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Western Digest – February 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

As a snowy and cold February comes to a close, we look with hope to the upcoming green of spring – a season of renewal, calving, mending fences, seeding, warm ski days and more. Articles in this issue range from economic savings through low-stress handling to building soil through ranching and from migration corridors to “ranching in the new normal” to mastication methods. Enjoy!

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

Hallie Mahowald
Stewardship Services Director

Working Lands Economics

  • Saving through Low-stress Handling: How much does low-stress handling save this ranch? $124/day. Tom Krawiec shares the techniques he uses and how the money he saves is significant: OnPasture.
  • Estate Planning: Do you have a strategy to keep your farm or ranch business going? This article (the first in a series focused on ranch and farm estate planning) highlights rancher Keith Bales and provides an introduction to succession planning through his story: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Big Food and Soil Health: McDonald’s joined a host of other big food companies that are taking the terms “soil health” and “sustainability” seriously. Rather than incentivizing farmers directly, McDonald’s is investing into research and development of soil health practices to help farmers: Successful Farming.

On the Range

  • Greater Pasture Productivity: Making more grass from irrigated pastureland alleviates drought stress: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Building Soil through Ranching: Fourth-generation rancher Cory Carman holistically manages 5,000-acres which serve as a model for sustainable meat operations in the Pacific Northwest. Carman is building soil health and a robust regional food system: Civil Eats.
  • Move to Year-round Grazing: Are you interested in moving to year-round grazing, but not sure where to start? Dean Schneider describes the process of making the switch at his place in Oklahoma: OnPasture.
  • Ranching Documentary: Ranching hits the big screen in Ocean of Grass: Life on a Nebraska Sandhills Ranch: The Fence Post.
  • Prairie Strips Transform Farmland Conservation: Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) showed that converting just 10% of a row-cropped field to prairie strips reduces soil loss by 95%, reduces overland water flow by 37%, and reduces the loss of two key nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from the soil by nearly 70% and 77%, respectively: Eureka Alert.


  • WY Migration Corridors: Wyoming Game and Fish Department is preparing to recommend designation of two more major migration corridors. The first route, from Jackson to north of Rock Springs, would recognize 180 miles of antelope migration route. The other, from southeast of Alpine to north of Evanston would recognize about 150 miles of mule deer paths: Casper Star Tribune.
  • Spread of CWD: It may be caused by a mutated protein, but the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is on the verge of “going viral.” After it was first identified in 1967, the always-fatal disease remained isolated to a core region between Colorado and Wyoming for decades. But starting in the early 2000s, CWD began popping up across the country: TRCP.
  • End of Monarch Butterflies? The total number of West Coast monarchs was estimated at approximately 4.5 million in the 1980s. In the latest count, that number fell to 28,429, dipping below the number scientists estimate is needed to keep the population going. USFWS is expected to announce in June whether the monarch qualifies under the ESA: New York Times.
  • WY Grizzly Hunt Law: Environmental groups have filed notice they intend to sue over a new Wyoming law that could authorize grizzly bear hunting even though grizzlies are federally protected: AP News.


  • Ranching in the New Normal: Ranching in the New Normal is a collaborative project between Audubon Rockies and American Rivers that tells the water-story of three Colorado ranches as they adapt to increasingly drier conditions, and the hope they have for their land and water legacy. WLA members George Whitten and Julie Sullivan are featured: American Rivers.
  • Crisis on the Colorado: An interesting five-part series focused on how as the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis. The series includes articles ranging from “Will the Colorado run dry?” and “New strategies for conserving water”: YaleEnviornment360.
  • AZ to Miss Water Plan Deadline: Arizona won’t have all the pieces of a Colorado River drought plan finished by the federal government’s deadline to finalize protections for water used by millions across the West, state water officials said yesterday: Denver Post.
  • Water Quality Trading: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging states to develop water quality trading programs to tackle nutrient pollution, which has become an increasingly visible issue in farm country: Agri-Pulse.

Forest & Fire

  • To Masticate or Not: Determining the best mastication methods considering both management objectives and site limitations is challenging. To Masticate or Not: Useful Tips for Treating Forest, Woodland, and Shrubland Vegetation synthesizes current research on mastication as a forest management tool: USDA Forest Service.
  • Post-Fire Study: A new study looks at forest structure and regeneration responses 15 years after a wildfire in a ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer ecotone in Arizona and concludes that wildfire and climate change interactions may accelerate shifts in structure and composition in Southwest forest ecosystems: Fire Ecology.
  • Insurance and Wildfire Risk: As wildfire risk increases in Colorado and the West, home insurance grows harder to find: The Denver Post
  • Fish after Wildfire: What happens to fish after a wildfire? Denuded stream banks erode quickly, with topsoil and ash clouding streams and making it difficult for fish to breathe or find food: Hakai Magazine.


  • WLA Policy Update: WLA’s policy director, Jessica Crowder, reports on passage of the Natural Resources Management Act and outlines highlights of what’s included in the large conservation and public lands package: Western Landowners Alliance. Keep up to date on WLA’s policy work by following Jessica’s updates on the WLA Policy webpage.
  • MT NRCS 2019 Conservation Approach: The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is changing the way it does business to better identify and prioritize Montana’s natural resource concerns on private land and to better focus its technical and financial assistance: USDA NRCS Montana.

Tools & Resources

  • Interactive Forest Guide: The State of America’s Forests Project is a comprehensive assessment of U.S. forests that provides a balanced look at the historical events that shaped our forests, including current information on “everything forest” as well as unique wildland fire risk mapping: The State of America’s Forests.
  • New Tamarisk Beetle Map: RiversEdge West provides information on the movement of the tamarisk beetle, a biological control that was released by the USDA in 2001 to help manage tamarisk. As shown in the 2018 map, tamarisk beetle populations rebounded in SE Utah and SW Colorado, remained low (or absent) across Texas and the Plains states, and stayed fairly constant everywhere else: RiversEdge West.



  • Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund: The Network for Landscape Conservation (NLC) announced the launch of a major five-year national grant program to accelerate the pace and practice of collaborative conservation at the landscape scale. The Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund will distribute at least $1 million in funding to landscape conservation partnerships across the United States over the first three-year period, and offer supplemental training and mentoring to grantees. The program RFP will be announced on March 1, 2019: NLC.
  • Grant to Reduce Livestock/Mexican Gray Wolf Conflicts: The Arizona Livestock Loss Board is now allowing ranchers to seek grant funding to assist in employing measures designed to prevent conflicts between cattle and Mexican wolves. The reimbursement program is designed to provide compensation to livestock producers who incur costs to their operations from Mexican wolves with the goal of increased tolerance for the presence of this subspecies on working landscapes: Arizona Game & Fish.


  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Coalition Director: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is seeking an energetic, passionate, experienced and collaborative Coalition Director to provide executive level leadership to NSAC, its staff, governing body and membership. Learn more here.
  • Working Lands Engagement Coordinator: 1000 Friends of Oregon is looking to hire a permanent, full-time working lands engagement coordinator. Learn more here.
  • Women for the Land Director: American Farmland Trust (AFT) seeks a strong and collaborative leader to lead and expand its Women for the Land Initiative throughout the country. Learn more here.
  • Alaska State Director: The Wilderness Society (TWS) seeks a motivated, highly collaborative, strategic, campaign-oriented individual to lead The Wilderness Society’s work in Alaska. Learn more here.
  • Women, Food & Ag Network Executive Director: The Women, Food and Agriculture Network seeks an Executive Director who will continue the organization’s growth, who is passionate about the intersections of sustainable agriculture, feminism, and justice, and who has experience in community organizing, fundraising, staff management, and nonprofit administration. Applications are due March 15. Learn more here.
  • Restoration Coordinator: RiversEdge West is seeking a restoration coordinator to be based in Grand Jucntion, Colorado. Applications are due March 14. Learn more here.


  • Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board: BLM recently released a call for nominations for three open positions on the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board that will become vacant on March 21, 2019. Nominations must be submitted by April 1, 2019: Federal Register.
  • WOW Shadowing Opportunity: Are you interested in launching a women-focused woodland owner program, but aren’t sure what one might look like and how it would work? There is additional funding available to offset travel related costs for aspiring WOW (Women Owning Woodlands) leaders to attend an existing WOW event to shadow and learn from the event organizer(s). Applications are due March 9, 2019. Forest Stewards Guild.
  • CO Ag Watershed Survey: Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) Ag Water NetWORK (www.agwaternetwork.org) is initiating a survey of agricultural producers to determine their familiarity with watershed management plans. The web-based survey asks producers about their water-related needs and priorities, and solicits feedback on their interest in being involved in local watershed management planning efforts.

Events & Webinars


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