Western Digest – December 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” 
– Andrew Wyeth

Working Lands Economics

  • Working Group to Develop Protocol for Storing Carbon: Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has initiated a working group, which includes WLA, to develop a United States protocol for paying ranchers and farmers to store carbon in their soil: Rice University.
  • Valuing CA’s Ecosystem Services: The ecosystem services of working landscapes in California are essential to the state’s future. To protect them, they must have an economic value. Article features WLA Advisor Stephanie Larson: California Department of Food and Agriculture.


  • Country of Origin Labeling Bill: A recently introduced bill in congress is aimed at amending the Federal Meat Inspection Act to modify requirements for a meat food product to be labeled “Product of the U.S.A.” only if it is “exclusively derived from 1 or more cattle exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States”: Congress.gov.
  • Congress Spending Deal Reached: Fiscal 2020 compromise legislation would boost funding for agriculture and forestry programs, including additional money for hazardous fuel reduction and firefighting in national forests: E&E News.
  • Review of Waters of the U.S.: The White House is now reviewing a highly anticipated final Clean Water Act rulemaking that is expected to roll back federal protection of waterways. The Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule will set a new definition of which wetlands and waterways fall under federal oversight: E&E News.

On the Range

  • 30 Harvests: Today farmers face the largest challenge of this generation – creating sustainable food systems and solving climate change. And they only have 30 harvests until 2050 to do it: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
  • Healthy Soil is Key to Feeding World: Conventional wisdom says we need industrial agriculture to feed the world. Not so, says geologist David Montgomery: Practices that focus on creating healthy soil can transform agriculture: The Conversation.
  • CO Farmers as Part of Climate Solution: With more statewide support, farmers and ranchers hope to boost the health of Colorado’s agricultural lands and conserve water while also meeting business goals: The Colorado Sun.
  • Idaho Losing Farmland: With rapid development across the state, experts say urgent action is needed to preserve Idaho farmland. Earlier this month, farmers and conservation leaders in the Boise area shared how to save agriculture: Idaho Statesman.


  • Grizzlies in the North Cascades: The federal government will likely decide in the first quarter of 2020 whether to proceed with plans to bring grizzly bears into the North Cascade Mountains of Washington: Capital Press.
  • Bison Manipulate Springtime Green-up: Researchers have found that intensive grazing and fertilization by bison in Yellowstone National Park allow them to reset the clock on springtime plant growth, so they can migrate on their own terms, unlike mule deer and other ungulates: High Plains Journal.
  • Reducing Yellowstone Bison Herd: State, federal and tribal representatives tasked with managing bison in and around Yellowstone National Park voted to reduce the herd size by 600-900 bison as animals migrate out of the park this winter: Montana Public Radio.
  • Oil and Gas Leases and Elk Migrations: A recent oil and gas lease auction has environmental groups worried about potential impacts to Yellowstone ecosystem elk that migrate through and winter on blocks of land up for sale: Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Conflict Reduction

  • WY Producers, Depredation and Wolf Compensation: Wyoming’s attempt to give producers freedom to manage gray wolves by excluding areas with high potential for chronic conflicts between wolf and livestock from the trophy wolf zone has resulted in significant economic losses for producers in the southern Wind River Mountains. In an attempt to keep working lands intact and economically viable, producers are asking for compensation and investment in active on the ground wolf management outside of the trophy management area: Cowboy State Daily.
  • Wolves Return to CA: As gray wolves arrive in California for the first time since the 1920s, ranchers are turning to non-lethal methods to deter them and working towards safe co-existence: Pacific Standard.
  • Tribal Leaders Address Montana GBAC: The MT Grizzly Bear Advisory Council (GBAC), on which WLA’s Cole Mannix serves, listened to tribal leaders from the Blackfeet Nation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes with deep experience co-existing with grizzlies and a unique perspective on their mutual roles in the ecosystem: Missoula Current.
  • WA to Use New Non-lethal Tools: Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has promised Gov. Jay Inslee to try “previously unused tools” to protect cattle and avoid shooting wolves next year in the Kettle River Range: Capital Press.


  • New In-Stream Flow Rights in New Mexico: Surface water rights in the state of New Mexico are typically granted to individuals for diverting water from streams and rivers to irrigate crops and support food production. Now, the state has granted its first water rights permit to keep water in a river: NM Political Report.
  • Importance of Restoration Projects on Private Lands: The ponds, wetlands and streams on Idaho’s private working lands provide critical hydrologic, ecological and habitat benefits that extend far beyond the fence lines: Intermountain Farm & Ranch.
  • Wetland Mitigation: A new bill in Wisconsin will require developers to purchase wetland mitigation credits within the watershed they’re changing: US News.
  • CO Water Rights Abandonment List: On July 1, 2020, the Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR) will publish its initial decennial list of water rights considered to be abandoned. Water right holders may object, and if necessary, protest in water court. Objections to the initial list will be due to DWR on July 1, 2021: Colorado DWR.

Forest & Fire

  • Study Identifies Key Western Forests: A study by Oregon State University researchers has identified forests in the western United States that should be preserved for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, as well as to enhance biodiversity: Phys.org.
  • Importance of Prescribed Fire: Natural fires can be beneficial for forests so long as they happen often enough to clear tinder that can feed a firestorm. One proven way of preventing wildfires is the use of prescribed fire: WESA.
  • Focus on Southwest CO Forests: An unprecedented gathering of Colorado’s land managers, natural resource partners, utility providers and nonprofit organizations have selected Southwest Colorado to be the focus of a new effort to increase the resilience of Colorado’s forests and communities: Morning Ag Clips.
  • Sage-grouse Habitat Recovery Post-Fire: A recently published paper on sage-grouse habitat recovery post-fire has implications for Utah’s Greater Sage-grouse Conservation Strategy, federal partners and beyond: USU Extension.

Tools & Resources

  • Leasing Water for Fly Fishing: RareWaters is working in CO and WY to open up more stretches of water to the fly fishing community while supporting landowners in fishery conservation. Their proprietary technology allows landowners and anglers to lease private water through their website. Benefits to the landowners include: a “leave no trace” policy signed by anglers requiring them to leave the land better off, a complimentary $1M insurance policy to protect landowners from unforeseen liability, and 2% of proceeds go to a landowner conservation fund. Contact RareWaters to learn more.
  • Experiences Transitioning from Conventional to Regenerative Ag: A new academic article on farmers’ and ranchers’ experiences transitioning from conventional to regenerative agriculture frames the transition process in terms of practical, political, and personal spheres of transformation: Global Environmental Change.
  • Rural America at A Glance: A USDA report focusing on demographic and socioeconomic trends in rural America after the end of the Great Recession in 2009: USDA.



  • EPA Environmental Justice Grants Opportunity: The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding to support community-based organizations in their efforts to collaborate and partner with local stakeholder groups as they develop and implement community-driven solutions that address environmental and/or public health issues for underserved communities. Applications are due February 7, 2020: Learn more and apply.
  • FSA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Enrollment Open: The 2020 CRP enrollment period began on December 9. The deadline for agricultural producers to sign up for general CRP is February 28, 2020, while signup for continuous CRP is ongoing: Learn more and apply.
  • NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Accepting Proposals: NRCS RCPP is currently accepting FY 2020 proposals. Potential partners are invited to propose RCPP projects where NRCS and partners co-invest in impactful and innovative solutions to on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Learn more and apply.
  • FSA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands Sign-Up Period: The sign-up period for CRP Grasslands in 2020 runs from March 16, 2020 to May 15, 2020: Learn more.


  • Riparian and Fisheries Habitat Technician for Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks: MT FWP is seeking to hire a Riparian and Fisheries Habitat Technician to assist with the Arctic Grayling Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances program (CCAA Program), in the Upper Big Hole, Montana. Applications are due December 31, 2019: Montana.gov
  • Assistant Professor of Wildlife Conservation on Working Lands at Colorado State University: This new faculty position will add much needed expertise on wildlife conservation on working/private lands. With a 20% extension appointment, the faculty member will contribute to research and teaching, as well as playing a critical role in outreach across the CSU extension network in Colorado and beyond. Applications are due January 31, 2020. Learn more and apply.
  • Ranch Manager Job Board: A number of new positions are up on the Ranch Manager Job Board offered by the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management! Check it out: King Ranch Insitute.


  • Comment on Country of Origin Labeling Petition: The U.S. Cattelmen’s Association submitted a petition requesting that that Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) revise its Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book to limit the use of certain voluntary labeling claims, such as “Made in USA,” “Product of USA,” and “USA Beef,” to meat products derived from cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. USDA is accepting comments until December 24, 2019: Regulations.gov.
  • MT, SD and NE Rancher Survey: Dr. Jeremy Pittman of the University of Waterloo is expanding a survey of ag producers across the Canadian Prairies to include Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The goal of the survey is to gain insights into which programs work best for ag operations and how programs can be designed to align with working farms and ranches and increase their effectiveness and landowner participation. Take the survey.
  • Dan Scott Ranch Management Program of Montana State University is seeking qualified ranches to host interns through the Ranching Systems degree. They are looking for ranches who understand the need to educate the next generation and will help students develop their passion for the industry into a future career. Applications are due December 31, 2019: Montana State University.
  • Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Fellows Program: The mission of the RMFU Fellows program is to be the resource network of trained leaders who will serve all aspects of agriculture and rural communities for Farmers Union and beyond. Applications are due January 2, 2020: RMFU.
  • Working Lands Internship Program: The Montana Rangeland Resource Committee and Rangeland Resources program at DNRC are seeking students and hosts for a Summer 2020 working lands internship program. Applications are due February 1, 2020. Learn more and apply.
  • Center for Collaborative Conservation’s Fellows Program challenges students, faculty and practitioners to use a collaborative approach to help communities improve their livelihoods and contribute to local and global conservation goals. The deadline for applications is February 21, 2020: Center for Collaborative Conservation.
  • NM Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program: The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program (AWD) offers incentives to the state’s agricultural businesses to hire interns. The AWD Pilot Program is intended to provide hands-on educational opportunities for students aspiring to careers in agriculture, as well as young or beginning farmers and ranchers. Applications are accepted until February 28, 2020: NMDA.


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