Western Digest – September 2019
News and opportunities on working lands, water and wildlife
Working Lands Economics
- Succession Planning: With farms and ranches being swallowed by cities, succession plans are key. This article features WLA’s associate director Cole Mannix’s family and hometown: Bitterroot Magazine.
- Economic Value of Endangered Species: A recent Oregon State University study offers evidence that boosting the populations of threatened species offers nonmarket economic benefits to residents of the Pacific Northwest: Western Farmer-Stockman.
- Crop Insurance and Conservation: If crop insurance rewarded conservation practices, would more farmers go no-till? Crop insurance works too well for farmers who farm without regard for long-term soil health, and not well enough for the few who do. A new task force wants to change that: New Food Economy.
- Economics of Conservation Farming: New data from the Precision Conservation Management initiative shows that a conservation farming method known as strip till can be just as profitable as conventional ways farmers till their soil: The News-Gazette.
- IPCC Report Breakdown: The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was released on August 8 does not say we should quit eating meat and become vegetarians. Find out what it does say in this informative article: OnPasture.
- ESA Changes: Three new rules will make a variety of changes to the ESA, including narrowing areas to be considered for critical habitat designations, allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service to gather information on the economic impacts of listing species and setting standards for deciding whether federal agencies’ mitigation efforts are sufficient to address harm to listed species: Agri-Pulse.
- Ranchers for Green New Deal: In a letter sent to Congress in early September, a newly formed bipartisan coalition made up of nearly 10,000 U.S. farmers and ranchers endorsed the Green New Deal, specifically supporting the sweeping industrial plan outlined in a resolution that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) proposed in February: HuffPost.
- WOTUS Rule Repealed: A 2015 rule that expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act has been repealed. The U.S. EPA and the Department of the Army for Civil Works also are recodifying regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule: Agri-View.
On the Range
- Grass-fed Beef and the Environment: Is grass-fed beef really better for the planet? Here’s a look at the science: NPR.
- Four Daughters Stewardship in Action Tour: Over the past three decades, Mike Mechenbier, owner of Four Daughters Land and Cattle Company in New Mexico, has implemented ranching practices that help the environment and make economic sense. WLA’s Stewardship in Action Tour on Four Daughters received media coverage in the Land Report and Albuquerque Journal.
- Rotational Grazing to Restore Dry, Degraded Grassland: The Mimms Unit ranch is a working cattle and demonstration ranch on a high Chihuahuan Desert grassland that utilizes different grazing regimes to study the use of livestock as a tool in grassland restoration in a dry climate: USGS.
- Carbon and Soil Science: Scientists have discovered a new mechanism for determining how carbon is stored in soils, which could improve the climate resilience of crop systems and reduce their carbon footprints: National Science Foundation.
- Reevaluating Calving Dates?: Before taking action, it is important to understand the potential pros and cons of making a date change for calving. Consider these 10 factors: NebraskaFarmer.
- MT Leopold Conservation Award: Three finalists have been selected for the Montana Leopold Conservation Award. This is first year the $10,000 award has been presented in Montana: Sand County Foundation.
- USFS Sage Grouse Management Changes: Proposed changes to how the US Forest Service manages greater sage grouse in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah strive to improve the clarity, efficiency, and implementation of the current sage grouse plans and are expected to provide greater flexibility and local control: Morning Ag Clips.
- Climate Change Risk to Grassland Birds: Nearly half of North American grassland bird species are “highly vulnerable” to climate change impacts under the current rate of rising temperatures, a new National Audubon Society report warns: E&E News.
- Invasive Plants Harm Wildlife: Virginia Tech researchers have discovered that when invasive plants take root, native animals pay the price. The research team conducted the first-ever comprehensive meta-analytic review examining the ecological impacts of invasive plants on animals: EurekAlert!
- ESA Listings without Fanfare: The Dixie Valley toad, yellow-billed cuckoo and Oregon vesper sparrow show that some Endangered Species Act (ESA) dramas can percolate below the surface. The Fish and Wildlife Service has attracted numerically little interest in proposals to further study protecting two of the species and delisting the third: E&E News.
- Supporting Working Lands Amidst Predator Challenges: Grizzly bears and wolves present increasing challenges for ranching in southwest Montana. WLA and Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance (RVSA) will host a meeting with ranchers and key agency partners in the region in Alder, MT on November 15 focused on constructive solutions: Western Landowners Alliance.
- Judge Rejects Bid to Block Sheep Grazing: A judge says he won’t block sheep grazing in a mountain range on the Idaho-Montana border despite worries by wildlife advocates that federally protected grizzly bears could be harmed: AP News.
- Mandatory Water Cutbacks: Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will be required to take less water from the Colorado River for the first time next year under a set of agreements that aim to keep enough water in Lake Mead to reduce the risk of a crash: USA Today.
- Maximizing Water Use: USDA stations and sites across the Southwest are experimenting with drones, specialized cameras and other technology to squeeze the most out of every drop of water in the Colorado River: Associated Press.
- Clean Water from Toxic Mine: A plan to tap the aquifer above Park County, Colorado’s London Mine could provide a template for how thirsty cities can draw on new sources of clean water, while also cleaning up polluted mine runoff: Colorado Sun.
- New Research on Forest Water Use: Researchers have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that causes increased forest water use, advances understanding of soil biogeochemical control of forest water cycles and highlights threats to plants from water stress under acid deposition: Phys.org.
Forest & Fire
- How Fire Helps Prairie Grasslands: At the University of North Dakota’s Oakville Prairie Field Station, a group of researchers and students are studying the effect prescribed burns have on the soil, plants, animals and genetic resources in the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains of North America: U.S. AgNet.
- Stewardship Agreements: Oregon is the latest state to enter into a Shared Stewardship agreement with the US Forest Service to collectively set priorities and increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that support communities and improve forest conditions. In addition to the Oregon agreement, in recent months Idaho, Montana, Washington and Utah have signed on: National Cohesive Wildland Forest Management Strategy.
- Juniper Cutting to Save Sage Grouse: The largest-ever project in the U.S. to remove thousands of juniper trees has started in Idaho. The project aims to remove junipers on 965 square miles of state and federal land to help imperiled sage grouse: Associated Press.
- UT Stewardship Agreement: Two “shovel ready” forest health improvement projects in Utah will get an infusion of $4 million designed to help protect critical watershed areas and curtail the risk of catastrophic wildfires: Deseret News.
- Wildfires Shift Forest Composition: A Berkeley Lab study found evergreen conifer trees will decline and deciduous broadleaf trees will dominate in a warmer climate with more wildfires: Science Magazine.
Tools & Resources
- Prescribed Fire Fact Sheet: Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) recently published a fact sheet that details the steps required to conduct a safe and effective prescribed burn including pre-fire considerations and trade-offs (such as smoke) as well as specific objectives, desired outcomes, application of best science, public and firefighter safety and best management practices. Read fact sheet here.
- Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP): 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Central Colorado Conservancy Executive Director: Central Colorado Conservancy is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to build on steady growth and to help take the organization to the next level of impact. The opportunity is based in Salida, Colorado. Learn more and apply.
- Tom Kat Ranch Apprentice Jobs: TomKat Ranch is looking to hire two new Regenerative Ranching Apprentices for a 1-year term (paid with benefits) focused on regenerative land and livestock management and designed to provide meaningful education, training, and networking for individuals looking to accelerate their career in regenerative ranching. Check out Apprentice 2019 and Horse Apprentice 2019 for more information.
- Valley Food Partnership Executive Director: The Valley Food Partnership, a regional non-profit located in Montrose, Colorado is in search of a community-minded, team player to work as the new Executive Director. Learn more and apply.
- 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.
- Payment for Fly Fishing Access in Colorado: The president of a fly fishing club in Denver is in search of new water to lease, specifically any stretch of land containing at least a 1/2 mile of rivers, streams or creeks holding trout for catch and release fishing. They are willing to help landowners with conservation efforts and pay a trespass fee for each trip. Please contact me, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested.
- Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils Survey: Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils is interested in feedback on top priorities for soil health initiatives. They are particularly interested in landowner and manager input. Fill out the survey.
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