27, 2018.
  • USDA REAP: The USDA recently published a request for applications for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a farm bill program that provides grants and loans to farmers and businesses for energy efficiency improvements and purchase of wind, solar or other renewable energy systems. Applications are due April 30, 2018.
  • CO Healthy Rivers Fund: Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund Grant through the Colorado Watershed Assembly. Funding ranges from $5,000 – $50,000. Applications are due April 30, 2018
  • USDA OPPE: The USDA Office of Partnerships & Public Engagement (OPPE) announced up to $8.4 million in available funding for training and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and the Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. See the request for applications for more information. Applications are due May 15, 2018.
  • USDA NRCS is seeking proposals to assist with restoration work of degraded wetlands, floodplains and forestlands. Click here to learn more. Applications are due May 18, 2018.
  • Conservation Innovation Grants: Twenty states are seeking Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) proposals to address local or state-level natural resource concerns. In the West, Oregon, Arizona, California, Idaho and New Mexico are all still accepting project proposals. Contact your state NRCS office for more information.
  • Disaster Payments: USDA will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). Sign-up for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16, 2018.
  • Funding Round-Up: To help farmers and advocates stay up-to-date on federal policy and funding opportunities, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition published a Spring Round-Up of Deadlines for Funding Opportunities.


  • Director, NM Department of Game and Fish: The New Mexico State Game Commission is currently looking to fill the position of director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. See job announcement with specific details including job description, core duties, qualification requirements and application instructions at www.wildlife.state.nm.us. Applications are due June 1, 2018.
  • Holistic Management Associate: Crossroads Ranch Consulting is looking to hire a full-time associate with a working knowledge and passion for Holistic Management. Experience and skills in teaching adults, consulting, facilitation and mentoring people who want to successfully practice Holistic Management and create sustainable change in their operations. Send cover letter, resume and references to Roland Kroos at kroosing@msn.com.
  • Central Coast Program Coordinator for California FarmLink will support FarmLink’s mission by providing training and direct assistance to help small farmers access and successfully use land and capital. For more info visit their website: www.cafarmlink.org


  • NM Ag Leadership Program: The New Mexico Agricultural Leadership Program (NMAL) is an 18-month leadership experience for those in the agriculture, food and natural resource industries of New Mexico. The NMAL mission is to develop the knowledge and skill of multicultural leaders through six in-state seminars, a trip to Washington, D.C. and an international experience. Seminars includes site visits, workshops, meetings, travel and individual leadership growth. Deadline to apply for the next class is May 15, 2018.
  • CA Wildlife Conversation Board: The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is currently accepting pre-applications for their new Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program through May 18, 2018. The program will fund conservation easements and adaptation planning, implementation and technical assistance projects on natural and working lands that result in enduring benefits to wildlife.

Events & Webinars


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