Western Digest – November 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife

“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” – Aldo Leopold
Photo: Erika Peterman

Working Lands Economics

  • 5 Ways Conservation Can Pay: With the right approach, increasing your conservation efforts can also be profitable and lucrative. Here are five ideas to consider that may change your conservation mindset as you plan for your farm’s 2020 crop year and beyond: Prairie Farmer.
  • Montanans Support Conservation: Montanans are willing to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to conservation, according to a new survey from the Montana Outdoor Heritage Project: Public News Service.
  • CO Common Ground Funding: In Chaffee County Colorado, Commissioners recently approved more than $660 thousand in Common Ground Grants. Grants are funded from a 0.25 percent county sales tax increase (passed in 2018) aimed at strengthening forest health and reducing wildfire danger; conserving and supporting agricultural lands and rural landscapes; and managing the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation: Ark Valley Voice.


  • Property rights and stream health in NM threatened by AG’s office finding: The state’s top law office says a Department of Game and Fish program that gave private property owners leeway over who could access public waters on their land is “unconstitutional and unenforceable.” Santa Fe New Mexican
  • Comments on CSP Interim Final Rule: USDA’s NRCS seeks public comments on its interim final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect upon publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill: USDA. WLA is currently drafting comments. Please contact WLA’s Jessica Crowder to provide input.
  • Landowners Credited for Plant Species Recovery: The recovery of the Colorado butterfly plant showcases the power of collaboration between private landowners and Endangered Species Act enforcers: E&E News.
  • Tribal Lands and Buffalo Reintroduction Bill: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) recently introduced the bipartisan Indian Buffalo Management Act of 2019 aimed at growing once-robust buffalo herds on tribal lands: The Ripon Advance.
  • WY Invasive Species Initiative: In Wyoming, a group of state officials, scientists and agricultural experts, including WLA’s Jessica Crowder, held its first meeting as part of an initiative to better control invasive weed species like cheatgrass: Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

On the Range

  • This is Rural America: Rancher and author Cat Urbigkit paints a powerful picture of rural America as a response to a recent Twitter rant by a UC Berkeley PhD student that claimed rural Americans “are bad people who have made bad life decisions”: Cowboy State Daily.
  • ‘This Land’ Book Review: “The West is more than heroes and villains. In ‘This Land’, Ketcham roams the West in search of both, and misses a lot in between.” This book review provides important commentary on the real West: High Country News.
  • The Northern New Mexican Dream: In this powerful article, young men and women are deciding to return to their home communities in “the North” of New Mexico to live off the land: Rio Grande Sun.
  • MT Good Neighbor Awards: On Nov. 15, MT Lt. Governor Mike Cooney presented the 2019 Good Neighbor Awards to several Montanans and Montana companies that have demonstrated commitment to community, stewardship, public access and conservation: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.


  • Landowners Support Species: About half the species listed as endangered or threatened have the majority of their habitat on private lands, giving landowners an essential role in their conservation: Land.com.
  • Migration Corridors: Wyoming plans to reshape how it designates its wildlife corridors, and advocates for private landowners see a secondary benefit: putting their interests on par with conservation advocates and the extractive industry. Article features WLA’s ED Lesli Allison and board member Marissa Taylor: E&E News.
  • Pollinator Habitat: Farmers and landowners who want to increase pollinator habitat while also improving water quality should consider the benefits of saturated riparian buffers enhanced with native wildflowers: High Plains Journal.
  • MT Grizzly Bear Advisory Council: Montana’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council met for two days in Bozeman in mid-November, hearing from grizzly experts on where the state’s grizzlies are now and where they could be going. WLA’s Associate Director Cole Mannix serves on the council: Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Conflict Reduction

  • Living with Grizzlies on the Grasslands: Trina Bradley and her family show the world what living with grizzly bears on the ranch can look like: The Nature of Things.
  • Collaboratives and Expanding Grizzly Bear Populations: Electric fences and bear-resistant garbage cans are helping humans in Montana adjust to the new normal as grizzly bears expand their range: The Atlantic.


  • Renewable Energy and Water: Solar and wind farms are popping up around the country to lower carbon emissions, and these renewables also have another important effect: keeping more water in the ground: SciTech Daily.
  • Farming without Water?: Arizona’s water supplies are drying up. As the mighty Colorado River dwindles and cropland dries out, farming families face a grim choice: give up or somehow adapt: National Geographic.
  • Chemical to Help Crops Hold Water: A new possibility comes from researchers at the University of California, Riverside, in the form of a chemical that triggers plants to stop growing—and start storing water: Modern Farmer.
  • Water Shortages and Human Error: Given the West’s history of drought, it stands to reason that states in the region would know how much water is available and where it’s being used, but that isn’t the case. Conservationists and water-law experts say, shortages may be fueled as much by human error as a lack of precipitation: Outside.

Forest & Fire

  • Tree Survival Key to Climate Resilience: Trees that survived the California drought could contain the key to climate resilience. Scientists are scouring the tough trees’ DNA to find the traits that carried them trough the drought: The Hill.
  • Invasive Grasses and Wildfire Frequency: For much of the United States, invasive grass species are making wildfires more frequent, especially in fire-prone California, a new study finds: Associate Press.
  • Wildfire and Soil Microbes: What happens to soil microbes after wildfire? Soil microbes are key to maintaining soil health and these benefits can change the flora and fauna that recolonize the burn area after a fire: Forbes.
  • Forests and Climate Change: Forests are a great bulwark against climate change, so programs to reduce deforestation are important. A new study suggests these programs would do well to also preserve forests where deforestation and degradation haven’t begun: The New York Times.

Tools & Resources

  • Energy Assessment Tool: Trout Unlimited’s new GIS spatial analysis energy assessment tool will function to help TU and others with decision-making to focus efforts with the USFS and BLM that identify public lands that have low potential for oil and gas yet may threaten sensitive cold water fisheries if leased and developed: Trout Unlimited.
  • Report on Climate and Agriculture: A new position paper from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reviews the science related to climate change mitigation and adaptation on farms in the U.S., in order to provide a sound rationale for current and future policy development and advocacy related to climate change and agriculture: NSAC.
  • The Female Farmer Project: Check out this multi-platform documentary project that chronicles the rise of women working in agriculture around the world through in-depth stories, personal essays, photographic portraits, a podcast, and more: Female Farmer Project.
  • 2 Degrees Out West: A podcast from Western Resource Advocates where they examine the story behind some of the most pressing conservation issues facing the West: Western Resource Advocates.



  • NFWF Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors: NFWF is pleased to announce a second year of funding for “Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors” Spring 2020 Request for Proposals. Proposals are due December 2, 2019. Read the RFP and learn more.
  • NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Accepting Proposals: NRCS RCPP is currently accepting FY 2019 proposals. Potential partners are invited to propose RCPP projects where NRCS and partners co-invest in impactful and innovative solutions to on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Learn more and apply.


  • Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust (RGALT) Executive Assistant: RGALT seeks a detail-oriented individual who is excited about joining a small but mighty conservation team and helping the organization grow. Applications are due December 15, 2019: RGALT.
  • Bird Conservancy of the Rockies Stewardship Director: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (BCR) is seeking a dynamic and forward-thinking leader to oversee the management, implementation, and strategic growth of their Stewardship program. Preference given to applications received by December 16, 2019: BCR.
  • Thousand Hills Farm Manager: Thousand Hills Farm near Clearwater, Minnesota is seeking a farm manager who is passionate about, and experienced in, regenerative agriculture. Contact info@thousandhillslifetimegrazed.com for more info: Eager Farmer.
  • 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 Insitute.


  • Dan Scott Ranch Management Program of Montana State University is seeking qualified ranches to host interns through the Ranching Systems degree. They are looking for ranches who understand the need to educate the next generation and will help students develop their passion for the industry into a future career. Applications are due December 31, 2019: Montana State University.
  • CO Compost Application Study: The CSU Extension Range Management Specialist for the Western Slope of Colorado, is applying for a SARE grant to test compost application on irrigated pasture lands on the Western Slope. She is looking for four producer participants for a three year study. If you are interested, please contact Retta Bruegger at 970-988-0043 ASAP.
  • Center for Collaborative Conservation’s Fellows Program challenges students, faculty and practitioners to use a collaborative approach to help communities improve their livelihoods and contribute to local and global conservation goals. The deadline for applications is February 21, 2020: Center for Collaborative Conservation.
  • NM Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program: The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program (AWD) offers incentives to the state’s agricultural businesses to hire interns. The AWD Pilot Program is intended to provide hands-on educational opportunities for students aspiring to careers in agriculture, as well as young or beginning farmers and ranchers. Applications are accepted until February 28, 2020: NMDA.
  • Working Lands Internship Program: The Montana Rangeland Resource Committee and Rangeland Resources program at DNRC are seeking students and hosts for a Summer 2020 working lands internship program. Learn more and apply.


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