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Western Digest – November 2018

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife 

As winter approaches and we bundle up and turn in to be with family and friends, I write to you with a heart full of gratitude for the work that you do to steward our Western landscapes. Articles in this issue range from a Q&A with US Trust on succession planning to case studies highlighting the benefits of regenerative ag and from the connection between small wildfires and increased water availability to testing a new wolf deterrence strategy. 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

  • Succession Planning: Securing Your Legacy on the Land is the first Succession Planning Q&A session in a 5-part series with Howard Weiss of US Trust. This article focuses on an overview of succession planning including when a succession plan should be put in place and who should be involved, who to go to for assistance, the basic components of a succession plan (specific to agricultural operations), best practices and more: Western Landowners Alliance.
  • Glamping Replacing Grazing? Rural leaders in Utah who often chafe at how federal officials manage public lands are now also growing frustrated with state authorities who are increasingly canceling grazing permits in favor of more-profitable land uses: The Spectrum.
  • Worldwide Weather and Beef Demand: Drought and winter storms in Australia and Canada could create opportunity for U.S. beef producers in 2019 and beyond: Western Farmer-Stockman.
  • Investment in Rural Infrastructure: USDA is investing $1.6 billion in 46 rural electric utility infrastructure projects to improve electric reliability and resilience in 24 states: USDA.
  • Dirt Rich:  MPR News.Using less insecticide saves farmers money, because they have to buy less of it. So does eliminating tillage, because farmers are driving tractors across the field fewer times, saving fuel. Lundgren also found that farmers practicing regenerative agriculture often earned extra income by raising other crops and selling cattle fattened by grazing on fields with cover crops.”It made them twice as profitable,” he said. “When we looked at their yields and their costs, the regenerative farms were twice as profitable. They had lower yields, but they had more profit. And farming is a business.”

Forest & Range

  • Working Lands Key to Biodiversity: Diversifying working lands—including farmland, rangeland and forests—may be key to preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, says a new review paper published this week in Science: Phys.Org.
  • Benefits of Regenerative Ag: TomKat Ranch is currently producing a series of case studies showing the benefits of regenerative practices on working lands. Check out three recent articles from Kevin Watt highlighting WLA members: Lonetree Ranch, Flying Diamond Ranch and Elk Glade Ranch.
  • Prescribed Fire, Grazing and Rest: Prescribed fire, grazing and rest are integral processes for maintaining the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community in the Southern Great Plains and throughout the U.S.: Noble Research Institute.
  • Geothermally Heated Stock Tank: Want to end chopping ice from stock tanks in the winter? Bud Williamson, a rancher in northeast Wyoming, shows the steps it takes to create a “self-heating” stock tank warmed by geothermal power: Western-Farmer Stockman.
  • Dung Beetles: Officials revising a list of substances allowed for use in organic agriculture are considering banning the use of a drug given to cattle and other livestock that can be lethal to dung beetles. The potential removal of the drug, ivermectin, is one of dozens of proposals affecting what farmers can or cannot use on crops or livestock to maintain USDA organic certification: E&E News.


  • Fire and Water: The land of the western United States is shaped by wildfire and water availability. According to new research from Utah State University, increasing the number of smaller wildfires could increase water resources in the West: Utah Public Radio.
  • Oil and Gas Wastewater Reuse: With drought a constant consideration in New Mexico, decisions about water are growing more complicated and opportunities to tap nontraditional sources are being considered. The state has outlined areas where regulations can be streamlined to encourage the treatment and reuse of oil and gas wastewater: The State.
  • California Water Wars: California officials are working furiously to prevent a new front from opening up in the West’s long-running water wars. The State Water Resources Control Board will vote on updated water quality standards aimed as saving endangered salmon and steelhead trout by increasing water flows. It’s the first time the state has attempted to regulate flows for fish on three major tributaries upstream of the San Joaquin River that supply urban and agricultural customers in the Central Valley and the Bay Area: E&E News.


  • Ranchers Test New Wolf Deterrence Strategy: Two Eastern Oregon ranchers have agreed to test a new proposal for deterring wolf attacks on livestock, emphasizing the use of non-lethal deterrents up front to minimize predation: Capital Press.
  • Carnivores Return Helps Streams: The return of wolves and cougars to Yellowstone National Park is helping restore a landscape that had been altered in their absence and allowing streams to return to a more natural state, according to a new study published in Ecohydrology: AP News.
  • Canada Lynx Recovery Plan: The US Fish and Wildlife Service has 30 days to finish its recovery plan for the threatened Canada lynx, following a Montana-based federal judge’s determination that the agency’s prior work wasn’t good enough: Missoulian.
  • Bighorn Euthanized to Stop Disease: Arizona officials were forced to euthanize three bighorn sheep that had been in contact with escaped domestic sheep to prevent disease from spreading to hundreds of bighorns living in the mountains near Yuma: The State.
  • Pollinator Habitat: Smithfield Foods Inc., the nation’s biggest hog producer, will plant native wildflowers and grasses to attract butterflies to its hog farms under a new initiative with the Environmental Defense Fund: Successful Farming.


  • WY “Ag Gag” Laws Ruled Unconstitutional: A federal court ruled that a pair of Wyoming laws criminalizing certain data collection on private land, or public land accessed via private land, tread on free speech rights: Casper Star Tribune.
  • Bill to Delist Gray Wolves: On November 16, the House narrowly passed a bill that would remove federal protections for most of the country’s gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act: E&E News.
  • Pressure to Pass New Farm Bill: With the Midterm elections over, farmers and farm groups are putting increased pressure on lawmakers to pass a new farm bill before the end of the year: UPI.
  • BLM Motorized Trails Settlement: A federal appeals court has sided with the Bureau of Land Management, conservation groups and off-highway vehicle advocates by upholding a legal settlement that requires BLM to revise nearly 4,300 miles of motorized vehicle routes in southern Utah to minimize potential harm to wildlife, cultural and archaeological sites: The Salt Lake Tribune.
  • Wild Horses: The Bureau of Land Management is abandoning efforts to research a permanent sterilization technique for wild mares roaming federal rangelands after a coalition of advocacy groups challenged the effort in court: E&E News.

Tools & Resources

  • Making Habitat Connectivity a Reality: In an attempt to increase the pace of habitat corridor implementation, a recent study has reviewed the challenges and opportunities frequently encountered in creating wildlife corridors: Conservation Corridor.



  • NFWF Improving Habitat Quality: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals from projects that enhance and improve the quality of state identified, priority big-game winter range, stopover areas and migration corridors on federal land and/or voluntary efforts on private land. Up to $2.7 million is available in funding. Full proposals are due January 10, 2019: NFWF.


  • Livestock Manager at Swanton Pacific Ranch: Swanton Pacific Ranch is looking to hire an exceptional manager who is also an excellent teacher to help manage the 3,200-acre ranch. This is a collaborative position between Swanton Pacific Ranch and the Cal Poly Animal Science Department. Applications are due November 30, 2018: Cal Poly.
  • NM State Land Office: New Mexico Land Commissioner-elect Stephanie Garcia Richard has put out a call for resumes as she works toward building a new leadership team for the State Land Office. There is a new website where people can submit their resumes or request a meeting: The State.
  • 2019 New Agrarian Apprenticeships: The Quivira Coalition is now accepting applications for their 2019 New Agrarian Apprenticeship program. Applications are due December 1, 2018: Quivira Coalition.


  • NM Availability of Credit Survey: The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico has been hired by a local foundation and a micro lender to study the availability of credit to local agricultural producers. The foundation is interested in supporting efforts to strengthen local food systems in NM, including making sure there is an adequate supply of capital. If you are interested in providing information, here are links to a survey in English and Spanish.
  • Public Comment on Soil Health: USDA recently released for public comment a set of standard indicators and associated laboratory procedures to assess soil health. The Federal Register Notice is live and the comments will be accepted until December 13, 2018: USDA NRCS.

Events & Webinars


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