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Western Digest – July 2018

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

Days are long, hummingbirds are in the air and summer is well-underway at WLA. Our hope is that each of you is spending much of your time outside on the land and enjoying these summer months. They tend to go by fast! Articles in this issue range from carbon credits to wildfire and invasive grasses, an update on the 2018 Farm Bill, and TWO new WLA films. 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

  • Carbon Crediting: Want to know how forest and grassland carbon crediting works and whether your property may be a good candidate? Check out our latest blog post from WRA, Inc: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Western Workforce Development: The Workforce Development Initiative Year-One Report highlights the work of Western Governors to bridge the skills gap between workers and employers in the West. The Initiative’s first year focused on how to create enhanced opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers: Western Governors’ Association.
  • CO Transferable Tax Credits: Colorado taxpayers have several options to purchase discounted tax credits while at the same time supporting important work in land conservation, environmental cleanup, and preservation of historic buildings: Tax Credit Connection, Inc.

Forest & Range

  • Wildfire and Native Seeds: A 400,000+ acre wildfire that has devastated sagebrush and greater sage-grouse habitat in Nevada is a stark reminder of the correlation between invasive species and the wildfires threatening vast ecosystems and critical wildlife habitats in the Great Basin and elsewhere. Large wildfires with critical consequences like the Martin Fire demonstrate the urgent need for the continued collection, storage and dissemination of locally-adapted native seed in post-fire restoration efforts, as championed by the USFWS and its partners: Nevada Independent.
  • Grazing Practices: This article written by New Mexico journalist Ellen Marks features Jim Berlier (from our film, below!) and others in a discussion about grazing practices that support both ecology and economics, while providing a little resilience cushion in times of drought: Albuquerque Journal.
  • WLA Film Premiere: Watch the latest Stewardship with Vision episode, featuring New Mexico rancher Jim Berlier. Through prescribed grazing that provides adequate pasture recovery time, strategic stocking rates, drought planning and brush removal, the Berlier Ranch has experienced significant increases in plant and wildlife diversity, making the ranch more sustainable and profitable.
  • The Western Landowner: The Land Report celebrates the Western Landowner through portraits from Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada written by WLA’s Lesli Allison: Land Report (p.56).
  • Grass Seed Tortellini: Western rangelands that have been scorched by fire may have a savior in a restaurant-grade pasta machine which is used to create sagebrush and grass seed tortellini, which are coated so they hold moisture in the arid environment: New York Times
  • Invasive Grasses and Wildfire: The spread of invasive grasses is leading to more frequent and intense wildfires in the West. Here are 5 things you should know about invasive grasses and how to combat them: Sage Grouse Initiative.
  • Wyoming Ag Education: When more than 30% of the U.S. population was engaged in farming, people knew what agriculture was and where food came from. Over the past three generations, there’s been a significant change — and even states that might appear rural are finding that the general population has lost touch with farming. Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Young Farmer & Rancher Committee for the state is working to fill that educational gap through the Ag Books for Kids program in schools: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Fire Summit Report: The March 2018 Fire Summit was held to identify viable forest management practices that could help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-severity fire events in the West. A final report from this summit is intended to provide elected officials and policy administrators with recommended actions that if taken would meaningfully contribute to addressing the challenges facing fire-prone Western forest landscapes: Oregon State University.
  • Invasive Plants: The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has released a new report that provides a comprehensive assessment of fire and invasive management options for the conservation of sagebrush in the West. The top problem identified in the report is the limited ability at all levels of government to prevent invasive plants such as fire-prone cheatgrass from spreading and displacing native plants. The report identified five top priority gaps and 17 areas of concern that will help all agencies and organizations working on sagebrush conservation to better focus on the major challenges: WAFWA.

Water

  • CO River Pilot Program Ends: The System Conservation Pilot Program, a four year pilot program that paid ranchers and farmers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico for fallowing fields in order boost water levels in Lake Powell will be put on hold after 2018: The Aspen Times.
  • Recycled Water to Farms: Recycled wastewater from Modesto, California, is now flowing to farmers and wildlife in the San Joaquin Valley, a potential model for the future in a drought-plagued state: NewsDeeply.
  • NM State Water Plan: New Mexico officials have released an updated state water plan that calls for conserving groundwater and taking other proactive steps to mitigate the effects of severe drought: U.S. News.
  • Sharing Water to Save the Farm: A new guide aimed at the land conservation community focuses on water sharing between agricultural and municipal users. The guide is designed to help land trusts and open space programs to understand Alternative Transfer Mechanisms (ATMs) and how they might incorporate water-sharing into their work or evaluate conservation opportunities with ATMs to reduce “buy and dry”: Colorado Open Lands.
  • WLA Film Announcement: Watch the trailer for our next Stewardship with Vision film, featuring Colorado ranchers George Whitten and Julie Sullivan. This 1-minute trailer provides a glimpse into George and Julie’s unique stewardship model, yielding restored and increased healthy biological processes while providing for a sustainable ranching model. Keep an eye on our website for the release of the full film, July 22nd.
  • Western Water Strategies: WLA’s Lesli Allison co-authored this op-ed with Sandra Postel, published in The Hill: “In recent weeks, federal officials have warned residents of the southwestern United States that their two major lifelines—the Colorado River and the Rio Grande—will deliver alarmingly low water supplies in the coming months. This summer, the Rio Grande may actually run dry through Albuquerque, New Mexico, a rarity. Meanwhile by 2020 the Colorado’s biggest reservoir, Lake Mead, stands a 52 percent chance of dropping to the level at which an official shortage is declared, requiring cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.” Read the full article: Western water strategy shifting from ‘use it or lose it,’ to ‘waste not, want not.’

Wildlife

  • Human-Carnivore Conflict: A Guidebook to Human-Carnivore Conflict offers strategies and practical tips on effective communication and collaboration with communities to address conflicts with large carnivores, including brown bears (Ursus acrtos) and wolves (Canis lupus). The guide is based on work and research in Europe, but includes techniques and strategies that are relevant to North America: Life Dinalp Bear.
  • Bighorn Sheep Controversy: Utah state wildlife officials approved a controversial proposal to reintroduce desert bighorn sheep into the Mineral Mountains of Utah over the objections of livestock growers who fear the presence of wild sheep could be leveraged to push domestic sheep off public lands: The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • Salmon Recovery: Twenty-one Washington tribes with treaty-protected fishing rights earned a victory when a 17-year legal battle over salmon recovery efforts in Washington ended with the U.S. Supreme Court leaving in place a lower court order that forces state government to remove or fix hundreds of culverts that block fish migration: The Seattle Times.
  • Wolves and Elk Behavior: A new study from Utah State University shows that Yellowstone National Park’s elk may not fear wolves as much as some scientists once contended, but instead only avoid the predators at certain times of day: Billings Gazette.
  • Natural Gas in Pronghorn Path: A debate continues between environmental groups and energy developers regarding a proposed 3,500-well natural gas project near Pinedale that would impact a pronghorn migration route, just south of the “Path of the Pronghorn”, that has not yet been officially designated by Wyoming Game and Fish: Casper Star Tribune.
  • Beavers and Steelhead: An ecological experiment that employed beavers to restore streams in Central Oregon saw a 175 percent increase in juvenile steelhead in just 4 years. While beavers’ natural engineering abilities are well-known, this was the first project to show that beavers re-engineering of stream can yield such pronounced improvements of fish populations: Circle Ranch Texas.
  • Delisting Wolves: The US Fish and Wildlife Service will once again work on a proposal to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere in the continental United States: Inforum.

Policy

  • WLA Weighs-in on Policy: Jessica Crowder, WLA’s new policy director based in Wyoming, weighs in on the Endangered Species Act and provides an update on the 2018 Farm Bill. Keep your eyes on WLA’s policy page for bi-weekly updates: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Prescribed Fire Policy Barriers: A new report from the Ecosystem Workforce Program, Prescribed Fire Policy Barriers and Opportunities aims to understand the extent to which various policies are limiting prescribed fire programs, strategies to maintain and increase prescribed fire activities, and opportunities for improving policies or policy implementation in 11 western states through legal analysis and approximately 60 interviews with land managers, air regulators, state agency partners, and several NGO partners: Ecosystem Workforce Program.
  • Modernizing Agricultural Transportation: Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., have introduced legislation (S. 3051: Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act) to revise existing trucking regulations to make them more flexible for drivers hauling livestock: Dakota Farmer.
  • Eminent Domain: U.S. Customs and Border Protection told a group of South Texas officials the federal government plans to move forward with private land seizures in the Rio Grande Valley to build sections of the border wall: Texas Tribune.

Tools & Resources

  • Grass-Cast Tool: Producers who want to know what feed they’ll have available can turn to a new tool called Grassland Productivity Forecast, or Grass-Cast. Grass-Cast combines weather data and grassland modeling to provide a forecast of pasture or rangeland production potential: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Monitoring Data Platform: The Tellus Data Web Platform brings diverse types of data together in space and time, on an agile web/mobile portal to help groups and entities grow their comfort and comprehension of the data they need to make real-time, proactive decisions about resource management, environmental health, sustainable economics, and conservation. For example, customers can use this platform to monitor groundwater, surface water, atmospheric/weather data, and combine it with an expanding network of ecologic monitoring, soil health and cattle/ranch movement for effective resource management in times of drought.
  • Roads and Wildlife Portal: The Roads and Wildlife Portal, a collaborative effort of the Staying Connected Initiative and Ontario Road Ecology Group, is a dynamic, interactive website to share information about road mitigation projects, guidance, designs, and studies related to maintaining and restoring connected habitats for fish and wildlife: roadsandwildlife.org.

Opportunities

Funding

  • Hurricane and Wildfire Assistance: Agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Signup begins July 16, 2018, and continues through November 16, 2018: USDA.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Employment

  • WLA NM Field Organizer: WLA seeks a New Mexico Field Organizer, based in Santa Fe, to work with landowners, partner organizations and public agencies to advance WLA’s mission and improve the health of New Mexico’s working lands through educational outreach, resource coordination and public policy engagement: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • RVCC Program Associate: Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) is hiring a Program Associate responsible for supporting all aspects of  RVCC’s strategy – centered on issues that affect rural communities, public and private lands management, and the continuation of a natural resource-based economy in the rural West. Applications are due by July 30, 2018: RVCC.

Other

  • Wildfire Survey: Take a short survey on challenges your community faced and the lessons you learned after a wildfire. The goal of the survey is to develop tools, teams, resources, and ideas to help other communities on the long road to recovery: Coalition and Collaboratives, Inc. Survey deadline is July 31, 2018.
  • Collaborative Research Survey: Cara Steger, a PhD candidate at Colorado State University, is working with the Mountain Sentinels collaborative network to understand, from researchers and practitioners, the most important activities and most significant barriers to success that are common across collaborative research projects worldwide. The survey takes about 20 minutes.

Events & Webinars

  • July 21: Colorado Riverfest hosted by RiversEdge West in Grand Junction, Colorado.
  • July 22: Film Release — Stewardship with Vision episode 7, featuring Colorado ranchers Julie Sullivan and George Whitten: www.westernlandowners.org.
  • July 23: WEBINAR at 6 PM MT: Grazing Cover Crops: Planning and Infrastructure hosted by the Pasture Project.
  • July 24-26: Wetlands monitoring training using the New Mexico Rapid Assessment Method (NMRAM) for montane riverine wetlands at the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. Please RSVP to Elizabeth Milford at the New Mexico Natural Heritage Program, UNM, (505) 277-3822 ext. 227 or emilford2@gmail.com to learn more and reserve a space.
  • July 29 – August 1: Culture, Climate and Conservation: Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) 73rd International Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • July 30: WEBINAR at 6 PM MT: Achieving Financial Success with Grazing Cover Crops hosted by the Pasture Project.
  • July 31 – August 2: Aspen Days in Laramie, Wyoming. Discussions on recent science, ungulate herbivory, beaver-aspen restoration, monitoring methods, and more. Contact Ryan Amundson, Wyoming Game & Fish, for more information.
  • August 2-5: Comanche Creek Annual Volunteer Work Weekend with Quivira Coalition in New Mexico.
  • August 6-17: Sustainable Rangeland & Livestock Management course at Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch. Course is for students seeking practical, professional, hands-on experience in sustainable rangeland and resources management.
  • August 10: Restoring Idaho Streams: Tools for Landowners in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
  • August 10: Wildlands Festival in Bozeman, Montana.
  • August 25: Wyoming Stockgrowers Land Trust (WSGLT) Annual Roundup Fundraiser and Barbeque in Pinedale, Wyoming.
  • August 27-31: New Cowgirl Camp in Cheney, Washington – a five-day intensive course for women interested in becoming farmers or ranchers. Tuition is $997 (all inclusive).
  • September 11-12: “Rising to the Challenge” #forestproud gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. Check out the event page for full details and register here.
  • October 2-4: Private Lands Partners Day hosted by Partners for Conservation in Springfield, Missouri.
  • October 30 – November 2: 2018 Regenerate Conference hosted by Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and American Grassfed Association in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • January 28-30, 2019: Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) Annual Meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico including a shared day with WLA focused on collaboration to increase the health and resilience of public and private lands, and rural communities.

WLA News & Announcements

The Team Expands!

We are excited to add new talent to WLA’s growing team. Please help us welcome two new staff members and one new contractor into the Western Landowners Alliance.

Jennifer Lind, Jessica Crowder, Kelly Beevers

Jennifer Lind recently joined WLA as our Finance and Operations Director and is based in our Santa Fe office. Jennifer was born and raised in New Mexico and spent the first 35 years of her working career as a banker at a local bank in Santa Fe. During her tenure, she managed operations, marketing and retail banking. She served on the boards of Partners in Education and Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. Read her full bio.

Jessica Crowder just came on board as WLA’s new Policy Director. Before joining WLA, she served as policy advisor for Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. Prior experience also includes working for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Service and Northwest College. Jessica is originally from Victoria, Texas and was raised on a cattle ranch in New Mexico. She will be based out of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Read her full bio. 

Kelly Beevers is bringing her talents to help WLA amplify our landowner engagement and further member outreach efforts. She is the force and heart behind Topos & Anthros, where she applies her expertise in real estate investing and development to foster meaningful connections in rural communities and on the landscape. Kelly’s work has grown to include restoring western ranches and contributing to community-based land and water conservation. Her career has brought her into the lives of a wide variety of people and exposed her to diverse landscapes across the American West. She is driven to bring folks together to make meaningful, enduring impacts in communities and on the land, and we’re excited to have her on our team.

New Films: Stewardship with Vision

We couldn’t be more excited to announce our two latest Stewardship with Vision film episodes with you: Episode 7 features George Whitten and Julie Sullivan from the San Juan Ranch (San Luis Valley of Colorado). Watch the 1-minute trailer below and visit our website on July 22 when the full 9-minute film will be released. Episode 8 (yes, released before Episode 7!) features Jim Berlier and tells the inspiring story of one rancher’s restorative stewardship work in south-central New Mexico. Watch it on our website.

Stewardship with Vision films are produced in partnership with Montana State University’s graduate program in Science & Natural History Filmmaking. Student film-makers in this program are required to have an undergraduate degree in the sciences. They are selected through an application process each semester, and promptly sent out by WLA on a ranch filming adventure unlike anything they’re ever experienced.

 

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