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Western Digest – December 2018

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

Photo: Erika Peterman

Happy holidays and warm wishes this winter from all of us at WLA! Articles in this issue range from new profitability mapping research to a global massive insect decline and from using marginal cropland to improve water quality to the 2018 Farm Bill and hiring for a new WLA Northern Rockies field coordinator position. Enjoy!

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

  • Profitability Mapping Research: In the search for a ‘win-win’ solution for unprofitable acres, precision agriculture meets precision conservation in ongoing profitability mapping research: Manitoba Co-Operator.
  • WLA Conservation Finance Series – Final Thoughts: WLA’s conservation finance blog series by WRA, Inc. covered approaches ranging from conservation easements to carbon crediting and wetland mitigation banking and for each approach addressed anticipated revenues and costs, risks and more. This final post of the series presents conservation finance highlights and outlines how and why landowners may choose to evaluate the conservation finance potential of their land: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Solar Energy Positive for Livestock: The rising number of solar panel setups showing up in the country is good news for renewable energy supporters, but it may also be positive for livestock producers: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Farm Bill Payment Programs: A regional Extension specialist in Colorado offers insight into how payment programs under the farm bill are determined: Western Farmer-Stockman.

Forest & Range

  • Managing a Landscape to Increase Water, Forage and Habitat: A story of the importance of private lands for providing clean water and wildlife habitat, and how an Oregon ranch enhanced habitat and increased water availability while making their livestock more productive and profitable: OnPasture.
  • Shrinking Aspen: Pando, the most massive organism on earth, is shrinking. According to a new study, the grove of 47,000 quivering aspen trees in Utah is being diminished by mule deer, foraging cattle and human mismanagement: The New York Times.
  • Land Management and Climate Change: When people think of potential solutions to global warming, they tend to visualize technologies like solar panels or electric cars. A new study, however, found that better management of forests, grasslands and soils in the U.S. could offset as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions: New York Times.
  • Range Management for the Bird and Herd: Manitoba Beef Producers seeks more producers for Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) program: Manitoba Co-Operator.
  • Western Wildfires: Think modern wildfires are bad? A new study shows that fires once burned up to 36 times more of the West: The Sacramento Bee.
  • NM Prescribed Burning Success: The Forest Steward’s Guild All Hand All Lands burn team in New Mexico started out strong completing 4,379 acres of burning across the Rio Grande watershed this fall: FireAdaptedNM.
  • LandCAN Conservation Success Stories: Land Conservation Assistance Network (LandCAN) recently added a new section to their website where they highlight landowners, land managers, recreational guides and individuals who have gone out of their way to protect pieces of land, wildlife habitats, or endangered species: LandCAN.


  • Reducing Excess Nutrients in Waterways: The EPA and USDA are encouraging increased engagement and a reinvigoration of state, tribal and federal efforts to reduce excess nutrients in waterways, with a focus on market-based and other collaborative approaches: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Using Marginal Farmland to Improve Water Quality: Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are studying how shrub willow and switchgrass in sandier, easily dried-out patches of land can not only control erosion, but also suck up excess fertilizer chemicals that could otherwise contaminate surface water and groundwater: New Food.
  • Water-Smart Dairy: More than 20 dairy farmers across California have been pioneering the use of subsurface drip irrigation to grow feed crops, including corn, wheat, and alfalfa. By working with innovative companies and non-governmental organizations, they are reducing water use by 47 to 67% and improving groundwater protection: California Ag Network.
  • Water Opportunity Report: A new report explores how private and public capital can combine in securing sustainable water supplies and improving freshwater ecosystems at the landscape level: WWF.
  • CO River Crisis and Farm Conservation Programs: Small farm conservation programs can go a long way to save water and help farmers survive the coming shortages on the Colorado River: NewsDeeply.


  • Grazing Lands Grow More Bugs: A recent Sage Grouse Initiative report shows that well-managed grazing provides more than just better habitat for sage grouse – it also produces more of the bugs that the growing young birds need to eat. Montana State University researchers compared insect communities in grazed, rested, and idled pastures and found that the types of insects that provide a critical food source for sage grouse chicks were 13 percent more prevalent on managed and rested rangelands: Farmers.gov.
  • Massive Insect Decline: Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized: The Washington Post.
  • Revised Sage-grouse Plans: BLM’s revised sage-grouse conservation plans for 11 western states continue multi-state conservation efforts but create uncertainty: TRCP.
  • MT Grizzly Bear Conservation Plan: Montana wildlife commissioners adopted a grizzly bear conservation plan yesterday that would maintain the largest population of the bruins in the Lower 48 at roughly current numbers even if the species loses its federal protections: AP News.
  • Energy Development and Big Game Corridors: A recent flurry of energy leasing in and around critical big game habitats may limit options for conserving the West’s iconic big game populations: TRCP.
  • UT Wildlife Bridge: The Utah Department of Transportation recently completed an overpass just for wildlife — crossing six lanes of Interstate 80 — at the summit of Parleys Canyon: The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • MT Wildlife Corridors: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has recommended four priority migration corridors to the Department of Interior for protection: Montana Standard.


  • 2018 Farm Bill – Wins for Working Lands and Conservation: For the past three years, WLA has worked hard and in collaboration with a variety of partners to ensure strong support in the 2018 Farm Bill for working lands in the West. We are pleased to announce that the that the Senate and House both voted YES to approve the 2018 Farm Bill and its conference report, which reflects many of WLA’s top priorities: Western Landowners Alliance.

  • Wildlife Corridor Bill Introduced: The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act was introduced in the Senate and House in early December. If passed, the Act will establish a National Wildlife Corridors Program that aims to facilitate the designation of wildlife corridors on federal lands and provide grants to protect wildlife corridors on non-federal lands. Fact Sheet from Wildlands Network.
  • WOTUS Update: Fewer streams will be covered under the new “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) proposal recently released by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal would remove ephemeral streams from federal jurisdiction: Agri-Pulse.
  • New NRCS Chief: In early December, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue appointed Matthew J. Lohr as Cheif of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS): USDA.
  • Voters Support Conservation: The 2018 election cycle reaffirms broad public support for conservation: 49 of 58 conservation ballot measures were approved in November, providing an estimated $3.2 billion in new funding for conservation: Land Trust Alliance.
  • BLM Buys MT Big-game Habitat: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it has used Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) money to purchase nearly 1,000 acres in southwest Montana in an effort to protect wildlife and improve access to public lands for big-game hunters: E&E News.

Tools & Resources

  • Cover Crops ROI Tool: With a new online tool, farmers will be able to easily calculate return on investment for cover crops and decide whether or not cover crops work for their operation: AgWeb.
  • Good Neighbor Authority: A new Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) report reviews the current status of Good Neighbor Authority through case studies from six western states, identifying common themes and important implications: RVCC.
  • Agriculture Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF): The ACPF has grown into a powerful tool used for the protection and restoration of healthy watersheds. The ACPF brings big data, technology, producers and conservation planners together to improve water quality: ACPF.
  • Wild Migrations Book: A new book, Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates, offers a comprehensive understanding of ungulate migrations in Wyoming: Wyoming Migration Initiative.



  • NFWF Improving Habitat Quality: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals from projects that enhance and improve the quality of state identified, priority big-game winter range, stopover areas and migration corridors on federal land and/or voluntary efforts on private land. Up to $2.7 million is available in funding. Full proposals are due January 10, 2019: NFWF.
  • CSP Contract Extensions in 2019: Farmers and ranchers received some good news when the USDA NRCS announced that producers with existing Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts would be given the opportunity to renew their contracts in 2019: NSAC.


  • WLA Northern Rockies Field Coordinator: Western Landowners Alliance is hiring a Northern Rockies Field Organizer to support landowners in keeping working lands intact by reducing and mitigating conflict with grizzlies, wolves, elk and other wildlife. This will be done in cooperation with a range of partners spanning the private, not-for-profit and governmental sectors through educational outreach, resource coordination and public policy engagement. Position is open until filled: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Sagebrush Collaborative Conservation Specialist: Intermountain West Joint Venture is looking to hire a sagebrush collaborative conservation specialist to lead the strategic conservation of sagebrush by helping to implement the IWJV’s Partnering to Conserve Sagebrush Rangelands initiative under an agreement with the BLM. More information here.
  • CO District Conservation Technician: The White River & Douglas Creek Conservation Districts are seeking a self-motivated, results oriented individual for the District Conservation Technician position located in Meeker, Colorado. More information here. Applications are due by December 28, 2018.


  • Survey to Improve Voluntary Conservation Programs: WLA is currently assisting researchers at Duke University in understanding landowner experiences with voluntary conservation programs like Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances. This information is important to WLA and to agencies in working to improve these programs both for landowners that utilize them and agencies that implement and manage them. If you are familiar with these programs and are willing to assist with this project, please fill out this survey. There is survey for landowners and a survey for non-landowner agency partners.

Events & Webinars


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