Western Digest – March 2018
News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife
With spring fresh in the air and the anticipation of new grass in the pasture and new projects on the ground, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our re-formatted monthly member update. Those of you who loved our “Water Weekly” and “Wildlife Update,” fear not — all the great information you’re used to seeing will now appear in this combined monthly digest. As always, we’ll include pertinent working lands, water and wildlife news and opportunities around the West.
Let us know what you think of this new format! And if you have any information, resources or events you think would be relevant for this digest, or have questions or comments, please send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.
Stewardship Services Director
Working Lands Economics
- WLA launches a new blog series: WLA and WRA, Inc. have partnered to offer a nine-part, monthly blog series focused on how landowners can leverage the opportunities offered by conservation finance to further both conservation and economic goals. Read the first post.
- Environmental Services: A national coalition convened by the Noble Research Institute recently announced its intent to create a voluntary environmental services market that benefits agricultural producers and improves the environment: Farm Forum.
- MT Community Thrives: In a remote region of Montana, the tiny community of Winnett is bucking the trend that tells us that rural communities are dying. Instead, it is thriving: Prairie Populist.
- CA/NV Soil Health: The story of a rancher on the California-Nevada border who improved soil health and her bottom line: NPR.
- Land Degradation is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date: The Guardian.
Forest & Range
- Soil Health: Drought and soil health – are you resilient? Join WLA for one or both of our inaugural “Healthy Soils Roadshow” sessions on two ranches in New Mexico April 16 & 19. Jeff Goebel, WLA’s Jesse Juen and Rick Danvir, NRCS representative Brenda Simpson, and fellow landowners and practitioners will explore the economic and ecological effects of innovative management practices on ground-cover characteristics, soil function, water infiltration and retention, wildlife habitat and your financial bottom line. Learn more and RSVP.
- WLA Grazing Study: Interested in a comparison on the effectiveness of different grazing strategies including strategic grazing management, continuous stocking and multi-year rest? Check out a study by WLA’s Rick Danvir and Open Range Consulting’s Gregg Simonds and Eric Sant: Rangelands.
- Soil Health Alliance: An unlikely alliance between environmentalists, farmers and big agriculture companies aims to improve soil health and create sustainable food supply chains: Genetic Literacy Project.
- Fighting Fire with Native Plants, an article by Jay Kerby and Lisa Feldkamp, explains why cheatgrass is a key culprit contributing to wildfires in the West and why replacing it with native plants can help: Cool Green Science.
- Cheatgrass: Why is cheatgrass bad? Ecologist Mike Pellant explains why cheatgrass threatens sagebrush country and offers ways to cope with it: SGI.
- Cheatgrass: Also related to cheatgrass, DeWitt Morris of Wyoming is creating a model for nearby ranchers by thwarting the invasion of nonnative grass on Mountain Springs Ranch: SGI.
- Calving: Interested in increasing the number of calves born during daylight hours? New compilation of research suggests that feeding cows later in the day and evening will help: Dakota Farmer.
- Sagebrush: 30 short videos on science & management in sagebrush country: Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI).
- Forest Health: Check out this cool podcast, Trees are Key, from Texas A&M Forest Service on why fire is key to forest health: Texas A&M.
- Wildfire: Rangelands in the American West have experienced increased frequency of wildfire over the past several decades. Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs) are volunteer non-profit groups of landowners trained and authorized to respond to area wildfires, a model that has proliferated recently in Oregon and Idaho: Joint Fire Science Program.
- Wildfire Funding: On March 23, 2018, the FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (2018 Omnibus) included a provision called the Wildfire and Disaster Funding Adjustment (Division O, Title I – page 1787). Here is a summary published by The Nature Conservancy, explaining how the newly enacted Wildfire Suppression Disaster Cap Adjustment will be implemented.
- A pilot program under which farmers and ranchers in the Upper Colorado River Basin volunteered to be compensated for temporarily fallowing lands with the idea of boosting water levels in Lake Powell drew significant interest and has shown that such an approach may be a useful tool: The Daily Sentinel.
- Decreasing Snowpack: According to a new study in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, average snowpack in the West decreased by between 15 and 30 percent in just over 100 years and building new reservoirs will likely not help water shortages caused by declining snowpack: AP News.
- Water Conservation: A group of farmers in northwest Kansas agreed five years ago to use significantly less water from the Ogallala Aquifer and, according to recent economic and hydrological assessments, their conservation has paid off: Circle of Blue.
- Waters Policy: In anticipation of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals vacating a temporary injunction that had instructed the enforcement of the Obama-era rule redefining Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers published a new rule that pushes back the applicability of the Obama-era WOTUS rule to 2020: National Law Review.
- Wildlife Management and Science: New research calls into question the assumption that North America’s wildlife management practices are guided by science: Science Advances.
- Collaborative Conservation: Partners for Conservation (PFC) recently released a report that evaluates lessons learned during greater sage-grouse collaborative conservation efforts: PFC.
- Grizzly Bear Hunt: Wyoming is poised to become the first continental state in 43 years to allow grizzly bear hunts. Hunters will be able to kill up to 24 bears this year: WyoFile.
- Rewilding Carnivores: Can “rewilding” carnivores help restore landscapes? New research published in Royal Society Open Science, suggests that with proper attention and care to ensure these carnivores’ survival, rewilding programs could restore lost ecosystems worldwide: New York Times.
- Sage-Grouse: New findings show that phenology explains sage-grouse nest success, not grass height: SGI.
- Omnibus News: This past week, Congress passed a government spending package (the 2018 “omnibus appropriations bill”) to fund federal programs through the end of September. Interested where agriculture and conservation funding stands? Check out the summary from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: NSAC.
- WLA response to Omnibus: WLA released this statement in response to the omnibus, thanking members of Congress for voting to take action and end fire borrowing and for making it possible for our federal land management agencies to do the work they need to do to properly maintain and sustain our public lands.
- Critical Habitat: Twenty states have dropped a lawsuit against federal wildlife agencies after the Trump administration agreed to reconsider Obama-era updates to critical habitat rules: E&E News.
- Sage-Grouse Comments: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirmed claims that it did not receive tens of thousands of public comments in support of Obama-era greater sage-grouse conservation plans due to a “breakdown in technology”: Casper Star Tribune.
- Grizzly Bears: A federal district judge denied a request from the federal government to delay proceedings in six lawsuits over the delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act: Missoulan.
- Public/Private Partnership: Everyone deals with government agencies whether at the local, state or federal level. Make them your allies, and everyone’s work is better: Beef Magazine.
Tools & Resources
- CA Healthy Soils Program: Check out this fact sheet on California’s Healthy Soils Program, an initiative that provides grants to farmers and ranchers who adopt soil-building practices that increase on-farm carbon sequestration and reduce on-farm GHG emissions.
- USDA Water Tool: The USDA now offers a free, online tool to quantify water quality benefits of conservation practices in the field. USDA has worked with the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research at Tarleton State University to create a new national version of the Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT): USDA.
- CSP Renewal: Renewal applications for the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are currently being accepted. CSP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help them implement new, and actively manage existing conservation systems on land in production. Renewal applications are due April 13, 2018. More information on CSP renewals can be found via NSAC’s blog.
- RCPP California: USDA NRCS California is accepting applications for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): Livestock in Harmony with Bi-State Sage-Grouse project. Applications are due April 27, 2018.
- USDA REAP: The USDA recently published a request for applications for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a farm bill program that provides grants and loans to farmers and businesses for energy efficiency improvements and purchase of wind, solar or other renewable energy systems. Applications are due April 30, 2018.
- USDA OPPE: The USDA Office of Partnerships & Public Engagement (OPPE) announced up to $8.4 million in available funding for training and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. See the request for applications for more information. Applications are due May 15, 2018.
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hiring a Southwest Montana Sagebrush Conservation Coordinator. Applications are due April 11, 2018: Nature.org.
- TomKat Ranch in California is currently accepting applications for their summer internship. Learn more and apply here. Applications are due April 1, 2018.
- Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) is hiring an Oregon Field Representative. Position will remain open until filled. See website for more information and to apply.
- MT Master Hunter Program: For landowners in Montana, check out the Montana Master Hunter program. Applications are due April 1, 2018.
- Forest and Wetland Restoration: USDA NRCS seeks assistance to complete restoration work of degraded wetlands, floodplains and forestlands. Proposals are requested from qualified individuals and organizations to implement restoration activities on eligible easement properties. Applications are due May 18, 2018: NRCS.
- For Students: Are you a student seeking practical, professional hands-on experience in sustainable rangeland and resources management? Check out Cal Poly’s Sustainable Rangeland & Livestock Management course August 6-17, 2018.
Events & Webinars
- March 8 – May 9: WEBINAR SERIES: Moving the Needle on Cheatgrass from the Sage Grouse Initiative.
- April 2: WEBINAR at 2 PM MT: 2018 Request for Water Acquisitions Pilot Process. Colorado Water Trust staff will explain the Pilot Process, available transaction tools and the protections available to Colorado water right owners who share their water with the environment. Register here.
- April 4: Cross-Watershed Network Annual Workshop in Socorro County, New Mexico.
- April 5: WEBINAR at 12 PM MT: Northwest Farm Credit Services presents Economic Outlook and Federal Policy Update with Dr. Ed Seifried. Detailed information and registration here.
- April 6: Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC) Wildlife Migration Symposium in Jackson, Wyoming.
- April 13: Grazing Permit Renewal Workshop in Baggs, Wyoming. Workshop is for Wyoming and Colorado ranch owners and managers, federal grazing permit holders, and local policy makers.
- April 16 & 19: WLA’s New Mexico “Healthy Soils” Roadshow in Mosquero & Carlsbad, New Mexico. Join WLA and fellow landowners as we explore the economic and ecological impacts of innovative land management on two New Mexico ranches.
- April 21: WLA’s “Agua es Vida” film will be showing at the Taos Environmental Film Festival in Taos, New Mexico.
- April 29 – May 2: River Network presents River Rally 2018 in Olympic Valley, California.
- May 1: WLA WEBINAR on water and soil health (more information to come).
- May 24: WLA Stewardship in Action tour on Flying Diamond Ranch, Colorado.
- June 14: WLA Stewardship in Action tour on Elk Ranch, Colorado.
- 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.
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