Western Digest – May 2018

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

On May 24, WLA hosted a workshop and field tour focused on conflict mitigation with elk, wolves and grizzlies in Red Lodge, MT. Photo: L Allison.

Articles this month range from a new report on the state of U.S. agricultural lands to species conservation banking and from rebuilding top soil to a voluntary pilot program that compensates agricultural producers for temporarily fallowing their crops. 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

  • Species Conservation Banking & Habitat Exchanges: The third article of our conservation finance series with WRA, Inc. explores species conservation banking and habitat exchanges including how species conservation banking works, how a landowner can create conservation credits, benefits to the landowner, potential downsides and risks to the landowner, an overview of habitat exchanges, and a short survey to help you determine if your land may qualify for a species bank: WLA Blog.
  • Farms Under Threat: American Farmland Trust recently released a report detailing the state of America’s farmland, the results of a multi-year initiative to asses and document the loss of U.S. farmland and ranchland, analyze threats, and provide policy solutions. One finding in the report is the loss of almost 31 million acres of agricultural land to development between 1992 and 2012: American Farmland Trust.
  • Stewardship in Action Tours: On May 24, we spent the day on Flying Diamond Ranch near Kit Carson, Colorado where we learned about the economic benefits of holistic management, soil health and succession planning from the Johnson Family. Next, we have a tour of Elk Ranch near Colorado Springs on June 14 where will explore how conservation easements, forest management, hunting, leasing for cattle grazing and guest services can work together to create a sustainable business and improve land health. If you are interested in attending, check out this invitation and RSVP to hallie@westernlandowners.org.
  • Make $ While Saving a Forest: Tribes and Native-owned corporations are making huge profits by conserving their forests for carbon offset programs – an effort that could revolutionize conservation: Outside Magazine.
  • Succession Planning: WLA’s Lesli Allison was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered discussing the importance of succession planning as more ranchers prepare for retirement and land transfer: NPR.
  • Rural Perspectives: Hewlett Foundation recently released a report titled Rural Perspectives on Western Conservation analyzing best practices in advancing conservation with rural communities across the North American West: Hewlett.org. Fun note, the photo on the cover of the report features WLA members George Whitten and Julie Sullivan and WLA staff Hallie Mahowald.
  • Access to Global Markets: Don Brown, Colorado commissioner of agriculture, warns about the impact of the threat of global tariffs and argues that Colorado ranchers and farmers need free and open access to international markets, as well as trade agreements that help advance export relationships: Western Farmer-Stockman.

Forest & Range

  • Good grazier? Most ranchers aren’t there yet: “In spite of much research and knowledge about good grazing practices, we’re still losing topsoil at an alarming rate”. Burk Teichert reflects on the current state of grazing, knowledge versus practice, and land management: Beef Magazine.
  • Can Dirt Save the Earth?: Agriculture could pull carbon out of the air and into the soil – but it would mean a whole new way of thinking about the land. The article references the Marin Carbon Project, Gabe Brown, regenerative agriculture, and using managed grazing to restore land health. Long, but worth a read: New York Times.
  • Drought & Soil Health Webinar: On May 15, WLA hosted a webinar focused on adapting to drought while improving soil and range health and ranch economics. If you missed it, you can view the recording.
  • Impacts of Forest Management on Watersheds: A pilot project in the Yuba watershed of California will study the impacts of forest management, including forest thinning, meadow restoration, prescribed burns and invasive plant treatment, on water quality and quantity. The project should provide critical data to quantify exactly how forest health benefits watersheds, which could help spark additional investment in forest management techniques in the future: Yuba County Water Agency.
  • Rebuilding Topsoil: In a recent study done by Ohio State University, a team of soil scientists found that topsoil erosion, in addition to reducing crop productivity, causes the release of greenhouse gases. However, the study also suggests that topsoil can be rebuilt faster than had been previously thought by adding organic matter such as compost: Ohio Farmer.
  • Climate Impact Study: New research shows extreme climate variability over the last century may be destabilizing key parts of the ecosystem: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Above-average Wildfire Season: The Forest Service is predicting another above-average year for wildfires in 2018, with threats concentrated in parts of California, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana: E&E News.
  • OR Dead Tree Removal: The US Forest Service is seeking public comments on a plan to remove hundreds of dead ponderosa pines in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest that were mistakenly killed by an herbicide: Bend Bulletin.
  • CO Wildfire Mitigation $: Colorado Springs will use a $500,000 grant for wildfire mitigation in the city and in open areas outside of town long seen as a fire threat. Colorado Springs Gazette.


  • Hell or High Water: WLA board member Ken Mirr discusses the Colorado River Compact, the impacts of water allocation and demand, and the Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP), a voluntary pilot program that compensates agricultural producers for temporarily fallowing their crops and letting the water run down the river: Journal-Advocate.
  • Solar over Wind: In southeast Wyoming, a cattle ranch is seeing benefits from switching from wind to solar-powered wells to water their cattle: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Watering Wildlife: Check out this video that provides a cool tip for helping wildlife and protecting the outflow pipe from a stocktank: Ranching For Profit YouTube.
  • Montana’s Water Future: Check out this video produced by Montana DNRC which looks at Montana’s current water situation and the need to prepare for the future now.
  • Water to Electricity: Vern and Marti Spaur have installed two 11-kilowatt hydroelectric projects on their family ranch on the Oregon-Washington-Idaho border: Western Farmer-Stockman.


  • Sage-Grouse and Big Game Overlap: The National Wildlife Federation unveiled a series of maps that show the overlap between Greater Sage-grouse and big game habitat across six Western states and urged Secretary Zinke to consider how conservation for the iconic bird could also benefit larger species: E&E News.
  • Wolverines in Wyoming: Wolverines have been observed in Wyoming’s Wind River Range for the first time in a century, a sign of the species’ continuing southward expansion: Casper Star Tribune.
  • Multiple-Use Management: WLA Advisor Rick Danvir recently published an article on multiple-use management of Western U.S rangelands and the importance of considering wildlife species diversity and livestock grazing in conjunction with wild horses and burros: Human-Wildlife Interactions.
  • Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is upholding its conclusion that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears no longer needs Endangered Species Act protections: USFWS.
  • Mining Ban in Bighorn Sheep Range: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called for a 20-year extension of a federal mineral withdrawal in western Wyoming to ensure protection of winter range for bighorn sheep: The Wildlife Society.
  • Pronghorn Migrations: A new paper by Jakes et al. on classifying pronghorn migrations at their northern range is now available: Journal of Wildlife Management.


  • Sustainable Beef Framework: The US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) put out its framework for a 60-day public comment period on May 1: USRSB. If you have comments you would like to share with us on this topic, please send them to Jessica Crowder, WLA’s new Policy Director. Also, Holistic Management International and The Nature Conservancy are hosting a 2-day workshop on the USRSB Framework June 27 and 28 (see more details in the events section below).
  • Wild Horses and Burros Report: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its long-awaited report on a comprehensive plan to address the overpopulation of wild horses and burros on federal lands: National Association of Conservation Districts.
  • Hurricane and Wildfire Recovery $: US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, recently announced new details on eligibility for a new USDA disaster program, 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). In total, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will deploy the up to $2.36 billion to help producers with recovery of their agricultural operations in at least nine states with hurricane damage and states impacted by wildfire: USDA.
  • RVCC Issue Papers: Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) recently finalized two new issue papers: FY 2019 Appropriations Priorities and 2018 Farm Bill Priorities: RVCC.
  • CO Forced Pooling Bill Passes: Senate Bill 320, a bill giving Colorado homeowners more protections when oil and gas drillers seek to obtain their mineral rights has passed the state Senate and now will be signed by Gov. Hickenlooper: Durango Herald.
  • Red Tape Reduction for Farmers: Scereatry Perdue applauded the removal of a “burdensome regulation that has long plagued family farms”. The rule requiring producers to obtain Data Universal Number System (DUNS) and System for Award Management (SAM) numbers to participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs has been eliminated: USDA.

Tools & Resources

  • The Right Tools for the Job: Putting technology to work on your ranch: On June 6th, WLA will host a webinar with MPG Ranch exploring technology used for remote monitoring in ranch country. We will take a virtual tour of the ranch and learn about the network infrastructure together with the software, cameras and sensors that they use to monitor wildlife activity and ranch infrastructure and more. Register here.
  • Wetland Easements: Have you thought about protecting, restoring or enhancing wetlands on your land? Learn if wetlands easements are right for you: USDA.
  • Law of Ag Land Preservation Book: Thomas Daniels recently wrote the book The Law of Agricultural Land Preservation in the United States, a “must read for any attorney advising landowners and for land trusts and government programs that preserve farmland”: LandCAN.



  • 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.
  • Disaster Payments: USDA will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). Sign-up for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16, 2018.
  • 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.


  • Executive Director: RiversEdge West (formerly the Tamarisk Coalition) is hiring an Executive Director to be based in Grand Junction, Colorado. Deadline to apply is June 6, 2018. View the position details here.


Events & Webinars

  • May 31 – June 1: 2018 Grassfed Beef Conference at Texas A&M College Station Campus, Texas.
  • June 1: WEBINAR at 11 AM MT: Farm Marketing From the Heart: 3 Steps That Will Make Your Farm Profitable hosted by Kathy Voth, publisher of OnPasture, and Charlotte Smith. Charlotte is a dairy farmer and an expert in farm marketing who teaches thousands of farmers how to build lasting relationships with dream customers so they can become a profitable farm and stay in business for years to come. Register here.
  • June 6: WEBINAR at 10 AM MT: The Right Tools for the Job: Putting technology to work on your ranch. Register here.
  • June 7: Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will meet in Cortez, Colroado to discuss finalizing regulations to freeze hunting and fishing license fees through the remainder of 2018, options for annual license setting timing, and use of drones. See details and full agenda.
  • June 12: WEBINAR at 12 PM MT: Wildlife Benefits from Cover Crops on Working Lands by USDA NRCS Science and Technology. Learn more and join here.
  • June 14: WLA Stewardship in Action tour on the Elk Ranch, Colorado.
  • June 22-23: Ecological Monitoring Workshop hosted by Coldharbour Institute in Gunnison, Colorado.
  • June 24: San Luis Valley Day at El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, Colorado. Learn more here.
  • July 10-11: Great Plains Fire Exchange workshop on patch burn grazing in Nunn, Colorado. More details and register here.
  • July 12-17: Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) 2018 Annual Conference in Eugene, Oregon.
  • June 26: WEBINAR at 12 PM MT: Environmental Markets 101 presented by USDA NRCS Science and Technology. Learn more and join here.
  • June 26-28: Mapping Community Assets to Build Wildlife Resilience workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Register here.
  • June 27-28: Ranching Towards the Future a 2-day workshop on the USRSB Framework presented by Holistic Management International and The Nature Conservancy at JE Canyon Ranch in Branson, Colorado. Learn more and register. $50 per person includes lunch both days.
  • July 29 – August 1: Culture, Climate and Conservation: Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) 73rd International Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Register Online here.
  • 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 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.
  • September 11-12: “Rising to the Challenge” #forestproud gathering in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • October 2-4: Private Lands Partners Day hosted by Partners for Conservation in Springfield, Missouri. Register here.


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