Western Digest – July 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife

Mannix Ranch, MT. Photo: Erika Peterman.

Working Lands Economics

  • MT Ranchers Get Paid for Rotational Grazing: In multi-orgnization partnership, Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE) is helping ranchers figure out whether implementing rotational grazing practices (to sequester carbon) make sense for their ranches through the Montana Grasslands Carbon Initiative: Successful Farming.
  • Paying Farmers to Sequester Carbon: Indigo AG, an upstart company, plans to pay farmers to modify their practices to increase carbon sequestration with a goal of removing 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: The Washington Post.
  • Guide to Boost Profits through Conservation: A 2018 report, Farm Finance and Conservation, found that farmers who adopt conservation practices such as no-till, nutrient optimization, cover crops and diverse rotations improved their profitability and were more resilient: EDF.org
  • Intensifying Pasture Management Pays: Sage Askin says an intensively managed rest-rotation system on rangelands has significantly improved groundcover, which has bolstered the “solar panel” and, ultimately, plant growth: Western Farmer-Stockman.

On the Range

  • Can Meat Save the Planet? We’ve been told our consumption of meat is destroying the environment. In fact, these experts would argue that grazing animals are a crucial part of the solution. “The conversation tends to miss this basic point: It’s not whether or not we have animals, it’s how they’re managed.”: Life.
  • How Ranchers Can Bring Back Grassland Birds: A new ranching generation is taking cues from historical bison herds to help prairies, wildlife, and their businesses survive the next century: Audubon.
  • Soil Health in the San Luis Valley: Soil health is an agricultural buzzword in states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Iowa, but what does soil health look like in a region less blessed by black soil and plentiful water? This documentary showcases soil health challenges and management practices within the dry, sandy farming and ranching systems of the San Luis Valley of Colorado: Soil and Water Conservation Society.
  • Sagebrush Disappearing Across West: Recent research reveals how the sagebrush landscape is being changed by humans, invasive species and wildfire. Range land managers with state and federal agencies can use their computer models to specify where limited funds will have the biggest impact to restore sagebrush in the Great Basin: Magic Valley.


  • Migration Corridors: Not all western big game migration routes are created equal. New research in the Journal of Applied Ecology explains that mortality rates on some routes can be as much as three times higher than others. Information from this study could be used by wildlife and land managers when making decisions around migration corridor conservation: Casper Star Tribune.
  • Flaws in Wolf Protection Plan: Scientists tasked with reviewing government plans to lift protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. said in a report that the proposal has numerous factual errors and other problems: AP News.
  • Wolf in Colorado: A recent wolf sighting in Northern Colorado has been confirmed by Wyoming Game and Fish to be from a Wyoming pack in the Yellowstone area: Boise State Public Radio.
  • NV Wild Horses: Nevada’s wild horse population has exploded to an all-time high of more than 43,000 horses. That’s 60 percent of all the wild horses roaming the West — and it’s nearly quadruple the 12,800 equids the Bureau of Land Management says that Nevada’s land can sustain: KUNR.

Conflict Reduction

  • Range Management and Wildlife Coexistence Workshop: Learn about the many tools ranchers can use to tackle tough issues – including range riding, low-stress livestock handling, tips about predator behavior, carcass management, and community-based problem solving. The J Bar L Ranch in the Centennial Valley, Montana is hosting a workshop on range management and wildlife coexistence August 21-23, 2019: Western Sustainability Exchange.
  • MT Grizzly Bear Advisory Council: WLA’s Associate Director Cole Mannix, was recently named to Governor Bullock’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council. The council will work together over the next 12 months to develop recommendations on long-term grizzly bear management in the state. “I look forward to this diverse council working together to find balanced ways to conserve bears and meet the needs of Montanans and our state,” Governor Bullock said: Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks.
  • Grizzlies in the Backyard: In British Columbia’s Bella Coola Valley, humans are trying to live in harmony with grizzly bears: The New York Times.


  • CA Water Rules: After seven years of drought in California that drained aquifers and brought many farmers to the brink, legislators in Sacramento crafted a bunch of rules governing water usage. Those rules, many of which kick in next year, cap how much water farmers and cities can use: NPR Planet Money.
  • Smart Irrigation Model Predicts Rainfall: A predictive model combining information about plant physiology, real-time soil conditions and weather forecasts can help make more informed decisions about when and how much to irrigate: Phys.org.
  • $118 M Bid for San Luis Valley Water: A metro Denver water developer, backed by former Colorado Governor Bill Owens, Front Range real estate interests, and absentee ranchers, is proposing to export millions of gallons of water out of the drought-stricken San Luis Valley for delivery to fast-growing Douglas County: Water Education Colorado.
  • Boosted Reservoirs in Colorado: Everyone knew June snowmelt would boost Colorado’s thirsty reservoirs. Statewide, they went from 59% capacity (end of May) to 76% (end of June.) That still leaves plenty of room for more, but their above average, at 105% normal capacity: The Denver Channel.

Forest & Fire

  • Forest Health on Trinchera Blanca Ranch: The Trinchera Blanca Ranch in southern Colorado has thousands of acres of dying, beetle-kill trees that are fueling a thriving business and new experiments in forest health management. WLA’s Lesli Allison comments “When a ranch like Trinchera shares the knowledge they have developed and experienced through the lessons they have learned, it saves time, money and unnecessary mistakes for other landowners”: The Colorado Sun.
  • CA Utilities Pay Into Wildfire Fund: California’s three investor-owned electric utilities have agreed to chip in a combined $10.5 billion to a new fund to cover the costs of future catastrophic wildfires caused by power company equipment: AP News.
  • Changing Western Forests: Across the Rockies and even into the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Northwest’s Cascades, forests are changing or simply vanishing. Wildfire has played a big role. Insect infestations have also had a hand, as has drought: The Colorado Sun.
  • Western Communities at Risk for Wildfire: Where will the West’s next deadly wildfire strike? Of small communities across 11 states, more than 500 have a higher wildfire hazard potential than Paradise, California: USA Today.


  • Lethal Measures Off Table for Wild Horses: The Trump administration will not pursue lethal measures such as euthanasia or selling horses for slaughter to deal with what officials say is an ecological and fiscal crisis caused by too many wild horses on rangelands in the U.S. West: Casper Star Tribune.
  • BLM HQ Moving to Colorado: With strong bipartisan support, Grand Junction, Colorado will be the new home of the Bureau of Land Management’s national headquarters: The Daily Sentinel.
  • Pendley Named as BLM Acting Director: William Perry Pendley, the conservative lawyer who supports the selling of millions of acres of federal lands to Western states, has been formally designated as the BLM’s acting director: E&E News.
  • Drought and Habitat Solutions: In a recent Senate hearing, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) recommended changes to proposed legislation that would complement the Colorado Drought Contingency Plan, including turning federal support for water storage projects into a win-win by improving natural systems that also serve as important fish and wildlife habitat: TRCP.

Tools & Resources

  • Living with Wildlife Guide: The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative recently launched a digital guide to co-existing with wildlife, offering the experiences in the Bow Valley of Canada as a long-term experiment in learning solutions to co-existing with wildlife in our landscapes. Explore the guide.
  • Rangeland Monitoring App: The Nevada Department of Agriculture has released a new Rangeland Monitoring app for collecting, tracking and storing rangeland monitoring data: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Human–Wildlife Interactions Journal: Human–Wildlife Interactions (HWI) is the only scientific journal dedicated specifically to publishing manuscripts that report research, management case studies, and policy perspectives designed to enhance the professional management of human–wildlife conflicts. Download the current issue here.
  • Farm Loan Discovery Tool: A new online tool can help farmers and ranchers find information on USDA farm loans that best fit the needs of their operation. The tool is especially helpful to farmers who are new to farm loans and need help finding the right type of loan for their business needs: USDA Farmers.gov.



  • Sagebrush Landscapes Conservation Program: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals for projects that conserve, restore and enhance sagebrush and associated habitat. The geographic coverage of the program includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Proposals are due August 14, 2019: NFWF.
  • 2501 Program: The USDA recently announced up to $16 million in available funding to help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers own and operate successful farms. Applications are due August 15, 2019: Federal Register.
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): Farmers and ranchers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts may now re-enroll in certain CRP continuous signup practices or, if eligible, select a one-year contract extension. FSA also is accepting offers from those who want to enroll for the first time. Signup for CRP runs from June 3 to August 23, 2019: USDA FSA.
  • MT Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): The USDA NRCS in Montana has set an August 30, 2019 application cutoff for agricultural operators to be considered for the next conservation program funding cycle through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
  • Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP): FSA announced that organic producers and handlers can apply for federal funds to assist with the cost of receiving and maintaining organic certification through the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP). Applications for fiscal 2019 funding are due October 31, 2019.


  • Quivira Coalition NAP Director: Quivira Coalition is looking for a director for their New Agrarian Apprenticeship Program (NAP). NAP offers apprenticeships in regenerative agriculture in partnership with mentor ranchers and farmers working on large landscapes in the Western US: Quivira Coalition.
  • 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 Institute.


  • CO Food Systems Advisory Council: Colorado Governor Jared Polis is seeking new applications for membership on the Colorado Food System Advisory Council (COFSAC). COFSAC works to advance recommendations that strengthen healthy food access for all Coloradans through Colorado agriculture and local food systems and economies. Applications should be received by August 1, 2019. More information here and apply here.
  • Forest Service NEPA Revisions: The USDA Forest Service is proposing revisions to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. These regulations are a key component of how the agency performs environmental analysis and makes decisions. Comments are due August 13, 2019: USDA Forest Service.


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