Another side of the controversy over stream access

In a recent editorial, The New Mexican declared rivers and streams belong to the public, but this simplistic declaration masks a crucially important story that is not being told (“Rivers, streams belong to public — period,” Our View, June 13). If we care about New Mexico’s land, water, people and wildlife, it’s time to take a much harder, more honest look at the issue and what is at stake.

We are in a perilous moment in history, writes Lesli Allison in this Op-Ed. As the human footprint expands, biodiversity is collapsing — and with it, the ecosystems that sustain all of us. As populations grow, development expands and people seek new places to recreate, fish and wildlife are in a desperate struggle for survival.

In New Mexico, 116 species are listed as threatened or endangered, and more edge closer to the brink of extinction every day, among them native trout and many other wildlife species dependent on our limited streams and riparian systems. Many of these species rely on private land, where there is less human pressure, for refuge and survival. They also rely on the personal investments of private landowners who are conserving and restoring habitats across the state.

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CPW announces membership on wolf reintroduction advisory panels

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced representatives of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) and the Technical Working Group (TWG), which will help guide CPW staff and the Commission through the wolf reintroduction planning process. WLA’s programs director, Hallie Mahowald, has been chosen for the SAG and will be working hard to fight for the needs of Colorado’s landowners throughout this process.

Researchers at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University have created an index depicting the mix of social values among people across all 50 states, providing data that can be useful for wildlife conservation policy and management. The study, “Bringing social values to wildlife conservation decisions,” was published online June 3 in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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Does Biden’s ’30×30′ plan trade science for popularity?

(Subscription) Some proponents of a concerted push to protect large swaths of natural spaces across the country are raising concerns that the Biden administration’s new conservation proposal is too timid, failing to lay out a plan to truly preserve vulnerable lands and waters.

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30×30 Plan: Panelists Discuss Conservation Policy for Western States

The Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) hosted a panel of landowners and land managers to share their perspective on the Biden administration’s 30×30 Plan. While the policy has not been completed, WLA is advocating the final policy should respect property rights, improve conservation outcomes and benefit rural communities. 

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As the West Faces a Drought Emergency, Some Ranchers are Restoring Grasslands to Build Water Reserves

In the face of ongoing drought, western ranchers are restoring diverse, grassland ecosystem practices that can improve the land’s capacity to hold water—and help them hold onto more cattle. Will it be enough to survive harder years ahead? Article features WLA members Julie Sullivan and George Whitten.

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Westerners react to ‘America the Beautiful’ 30×30 conservation plan

Despite being called a “federal land grab” by at least one legislator on the far right, landowners from across the West gathered with leaders in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior in a webinar hosted by the Western Landowners Alliance Thursday to discuss the Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful” 30×30 conservation plan.

“I think the thing that has everybody worried that we just have to tackle head-on is this question about federal lands, this idea that has been pushed out there quite a bit that this is a federal land grab, or that there could be uses of eminent domain and massive federal land expansions and taking of private properties,” WLA Executive Director Lesli Allison said during the live online session.

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Biden 30×30 plan emphasizes landowners’ key role in conservation’s future

The Biden administration today released a long-anticipated report detailing their proposal to conserve 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030 (known as 30×30). While the initiative has generated significant speculation and controversy, today’s report appears to indicate a determination on the part of the administration to chart solid middle ground. 

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Future of the grizzly: Debate over Montana grizzly bear management carries on

While the debate over the Federal Designation of the Grizzly bear as an endangered species continues on Trina Jo Bradley, WLA member and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Front Ranchlands Group, knows what it means to run a ranch in Grizzly Bear country and how state management of grizzly bears may support her operation and her community.

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Saving the West’s open spaces comes at a cost. A Colorado county may have a model for the nation’s conservation efforts.

How can we keep working lands open and providing all the ecosystem services and landscape values we care about? Chaffee County’s Community Conservation Connection program, implemented by the Central Colorado Conservancy, may have an answer, according to this story by Judith Kohler.

Featured as well is WLA’s roadmap “Redefining Conservation for the 21st Century” suggesting how the administration can address climate change and conservation while staking out common ground with farmers, ranchers and rural communities that depend on those working lands.

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30 by 30 could be big win for wildlife, if hunters, anglers, farmers, tribes have a say

The president’s executive order is short on details, but sportsmen’s groups are pushing for it to create more wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing opportunities. WLA’s policy director Zach Bodhane suggests that habitat leases should be a critical piece of the government’s strategy. Ultimately, he says, leases offer flexibility at a time when all conservation cards should be on the table.

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Could Biden use private land to reach 30×30 goals?

The idea isn’t simply to buy up private property or establish traditional easements. Instead, groups like the Western Landowners Alliance, which represents 15 million acres across the western United States and Canada,
see an opportunity to rethink what conservation means.

“Conservation as usual isn’t working, and this is an opportunity to actually do something different and change that trajectory, but it’s going to involve economics and people who live and work on the land,” Lesli Allison, the group’s executive director, told E&E News.

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Western landowners respond to Biden climate and conservation executive actions

The Biden administration’s announcement today of a package of executive actions on climate and conservation includes several elements that the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has insisted are critical to making conservation and climate action successful in the West. While many in the rural West are taking a prudent wait-and-see approach, the administration’s directive on engaging people whose livelihoods are tied directly to stewarding land and water was a step in the right direction. In particular, WLA is heartened by the administration’s emphasis on engagement with farmers and ranchers and the interest in creating good jobs in land stewardship and restoration in rural communities and on working lands. 

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Reconciling ranching and conservation

An Oregon rancher reflects upon the potential for holistic grazing to complement conservation.

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Grand Junction is ‘darn hard to get to’: ranchers split on public lands agency’s move west

The Bureau of Land Management is moving from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado. Ranchers, some of the constituents with whom the agency works most closely, are divided on the BLM’s move “to the field”. Some are enthusiastic about the possibility of a more approachable, and more western agency; other argue that it will make the agency too isolated. Article quotes WLA board member Tom Page and policy associate Jessica Crowder.

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Study finds biodiversity stewardship incentives can be enhanced by regulatory assurances

A recent study applied a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective to explore better ways to target private-sector conservation engagement under the ESA and identify factors that affect incentives for participation in voluntary conservation. In their study, Epanchin-Niell and Boyd found that incentives may be enhanced through increased availability of programmatic agreements, regulatory assurances, technical and financial assistance, and tailored protections for threatened species.

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Commentary: Congress would be wise to listen to landowners on wildfire bill

WLA’s executive director Lesli Allison, writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, commends congress for taking up National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020, and urges a continued focus on solutions that work across land management boundaries and that empower landowners to use prescribed fire as a tool in wildfire risk mitigation.

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Grant to study conflict reduction could have benefits for Colorado wolf reintroduction plan

A large coalition of landowners and conservationists has landed a nearly $900,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to study ways to reduce the financial and social burden of predator populations on livestock. Maura Bennett of the Ag Information Network of the West and Colorado Ag Today reports.

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WLA leads seven-state coalition that wins USDA award to study conflict reduction techniques

For grizzly bears to survive, farmers and ranchers need nonlethal tools that can reduce conflict before lethal means are required. But financing and educating people about those tools is the first hurdle. Now, with the help of a Conservation Innovation Grant of more than $886,000 announced last week, landowners and landowner group leaders hope to figure out how to do that.

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As the climate warms, ranchers keep their eyes on the grass

In drought years like this one, ranchers are faced with a number of tough choices and unpleasant trade-offs, according to Lawrence Gallegos, New Mexico field organizer at the Western Landowners Alliance. Decisions about how many cattle to raise are made early in the year. But if there’s not enough rain later in the year, there’s not enough forage to support the cattle, triggering a cascade of impacts to ranchers and their operations.

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Leaders respond to the Grasslands Roadmap draft

Leaders, speakers, and panelists for the “Leaders Respond” session of the 2020 Central Grasslands Roadmap Summit dug in and provided incredibly comprehensive and diverse reflections on the current Roadmap and its overall direction. WLA’s executive director Lesli Allison was among them.

Watch directly on YouTube.

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Small processors step up to ease beef supply-chain woes

Meatpacking plant closures caused by coronavirus outbreaks, including one at the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, sent shockwaves through the food system. But some small producers were ready to seize an opportunity. Long sought policy changes that could make the food system more resilient to such shocks are also gaining traction, as WLA’s policy director Patricia Dowd explains.

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Coronavirus-related disruptions in the beef supply chain have spurred changes. Will they last?

COVID-19-driven closures at meatpacking plants have resulted in lower prices for ranchers because of the growing number of cattle in the pipeline. On the other end of the supply chain, people are paying more for meat in the stores and can’t always find what they’re looking for. Grocery stores have put per-customer limits on some meat purchases. Meanwhile, there has been a huge surge in demand by both ranchers and consumers for the services of smaller processing plants around the state. The question that ranchers, processors and agriculture experts are asking is whether current concerns about the health and reliability of the beef supply will produce lasting changes.

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Opportunity stems from pandemic shortages

Fewer steps in any process can reduce the margin for error, and as the nation is facing significant challenges to its industrial food system highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to some to rely on a short supply chain.

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NM Supreme Court asked to weigh in on stream access dispute that no one can agree on

Kendra Chamberlain at New Mexico Political Report unpacks the controversy over New Mexico’s stream access law, and the pending lawsuit between pro-access groups and the state. She writes, “Groups on both sides of the dispute all have different ideas about what’s at issue, and what’s at stake, but all parties are quick to point out the dispute is incredibly complicated. And while there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic, stakeholders on both sides of the fence seem to agree on one thing: it was a 2014 opinion issued by then-Attorney General Gary King that started the whole thing.” 

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New Mexico senators weigh in on stream access

New Mexico’s two U.S. senators are wading more deeply into a stream access debate that’s been simmering for years. U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, this week urged the state Game Commission to repeal a 2017 rule that allows private landowners to restrict public access to water flowing across their land in certain circumstances. Supporters of the rule, such as the Western Landowners Alliance, say it protects sensitive streambeds and enables habitat restoration work on private property.

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Women In Ranching Program forges new ways of connecting

Ranching can be an isolating profession in a good year. But the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the few staples of social contact women ranchers rely on. A program led by a woman in Garfield County, Montana [WLA’s Amber Smith] is forging new ways of connecting that will likely outlast the pandemic.

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Expanding efforts to keep ‘cows over condos’ are protecting land across the West

Across the West, a growing number of ranchers and farmers are seeking conservation easements to stave off the big-box stores, self-storage complexes and residential construction consuming millions of acres of fertile open space. From Montana’s sagebrush steppe to New Mexico’s Central Flyway, the interest is so strong that state agencies and nonprofits are juggling lengthy waiting lists of applications.

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Ranchers see universal lessons in combating lonesomeness

As millions of individuals nationwide attempt to adhere to “stay at home” orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, rancher Amber Smith is quick to admit she’s thankful for the extra space on the 53,000-acre ranch where she lives with her family in eastern Montana. But Smith, who heads the Western Landowners Alliance’s Women in Ranching program, acknowledges that the same expansive acreage has long posed its own challenge: isolation.

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Surviving isolation: It’s OK to ask for help

Not everyone is suited to rural life — or social distancing — but there are some lessons from rural life that might be applicable during the novel coronavirus outbreak. First and foremost, know that it’s OK to be struggling. It’s also OK to ask for help, state officials say. Carrie Haderlie writes for the Wyoming News Exchange that isolation has been a topic at WLA gatherings for several years now. 

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Ranch mom shares 5 tips for coping with social distancing

Amanda Radke visits with fellow ranch mom, Amber Smith, about habits we can adopt to help us deal with the emotional toll of COVID-19. Smith is the Women in Ranching program manager for the Western Landowners Alliance and lives and works on the Antelope Springs Ranch in Cohagen, Montana. She is currently working at home full-time while also homeschooling her two children, ages 7 and 9.

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Farm-to-table operations now taking an online farm-to-public approach in the age of coronavirus

Farmers, ranchers who’ve lost restaurant business are coming up with new ways of reaching customers. This piece shares the stories of several creative Colorado farmers and ranchers responding to the rapid changes in food markets as a result of COVID-19.

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Opinion: Conservation and restoration of our precious land

The future of New Mexico over the next 100 years will depend on actions taken today to ensure our natural resources continue to provide our most essential needs. The New Mexico Land Conservancy, the New Mexico Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and Audubon New Mexico urge New Mexicans to speak up during the current legislative session in favor of the New Mexico Agricultural and Natural Resources Trust Fund Act.

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Editorial: Using oil surplus to help restore habitat worth the investment

A bill that would dedicate a portion of the state’s record oil and gas revenues to a permanent fund for habitat restoration and sustainable agriculture projects deserves serious consideration from lawmakers, and it’s good to see support for it from a broad coalition of agricultural and environmental groups.

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New Mexico bill would divert oil and gas money to restoration

Skyrocketing oil and natural gas production in southeastern New Mexico continues to produce record-setting state revenue. A broad coalition of agricultural and environmental groups believe some of that money should help restore the state’s land and water.

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Wyoming governor releases draft executive order on migration corridors

A draft executive order released by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon lays out rules for how the governor will designate wildlife corridors. Rancher Marissa Taylor served on the advisory group that helped shape the EO. She responded positively to the draft order, with particular praise for its acknowledgement of private landowners’ efforts to preserve migration habitats.

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Group working on new carbon credit trading platform

Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has initiated a working group to develop a U.S. protocol for paying ranchers and farmers to store carbon in their soil.

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Working group to develop protocol for storing carbon

Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has initiated a working group, which includes WLA, to develop a United States protocol for paying ranchers and farmers to store carbon in their soil.

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Jennie Gordon: unique background positions First Lady to help

There’s a link between the first lady’s hunger initiative and her connection to Wyoming’s agricultural industry, according to Jessica Crowder, policy director for Western Landowners Alliance. “The health of the land and the health of the people who live on the land really are tied to the values that we appreciate in Wyoming,” Crowder said.

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WLA hosts meeting to work on solutions to ranching with large carnivores

Grizzly bear and wolf predation is one of the biggest challenges that ranchers face. Potential solutions can benefit livestock producers, conservationists and wildlife agencies. Over 100 people with a stake in grizzly bear management in Montana convened with the Western Landowners Alliance, Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance and Madison Valley Ranchlands Group at the Alder Firehall Nov. 15.

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Survey: Montanans want more state conservation spending

Montanans care a lot about public land access and conserving wildlife and they like the idea of the state spending more money on those things, according to survey results released this week by the Montana Outdoor Heritage Project.

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Groups strike consensus in debates over Wyoming’s migration corridors

A series of recommendations sent to the governor Monday laid out a possible blueprint for how Wyoming could protect and preserve its iconic migration corridors for years to come.

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Cattle call on the eastern plains

Fifth-generation Flying Diamond Ranch builds land stewardship into their business model.

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Western landowners release new guide to reduce conflict

Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has released a wildlife guide produced by and for landowners and practitioners constructively engaged in one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time—how to share and manage a wild, working landscape that sustains both people and wildlife.

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Allison: Farm bill is a big win for every American

It didn’t appear in many front-page headlines, but Congress just passed a five-year, $867 billion piece of legislation in a bipartisan, landslide vote. In today’s political climate, this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it should be newsworthy.

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Colorado Women in Ranching: A spirit of nurturing, sustainability is alive at San Juan Ranch

Defying convention is standard at San Juan Ranch. And with the mounting pressures from prolonged drought, climate change and unsustainably low crop prices, Sullivan and her partner George Whitten’s idiosyncratic take on what it means to be a rancher in the West might save their operation, and also help others inevitably facing the same challenges.

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COVID-19 news for the West

USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. USDA said the new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain.

Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains, USDA said. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

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Howdy, New Neighbors!

If you thought the droves of people moving to Montana in the 1990s and early 2000s were overwhelming, brace yourself. Over the past year, it appears that out-of-staters have been pouring in. Newcomers already know Montana is awesome. Let’s help them understand what Montanans do to keep it that way.

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Survey: Pandemic has changed consumers’ food habits

Nearly a year of social distancing and economic disruptions has triggered both subtle and seismic shifts in how Americans are buying or getting food, and Colorado State University researchers from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics have spent the last several months documenting those shifts. Their efforts are part of a $1 million cooperative study funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, in partnership with the University of Kentucky and Penn State University, looking at the pandemic’s effects on local and regional food markets.

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After Identifying Gaps in Previous Aid, USDA Announces ‘Pandemic Assistance for Producers’ to Distribute Resources More Equitably

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA is establishing new programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The new initiative—USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers—will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs, including socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium-sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops.

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This California startup has a meat test it says can help prevent the next pandemic

Food ID, a San Mateo, California-based startup, has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will help improve the safety and transparency of the U.S. meat supply. The funding will be used to commercialize the company’s rapid-result tests that can detect antibiotics in animals and a range of other adulterants.

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COVID-19 expanded the direct-sales market

The COVID-19 pandemic disruption of the food system resulted in more consumers purchasing their food directly from farmers and ranchers. The new customers create opportunities for producers to begin direct marketing and scale up their production. Due to public health concerns, online ordering and delivery – if not already offered by the producer – were added to direct marketing models.

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USDA temporarily suspends debt collections, foreclosures and other activities on farm loans due to Coronavirus

Due to the national public health emergency caused by COVID-19, the USDA announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the FSA.

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Montana ranchers turned to local sales in a tough year

“As soon as COVID hit and store shelves were empty, people realized there was an opportunity there that hadn’t been since World War II,” said Jake Feddes, who ranches near Manhattan. “Probably your generation, my generation, we’ve never seen empty store shelves. All of a sudden we did. It really changed perceptions with consumers, but also with producers.”

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Pandemic spurs spike in hunting, fishing licenses

Sales of hunting and fishing licenses are spiking in much of the U.S. Weary of being cooped up at home — and of masking and social distancing when they go elsewhere — many Americans are taking refuge in outdoor sports that offer safety and solitude. The trend has abruptly reversed a steady decline in hunting’s popularity that once appeared permanent.

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Pandemic reshapes sheep market

Sheep may be considered a “dual crop” livestock source. While that’s usually a good thing for evening-out income, the sheep industry is getting a one-two punch during the pandemic like many in agriculture. Closing restaurants, and turning to sweatpants and remote meetings have changed the entire demand picture for both lamb meat and harvested wool.

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Wyoming governor makes more COVID-19 relief funding available to businesses and nonprofits beginning Nov. 2

Among these funding opportunities, the Agricultural Fund is for Wyoming ranchers and farmers who have lost revenue due to public health orders or incurred COVID-19 related expenses. $90 million available. Up to $250,000 per applicant. Opens November 2 and closes November 18, 2020.

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Colorado makes $1 million available to help producers adjust to supply-chain crisis

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is making about $1 million in grant funding available for Colorado farmers, ranchers, food hubs and processors to support them in adjusting to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food supply chain. The new Colorado Farm & Food Systems Response Team and fund is focused on small- and mid-size growers, beginning farmers and ranchers, veteran farmers, farmers of color, LGBTQ+ farmers, and female farmers. Apply by November 9, 2020.

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New homes on the range: Weary city dwellers escape to Montana, creating a property gold rush

Buyers fleeing New York, Los Angeles and other densely populated U.S. cities say they want to leave the coronavirus clusters and social justice unrest behind. Even as the state’s fierce winter looms, the transplants are pushing house prices to record levels. Some are offering millions of dollars in cash for houses and land they have seen only on the Internet.

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USDA to provide additional direct assistance to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus

President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced up to an additional $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21 and run through December 11, 2020.

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How coronavirus and drought have combined to affect Colorado’s limited water supply

While two of Colorado’s largest water providers noticed big drops in some water use when the pandemic hit, those savings were erased as people watered their parched grass through a hot, dry summer.

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USDA implements immediate measures to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by COVID-19

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. View the official Stakeholder Announcement here, which includes a list of Opportunities for immediate relief. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions and more.

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Ranchers organize to feed hungry Montanans

Matt Pierson, a Livingston native, is working to connect people who want to help with people who need help. And that’s how the Producer Partnership, a statewide nonprofit helping to feed those in need with donated meat by local livestock producers, started on one of his ranch pastures this spring. The goal for the Producer Partnership is to distribute 140,000 pounds of meat by the end of the year.

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Small processors step up to ease beef supply-chain woes

Meatpacking plant closures caused by coronavirus outbreaks, including one at the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, sent shockwaves through the food system. But some small producers were ready to seize an opportunity. Long sought policy changes that could make the food system more resilient to such shocks are also gaining traction, as WLA’s policy director Patricia Dowd explains.

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‘We really need help’: Coronavirus overwhelms rural communities

The pandemic sweeping through major U.S. cities is now wreaking havoc on rural communities, with some recording the nation’s most new confirmed cases per capita in the past two weeks. The virus is infecting thousands of often impoverished rural residents every day, swamping struggling health care systems and piling responsibility on government workers who often perform multiple jobs they never signed up for. Officials attribute much of the spread in rural America to outbreaks in workplaces, living facilities and social gatherings.

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Young farmers have been shut out of federal assistance during the pandemic

The federal government’s PPP and CFAP relief programs leave out beginning farmers even as the coronavirus decimates their primary sales outlets. Talk to young farmers and one verb comes up repeatedly. Pivot. They have all had to pivot and then do it again as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated their customer bases and traditional supply chains.

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Meat consumption drops during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on meat consumption, and the damage may linger for several years, food and agriculture analysts say. A string of reports in recent weeks suggest that meat consumption in the United States and globally has entered a downward trend due to the pandemic and that consumer preferences have changed, even as longer-term forecasts point to strong demand.

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Gov. Bullock announces statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases continue to climb

On Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock issued a new directive, which requires face coverings be worn in certain indoor spaces and for certain organized outdoor activities in counties currently experiencing four or more active cases of COVID-19.

Gov. Bullock says the directive requires businesses, government offices, and other indoor spaces open to the public to ensure that employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and other members of the public wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose while remaining inside these spaces. The directive also requires face coverings at organized outdoor activities of 50 or more people, where social distancing cannot be maintained.

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Center for American Progress launches “Race for Nature”

“To save family farms, ranches, and rural communities from economic collapse, the United States should launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature”—that pays private landowners to protect the water, air and natural places that everyone needs to stay healthy.” The report focuses on expanding conservation easement programs and increasing conservation easements nationwide, setting aside as much as 55 million acres by 2030 under long-term or permanent protections.

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NACD examines Executive Order on bolstering economic recovery in the COVID-19 era

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) outlines key information from President Trump’s Executive Order (EO), titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities.” The EO streamlines infrastructure investments by instructing agencies, including executive departments, to use “emergency authorities” for swift implementation of projects.

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Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Are you a farmer or rancher whose operation has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. USDA is accepting applications now through August 28, 2020. Producers should apply through the Farm Service Agency at their local USDA Service Center.

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Coronavirus-related disruptions in the beef supply chain have spurred changes. Will they last?

COVID-19-driven closures at meatpacking plants have resulted in lower prices for ranchers because of the growing number of cattle in the pipeline. On the other end of the supply chain, people are paying more for meat in the stores and can’t always find what they’re looking for. Grocery stores have put per-customer limits on some meat purchases. Meanwhile, there has been a huge surge in demand by both ranchers and consumers for the services of smaller processing plants around the state. The question that ranchers, processors and agriculture experts are asking is whether current concerns about the health and reliability of the beef supply will produce lasting changes.

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Hunting for game wardens: A shortage of conservation officers threatens wildlife

States are facing significant shortages of conservation officers, who help protect natural resources and wildlife. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has triggered major budget cuts, further threatening funding for environmental conservation and could result in additional cuts to conservation districts that are already cash-strapped and understaffed.

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Opportunity stems from pandemic shortages

Fewer steps in any process can reduce the margin for error, and as the nation is facing significant challenges to its industrial food system highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to some to rely on a short supply chain.

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Farmers Impacted by COVID-19 now eligible to defer FSA loan payments

Well into the growing season, many farmers who have lost both revenue and markets as a result of the ongoing pandemic continue to struggle with paying existing farm debt. While broader debt relief efforts are needed to address the unsustainable levels of farm debt that are saddling farmers all across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced changes to federal farm loan programs that may provide immediate, short-term relief to some farmers.

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Invoking the Defense Production Act for the rest of the food supply

President Donald Trump’s executive order late last month invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat and poultry plants open got a ton of media attention, but there’s one big thing that was largely missed: The EO could actually grant USDA the same sweeping authority over, well, the rest of the country’s food production.

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As COVID-19 disrupts the industrial meat system, independent processors have a moment to shine

Shutdowns and slowdowns of meatpacking plants in the consolidated, industrial system have led to meat shortages at grocery stores and the euthanization and disposal of millions of animals. Meanwhile, small and mid-size slaughterhouses, packers, and butchers are staying open. In many cases, they’re ramping up production.

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USDA announces details of direct assistance to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

USDA announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

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Plant-based food sales see greatest gains yet as meat shortage fears grow

With the meat processing industry in a tailspin amid Tyson and Smithfield plant closures owing to outbreaks of COVID-19, there is a potential nationwide meat shortage looming. This shortage, coupled with consumer uncertainty during this anxious time, has seemingly contributed to a surge in demand for plant-based alternatives.

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Most farmers in the Great Plains don’t grow fruits and vegetables. The pandemic is changing that.

Amid massive tracts of wheat and corn destined for global markets, some farmers are planting cover crop mixes including fruits and vegetables designed to be harvested by their communities.

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Agencies revamp strategy to address crews’ virus risk

In new plans that offer a national reimagining of how to fight wildfires amid the risk of the coronavirus spreading through crews, it’s not clear how officials will get the testing and equipment needed to keep firefighters safe in what’s expected to be a difficult fire season. A U.S. group instead put together broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes, with agencies and firefighting groups in different parts of the country able to tailor them to fit their needs.

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NM cattle ranchers fear ‘demise’ of industry

Prices for beef in grocery stores have skyrocketed as many packing plants across the country, almost all of which are managed by such large corporations, attempt to manage outbreaks that infect employees and reduce production. But while consumers pay more for beef, corporations are paying ranchers around 30% less for calves, New Mexico ranchers’ main product. The sudden drop in prices has left many unsure how they will finance the massive costs of running a cattle operation in New Mexico.

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Coronavirus-linked problems in meat supply chain could mean shortages, trouble for ranchers

From the start of the beef supply chain to the end, COVID-19 has created kinks that, if not straightened out, could lead to limited selection in grocery stores, higher prices for restaurants and consumers and some Colorado ranchers shutting their gates for good.

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What Happened When Health Officials Wanted to Close a Meatpacking Plant, but the Governor Said No

New documents obtained by ProPublica show public health officials in Grand Island, Nebraska, wanted the JBS meatpacking plant closed. But Gov. Pete Ricketts said no. Since then, cases have skyrocketed.

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Supersizing USDA’s farm relief arsenal

There’s momentum in Congress to expand the borrowing authority of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, the Depression-era agency that’s funding part of the department’s stimulus payments to farmers and ranchers (and that’s facilitated the Trump administration’s trade bailout program since 2018). It’s one of the primary funding options on the table as lawmakers consider more agricultural aid in their next coronavirus response package.

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Notice: Economic injury disaster advance loan for Ag producers

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories were able to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance of up to $10,000. This advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue and will not have to be repaid.  SBA has resumed processing EIDL applications and will be processing these applications on a first-come, first-served basis. SBA will begin accepting new EIDL and EIDL Advance applications on a limited basis only to provide relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. Eligible agricultural businesses may apply for the Loan Advance here.

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Going local: The case for bringing America’s meat supply closer to home

Will Harris is at odds with the way most producers get meat to the American public. The Georgia farmer shuns the large production plants that dominate the protein supply chain in the country, raising his “athletes” — hens, pigs and cattle and seven other species — on 3,200 acres near the Alabama border. He raises them holistically, before slaughtering them for meat and selling it to local restaurants, local grocers and home delivery nationwide.

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‘No good answer’ to meat industry nightmare

President Trump’s order this week for meat-packing plants to stay open despite the coronavirus pandemic presents challenges, but closing plants comes with its own set of issues. Farmers have been forced to euthanize tens of thousands of pigs, cattle and other livestock, with more on the way as the industry struggles to resume production at levels near pre-pandemic levels. The government can’t compensate farms for those lost animals, though, because they weren’t sick, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson said yesterday.

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Colorado Farm & Food Systems Respond & Rebuild Fund

The COVID-19 crisis is dramatically changing market access and performance of farmers and ranchers. There is a need for capital to support producers serving non-commodity markets. As a result, several organizations have joined together to create the Colorado Farm & Food Systems Response Team to support farmers and ranchers actively responding to changing market opportunities and food-security challenges in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Applications are due May 4, 2020.

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Women In Ranching Program forges new ways of connecting

Ranching can be an isolating profession in a good year. But the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the few staples of social contact women ranchers rely on. A program led by a woman in Garfield County, Montana [WLA’s Amber Smith] is forging new ways of connecting that will likely outlast the pandemic.

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Coronavirus at meatpacking plants worse than first thought

A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meatpacking plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. And it could get worse. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest.

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Livestock producers get lion share of COVID-19 ag aid

The $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to support farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 pandemic, includes a significant share of the funds for livestock producers who have been hit especially hard. The total aid package includes $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers, funded using the $9.5 billion emergency program included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and $6.5 billion in Credit Commodity Corporation (CCC) funding.

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Cat Urbigkit: Rejecting an unsustainable system

I am fortunate to look out my living room window to beef and lamb on the hoof, raised in a sustainable grazing system that follows nature’s rhythms. I know that in a food shortage, we can feed a lot of people. But our family won’t be doing it by sending our livestock to huge meat processors. Expanding the network of small meat processing companies (like Laramie’s 307 Meat Company) is desperately needed throughout the country, so that we can reduce the miles that food must travel between the field and the table.

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USDA announces coronavirus food assistance program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new USDA program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

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In their words: How Westerners are weathering the pandemic

Life has changed immensely in the last month due to COVID-19. As the virus spreads, so too do mitigation efforts: Governors have implemented stay-at-home orders, tribal leaders have set curfews, and millions are unemployed as the economy grinds to a halt under social distancing. High Country News asked readers to tell us how their own lives have been affected.

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Coronavirus forces new approaches to firefighting

They are two disasters that require opposite responses: To save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are being told to remain isolated. But in a wildfire, thousands of firefighters must work in close quarters for weeks at a time. Wildfires have already broken out in Texas and Florida, and agencies are scrambling to finish plans for a new approach.

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American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund

American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund will award farmers and ranchers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the corona virus crisis. Initially, eligible applicants include any small and mid-size direct-market producers. These are defined as producers with annual gross revenue of between $10,000 and $1 million from sales at farmers’ markets and/or direct sales to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products as inputs.

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Smithfield closes South Dakota pork plant due to coronavirus

Virginia-based Smithfield Foods announced Sunday that it is closing its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls until further notice after hundreds of employees tested positive for the coronavirus — a step the head of the company warned could hurt the nation’s meat supply.

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Coronavirus was slow to spread to rural America. Not anymore.

This story map lays out the spread of coronavirus through rural counties across America. The spread started slowly, but has been accelerating in April, worrying officials who fear rural counties may be even less well prepared to handle the pandemic than the urban areas that have been hit hardest so far.

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Meat plants are shutting down as workers get sick

Across the country, major meat processors, including Tyson and JBS USA, are starting to shut down plants as employees are getting infected by coronavirus. Consumers are unlikely to see any shortages because of production disturbances. But the closures are devastating for some meat producers, which have remained open during the pandemic.

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The Farm and Food Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act

Following passage of the CARES Act, this guide provides farmers and ranchers with information on the three main programs they should be aware of, how to calculate how much they can apply for depending on what type of business they own and where to find additional resources during these challenging times.

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Deadline for Joint Chiefs extended to May 1

USDA’s NRCS New Mexico assistant state conservationist for programs announced today that sign up for fiscal year 2020 Joint Chiefs Initiative has been extended. All New Mexico agricultural producers who would like to be considered for financial assistance under the Joint Chiefs Initiative need to apply by Friday, May 1, 2020. While producers can apply year-round for EQIP assistance, this extended application cutoff announcement is specific to the Greater Santa Fe Fireshed and Taos Valley Watershed Coalition Joint Chiefs Initiatives.

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Ranchers see universal lessons in combating lonesomeness

As millions of individuals nationwide attempt to adhere to “stay at home” orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, rancher Amber Smith is quick to admit she’s thankful for the extra space on the 53,000-acre ranch where she lives with her family in eastern Montana. But Smith, who heads the Western Landowners Alliance’s Women in Ranching program, acknowledges that the same expansive acreage has long posed its own challenge: isolation.

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Photos: In rural towns and on remote farms the virus creeps in

In places where social distancing was already a way of life, the relentless pandemic has begun to reshape the economy. Many rural areas in Oregon and across the country remain relatively untouched by the pandemic’s most insidious effects. But it’s spreading. At least one case has been reported in almost 60 percent of the country’s rural counties, threatening what tend to be poorer and more vulnerable areas. Even where it remains scarce, though, awareness of its impact has crept in to daily life.

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Surviving isolation: It’s OK to ask for help

Not everyone is suited to rural life — or social distancing — but there are some lessons from rural life that might be applicable during the novel coronavirus outbreak. First and foremost, know that it’s OK to be struggling. It’s also OK to ask for help, state officials say. Carrie Haderlie writes for the Wyoming News Exchange that isolation has been a topic at WLA gatherings for several years now. 

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Ranch mom shares 5 tips for coping with social distancing

Amanda Radke visits with fellow ranch mom, Amber Smith, about habits we can adopt to help us deal with the emotional toll of COVID-19. Smith is the Women in Ranching program manager for the Western Landowners Alliance and lives and works on the Antelope Springs Ranch in Cohagen, Montana. She is currently working at home full-time while also homeschooling her two children, ages 7 and 9.

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Farm-to-table operations now taking an online farm-to-public approach in the age of coronavirus

Farmers, ranchers who’ve lost restaurant business are coming up with new ways of reaching customers. This piece shares the stories of several creative Colorado farmers and ranchers responding to the rapid changes in food markets as a result of COVID-19.

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Colorado farms reinvent to meet communities’ needs

Farmers have seen a drop in business from restaurants as that industry cuts down on expenses in a takeout and delivery only model because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Growers in Colorado say they are adjusting to a new approach as well that sells directly to the consumer.

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U.S. coronavirus stimulus bill adds billions in support for farmers

The U.S. coronavirus stimulus bill would add $14 billion to the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp spending authority, and authorize another $9.5 billion for U.S. farmers hurt by the fast-spreading pandemic, according to a copy of the bill’s text.

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COVID-19 aid package offers assistance to rural America

The Senate advanced its Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in a vote late Wednesday night in the third tranche of assistance offered by Congress as it attempts to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19). For farmers, the final $2 trillion package includes some specific requests, such as additional lending authority to for the Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) and livestock and disaster assistance.

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Department of State waives interview requirement for H-2A workers

The Department of State is taking steps to reduce delays in the processing of H-2A workers caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of State suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates on March 20, creating alarm about potential delays in H-2A worker availability. A March 26 move by the Department of State should ease that potential bottleneck, especially for workers from Mexico, the source of the majority of U.S. guest agricultural workers.

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1st rural county COVID-19 case in Montana

Montana added four new cases of the coronavirus Thursday night, including the first in a rural eastern Montana county. There are now 16 cases within the state’s borders.

The patient from Roosevelt County is a woman in her 70s, who acquired COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, through international travel, according to a press release from Gov. Steve Bullock’s office Thursday night.

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Stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak but want to help here in Colorado? Here’s how.

Even if we’re self-quarantined or engaging in some serious social distancing, we’re still a community. And as more and more of us settle into this new normal, we’re bound to find that we’re hungry for ways to feel like we’re making a difference — even as we spend hours on end within the confines of our homes.

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Letter requests federal support to rural areas for COVID-19 response

A bipartisan group of 24 senators is asking FEMA to coordinate with USDA and the Interior Department to deploy federal workers trained in emergency response to rural communities overwhelmed by the pandemic. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are “uniquely qualified,” the senators wrote. Link is to PDF of the letter. Thanks to Politico’s MorningAgriculture report for the tip.

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Cattle market shaken by COVID-19

How COVID-19, formerly known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, will play out and how long it will take to come under control are unquantifiable. The cattle market fears the disease will spread and slow the global economy, which will trim beef demand. No one can predict the what, when or where of the next outbreak and its impact on cattle prices.

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Policy

Another side of the controversy over stream access

In a recent editorial, The New Mexican declared rivers and streams belong to the public, but this simplistic declaration masks a crucially important story that is not being told (“Rivers, streams belong to public — period,” Our View, June 13). If we care about New Mexico’s land, water, people and wildlife, it’s time to take a much harder, more honest look at the issue and what is at stake.

We are in a perilous moment in history, writes Lesli Allison in this Op-Ed. As the human footprint expands, biodiversity is collapsing — and with it, the ecosystems that sustain all of us. As populations grow, development expands and people seek new places to recreate, fish and wildlife are in a desperate struggle for survival.

In New Mexico, 116 species are listed as threatened or endangered, and more edge closer to the brink of extinction every day, among them native trout and many other wildlife species dependent on our limited streams and riparian systems. Many of these species rely on private land, where there is less human pressure, for refuge and survival. They also rely on the personal investments of private landowners who are conserving and restoring habitats across the state.

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Biden’s Proposed Tax Changes Could Cause Family Farms to Accrue Additional Debt, Study Shows

The Biden Administration’s proposed tax changes could be costly for family farms. That’s the takeaway from a new report from Texas A&M University’s Agricultural & Food Policy Center (AFPC). The report looked into the proposed inheritance tax code changes currently being debated in Washington. 

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U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney Introduces NEPA Reform Bill to Streamline Regulations and Empower State/Local Leaders

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) introduced the UNSHACKLE Act (Undoing NEPA’s Substantial Harm by Advancing Concepts that Kickstart the Liberation of the Economy Act) in the House of Representatives, a bill that combines five standalone NEPA-related pieces of legislation aimed at maintaining the previous Administration’s much-needed NEPA revisions.

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USDA to Invest $41.8 Million in Conservation Assistance for Producers in Drought-Impacted States

In response to historic drought conditions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $41.8 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural producers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will make available this funding through Conservation Incentive Contracts, a new option available through EQIP. Signup for this targeted funding begins today, and NRCS will accept applications through July 12, 2021.

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USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System

Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. USDA said the new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain.

Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains, USDA said. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

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CPW announces membership on wolf reintroduction advisory panels

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced representatives of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) and the Technical Working Group (TWG), which will help guide CPW staff and the Commission through the wolf reintroduction planning process. WLA’s programs director, Hallie Mahowald, has been chosen for the SAG and will be working hard to fight for the needs of Colorado’s landowners throughout this process.

Researchers at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University have created an index depicting the mix of social values among people across all 50 states, providing data that can be useful for wildlife conservation policy and management. The study, “Bringing social values to wildlife conservation decisions,” was published online June 3 in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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Montana’s Senators differ on details, but agree science is key to grizzly de-listing discussion

As grizzly bears reach and surpass recovery goals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Sen. Daines and Sen. Tester of Montana agree that science should guide decisions to de-list the species from the ESA.

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For Predators, Montana’s New Wildlife Laws Bring Cloudy Future

New laws allowing more liberal wolf trapping and hunting and creating leeway for citizens to retaliate to protect their property from grizzly bears are influencing debate over the relationships between people and predators in Montana.

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Montana officials kill three grizzlies after livestock attacks

Three bears were captured and euthanized in Montana that had chronically depredated livestock. Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species under federal law, but since their populations have rebounded in Montana, grizzlies have run into increasingly frequent conflicts with humans and livestock.

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California wants to buy nonlethal bear traps and pay ranchers when wolves kill their cows

California’s department of fish and wildlife’s funding will be increasing by $252 million, allowing for a range of new wildlife conservation and management initiatives, including $7 million to buy traps and other equipment to capture and relocate animals, as well as implement nonlethal deterrents such as flagging and fences to protect livestock from wolves

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Does Biden’s ’30×30′ plan trade science for popularity?

(Subscription) Some proponents of a concerted push to protect large swaths of natural spaces across the country are raising concerns that the Biden administration’s new conservation proposal is too timid, failing to lay out a plan to truly preserve vulnerable lands and waters.

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Judge sides with Game and Fish, limits grizzly-killed livestock award

A judge decided Monday to reduce an arbitration panel’s award to a Hot Springs County, Wyoming rancher for cattle lost to grizzly bears. The rancher sought $205,483 in compensation, but will receive $61,202 to cover 20 confirmed kills by grizzly bears.

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FWP seeks Citizens Advisory Council applicants in southeastern Montana

Volunteer applicants are needed to serve two-year terms on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) region 7 Citizens Advisory Council (CAC). The purpose of the southeastern Montana-based CAC is to advise FWP on various regional and statewide wildlife management issues, programs and policies.

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9th Circuit hears arguments on “grazing preference”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard earlier this month arguments on the first-of-its-kind denial of a “grazing preference” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to an Oregon family.

The case could set precedence regarding Congress’ intent when it passed the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) in 1934 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) in 1976. Both give an existing permit holder the right to stand first in line when it comes time to renew that permit—commonly referred to as a “preference” by the TGA and a “first priority” by FLPMA—or when passing the permit to a family member.

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Groups ask feds for emergency re-listing of wolves after new Montana, Idaho laws

A handful of environmental groups are seeking the emergency re-listing of Northern Rockies gray wolves after lawmakers in Montana and Idaho passed several new laws aimed at reducing their numbers.

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Colorado Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Wildlife Corridors

Recently, the Colorado Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to protect the state’s wildlife corridors, which would conserve native species while improving road safety and bolstering Colorado’s economy.

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Endangered Species Act listing proposed for lesser prairie-chicken

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing federally protected status under the Endangered Species Act for two populations of the lesser prairie-chicken that occupy parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

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USDA Announces New Initiative to Quantify Climate Benefits of Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently announced an initiative to quantify the climate benefits of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. This multi-year effort will enable USDA to better target CRP toward climate outcomes and improve existing models and conservation planning tools while supporting USDA’s goal of putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change.

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Beef lobby rift: JBS leaves NCBA

The moves stem from widespread anger among producers who say they are being squeezed with unfairly low cattle prices while consumers are paying near-record prices for burgers and steaks.

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Colorado Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Wildlife Corridors

Colorado Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to protect the state’s wildlife corridors, which would conserve native species while improving road safety and bolstering Colorado’s economy.

The bipartisan resolution was introduced earlier this month by Democratic Senator Jessie Danielson and Republican Representative Perry Will. The legislation, which marks a monumental step towards preserving Colorado’s rich biodiversity and wildlife heritage for future generations, now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote.

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CPW’s 2nd wolf reintroduction info session focuses on dealing with livestock conflict

Colorado Parks and Wildlife held its second wolf reintroduction education session last week with a focus on what other states have done when releasing wolves and managing conflicts with livestock.

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Forest Service Defends Grazing by Diamond M Ranch in Wolf Case

The U.S. Forest Service asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a suit led by wolf advocates who want to drive the Diamond M Ranch’s cattle out of the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.

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Group wants to reintroduce jaguars; mining ban eyed to protect birds

Environmental groups and scientists with two universities want U.S. wildlife managers to consider reintroducing jaguars to the American Southwest. In a recently published paper, they say habitat destruction, highways and existing segments of the border wall mean that natural reestablishment of the large cats north of the U.S.-Mexico boundary would be unlikely over the next century without human intervention. 

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Vilsack wants ag conservation focus on incentives, not regulations

Vilsack said last week that in President Joe Biden’s administration, “the ultimate goal is to reduce emissions” but that his preferred method is through incentives and education, not the heavy hammer of regulatory enforcement.

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30×30 Plan: Panelists Discuss Conservation Policy for Western States

The Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) hosted a panel of landowners and land managers to share their perspective on the Biden administration’s 30×30 Plan. While the policy has not been completed, WLA is advocating the final policy should respect property rights, improve conservation outcomes and benefit rural communities. 

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Montana’s wildlife agency pulls back on science work

Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks plans to shift its research program toward short-term, in-house efforts after a decade of ambitious work helped make it a world-renowned scientific contributor.

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Forest Service moves to weaken bighorn protections in Wyoming Range

Domestic sheep could graze anew on national forest land in the Wyoming Range where conservationists bought grazing rights to separate them, their pathogens and their impacts from bighorn sheep and their habitat.

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USFWS must consider petition for wild horse’s protection

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrongly refused to review an animal advocacy group’s bid to include a wild horse on the country’s list of imperiled species because its refusal hinged on a rule that is inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

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Groups call for reintroduction of jaguars in US Southwest

Environmental groups and scientists with two universities want U.S. wildlife managers to consider reintroducing jaguars to the American Southwest. In a recently published paper, they say habitat destruction, highways and existing segments of the border wall mean that natural reestablishment of the large cats north of the U.S.-Mexico boundary would be unlikely over the next century without human intervention.

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Montana gov signs legislation shaping grizzly management

Governor Gianforte of Montana recently signed Senate Bill (SB) 98, with some implications towards grizzly bear management in the state. SB 98 makes a declarative statement that grizzly bears should be delisted. The bill also states that under state law, a person who kills a grizzly bear that is attacking, killing or threatening to kill a person or livestock has an “absolute” defense against being charged with a crime.

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Westerners react to ‘America the Beautiful’ 30×30 conservation plan

Despite being called a “federal land grab” by at least one legislator on the far right, landowners from across the West gathered with leaders in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior in a webinar hosted by the Western Landowners Alliance Thursday to discuss the Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful” 30×30 conservation plan.

“I think the thing that has everybody worried that we just have to tackle head-on is this question about federal lands, this idea that has been pushed out there quite a bit that this is a federal land grab, or that there could be uses of eminent domain and massive federal land expansions and taking of private properties,” WLA Executive Director Lesli Allison said during the live online session.

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Biden’s 30×30 plan report released

Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, called the report “an overdue national conversation” that should occur from those closest to the matter and not from the top down.

“We are pleased to see that the administration is taking seriously that conservation is more than just setting land aside. It is really about how we steward the land,” Allison said in a statement. “The report suggests they understand that economics matter. Farmers and ranchers need to be able to earn a reasonable livelihood providing the many goods and services that society needs, such as food and fiber, but also things like wildlife habitat and healthy forests.”

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Montana has made killing wolves easier. Some hunters are pushing back.

New laws in Montana make it easier to trap and hunt wolves. Yet, hunters disagree on whether new laws passed, particularly ones allowing neck snares, qualify as sportsmanlike hunting.

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Biden nominee says Yellowstone area grizzly population ‘doing very, very well’

While she did not directly answer questions regarding grizzly bears should be removed from Endangered Species List protection, one of President Joe Biden’s nominee’s for the U.S. Fish and wildlife service said Wednesday that grizzly populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are doing “very well”.

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Tolerance key to grizzly conservation, state says

The success of the Bear Wise program — the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore educational outreach program — has helped keep both bears and people safe, according to state officials. But the department is at a crossroads: Its goal of building tolerance among landowners and residents is in jeopardy of wearing thin as conflicts continue to increase.

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USDA names key NRCS staff

USDA announced Wednesday the appointment of Meryl Harrell as deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment and the appointment of Terry Cosby as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Biden’s Climate Corps could help preserve soil and water, say advocates

(Subscription) Some conservation and environmentalists say the new Civilian Climate Corps should create private landowner partnerships with the Agriculture Department to protect soil, both to reduce greenhouse emissions and protect water quality.

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EPA relaunches website tracking climate change indicators

The EPA last week announced the relaunch of its website tracking climate change indicators in the U.S. for the first time since the beginning of the Trump administration. The assessment, delayed under the Trump presidency, includes information on 54 phenomena associated with climate change, including temperature increases, flooding, droughts, rising sea levels and ocean acidity.

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Agency plans ‘regional roundtables’ for WOTUS review

President Biden’s pick for EPA’s water office said today that the agency is planning “robust stakeholder engagement” and “regional roundtables” this summer to discuss its review of which waterways and wetlands qualify for federal protections. 

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California expands drought emergency to large swath of state

California Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

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Panel to probe farm conservation’s role in climate change

(Subscription) A House Agriculture subcommittee this week will explore the impact of farmland conservation programs on climate change, potentially giving clues on how the next farm bill will address the issue in 2023.

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Bill lifts cover crop penalties for grazing, animal feed

The Cover Crop Flexibility Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill introduced to the U.S. senate, would permanently lift crop insurance penalties for farmers who plant cover crops that can be used for animal feed or livestock grazing in response to extreme weather events.

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Ag, conservation alliance issues recommendations for USDA carbon bank

A broad coalition of farm and conservation groups says a USDA-run carbon bank should be used to test ways to establish carbon accounting guidelines, expand the use of climate-friendly farming practices and enable small-scale farms and minority producers to benefit from carbon markets.

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State Wildlife Areas, wolves discussed in CPW Commission meeting

A recent Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) commission meeting discussed the timeline for choosing representatives for the Stakeholder Advisory Group and Technical Working Group, two citizen groups that will provide input to CPW’s wolf reintroduction and management plans.

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Bill to kill up to 90% of Idaho wolves signed by governor

Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law a measure that could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves. This controversial bill will expand the hunting season for wolves, and allow a number of new hunting methods including night vision equipment and snaring.

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Ag groups encouraged by agriculture’s role in 30×30 plan

The Biden administration outlined ideas in achieving the nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. As the report was identified as “big on ideas, short on details,” by the American Farm Bureau Federation, several groups weighed in on how this administration will proceed in accomplishing its lofty conservation goals.

The preliminary report – Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful – is a joint effort from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Commerce and Council on Environmental Quality. It is the Administration’s initial effort toward developing the executive order signed in President Biden’s first days of office.

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EPA administrator won’t return to Obama-era WOTUS rule

In a hearing in the House of Representatives, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said he doesn’t intend to go back to the Obama-era waters of the U.S. – WOTUS – rule and again made that claim before members of the Senate.

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GOP pans 30×30 report, saying its still too light on details

Despite clear efforts to reassure property owners, farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishers that the 30×30 initiative they announced in January would not be a pretext for federal overreach, Republican lawmakers were not pacified by the “America the Beautiful” report.

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Biden’s conservation plan puts WOTUS in the crosshairs

(Subscription) A vision the Biden administration laid out this month for preserving 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030 is already fueling calls for EPA to reverse a controversial Trump-era water rule that rolled back federal protection for wetlands and streams.

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Interior Department takes steps to revoke Final Rule on Migratory Bird Treaty Act incidental take

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule to revoke the January 7, 2021, final regulation that limited the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Significant concerns about the interpretation of the MBTA have been raised by the public, legal challenges in court and from international treaty partners. This proposed rule provides the public with notice of the Service’s intent to revoke the January 7 rule’s interpretation of the MBTA and return to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent.

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NCBA & PLC: Ranchers and Farmers’ Input Adopted In 30×30 Guidelines

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) recognized the inclusion of agricultural producers’ recommendations in the Biden administration’s conservation goals report.

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Biden 30×30 plan emphasizes landowners’ key role in conservation’s future

The Biden administration today released a long-anticipated report detailing their proposal to conserve 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030 (known as 30×30). While the initiative has generated significant speculation and controversy, today’s report appears to indicate a determination on the part of the administration to chart solid middle ground. 

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A narrow path for Biden’s ambitious land conservation plan

Months after President Biden set a goal of conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and waters by 2030, the administration Thursday laid out broad principles — but few details — for achieving that vision.

The “America the Beautiful” report outlines steps the U.S. could take to safeguard key areas on land and in the sea to restore biodiversity, tackle climate change and make natural spaces more accessible to all Americans.

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Do Sanctuary Gun Laws Disqualify States from Receiving Federal Wildlife Management Funds?

A series of sanctuary gun laws by certain states could disqualify their Game and Fish Commissions from receiving nearly $18 million in annual distributions from the Wildlife Restoration Act fund. Better known as the Pittman-Robertson account the funds are derived from an 11 percent tax on the manufacture of guns, ammunition, and archery products.

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USDA Investing Nearly $22 Million to Improve Soil Health and Climate Smart Ag

The USDA is investing nearly $22 million into research initiatives aimed at helping improve soil health and climate smart agriculture. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is investing in several important programs to assist ag producers navigate the effects of climate change and its impact on production.

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Farm groups, enviros to USDA: Prioritize climate, update crop insurance

Farm and environmental groups that often disagree on ag policy are urging the Agriculture Department to prioritize climate change in conservation programs and to consider changes to crop insurance that would promote the use of cover crops and other carbon-conserving practices.

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Working ag lands figure large in Biden’s 30×30 plan

Voluntary conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers play a central role in the Biden administration’s strategy for conserving 30% of the nation’s land and marine waters by 2030.

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Group asks US to cut funding to Idaho over wolf-killing bill

The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the U.S. government to cut off millions of dollars to Idaho used to improve wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities over concerns recent legislation will lead to 90% of wolves in the state being killed.

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Sage grouse supporters urge Congress: Ditch the rider

(Subscription) Sage grouse champions are asking congressional appropriators to end a recent tradition and omit an annual budget rider that bars endangered species protections for the rotund Western bird.

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Critics say Idaho bill would kill 90% of wolves. Hunters, wildlife experts have other worries

A controversial bill recently passed the Idaho State legislature that would lift wolf hunting tag limits and allow year round wolf  hunting on private lands. While critics think this could lead to 90% of wolves in Idaho being killed, representatives of wildlife management agencies and hunting organizations say the effects will be more nuanced, with potential implications for the future of State vs. Federal management of Idaho wolf populations.

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New funding to curb wildfires pushed in Congress, as another fire season looms

As wildfires across the United States grow in size, intensity and duration each summer, members of Congress from the West are pushing for massive new investments in ecosystem management and wildfire mitigation.

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Future of the grizzly: Debate over Montana grizzly bear management carries on

While the debate over the Federal Designation of the Grizzly bear as an endangered species continues on Trina Jo Bradley, WLA member and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Front Ranchlands Group, knows what it means to run a ranch in Grizzly Bear country and how state management of grizzly bears may support her operation and her community.

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U.S. agency to look at bringing back bison on Montana refuge

U.S. officials said they will consider in coming years whether to reintroduce wild bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, a million-acre federal wildlife refuge in central Montana, a move that would be at odds with Republicans in the state who want to limit where bison can roam.

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Climate-friendly farming strategies can improve the land and generate income for farmers

Agriculture has not been a central part of U.S. climate policy in the past, even though climate change is altering weather patterns that farmers rely on. Now, however, President Biden has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy.

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Stabenow pushing for big boost in conservation, says Biden plan falls short

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says President Joe Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan is “woefully inadequate” when it comes to funding for climate-friendly farming practices, and she’s pushing for a major increase in funding for conservation programs.

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Legislature passes marijuana bill with conservation funding

A recent bill passed in the Montana legislature legalizing marijuana with provisions ensuring that associated taxes will go towards wildlife and public lands conservation within the state.

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Yellow-billed cuckoo gains habitat protections in New Mexico, other states in Western U.S.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced April 21 it had designated 300,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Texas and Utah as protected habitat for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, an imperiled bird that dwells along riverbeds throughout the West. The move marked a decline in the designated habitat for the cuckoo in a rule issued in 2014 that set aside about half a million acres but was revised last year.

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Native American lawmakers seek federal help on Montana bison

Native American lawmakers in Montana called on the Biden administration to help craft a plan to reintroduce wild bison to the landscape in and around Glacier National Park and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

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Update: Legislature OKs controversial Idaho wolf-killing bill. It heads to Little next

The Idaho House of Representatives voted 27-8 on Tuesday to approve a bill that would expand opportunities to lethally manage wolves. The controversial bill removes wolf tag limits for hunters and trappers, ends trapping season limits on private land, and gives ranchers and government agencies more leeway to kill wolves deemed threats to livestock or wildlife.

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Western Colorado is wary of gray wolf reintroduction. Will they have to pay for it, too?

The current funding plan for gray wolf reintroduction would rely on license fees paid by hunters and anglers, many of whom live in the western Colorado communities that opposed Proposition 114. A new house bill, bill 1243, seeks to diversify and broaden funding for wolf management in order to lift the financial burden from hunters and anglers

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‘Everyone loses’: The government is rationing water at the California-Oregon border

Along the Oregon-California border, the Klamath River Basin is a crucial water source for Indigenous tribes, endangered species, and farmers. This year, though, there is simply not enough to go around.

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Several new laws will have an impact on Wyoming wildlife, hunting and fishing

The 2021 Wyoming Legislature passed several bills that will make changes to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department laws and regulations and affect landowners in various capacities. This article provides a summary of laws passed during the 2021 legislative session.

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Working group formed to address drought in West

The Biden-Harris Administration recently announced the formation of an interagency working group to address worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers, tribes, and communities impacted by ongoing water shortages. The working group will be co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to build upon existing resources to help coordinate across the federal government.

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Interior asked to halt grazing rights to protect wild horses

A coalition of more than 70 equine protection, animal welfare and environmental groups, as well as numerous wild-horse and ecotourism businesses, called on newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to halt livestock grazing and revoke grazing permits on the Bureau of Land Management’s Herd Management Area lands in an open letter to the secretary.

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Point Reyes plan for cattle, tule elk all but final after crucial vote

A controversial plan to continue cattle ranching while capping elk numbers in Point Reyes National Seashore passed a key hurdle Thursday night when the California Coastal Commission signed off on the arrangement.

The state agency was one of the last clearances needed — and one that posed the most risk of obstruction — before a largely procedural yet closely watched update to the park’s management plan becomes official.

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Montana Gov. Gianforte drops bison plan, says he’s protecting ranchers

Citing the need to protect ranching interests, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced he is ending a bison management plan that would have allowed the wide-ranging animals to be restored in more areas of the state. Native American lawmakers criticized the governor over this decision.

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Keystone Policy Center to bring Coloradans into the wolf-planning pack

After proposition 114 that would reintroduce wolves to Colorado was narrowly passed last year, The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission picked the Keystone Policy Center to facilitate stakeholder advisory meetings that will help incorporate public perspectives into wolf management plans.

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USDA Expands and Renews Conservation Reserve Program in Effort to Boost Enrollment and Address Climate Change

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA will open enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture, including $330 million in 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement today at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change.

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Regan pledges not to return to Obama-era WOTUS definition

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan told Congress Wednesday he does not intend to go back to the Obama administration’s definition of Waters of the U.S.

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Report gives USDA options for operating carbon bank

A new report from the AGree coalition recommends alternatives for the Agriculture Department to consider in setting up a carbon bank that could be used to develop private credit markets and to assist producers who may be left out of them.

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USDA Seeks Comments on Food System Supply Chains in Response to President Biden’s Executive Order to Support Resilient, Diverse, Secure Supply Chains

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a Department-wide effort to improve and reimagine the supply chains for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products.

The comments received will help USDA assess the critical factors, risks, and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains and ensure U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and nutrition security for all Americans. 

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One senator’s idea to save forests and help the climate — and create jobs

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet introduces legislation that would put billions into restoring and maintaining forests, watersheds and rangelands in the West.

More than 10.2 million acres of the United States burned last year from wildfires, killing 46 people and causing $16.6 billion in damages. Senator Michael Bennet said the country needs to be more proactive with fire prevention by putting people to work maintaining forests.

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Growing Climate Solutions Act reintroduced

The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices, was reintroduced today. The bill has broad, bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations.

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Landowner tags made permanent in Oregon

The Oregon House has unanimously voted to eliminate sunset dates from the landowner preference program, which provides hunting tags for elk, deer and antelope based on property acreage.

Lawmakers have extended the program several times since it was first enacted nearly four decades ago to reward access to habitat for wildlife, but House Bill 2068 makes the program permanent.

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Colorado and California Prepare for More Wolves

With Wolves detected in areas as far south as San Luis Obispo County in California, and returning by migration and reintroduction to Colorado, success management will rest not only on how effectively agencies handle the newcomers, but also on how well they address the complex human dynamics that come with more wolves on the landscape.

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Bonnie tapped to lead USDA farm programs

Robert Bonnie, a proponent of ag carbon markets who has been serving as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chief climate adviser, will be nominated by President Joe Biden to oversee farm and conservation programs at USDA as well as federal crop insurance.

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Legislature passes black bear, grizzly bear and wolf proposals

Three controversial proposals that seek to change how bears and wolves are managed in Montana were passed in the Montana Legislature. Proponents of these bills argue that additional lethal tools are needed to manage the state’s large carnivores while opponents view this direction as misguided or unethical.

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Missoula activist Tracy Stone-Manning in running to lead BLM

President Biden intends to nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management, according to several Washington D.C. sources. Stone-Manning served as a senior aide to Senator Tester (MT) before becoming former Gov. Steve Bullock’s chief of staff. She is also senior advisor to the National Wildlife Federation.

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USDA Allocates Up to $10 Million to Partner with California and Oregon to Assist Producers Impacted by Drought in Klamath River Basin

The USDA today announced the availability of up to $10 million in assistance from their Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus to assist agricultural producers impacted by the worsening drought conditions in the Klamath River Basin of California and Oregon.

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New Mexico issues 10-year plan for boosting forest health

Restoring forests, using fire as a management tool and getting more buy-in from private landowners are among the strategies outlined in New Mexico’s latest forest action plan.

“This collaboration is essential in moving forward with a solid foundation to address both human-caused and natural threats to our lands in a continually changing climate,” New Mexico Forester Laura McCarthy said in a statement.

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Biden Administration Budget Request Gives Boost To Agriculture Funding

The Biden Administration’s recent discretionary budget request gave agriculture a big step up in funding. Friday’s request called for a 16 percent increase from the 2021 enacted level, a jump of $3.8 billion to $27.8 billion.

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, stated that the discretionary budget would expand broadband access; provide more funds for agricultural research, extension and outreach programs; would address wildfires by providing more money for forest management; and would increase the funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

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Carbon Contract Reality: Why Conservation-Minded Farmers May Not Qualify for Private Carbon Programs

The chase to capture carbon continues. It’s a possible new source of income for farmers and ranchers, but it’s also bringing a set of challenges and questions. The answer could be both public and private programs.

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Counties push for more input in wolf reintro

Gray wolves are being reintroduced to Colorado, but the counties affected have a slim chance of winning a seat at the table of the stakeholder advisory group being established to help guide restoration efforts, members of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado said in a letter requesting a specialized local government advisory group to be established to provide more of a voice.

The Associated Governments group (AGNC) submitted a letter Friday to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, making the case for the additional advisory committee that could potentially function as a cooperating agency.

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New frameworks guide conservation action on working rangelands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is unveiling new action-based frameworks to increase conservation work to address threats facing America’s working rangelands. These frameworks are designed to benefit both agriculture and wildlife in sagebrush and grassland landscapes of the western United States.

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Nation’s eyes on Colorado meat fight

Ranchers around the nation are keeping a close eye on a proposed Colorado animal-cruelty initiative. Animal-welfare advocates are trying to place the Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE) initiative on the ballot in November 2022. Critics say the measure would ban artificial insemination and other commonly accepted veterinary and animal care practices in Colorado and would ban the slaughter of livestock that have not yet lived more than one-quarter of their anticipated lifetime, which for cattle is about five years. 

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Habitat reserves set up to help lesser prairie chicken

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by May 26 whether to relist the bird under the Endangered Species Act to comply with a court order spurred by three conservation groups suing the agency in 2019.

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A Colorado county provides a model for saving the West’s open spaces

A sales-tax funded program pays ranchers and farmers to not develop their land or sell their water rights. The program is the kind of effort that will be needed to win the support of rural Americans as the White House pursues ambitious conservation goals, a landowners’ group says.

The Western Landowners Alliance advocates for people who make their living off the land and for sustainable management practices. After President Joe Biden took office in January, the group issued a roadmap suggesting how the administration can address climate change and conservation while staking out common ground with farmers, ranchers and rural communities that depend on those working lands.

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More water spending sought for West in infrastructure bill

As drought worsens in the West, a coalition of more than 200 farm and water organizations from 15 states that has been pushing to fix the region’s crumbling canals and reservoirs is complaining that President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure proposal doesn’t provide enough funding for above- or below-ground storage.

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Nevada farmers and conservationists balk at ‘water banking’

Rural water users are panicking over a proposal to create a market for the sale and purchase of water rights in Nevada, unconvinced by arguments that the concept would encourage conservation. A legislative hearing about two proposals to allow water rights holders to sell their entitlements pitted state water bureaucrats against a coalition of farmers, conservationists and rural officials.

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Feds recommend grizzly bears remain listed

In a five-year status review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that grizzly bears in the lower 48 states remain protected under the Endangered Species Act — drawing immediate complaints from officials in Wyoming and western states. “The grizzly bear in the lower-48 states is not currently in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future,” the report, released late last month, concludes.

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Montezuma County commissioners assert opposition to wolves

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners continues to oppose gray wolf reintroduction into the Western Slope, a plan narrowly approved by Colorado voters in November. Commissioners passed a resolution March 23 called “Making Montezuma County A Sanctuary From Wolf Reintroduction.”

The nonbinding resolution is a position statement that says bringing wolves to the county threatens the livestock industry, poses a danger to the local economy and could transmit diseases to pets and humans.

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Commissioners set to oppose controversial federal ’30X30′ program

The resolution says, in part, that 30 by 30 “would set (private property) aside through conservation, preventing the productive use of these lands and their resources.”

Not so much, according to one of Colorado’s leading land conservationists. Erik Glenn, executive director of Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, told the Journal-Advocate that, while he has concerns about Section 216, there is a lot of misinformation being put out about what it would do.

“We are working to try to influence the administration to adopt a set of guiding principles that honors private property, rural communities, and production agriculture,” Glenn said. “Other western-focused and agriculture-focused organizations like Western Landowners Alliance and the American Farmland Trust are working on similar statements.”

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New Mexico tribes sue US over federal clean water rule

Two Indigenous communities in New Mexico are suing the U.S. EPA over a revised federal rule that narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the half-century-old Clean Water Act, saying the federal government is violating its trust responsibility to Native American tribes.

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Anti-American Prairie Reserve bill divides Republicans, landowners

A bill targeted at stopping nonprofit groups like American Prairie Reserve from purchasing agricultural land has divided traditional allies — Republicans and ag producers.

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Legislature strips Game and Fish of elk feedground closure power

Due to fears over the growing threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) among Elk populations of Wyoming, a bill was passed in the Wyoming Legislature that transitions the authority to close 22 Wyoming Elk feed lots from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to the Governor. WLA member, Rep. Albert Sommers, co-sponsored this bill.

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US judge blocks Nevada grazing; sage grouse totals dwindling

A federal judge has blocked a Nevada project that would expand livestock grazing across 400 squares miles (1,036 square kilometers) of some of the highest priority sage-grouse habitat in the West and accused the government of deliberately misleading the public by underestimating damage the cattle could do to the land.

The ruling comes as scientists continue to document dramatic declines in greater sage-grouse populations across 11 western states — down 65% since 1986 and 37% since 2002, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Judge: US agency illegally paid for Colorado predator hunt

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally helped pay for a Colorado program to kill dozens of mountain lions and black bears in an experiment to determine if the predators were partly responsible for declining mule deer populations, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver found that Fish and Wildlife failed to do a required analysis of the program’s environmental effects, possibly so it could fast-track federal funding for most of the $4 million program.

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Megadrought: New Mexico farms face uncertain future

Historic heavy usage of Rio Grande water has left New Mexico in a particularly difficult position ahead of the impending drought. Right now, a New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission hydrogeologist says, the state is unable to store any more water from the river due to restrictions under the Rio Grande Compact, and owes a debt of 100,000 acre feet downstream to Texas. This piece questions whether farming can continue in much of the state in the future.

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Legislature strips WY Game and Fish of elk feedground closure power

The Wyoming Legislature passed a bill March 29th that strips the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission of the authority to close any of Wyoming’s 22 winter elk feedgrounds and gives that power to the governor.

The bill requires the Game and Fish Department and Commission to submit any proposal to close a feedground to the Wyoming Livestock Board for review before it heads to the governor.

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Opinion: Property rights are fundamental to a free society — and to conservation

“In Montana, conservative legislators have proposed a bill that would bar nonprofit organizations from purchasing land from willing sellers at a fair price. If enacted, the law would be a brazen violation of the Montana Constitution, which recognizes “acquiring, possessing, and protecting property” among the “inalienable rights” off-limits to government interference,” write Jonathan Wood and Brian Yablonski in this opinion piece opposing Montana HB 677.

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Biden mulls giving farmers billions to fight climate change. Even farmers are unsure about the plan.

The Biden administration’s ambitious plan to create a multibillion-dollar bank to help pay farmers to capture carbon from the atmosphere is running into surprising skepticism, challenging Agriculture Department officials to persuade the industry to get behind the massive climate proposal.

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In Montana, Bears and Wolves Become Part of the Culture Wars

Several bills are headed to Mr. Gianforte’s desk that would allow for more killing of wolves in the state to drive down their numbers. Practices that are being proposed include the use of spotlights at night, which is considered unethical because it temporarily blinds the animal; hunting animals by luring them with bait like wild game or commercial scents; night vision scopes and widening use of neck snares that catch and choke animals to death. Other controversial predator proposals allow hunting black bears with hounds, a practice outlawed a century ago, and placing limits on where wandering grizzlies can be moved, which conservationists say could lead to more bear deaths.

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Lummis introduces bill to delist grizzly bears in Wyoming

A bill removing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species List was introduced today by Senator Cynthia Lummis. The bill titled The Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021 was drafted alongside Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, and Senator Steve Daines of Montana.

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After Identifying Gaps in Previous Aid, USDA Announces ‘Pandemic Assistance for Producers’ to Distribute Resources More Equitably

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA is establishing new programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The new initiative—USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers—will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs, including socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium-sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops.

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USDA official promotes federal purchases of carbon credits

The U.S. government should be prepared to support prices farmers receive for carbon credits but avoid setting up a federally run carbon market that would compete with nascent private markets, a senior Agriculture Department official said Tuesday.

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Vilsack: US carbon market needs a focus on farmers

A priority for the USDA in the coming years will be judging the feasibility of setting up, executing and paying for a federal carbon bank to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reward them for their actions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

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Saving the West’s open spaces comes at a cost. A Colorado county may have a model for the nation’s conservation efforts.

How can we keep working lands open and providing all the ecosystem services and landscape values we care about? Chaffee County’s Community Conservation Connection program, implemented by the Central Colorado Conservancy, may have an answer, according to this story by Judith Kohler.

Featured as well is WLA’s roadmap “Redefining Conservation for the 21st Century” suggesting how the administration can address climate change and conservation while staking out common ground with farmers, ranchers and rural communities that depend on those working lands.

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Measures to expand and monetize wolf hunting are moving through the Montana State Legislature, creating clashes about values and vocabulary

This week the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee heard testimony on two bills that passed out of the Senate earlier this month with near-unanimous Republican support. Senate Bill 267 would allow for the“reimbursement for receipts of costs incurred relating to the hunting or trapping of wolves.” Another measure, Senate Bill 314, would remove bag limits, authorize hunting with bait and legalize nighttime wolf hunting (a practice known as spotlighting) on private land.

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Conservationists renew push to save New Mexico lesser prairie chicken. Feds to decide by May

Federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken could be enacted this spring as a federal judge in 2019 called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide by the end of May. The lesser prairie chicken is a species of grouse native to southeast New Mexico and parts of West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

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CAL Fire announces availability of funds for fire prevention projects

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) announced the availability of up to $317 million for Forest Health, Fire Prevention, Forest Legacy and Forest Health Research grant projects. CAL FIRE is soliciting applications for projects that prevent catastrophic wildfires, protect communities, and restore forests to healthy, functioning ecosystems while also sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Four bold ideas to save Greater Yellowstone (and certain to make some squirm)

Lee Nellis expands on his previous essay about the limits of collaborative conservation by offering “specifications” for a new Western myth. He proposes four public policies we would adopt if were were guided by a new myth: 1) separate landowner incomes from commodity production, 2) remove public lands from partisan politics and places them in trust, 3) grant citizenship to wildlife and 4) end land speculation.

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Economist examines death taxes and their misconceptions

While delivering estate-planning presentations across Montana, Marsha Goetting, Montana State University Extension family economics specialist, saw a pattern among some attendees. When it came to understanding state and federal taxes after death, many people were misinformed.

Goetting said there was a time when the federal estate tax affected many Montanans and, as a result, tax minimization became a major goal for families in their estate planning. But now, the federal estate tax affects less than 1% of deceased persons’ estates because Congress increased the amount of the federal estate tax exemption and indexed the amount yearly for inflation until 2026. 

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Who should pay for conservation?

Traditional sources of conservation funding are dwindling, and some believe national park visitors should step up. Lawmakers are looking at ways to increase conservation revenue from the millions of tourists who visit national parks each year.

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USDA Seeks Public Comment on Revised Conservation Practice Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 23 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions will publish March 9 with comments due April 8.

NRCS is encouraging agricultural producers, landowners, organizations, Tribes and others that use its conservation practices to comment on these revised conservation practice standards. NRCS will use public comments to further enhance its conservation practice standards.

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USDA invests $285M to improve national forest and grassland infrastructure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest $285 million to help the Forest Service address critical deferred maintenance and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure on national forests and grasslands.

This $285 million investment is made possible by the newly created National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, established in 2020 by the Great American Outdoors Act. These funds will allow the Forest Service to implement more than 500 infrastructure improvement projects essential to the continued use and enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.

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Colorado’s meat industry stands up against anti-meat proclamation

The Colorado agriculture industry was rattled when it came to their attention their governor, Jared Polis, signed a proclamation for March 20 to be a #MeatOut day. To fight against the MeatOut movement, CCA and the livestock industry is coordinating with restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail fronts to feature a meat product on March 20 to support the beef and meat industries.

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Stateline Range grazing project challenged

Despite President Joe Biden signing an executive order to “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions” made during the Trump administration, environmentalists continue their efforts to halt projects. Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch recently filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona seeking to halt the renewal of grazing permits in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests in Arizona and New Mexico.

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USDA encourages producers to complete the cash rents and leases survey

Farmers and ranchers may have received a Cash Rents and Leases survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This survey provides the basis for estimates of the current year’s cash rents paid for irrigated cropland, non-irrigated cropland, and permanent pasture. If you received the survey, we encourage you to complete it by June 21. This survey can be completed and returned by mail, over the phone, or at agcounts.usda.gov.

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Big questions about grizzlies await Haaland at Interior

(Subscription) The grizzly bear questions will only get tougher for Interior secretary nominee Deb Haaland. If confirmed, the New Mexico Democrat will confront legal, scientific, management and, yes, political challenges concerning grizzlies far more specific than the Republican queries that pressed her during her two-day confirmation hearing.

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Tribes flex political muscle in quest to co-manage parks

The nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes are gaining momentum in their long drive to co-manage the country’s national parks and other public lands — and they’ve got a new occupant in the White House who may help make it happen.

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Environmental attorney to lead Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The Bureau of Land Management announced that an attorney who previously worked on agency issues for environmental groups will serve as the new deputy director.The U.S. Department of the Interior said Nada Culver, who was appointed to the Denver position, will effectively run the agency for the short term, replacing former agency director William Perry Pendley.

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Proposed overhaul of New Mexico wildlife agency stalls

Legislation that would have overhauled New Mexico’s wildlife management agency stalled in a Senate committee yesterday after a lengthy debate in which opponents warned that proposed changes to the distribution of hunting tags would devastate guides and outfitters and cost rural communities jobs and revenue.

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How Biden can rein in the Big Meat monopoly

The meat industry is bad for farmers, workers, consumers, animals, and the environment. It should be the next target in Democrats’ antitrust push.

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Haaland, with a key vote in her column, appears headed for confirmation

Senator Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat who heads the Senate Energy Committee, announced that he would vote to confirm Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico to head the Interior Department, most likely ensuring that one of President Biden’s most embattled cabinet nominees will be confirmed to office.

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Bipartisan, bicameral bill provides flexibility for haying and grazing of cover crops

Currently, under the Federal Crop Insurance Program, producers unable to plant a crop due to adverse weather conditions are eligible to receive a small indemnity but prohibited from growing a cash commodity due to a missed window in the growing season. A new bipartisan, bicameral bill – the Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters with Cover Crops Act (FEEDD Act) — would create a clear emergency waiver authority for USDA to allow producers to graze, hay or chop a cover crop before November 1st in the event of a feed shortage due to excessive moisture, flood, or drought.

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Idaho legislation would expand tools for wolf kills

An Idaho state House panel yesterday introduced legislation allowing the use of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, powered parachutes and other methods to hunt and kill wolves year-round and with no limits in most of the state.

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Vilsack confirmed as Agriculture secretary

The Senate easily confirmed Tom Vilsack, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Agriculture Department, by a 92-7 vote. The confirmation gives Vilsack a second spin in the same role he held for the entirety of the Obama administration.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture announces key leadership in farm production and conservation mission area

The USDA announced the appointment of Gloria Montaño Greene as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) and the appointment of Zach Ducheneaux as Administrator of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). They will begin their positions on Monday, Feb. 22.

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30 by 30 could be big win for wildlife, if hunters, anglers, farmers, tribes have a say

The president’s executive order is short on details, but sportsmen’s groups are pushing for it to create more wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing opportunities. WLA’s policy director Zach Bodhane suggests that habitat leases should be a critical piece of the government’s strategy. Ultimately, he says, leases offer flexibility at a time when all conservation cards should be on the table.

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Are New York billionaires different than Colorado’s? Work group eyes new tools to stop water profiteering

Imposing hefty taxes on speculative water sales, requiring that water rights purchased by investors be held for several years before they can be resold, and requiring special state approval of such sales are three ideas that might help Colorado protect its water resources from speculators.

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Could Biden use private land to reach 30×30 goals?

The idea isn’t simply to buy up private property or establish traditional easements. Instead, groups like the Western Landowners Alliance, which represents 15 million acres across the western United States and Canada,
see an opportunity to rethink what conservation means.

“Conservation as usual isn’t working, and this is an opportunity to actually do something different and change that trajectory, but it’s going to involve economics and people who live and work on the land,” Lesli Allison, the group’s executive director, told E&E News.

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With wildfire risk up, New Mexico supports controlled burns

In a bid to reduce wildfire risk, the House has advanced a bill making it easier for residents to burn brush and wood debris on their property. The bill, passed unanimously Thursday, removes severe liability provisions written into territorial law 20 years before New Mexico became a state.

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After record wildfire season, lawmakers increase focus on Wyoming’s forest health

After the worst fire season in the nation’s history, state leaders are looking to take a more aggressive track to reduce fire risks in state and national forestlands across Wyoming, with solutions ranging from aggressive invasive species management policies to identifying potential ways to increase logging activity on federal lands.

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GOP congressman pitches $34 billion plan to breach Lower Snake River dams in new vision for Northwest

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson unveiled an energy and infrastructure proposal that would end litigation over endangered salmon in the Northwestauthorizing the removal of four dams on the Snake River in Washington beginning in 2030. The ambitious $33 billion plan serves as a new vision for the Northwest, providing the chance for a fresh start.

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USDA extends general signup for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General Signup period, which had previously been announced as ending on Feb. 12, 2021. USDA will continue to accept offers as it takes this opportunity for the incoming Administration to evaluate ways to increase enrollment.

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Biden Administration delays rollback of migratory bird protections

The Biden administration delayed a ruling finalized in the Trump administration’s last days that would significantly weaken bird protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Biden administration’s one-month delay of the new rule will allow for the re-opening of a 20-day comment period for the public to engage with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Proposed river authority would assert Utah’s claims to the Colorado’s dwindling water

Without public involvement or notice, Utah legislative leaders unveiled plans for a new $9 million state agency, the Colorado River Authority of Utah, to advance Utah’s claims to the Colorado River in hopes of wrangling more of the river’s diminishing flows, potentially at the expense of six neighboring states that also tap the river.

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A look at the Biden Administration’s agriculture policies and initiatives

Ag producers around the country watched the 2020 U.S. presidential elections with mixed emotions and little clarity as to which candidate was really theirs. With the results now firmly in and U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House, farmers and their related business partners are already feeling more confident that they at least understand the direction this administration will be taking over the next four years.

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With Congress under democratic control, the path for a Colorado public lands bill may now be clear

This could be the year the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act becomes law — at least that’s what Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper are betting on, now that their party controls both chambers of Congress. The three are reintroducing the Colorado public lands bill; it would protect over 400,000 acres in the state through new wilderness, recreation and conservation areas.

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Feds defend gray wolf delisting

The Biden administration is sticking with a decision to remove the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protections, at least for now. In a brief letter to an environmental attorney sent Thursday, a senior Fish and Wildlife Service official reiterated the reasons the wolf merited the delisting accomplished during the Trump administration.

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Biden executive order seeks to involve ag in battling climate change

Addressing climate change is the focus of one of the Biden administration’s latest executive orders, which pauses new oil and gas leasing on public lands or offshore waters, seeks to more than double the amount of land conserved in the United States, and looks to involve the agriculture sector in the federal government’s efforts.

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Western landowners respond to Biden climate and conservation executive actions

The Biden administration’s announcement today of a package of executive actions on climate and conservation includes several elements that the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has insisted are critical to making conservation and climate action successful in the West. While many in the rural West are taking a prudent wait-and-see approach, the administration’s directive on engaging people whose livelihoods are tied directly to stewarding land and water was a step in the right direction. In particular, WLA is heartened by the administration’s emphasis on engagement with farmers and ranchers and the interest in creating good jobs in land stewardship and restoration in rural communities and on working lands. 

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USDA temporarily suspends debt collections, foreclosures and other activities on farm loans due to Coronavirus

Due to the national public health emergency caused by COVID-19, the USDA announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the FSA.

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New U.S. strategy could create massive $10B fund to fight climate disasters

One of the latest Biden administration plans introduces a new framework that will shape U.S. policy to tackle climate change by allocating about $10 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to proactively address natural disasters related to climate change.

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Former FWP Director appointed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams was appointed on Wednesday as second-in-command at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Biden Administration. As principal deputy director of FWS, Williams will oversee a federal agency tasked with managing wildlife and habitat across the country.

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Interior to set a new course for ESA

The Biden administration wasted no time in pledging a wholesale review and potential reversal of its predecessor’s actions on the Endangered Species Act and other hot-button environmental laws.

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Montana lawmakers considering several wolf management bills

Two northwest Montana lawmakers are considering a number of bills that could moderately or significantly change the way Montana manages wolves.

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USDA offers new forest management incentive for Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices.

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Colorado begins wolf reintroduction plans OK’d by voters

Pending litigation over the Trump administration’s delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act could complicate Colorado’s efforts to reintroduce the wolf to the state.

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Owl’s critical habitat cut dramatically

The Trump administration has cut designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl by millions of acres in Oregon, Washington and California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it would remove 3.4 million acres of critical habitat protections for the bird, including all of what’s known as the O&C Lands, which is big timber territory in Western Oregon.

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Sage grouse review done, but scant time for Trump’s changes

The Trump administration has completed a review of plans to ease protections for a struggling bird species in seven states in the U.S. West, but there’s little time to put the relaxed rules for industry into action before President-elect Joe Biden takes office

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New rule improves partner flexibility in Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released the final rule for its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The rule updates USDA’s partner-driven program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others.

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FWS provides $250K for grizzly control

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allocated $250,000 to protect Montana livestock from grizzly bear depredation in 2021. The money pays for federal Wildlife Services agents to use lethal and non-lethal control of grizzly bears suspected of attacking cattle and other livestock. In 2020, ranchers reported 148 possible grizzly kills or injuries of livestock, of which 124 were confirmed.

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USFWS authority to finalize recovery plans protected

An environmental group has no legal standing to challenge the specifics of recovery plans for endangered species, a U.S. district judge in Montana has ruled, rejecting the the Center for Biological Diversity’s challenge over the details of a recovery plan for grizzly bears in the continental United States.

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Montana officials release plan aimed at forest health, wildfire risk

State officials last week released the final version of a new forest action plan that prioritizes forest management and restoration efforts on 3.8 million acres across Montana. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation released the completed 2020 revision to the Montana Forest Action Plan last Tuesday.

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More must be done to protect Colorado River from drought

A set of guidelines for managing the Colorado River helped several states through a dry spell, but it’s not enough to keep key reservoirs in the American West from plummeting amid persistent drought and climate change, according to a U.S. report.

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With historic picks, Biden puts environmental justice front and center

President-elect Joe Biden chose Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples.

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New conservation bill from Senator Bennet would fund wildfire mitigation and river clean-ups, create 2 million jobs

The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would set up a $60 billion fund to support a range of projects from wildfire mitigation to river clean-ups. The money would be split, $20 billion for state and local governments and $40 billion for federal efforts at the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. 

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USDA seeks public input on guidance defining Nonindustrial Private Forest Land eligibility

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public input on Nonindustrial Private Forest Land (NIPF) related to technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS invites input on this technical guidance through January 19, 2021.

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Former Interior Secretary Salazar sees conservation as a way to close divides: physical and social

Two years ago, Ken Salazar co-founded the Salazar Center for North American Conservation. It is his hope that with the country more polarized than ever, Americans can find common ground on the most pressing environmental problems — climate change, land use, water quality and quantity — and that the center can bring together diverse ideas and people.

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Forest OKs part of south Crazy Mountains land exchange

Following public opposition, the Custer Gallatin National Forest has abandoned a controversial portion of its proposed south Crazy Mountains land exchange, but will move ahead with the rest. The agency is proposing a trade of 1,920 acres of federal lands for 1,877.5 acres of private lands owned by Wild Eagle Mountain Ranch and Rock Creek Ranch.

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Grand Junction is ‘darn hard to get to’: ranchers split on public lands agency’s move west

The Bureau of Land Management is moving from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado. Ranchers, some of the constituents with whom the agency works most closely, are divided on the BLM’s move “to the field”. Some are enthusiastic about the possibility of a more approachable, and more western agency; other argue that it will make the agency too isolated. Article quotes WLA board member Tom Page and policy associate Jessica Crowder.

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Biden chooses Vilsack to return as ag secretary

After days of speculation and anonymous sources, President-elect Joe Biden officially announced that he has asked Tom Vilsack to return to serve as the agriculture secretary after serving eight years during the Obama administration. 

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USDA announces increase to certain incentive payments for Continuous CRP

The USDA is increasing incentive payments for practices installed on land enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). USDA’s FSA is upping the Practice Incentive Payment for installing practices, from 5 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, producers will receive a 10 percent incentive payment for water quality practices on land enrolled in CRP’s continuous signup. FSA administers CRP on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

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NRCS announces January 8 EQIP deadline for New Mexico ag producers

The USDA NRCS announced today that a sign up for fiscal year 2021 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is underway. All New Mexico agricultural producers who would like to be considered for financial assistance under general EQIP or special conservation initiatives need to apply by January 8, 2021.

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Colorado HPP state council seeks livestock and sportsmen representatives

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is seeking volunteers to fill two openings on the Habitat Partnership Program State Council. The Council is the oversight body for the Habitat Partnership Program (HPP), which works through 19 local committees to resolve conflicts between agricultural operators and big game as well as assisting CPW to achieve management objectives for deer, elk, pronghorn and moose. The deadline for nominations to be received is February 19, 2021.

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Winter’s dry start prompts low California water allocation

California’s water managers yesterday preliminarily allocated just 10% of requested water supplies to agencies that together serve more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. The state Department of Water Resources cited the dry start to the winter rainy season in California’s Mediterranean climate, along with low reservoir levels remaining from last year’s relatively dry winter. Winter snow typically supplies about 30% of the state’s water as it melts.

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OPINION: Bring landowner voices to Montana Private Land/Public Wildlife meeting

Malta-area rancher, president of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, and WLA member Leo Barthelmess penned an op-ed for the Northern Ag Network that lays out all the reasons why landowner voices are so important on the issue of how Montana can better support the working lands that support wildlife movement and migration.

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Study finds biodiversity stewardship incentives can be enhanced by regulatory assurances

A recent study applied a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective to explore better ways to target private-sector conservation engagement under the ESA and identify factors that affect incentives for participation in voluntary conservation. In their study, Epanchin-Niell and Boyd found that incentives may be enhanced through increased availability of programmatic agreements, regulatory assurances, technical and financial assistance, and tailored protections for threatened species.

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First local advisory group named to shape migration corridor policy in Wyoming

Gov. Mark Gordon has selected seven members to serve on the state’s first local migration corridor working group to offer guidance on one of the most critical big-game migratory pathways in the region, located in south central Wyoming.

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Commentary: Congress would be wise to listen to landowners on wildfire bill

WLA’s executive director Lesli Allison, writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, commends congress for taking up National Prescribed Fire Act of 2020, and urges a continued focus on solutions that work across land management boundaries and that empower landowners to use prescribed fire as a tool in wildfire risk mitigation.

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Trump administration will raise California dam, expand reservoir

(Subscription Required) The Trump administration yesterday announced it has finalized its plan to extend one of the largest dams in Northern California, one of its most ambitious and controversial water projects. At issue is a proposal to raise the 600-foot Shasta Dam by about 18.5 feet, to store more water. The dam impounds one of the largest reservoirs in the state, and that water is then shuttled to farmers in California’s Central Valley.

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Trump plans would ease protections for sage grouse in West

The Trump administration announced plans Thursday that ease protections for sage grouse in the West, prompting an outcry by critics who say the move paves the way for widespread mining and drilling and ignores a federal court ruling. U.S. officials plan to formally publish supplemental environmental impact statements (SEIS) on Friday for the management of greater sage grouse habitat on public lands in seven states.

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USDA Forest Service announces key changes to NEPA procedures

The USDA Forest Service today announced the publication of a final rule implementing key changes to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The changes include new tools and flexibilities to tackle critical land management challenges as part of a broader agency effort to better serve the American people through timely, high-quality management decisions affecting infrastructure, permitting and restoration of natural resources on their national forests and grasslands.

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Obama-era official could lead Biden’s BLM

The Biden transition team is in the early stages of developing a shortlist of potential nominees to lead the BLM. Public lands advocates have floated a number of possible contenders for BLM director in the Biden administration: Steve Ellis, who held the highest-ranking career position at BLM during the Obama administration; Nada Culver, a lawyer with the Audubon Society; and Neil Kornze, who led the agency under former President Obama.

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USDA to open signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and CRP Grasslands

The USDA announced the 2021 signup periods for general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and CRP Grasslands offers. General signup for CRP will be open from January 4, 2021 to February 12, 2021; signup for CRP Grasslands runs from March 15, 2021 to April 23, 2021. Both programs are competitive and provide annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

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BLM Wyoming proposes to offer 383 parcels in March 2021 oil and gas lease sale

The BLM Wyoming State Office plans to offer 383 parcels totaling about 483,017 acres in an oil and gas lease sale the week of March 15, 2021. This includes 285 parcels nominated for the March sale as well as 141 parcels totaling about 244,086 acres that the BLM deferred from lease sales earlier this year because they overlap Greater Sage-Grouse priority habitat.

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Appropriators side with Trump on sage grouse, horses

Federal protections for greater sage grouse and wild horses could become major points of contention for Senate and House appropriators working to finalize fiscal 2021 funding legislation in the lame-duck session. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s $35.81 billion Interior-Environment spending bill released today includes language forbidding the Interior secretary from using any appropriated funding “to write or issue” a rule listing the greater sage grouse for protection under the ESA.

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Congressman Panetta introduces Save our Forests Act to increase staffing and decrease wildfire risk in national forests

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) has announced the introduction of the Save Our Forests Act to address chronic staffing shortages in National Forests, to improve risk mitigation and response to wildfires. The legislation directs the Chief of the Forest Service to fill vacancies in National Forests for recreation and management planning staff, authorizes funding to fill positions, and prioritizes filling vacancies in National Forests facing a high risk of wildfires.

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Washington to manage wolves within borders after fed action

The state of Washington will take over management of most wolves within its borders early next year, after the U.S. government announced that gray wolves in the Lower 48 states would be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.

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Trump administration returns management and protection of gray wolves to states and tribes following successful recovery efforts

More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the ESA, the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the USFWS monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.

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Feds to announce gray wolf delisting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday will announce a new rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states. The move will hand wolf management back to individual states and tribal governments.

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USDA updates EQIP rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule for its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The rule updates USDA’s flagship program as directed by the 2018 farm bill and integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others.

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USDA issues $1.68 billion in payments to producers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program

The USDA is issuing $1.68 billion in payments to agricultural producers and landowners for the 21.9 million acres enrolled in CRP, which provides annual rental payment for land devoted to conservation purposes. CRP participants with contracts effective beginning on October 1, 2020, will receive their first annual rental payment in October 2021.

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Trump signs order backing 1 Trillion Trees effort

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to make his pledge to help plant, restore, and conserve a trillion trees a reality. The executive order puts some federal government muscle behind Trump’s announcement in January that the United States would help plant a trillion trees as part of a World Economic Forum initiative designed to address climate change.

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Court weighs tribes’ aboriginal water claims for Jemez River

A decadeslong battle over a northern New Mexico river has taken another turn, as a panel of federal appellate judges has reversed a lower court ruling by determining that the aboriginal rights of Indigenous communities were not extinguished by Spain when it took control centuries ago of what is now the American Southwest.

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USFWS pulls wolverine protection proposal


The US Fish and Wildlife Service has denied protection to wolverines under the Endangered Species Act, frustrating conservation groups who argue the species faces an existential threat from the climate crisis. According to the ruling announced on Thursday, the FWS considers wolverine populations in the lower 48 states to be stable and threats against wolverines to be less significant than they previously thought. The agency is consequently withdrawing a proposal to federally protect the species.

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USDA publishes Final Rule for Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA today released the final rule for its Conservation Stewardship Program. The rule makes updates to the popular conservation program as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill as well as integrates feedback from agricultural producers and others.  NRCS received more than 600 comments on the interim final rule published Nov. 12, 2019.

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Suit aims to force listing of bistate grouse on NV-CA line

Citing the government’s repeated reversals and refusals to protect a cousin of the greater sage grouse the last two decades, conservationists are suing again to try to force the federal listing of the bistate sage grouse along the California-Nevada line. The Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in San Francisco last week against the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Wyoming officials call for endangered species reform with grizzly population ‘booming’

Wyoming Game and Fish Director and Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President have penned a joint editorial calling for changes to grizzly bear protections under the ESA citing a booming population and expanded range.

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Biden’s CSP expansion could face Hill resistance, staffing questions

The centerpiece of Joe Biden’s plan to help farmers address climate change is a “dramatic” expansion of the Conservation Stewardship Program, but he’ll quickly find skeptics on Capitol Hill and among environmental groups if he gets elected and tries to carry out the proposal. “You are not going to be able to double the size of CSP or EQIP without increasing the staff at the local level,” said Coleman Garrison, director of government affairs for the National Association of Conservation Districts

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Western politicians from both parties back wildfire bill

The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020 would require the U.S. Forest Service to pick forests in three western states on which to carry out landscape projects to reduce fire risk. It includes numerous provisions to speed up removing dead trees and other fuels from public lands, including a couple that would loosen up existing environmental regulations. It would exclude removing fuels along Forest Service roads, trails and transmission lines from environmental review, and raise the threshold for what is considered “new information” requiring an Endangered Species Act review of some land management actions.

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The BLM to award contracts for seven new wild horse off-range pastures

The BLM is completing contracts with ranchers in four states to place as many as 5,000 wild horses and burros rounded up off federal rangelands onto private pastureland. As part of a strategy to reduce overpopulation of wild horses and burros on public lands, the BLM announced today that it will award the first of seven contracts for new wild horse off-range pastures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington.

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Colorado soil health program one-pager

A “one-pager” describing a proposal soil health program for Colorado which outlines the need, legislative proposal, and background on the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils stakeholder engagement process.

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USFWS proposes listing New Mexico thistle

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protecting as threatened the Wright’s marsh thistle. Along with the litigation-pressured Endangered Species Act listing, the federal agency proposed designating as critical habitat 159 acres in Chaves, Eddy, Guadalupe, Otero and Socorro counties in New Mexico.

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Reintroduction of gray wolves to be on Colorado ballots this November

Gray wolves stood on the top of nature’s food chain in Colorado over eight decades ago, but were eradicated from most of the western united states by the 1930s. Now after 80 years, the reintroduction of gray wolves will be on the ballot for Colorado. Voting yes to proposition 114 means getting the first wolf paws on Colorado ground by 2023.

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Judge rules Pendley illegally leading BLM

A federal judge in Montana has ordered William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, to leave the position after finding that he had served unlawfully as acting director for 424 days. Mr. Pendley was also prohibited from using any authority to make decisions about federal lands. “Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting B.L.M. director,” the judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, wrote in a 34-page ruling he issued on Friday.

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Utah asks U.S. to delay decision on tapping Colorado River

Facing opposition from six states that rely on the Colorado River for water for their cities and farms, Utah asked the federal government to delay a fast-track approval process for building an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water to the southwest part of the state. Utah cited the need to consider roughly 14,000 public comments on a draft environmental impact statement, released in June by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, for the Lake Powell pipeline project.

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Proposition 114 explained: What’s at stake with the effort to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado

The question on Colorado’s November ballot marks the first time that voters, not the federal government, would direct state wildlife managers to script a recovery plan for wolves.

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Groups threaten suit over rare bird’s fate in Colorado, Utah

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project said yesterday they intend to file a lawsuit contending that several federal agencies are relying on an outdated plan to save the Gunnison sage grouse, a rare bird found only in Colorado and Utah.

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Yellowstone’s grizzly numbers are up. Is it time to turn bear management over to states?

Idaho senators say grizzly bears in the GYE are a conservation success story and Congress should remove them from the threatened species list. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in July reversing the delisting of the great bear because of a lack of “concrete, enforceable mechanisms” to “ensure long-term genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly.” Now a bill making its way through the U.S. Senate’s committee process may remove the bear from the protected list, at least in the Yellowstone area.

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USDA to provide additional direct assistance to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus

President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced up to an additional $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21 and run through December 11, 2020.

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USDA invests $50 million in innovative, partner-driven conservation projects

USDA’s NRCS today announced a $50 million investment in 10 conservation projects across 16 states through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). Through these projects, partners will contribute more than $65 million to amplify the conservation work that can be performed on agricultural land and privately owned forests across the nation.

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A cuckoo keeps its protections, but debate continues

The Fish and Wildlife Service declared today the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo still warrants federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In a noteworthy defeat for mining and ranching organizations, the federal agency rejected a petition to strip away the bird’s status as a threatened species.

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6 western states blast Utah plan to tap Colorado River water

Six states in the U.S. West that rely on the Colorado River to sustain cities and farms rebuked a plan to build an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water through the desert to southwest Utah.

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Water speculators could face more obstacles based on work by new group

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources announced an 18-member work group to conduct a study of how to strengthen Colorado’s water anti-speculation law. Currently, Colorado water law prohibits speculation by requiring water to be used for a beneficial purpose. The purpose of a recent bill that created the work group was to make sure that Colorado’s water speculation law has enough legal teeth to “go after” any speculative behavior.

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‘Growing Climate Solutions Act’ gives farmers a seat at the carbon market table

At last, farmers and foresters might have a seat at the carbon market table. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House to create incentives and remove barriers for farmers and foresters to receive credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing soil organic matter – carbon.

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Trump administration plans to remove endangered gray wolf protections by end of year

The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of the year, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday. “We’re working hard to have this done by the end of the year, and I’d say it’s very imminent,” Aurelia Skipwith told the Associated Press.

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EPA office to focus on western lands cleanup, from the West

The EPA announced a new Colorado-based office that will oversee Western land cleanup. The Office of Mountains, Deserts, and Plains will focus especially on mining cleanup and will provide oversight, guidance, and technical assistance

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Council identifies bold efforts needed to save Great Salt Lake

Bold water conservation strategies and changes in long-standing law and water policies are needed to slow the alarming shrinking of the Great Salt Lake, according to recommendation released Tuesday by an advisory panel. Upstream diversions have long prevented vast quantities from replenishing the lake, reducing the lake by half its normal size with further declines predicted.The council’s latest report describes 12 “actionable” measures that could keep the Great Salt Lake from evaporating into a dusty playa.

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USDA and Wyoming sign Shared Stewardship Agreement to improve forests and grasslands

The Shared Stewardship Agreement establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to promote active forest management, improve collaboration, and respond to ecological challenges and natural resource concerns in Wyoming.

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Wyoming governor: $250M in initial state cuts, more coming

Wyoming has finalized initial state spending cuts of 10%, or $250 million, as part of efforts to address an over $1 billion budget shortfall due to the coronavirus and downturns in the coal, oil and natural gas industries. The cuts follow a freeze in state hiring and large contracts announced in April. They are still “just the tip of the iceberg,” Governor Gordon said. They will be followed by a second round of cuts totaling another $250 million.

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Utah looks to expand mountain goat range, but at what cost to alpine landscapes?

In Utah, mountain goats are among the most interesting wild ungulates, but Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials’ effort to expand the nonnative species’ range is drawing criticism because the goats could harm the fragile alpine environments and rare plant communities.

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BLM looks to establish new wild horse and burro corrals in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah

The BLM has taken an additional step forward in implementing a strategy focused on removing excess wild horses and burros from federal rangelands. BLM announced yesterday that it has completed an environmental assessment evaluating the addition of three privately contracted off-range corrals, and the expansion of an additional one, to hold thousands of additional wild horses and burros rounded up and removed from federal herd management areas in the West.

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Grizzly bear advisory council nears completion of state plan

A citizen-led council’s work writing the state’s long-term vision for grizzly bear management nears the end. Members of the governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council tweaked recommendations addressing bear distribution, outdoor recreation and proposed hunts, reaching a consensus on all items except hunting. The council will present its final report to the governor’s office Sept. 1.

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Governor Gordon launches first local area working group for Platte Valley Mule Deer Corridor

The working group will review the effectiveness of corridor designation on the migratory herd and evaluate the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s draft risk assessment report. It will also make recommendations about additional opportunities for conservation as well as examine the impacts of all restrictions on development and use of lands encompassed in the designated corridor. To apply to serve on the working group apply through this form. Applications are due September 18, 2020.

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Great American Outdoors Act signed into law

President Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $900 million annually in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps secure land for trails and parks. The legislation would also provide billions of dollars over five years to address a maintenance backlog at national parks. 

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Wildlife agencies float definition of ‘habitat’ in ESA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing to define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act for the first time, in response to a 2018 Supreme Court decision.

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In western Colorado, wary ranchers eye wolves’ arrival and fear urban voters will introduce more

Ballot measure to widen wolves’ comeback could threaten partnership between conservation community and agriculture. Colorado’s statewide wolf-reintroduction ballot initiative is rankling rural communities, rekindling old conflicts over the purpose of public lands. It’s straining the hard-won partnership that ensures, if not pure nature, the conservation of open landscapes in the face of Colorado’s population growth and development boom.

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Wild horses home on the range

As of March 1, approximately 95,000 federally protected wild horses and burros were estimated to roam on BLM-managed public lands in the West — more than three and a half times what the land can sustainably support and the most ever estimated by the BLM in a given year. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond highlighted the BLM’s challenging mission to preserve and protect these animals in an op-ed published last week in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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Federal regulators throw wrench into Klamath River dam-demolition plan

Federal regulators have thrown a significant curveball at a coalition that has been planning for years to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border in order to save salmon populations that have dwindled to almost nothing. Federal regulators refused to let the current owner fully transfer the impoundments to a nonprofit to carry out the demolition.

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Colorado, Texas give New Mexico permission to use stored water

Low runoff, top-of-the-thermometer temperatures and little rainfall have translated into a dismal summer on the Rio Grande, with large river stretches south of Albuquerque already dry. But water managers are finally breathing a sigh of relief. The state of New Mexico has received permission from neighboring states to access up to 38,000 acre-feet of water, or more than 12 billion gallons, that is currently stored under the Rio Grande Compact agreement.

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Service Completes Initial Review of Petition to List Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its initial review of a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has concluded that the petition presents substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. Accordingly, the Service will now begin an in-depth review of this species to determine whether it should be listed under the ESA. 

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Dems’ tree-planting plan highlights agency’s mixed mission

House Democrats have proposed planting trees on tens of millions of acres of land to help head off climate change. On federal land, though, the goal raises a question: How many of those trees will one day be cut down?Reforestation on land overseen by the Forest Service isn’t strictly about planting new trees. The agency’s mixed missions of protecting wild areas and watersheds while providing timber supplies are bound to keep playing out as Democrats push the agenda, according to congressional and industry sources.

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USDA announces more than 1.2 million acres accepted in recent signup for Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the acceptance of more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands during the recent signup period that began March 16 and ended May 15. The number of acres offered during this signup period was 1.9 million acres, over 3 times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016.

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Ninth Circuit rules to restore protections for Yellowstone grizzlies

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed a 2018 Montana District Court decision that struck down federal efforts to remove Yellowstone grizzlies’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act. The delisting in 2017 turned over management of the species to the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, allowing the states to plan bear hunts.

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Outside of Colorado, revamped WOTUS rule takes effect

The Trump Administration has taken action throughout 2020 to narrow the scope of which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The recently limited rule took effect on June 22, 2020, which in essence, opens the doors for developers anxious to get to work ahead of future legal action and the 2020 presidential election. Colorado’s position as being the sole state refusing to comply with the WOTUS rule is significant, and is worthwhile to monitor.

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Center for American Progress launches “Race for Nature”

“To save family farms, ranches, and rural communities from economic collapse, the United States should launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature”—that pays private landowners to protect the water, air and natural places that everyone needs to stay healthy.” The report focuses on expanding conservation easement programs and increasing conservation easements nationwide, setting aside as much as 55 million acres by 2030 under long-term or permanent protections.

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NACD examines Executive Order on bolstering economic recovery in the COVID-19 era

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) outlines key information from President Trump’s Executive Order (EO), titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities.” The EO streamlines infrastructure investments by instructing agencies, including executive departments, to use “emergency authorities” for swift implementation of projects.

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Senate approves $2.8B plan to boost conservation, parks

The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands, a measure supporters say would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.

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Groups call on Supreme Court to rule on ‘takings’ issue

The Klamath Basin battle over irrigation rights and private property has been in a legal dispute for 18 years. The Klamath “takings” case (Baley v. United States) stems from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cutting off irrigation water to the federal Klamath Project, located in Northern California and southern Oregon, in 2001. Klamath water users sued the United States to assert that Klamath Project water users have a Fifth Amendment property interest, which entitles them to compensation for the 2001 shutoff. The case will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Secretary Perdue announces modernization blueprint for the USDA Forest Service

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued a memorandum to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen providing direction that will serve as a blueprint to help modernize the agency’s systems and approaches to ensure national forests and grasslands continue to meet the needs of the American people.

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Rule change would cause more migratory bird deaths — FWS

The Trump administration’s proposed narrowing of Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections will have a “likely negative” impact on birds that includes “increased” mortality, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service study made public today.

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Bill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits

The agriculture industry would be able to participate in a growing carbon credit market under bipartisan legislation introduced recently that would funnel money to farmers who use sustainable practices. The legislation tasks the U.S. Department of Agriculture with creating a certification program to assist farmers and forest landowners in “implementing the protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices.”

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Trump signs order to waive environmental reviews for key projects

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order directing agencies to waive the requirements of environmental statutes like the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in order to expedite federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects, according to four people briefed on the matter. The president cites the current “economic emergency” in his rationale for the order.

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In rare bipartisan bill, U.S. senators tackle climate change via agriculture

U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would direct the Agriculture Department to help farmers, ranchers and landowners use carbon dioxide-absorbing practices to generate carbon credits, a rare collaboration on climate change. The proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program that would help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets.

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BLM proposes streamlining timber rules to reduce wildfires

The BLM is proposing to streamline rules governing timber harvests, sales and other forest management activities in the name of reducing wildfire risks across the West. The BLM announced a proposal to establish a new categorical exclusion (CX) under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would streamline the agency’s review of routine timber salvage projects and operations.

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Invoking the Defense Production Act for the rest of the food supply

President Donald Trump’s executive order late last month invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat and poultry plants open got a ton of media attention, but there’s one big thing that was largely missed: The EO could actually grant USDA the same sweeping authority over, well, the rest of the country’s food production.

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EPA report: Dams play large role in raising water temperatures

The EPA issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams. The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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USDA announces details of direct assistance to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

USDA announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

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To reach sustainable wild horse levels, feds say it will take more than $1 billion and years of work

Federal land managers say it will take two decades and cost more than $1 billion over the first six years alone to slash wild horse populations to sustainable levels necessary to protect U.S. rangeland. The BLM’s latest plans envision capturing 200,000 mustangs over the next two decades, building corrals to hold thousands more than current capacity and adopting regulations allowing the permanent sterilization of horses roaming federal lands.

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New Mexico to consider river protections as mining plan looms

More than 200 miles of the Pecos River, its tributaries and other parts of the upper reaches of the northern New Mexico watershed would be protected from future degradation under a petition being considered by state regulators. A coalition of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and local officials filed the petition last month, seeking an “Outstanding National Resource Waters” designation for the river, nearby streams and surrounding wetlands. The Water Quality Control Commission agreed Tuesday to consider the request and set a public hearing for November.

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NM Supreme Court asked to weigh in on stream access dispute that no one can agree on

Kendra Chamberlain at New Mexico Political Report unpacks the controversy over New Mexico’s stream access law, and the pending lawsuit between pro-access groups and the state. She writes, “Groups on both sides of the dispute all have different ideas about what’s at issue, and what’s at stake, but all parties are quick to point out the dispute is incredibly complicated. And while there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic, stakeholders on both sides of the fence seem to agree on one thing: it was a 2014 opinion issued by then-Attorney General Gary King that started the whole thing.” 

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Colorado AG, top water quality regulator vow to challenge new Clean Water Act rule

Colorado and other Western states will be hard pressed to shield their rivers and streams under a new federal Clean Water Act rule finalized last month, largely because hundreds of shallow Western rivers are no longer protected, and writing new state laws and finding the cash to fill the regulatory gap will likely take years to accomplish, officials said. Though many agricultural interests and water utilities support the new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, as it is known, Colorado Attorney General and director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said they will take legal action to protect streams that are no longer subject to federal oversight.

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Washington state makes historic decision to protect salmon from rising water temperatures

In a game-changing decision for struggling Southern Resident orcas and endangered salmon, Washington state will exercise its authority—for the first time ever—to require federal dam operators to keep the Columbia and Snake rivers cool enough for salmon survival. Washington state issued Clean Water Act 401 Certifications that require eight federal dams on the Lower Columbia and Lower Snake rivers to meet safe limits for temperature and oil pollution.

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Supersizing USDA’s farm relief arsenal

There’s momentum in Congress to expand the borrowing authority of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, the Depression-era agency that’s funding part of the department’s stimulus payments to farmers and ranchers (and that’s facilitated the Trump administration’s trade bailout program since 2018). It’s one of the primary funding options on the table as lawmakers consider more agricultural aid in their next coronavirus response package.

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US, Wyoming urge rejection of ruling that blocked bear hunts

Attorneys for the U.S. government and the state of Wyoming urged an appeals court yesterday to throw out much of a judge’s ruling that blocked the first grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 in almost three decades. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It involves more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park that had their protections stripped away and then restored by a judge in Montana just as hunting was scheduled to begin.

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Appeals court rejects lawsuit against Oregon grazing authorizations

Environmentalists have failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that grazing authorizations unlawfully harmed bull trout on seven allotments in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. The appellate court has rejected allegations from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Center for Biological Diversity that more than 100 federal grazing decisions — including permit approvals and operating instructions — violated the forest’s management plan over a decade.

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California agencies sue state as irrigation war escalates

California water agencies yesterday sued the state over endangered species protections they claim threaten their ability to provide water to more than 25 million residents and thousands of acres of farmland. The lawsuit is an extraordinary step, underscoring that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) now has multiple crises on his plate: the coronavirus pandemic and a rapidly devolving water war.

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Feds, tribes raise concerns about cuckoo habitat proposal

The Fish and Wildlife Service has rekindled an Endangered Species Act debate with its proposal for a large, multistate critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The Army Corps of Engineers cautions that the proposal could complicate operations of a key California dam. Tribes have worries of their own. Some bird lovers, meanwhile, want more than the proposed 493,665 acres spanning seven Western states.

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