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Western Digest – May 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

Photo: Linnaea Elzinga

Working Lands Economics

  • Securing Your Legacy on the Land Part 2: What defines “family governance”? How does one effectively integrate family members into its governing structure? What are some governance issues one encounters when creating and administering trusts? In this second of a five-part Q&A, Howard Weiss, the Senior Vice President and Family Office Practice Expert at Bank of America, discusses the various components that form a strong family governance structure and why this is critical in succession planning. (Missed Part 1? Read it here.): Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Economic Loss through Soil Erosion: Soil isn’t the only thing that we are losing from erosion. A new study estimates $8 billion in global economic losses caused by soil erosion reducing crop yields and increasing water usage: Forbes.
  • Beef Inventory Future Unclear: After five years of increasing beef cow numbers, the direction of future inventory changes has become unclear. There appears to be conflicting factors as to whether continued expansion or a switch to liquidation is the right economic choice for producers to make: Missouri Ruralist.
  • CO Tax Credits: The Colorado conservation easement tax credit program has been extended for an additional 7 years. In addition to the extension, HB-1264 allows landowners to do larger conservation easement donations in a single year and earn up to $5M in tax credits: Tax Credit Connection, Inc.

On the Range

  • Rangelands Alive!: In an effort to shine a light on the work that ranchers do to conserve the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is proud to launch “Rangelands Alive!,” a new journalistic series highlighting working lands, the families that manage them, and the abundance of wildlife that live within these grasslands: World Wildlife Fund.
  • Sagebrush Science and Conservation: The Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Part 2), recently released by the USDA and DOI, is designed to be used by managers in the field who implement sagebrush conservation and restoration activities. Key resource topics covered are monitoring and adaptive management, climate adaptation, wildfire and vegetation management, nonnative invasive plant management, application of National Seed Strategy concepts, livestock grazing management and wild horse and burro considerations: U.S. Forest Service.
  • Conversation Easement with Multiple Benefits: Cannon Air Force Base (NM), in partnership with The Conservation Fund, has protected 30,493 acres adjacent to the Melrose Air Force Range through a conservation easement. The project will preserve a working agricultural landscape, protect the mission of Cannon Air Force Base and provide added conservation benefits for wildlife: The Conservation Fund.
  • Cover Crop’s Benefit to Soil: A Kansas State University research team is putting the finishing touches on the findings from 12 years of work in which they tested the value of growing cover crops in a no-till rotation with wheat, sorghum and soybeans. The group is finding that intensifying the cropping system with cover crops or double-cropping increases soil organic carbon near the surface, potentially leading to such benefits as better soil structure, aggregate size, water infiltration and more: Wisconsin AgConnection.
  • Wild Horse and Burro Proposal: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, American Farm Bureau Federation and Society for Range Management recently announced support for a proposal to reduce wild horse and burro populations on western rangelands. The proposal, if fully implemented, would increase BLM’s capacity to gather horses and burros in overpopulated areas; administer population-growth-suppressant to healthy animals at gather; and increase use of long-term, pasture-based holding for older horses.: High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.


  • Changing Beliefs about Wildlife Management: Abundant and healthy wildlife populations are a cultural and ecological treasure in the United States. Over time, however, the decisions about how agencies manage wildlife have become highly contested. A new 50-state study on America’s Wildlife Values led by researchers at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University describes individuals’ values toward wildlife across states: Colorado State University.
  • Migration Corridors: U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt recently announced the award of $2.1 million in grants to state and local partners in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming for habitat conservation activities in migration corridors and winter range for elk, mule deer, and pronghorn: U.S. Dept of the Interior.
  • New Wolf Management Rules: With Oregon’s wolf population growing, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife recently issued a draft conservation and management plan that established a new timetable involving when wolves can be killed for preying on livestock: AP News.
  • Bird Conservation Plan: A new paper published today in the journal Nature Communications shows a blueprint for conserving enough habitat to protect the populations of almost one-third of the warblers, orioles, tanagers, and other birds that migrate among the Americas throughout the year: PhysOrg.
  • Plague Harms Refuge’s Prairie Dogs: Wildlife officials say the prairie dog population at a Montana wildlife refuge has been decimated by a bacterial disease, causing the number of black-footed ferrets at the site to plummet: Great Falls Tribune.
  • Wild Horses: Nevada is resuming a fertility control project for a herd of free-roaming horses south and east of Reno in a new agreement with the same mustang protection group that filed suit last year when the state pulled out of a similar deal: E&E News.
  • Prairie Dog Plan: The US Forest Service recently unveiled a proposed plan for prairie dogs in Wyoming grassland amid concerns from conservationists: Casper Star Tribune.


  • Irrigation Deal in Limbo: An ambitious irrigation drainage deal in California is mired deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money with no relief in sight: E&E News.
  • Save Water with Shade Balls: Ranchers in eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle have found a way to save water and improve water quality for their herds through using shade balls which reduce evaporation, freezing and debris in cattle tanks: Beef Magazine.
  • Dam Removal Study: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed a bill that provides $750,000 to study how to best help affected communities if the four federal dams on the Snake River are breached. The four dams are blamed for reducing salmon numbers on the Snake and Columbia river systems: AP News.

Forest & Fire

  • Economic Benefits of Private Forests: While our private working forests are sequestering and storing millions of metric tons of carbon every year, a new report shows that they are also supporting a staggering 2.5 million jobs and $109 billion in payroll – mostly in rural communities that need the economic support: The Hill.
  • Wildfires Reduce Snowpack: Wildfires that increasingly plague the American West are contributing more than previously known to the deterioration of the region’s snowpack, according to newly published research: Reno Gazette Journal.
  • New Sagebrush Strategy: Federal officials have released a plan to save sagebrush habitats in Western states that support cattle ranching, recreation and 350 wildlife species, including imperiled sage grouse. Officials say the document is a paradigm shift relying on advances in technology and analytics to categorize sagebrush areas based on resistance and resilience to wildfire: Drovers.
  • Challenges for NM Forest Restoration: A proposed effort to restore a wide swath of national forest land in southern New Mexico over the next decade or two is drawing fire from environmentalists who say the U.S. government needs to do more to determine the effects on endangered species and the land: AP News.
  • Collaborative Spatial Fire Management: Scientists at the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute are promoting a new initiative that combines local knowledge from firefighters and resource specialists with advanced spatial analysis. The resulting output is a detailed risk assessment, capable of informing wildfire planning and response before the fire even starts: Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.


  • WLA Policy Update: WLA’s policy director, Jessica Crowder, reports on her recent trip to Washington, D.C. where she visited with Congressional staff, federal agencies and national partners: Western Landowners Alliance. Keep up to date on WLA’s policy work by following Jessica’s updates on the WLA Policy webpage.
  • Gray Wolf Comment Period Extended: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extended a deadline to comment on the Administration’s proposal to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Species. The deadline has been extended 60 days, to July 15: Regulations.gov.
  • Drought Contingency Plan and NEPA: Some lawyers say the Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, may be built on shaky legal ground and could be vulnerable to litigation — depending on how the Bureau of Reclamation implements it. At issue is whether it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA: E&E News.
  • New CPW Director: Colorado Governor Polis recently announced Dan Prenzlow as the new Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW): Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Tools & Resources

  • Guide to Federal Programs: Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities: A Guide to Federal Programs is for those seeking help from federal programs to foster innovative enterprises in agriculture and forestry. Specifically, the guide addresses program resources in community development; sustainable land management; and value-added and diversified agriculture and forestry: ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture.
  • Monarch Habitat Guide: The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Creation in California: A Technical Field Guide is intended to be a resource for those interested in establishing or increasing habitat for monarchs on farms, ranches and other working lands. It summarizes the best available scientific and practical information on restoring California native milkweed species and other native plant species important to monarch butterflies: Environmental Defense Fund.
  • Wetland BMPs: Wetlands perform critical water quality, water quantity and habitat functions in the landscape. In Colorado, surface water and groundwater feeding every municipal water system passes through wetlands, and more than 75% of wildlife species depend on wetlands. Wetland Best Management Practices (BMPs) are actions that help protect wetlands and the functions they provide from temporary or permanent human disturbance: Colorado Wetland Information Center.
  • Ask the Expert about Pollinators: Ask the Expert is a new series launching on farmers.gov. In this Ask the Expert, Karin Jokela answers a few questions about how farmers and ranchers can use USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to help pollinators: Farmers.gov.



  • Colorado Habitat Program: Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced it will accept proposals until 5 p.m. May 31, 2019 for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program. The statewide program offers funding opportunities to private landowners who wish to voluntarily protect important wildlife habitats on their property and/or provide wildlife-related recreational access to the public: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
  • Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership: USDA NRCS recently announced that $40 million in technical and financial assistance is being made available under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership, part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on agricultural lands. Proposals should be submitted to SM.NRCS.WRE@wdc.usda.gov by email and will be accepted through June 14, 2019.
  • NM Conservation Stewardship Program: New Mexico agricultural producers have an opportunity to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through two New Mexico Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects. Producers must submit a complete application to a to their local USDA service center by June 21, 2019, to participate: USDA NRCS.
  • Northern Grasslands Restoration Incentives Program: Northern Great Plains Joint Venture Habitat Northern Great Plains Joint Venture is making up to $145,000 available for habitat projects in priority counties of the NGPJV geography through their new Northern Grasslands Restoration Incentives Program (N-GRIP). Proposals are due by June 28, 2019: Northern Great Plains Joint Venture.
  • MT Conservation Innovation Grants: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for grants until July 1, 2019, to fund Montana projects that could stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) generally fund pilot projects, field demonstrations and on-farm conservation research. Information about CIG and the application process is available online at https://www.grants.gov/.
  • On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials: USDA is investing up to $25 million per year over the next five years to help support the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural lands. USDA NRCS is accepting proposals through July 15, 2019, for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials), a new, additional sub-program created by the 2018 Farm Bill for the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program: USDA NRCS.
  • Organic Certification Cost Share Program: USDA’s Farm Service Agency (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.


  • Ranch Manager Job Board: Check out the new Ranch Manager Job Board offered by the King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management! Current listings include General Manager of Ranching Operations at Beef Northwest Feeders in North Powder, Oregon; Manager/Operator at Rancho Cielo Norteno in Cuatroceinegas, Mexico; and Ranch Manager at
    Ladder Ranch/Turner Enterprises, Inc. in Caballo, New Mexico: King Ranch Insitute.
  • Livestock Assistant at Paicines Ranch: Paicines Ranch in California is seeking Livestock Assistant who is passionate about grazing and farming systems that significantly improve soil health, biodiversity, nutritional quality of foods and quality of life for the people and communities involved in agriculture. Day-to-day work will primarily focus on assisting our livestock operation, which currently runs 500 head of sheep and some steers. Learn and apply.


  • Ranch Management Field Course: The Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship summer field course is a 4-week (July 14-July 23 and July 28-August 6) class being offered by the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at Colorado State University for degree and non-degree seeking students. The field course will be held across 10 ranches in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico (a number of which are WLA members), and designed to introduce students to the variety of ways in which ranch operations in the Rocky Mountain West are tailored to support ecosystem processes, foster lasting protection of the land and achieve economic sustainability: Colorado State University.
  • Sagebrush Survey: The Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming is conducting research on social science research needs to help managers and landowners integrate social and ecological perspectives into more comprehensive sagebrush management strategies. Take the survey to provide your perspective.
  • NM SWCD Board Openings: All Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) in New Mexico will be holding elections this year for their boards. This is an opportunity for you or people in your network to become local leaders to help enhance working lands through farm bill and other grant funded programs that are administered through SWCDs. The Secretary of State will issue the Local Election proclamation on August 7, 2019 which will contain all necessary information for a candidate to file on Local Election Candidate Filing day which will take place on August 27, 2019 at the County offices statewide. If you have questions, please contact NM Department of Agriculture point person, Katie Mechenbier at  kmechenbier@nmda.nmsu.edu.

Events & Webinars

Check out the new calendar feature on WLA’s website! Scan events hosted by organizations throughout the West that you might be interested in. All events link to the host organization’s website and registration information.

Got an event you’d like to post? Click on “Add Event.” Fill out and submit basic information on your event. We’ll review it and post it for you.


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