Western Digest – October 2019

News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife

Chilly cows are a feature of western landscapes as a frosty end of October saw record cold temperatures and heavy snow descend across the Rockies and northern plains.

Working Lands Economics

  • Ecosystem Market Credits: Potential purchases of U.S. ecosystem credits from agriculture could be as high as $13.9 billion according to an IHS Markit economic assessment released today by the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC): ESMC.
  • State-led Financing and Agricultural Conservation: States that embrace innovative new ways to finance on-farm conservation can deliver multiple benefits to farmers, state residents, taxpayers and the environment, according to a new report released at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Annual Meeting: Environmental Defense Fund.


  • NRCS Conservation Practices Update: NRCS is seeking public comments on 13 conservation practice standards. Per direction from the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS will gather feedback on 94 practices over the coming months through posting on the Federal Register. Comments on these current 13 practice standards are due by November 21, 2019: NRCS.
  • Judge Halts Sage-grouse Plans: The BLM did not adequately consider the science behind management plans covering millions of acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in Western states, a federal judge in Idaho ruled, halting implementation of the plans: AgriPulse.

On the Range

  • Stewards of the Prairie: In the northern great plains, ranchers hold the key to grassland conservation: World Wildlife Fund.
  • Biodiversity and Carbon Storage: A new study suggests that by restoring biodiversity, we can vastly enhance the soil’s potential to store carbon. And there are co-benefits: healthier, more resilient soil and plants, not to mention wildlife habitats: Medium.
  • Ranchers as Grassland “Heroes”: Cattle and conservation haven’t always been natural companions when it comes to how to manage grasslands. But the philosophy of how to best care for grasslands and the flora and fauna that call them home is changing: The Bismarck Tribune.
  • Compost and Soil Carbon: A recent study out of the University of California, Davis suggests that compost plays a larger role than once thought in building soil carbon: Science Alert.
  • Controversial Trail in Crazy Mountains Opens: Part one of the reroute of a disputed trail in the Crazy Mountains north of Livingston, MT is now open. The reroute replaces part of the historic Porcupine Lowline Trail, a disputed trail that crosses a complicated patchwork of private and public land: Bozeman Daily Chronicle.


  • Benefits of Connectivity: A decades-long ecological experiment has shown the power of a straightforward way to improve wildlife habitats: connect them. Scientists say the study’s results, published in the journal Science, offer the most compelling evidence yet that connected habitats flourish for years: The Washington Post.
  • Southwest Forests and the Mexican Spotted Owl: The U.S. Forest Service is asking a federal judge to undo a court-ordered freeze on all timber management practices currently barring commercial companies from forest thinning, conservation projects and controlled burns. The companies have been shut out of national forests in New Mexico until the Forest Service can determine whether such practices are harming the Mexican spotted owl and its habitat: Taos News.
  • Decline in Bird Populations: A new study reports that birds living or breeding in Canada and the United States have declined by an average of 29 percent since 1970: Forbes.
  • Wild Horses: There are more than 47,000 wild horses and burros across some 14 million acres of BLM managed herd areas in Nevada — more than half the 88,000 wild horses and burros on federally managed lands in the West. And that’s far more than the land can sustain: E&E News.

Conflict Reduction

  • Montana Grizzly Bear Roundtables: Secretary Bernhardt recently visited Helena, MT to hear local residents, farmers, ranchers, and elected officials discuss “problem bears” and ask for better management of the species while it remains protected under the ESA: Independent Record.
  • Wildlife Highway Crossing: U.S. Highway 285 was once a death zone for herds of elk and mule deer on Colorado’s Western Slope. But today it offers a lifeline, helping them travel from their summer range high in the mountains to winter foraging grounds along the Arkansas River: The Washington Post.


  • Wildfires Impact Water Availability: A new study by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that post-wildfire conditions resulted in greater winter snowpack and subsequently greater summer runoff as well as increased groundwater storage: Phys.org.
  • Ag Practices and Water Retention: A synthesis of 89 studies across six continents has helped clarify which agricultural practices hold water when it comes to helping soils soak up precipitation—a factor critical to mitigating floods, outlasting drought and stabilizing crop yields: Phys.org.

Forest & Fire

  • History of Fire in the West: This short video portrays the western history of fire that includes a look back at the role fire played for indigenous peoples and how those centuries-old practices can be used again at greater scales to help address some of the wildland fire issues we face on our landscapes today: Grist.
  • Wildfire Reduction: A preventive treatment developed by Stanford researchers could greatly reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires. The approach involves an environmentally benign gel-like fluid that helps common wildland fire retardants last longer on vegetation: Stanford.
  • Prescribed Fire: A man-made blaze on a remote Utah mountainside could provide valuable insights into the behavior of the powerful wildfires growing more and more common out West: The Atlantic.
  • Forest Health: Southwest Colorado could be the focal point of a pilot project that seeks to make strides in improving forest health in the face of increasing dangers from wildfire, disease and beetle kill: Durango Herald.
  • UT Tree Removal: The federal government plans to remove an unprecedented number of trees on Utah’s public lands, to reduce fire risk, improve habitat for greater sage grouse and increase forage for cattle and a world-renowned trophy-hunting deer herd: National Geographic.

Tools & Resources

  • Women in Ranching Digest: Check out WLA’s first Women in Ranching (WinR) newsletter! Our hope is that this monthly digest will serve not only to connect women across existing WinR Circles, but also to foster a much larger community of women across the West who share a deep connection to the land.



  • New Mexico Healthy Soil Program: The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Soil Program funds pilot projects aimed at improving soil health, as well as related education efforts. Grants for soil health improvement pilot projects are available to entities that work directly with farmers, ranchers and land managers in the state. Applications are due by 5 PM on November 6, 2019 (extended deadline).
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Grassland Conservation Initiative: USDA is extending the deadline to November 8, 2019, for eligible agriculture producers to enroll in the CSP Grassland Conservation Initiative, which was created by the 2018 Farm Bill: USDA.
  • NFWF Northern Great Plains Program: National Fish & Wildlife Foundation is pleased to announce their 2020 Request for Proposals for the Northern Great Plains Program. Please refer to the program page and this year’s RFP for additional information. Full proposals are due November 21, 2019.
  • NFWF Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors: NFWF is please 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.


  • Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) Communications Specialist: IWJV is seeking to hire a communications specialist to support its new Water 4 Initiative. Read the full position description and application instructions. Application deadline is November 3.
  • Quivira Coalition Program Coordinator: The Quivira Coalition, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship is currently seeking a Program Coordinator. The coordinator will support their Education and Outreach programs – specifically coordinating workshops, annual conference and the Carbon Ranch Initiative (CRI): Quivira Coalition.
  • Carbon Farm Planner with MadAg: Mad Agriculture is looking for an experienced Farm Planner to develop carbon farm plans that catalyze the expansion of regenerative agriculture with on-the-ground design, support, and implementation. Position is based in Front Range, Colorado. Learn more and apply.
  • Working Lands for Wildlife Research Scientist: In collaboration with USDA NRCS, Working Lands for Wildlife is seeking two research scientists/postdoctoral scholars at the University of Montana and University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Sage Grouse Initiative.
    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.


  • Comment on NM Riparian Restoration Projects: The Carson, Cibola, and Santa Fe National Forests and Kiowa Grasslands are preparing an environmental assessment to analyze the impacts of a riparian restoration toolbox that could be applied across the three forests and Kiowa Grassland of the Cibola National Forest. Public comments are due by November 4: U.S. Forest Service.
  • Comment on National Forest Plans: Comment periods on the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests plans close November 7. It is vitally important that those living in or near the forest comment in order that local knowledge and perspectives are considered in the plans. These plans will affect communities and wildlife for years to come. Read more from Lawrence Gallegos on this topic.
  • Holistic Financial Planning Webinar: Check out this financial planning webinar on November 7 hosted by Andrea Malmberg and Abbey Smith. If you have struggled with Holistic Financial Planning in the past or want to learn more about how it can impact your life, this webinar is for you: Jefferson Center for Holistic Management.
  • New Agrarian Program Mentor Training Calls: If you or your organization are currently hosting interns and apprentices, or are considering doing so, Quivira Coalition would like to invite you to participate in the Quivira Coalition New Agrarian Program Mentor Training Calls this winter: Quivira Coalition.
  • Regen Network Seeks Ranchers / Farmers: Regen Network is excited to announce that they are ready to start the first step of onboarding onto their platform for farmers and ranchers who are interested in being paid for ecological impact: Regen Network.
  • Quivira Coalition New Agrarian Program (NAP): The Quivira Coalition’s NAP partners with skilled ranchers and farmers in California, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana to offer paid, full-immersion apprenticeships in regenerative agriculture. The New Agrarian Program seeks applicants committed to lives in regenerative agriculture, enough experience to know what it takes to work on the land, and an excellent work ethic. The NAP application process opened October 15.


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