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Policy

USDA seeks public comment on revised conservation practice standards

USDA’s NRCS is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 49 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions posted this week with the public comment period closing April 23, 2020.

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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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Judge asked to force decision on wolverine protections

Wildlife advocates yesterday asked a U.S. judge to force the government into deciding whether the snow-loving wolverine should be federally protected as the rare predator becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. The request comes in a lawsuit filed in Montana almost four years after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to take swift action to protect the animal.

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Court rejects critical habitat for jaguar

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Reversing a trial judge’s 2017 opinion that had been hailed by environmentalists, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal agency was “arbitrary and capricious” in its decisionmaking.

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White House seeks $45B for agencies

Congress is rushing to respond to the novel coronavirus on multiple fronts, including eyeing a new $45 billion White House request to bolster agencies and a far broader $1 trillion package that would include help for the ailing airline industry.

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Temporary hours of service exemption for livestock haulers

Due to the COVID-19 emergency relief effort, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has exempted livestock haulers from compliance with federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time until at least April 12. Drivers wishing to haul under this exemption are suggested to print out and keep in their cab a copy of the Expanded Emergency Declaration, available here. The Expanded Emergency Declaration provides relief to those drivers hauling “food” and “immediate precursor raw materials… that are required and to be used for the manufacture of … food.”

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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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USDA will ‘remain open’ as it allows employees to telework

The Department of Agriculture aims to keep offices around the country open as it responds to the novel coronavirus outbreak, even as employees are given more opportunity to work from home.

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U.S. Department of the Interior approves paintballs to haze grizzly bears

According to a Facebook post from Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor, people may now legally shoot grizzly bears with paintballs if they come too close to homes or other possible areas of threat, such as barns, grain bins or schools. 

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Study looks at realities of increasing Yellowstone fees to pay for wildlife conservation

Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund set for Senate floor vote

One day after President Trump tweeted his support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to take steps today to bring to the floor legislation that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the national parks maintenance backlog, senators said.

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Legislation introduced in US House to require delisting of gray wolves

Legislation proposed Friday by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would require Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

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BLM may be forced to repay $125M in latest legal setback

A federal judge’s order nixing yet another attempt by the Trump administration to revise greater sage grouse protections may prove to be a costly bureaucratic mess. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush yesterday threw out rule changes adopted by the BLM in 2018 that shortened public comment times and administrative protest periods involving oil and gas lease sale parcels that overlap sage grouse habitat. Bush’s order requires BLM to conduct a “notice-and-comment rulemaking” to adopt these changes and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.

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Arizona bill would shield info on endangered species on private land

Biologists looking for endangered species on private property would be required to keep much of what they find secret under a proposal poised for quick approval by the Arizona Legislature. Opposition has unsuccessfully argued that if the new policy becomes law it will hinder public monitoring of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. Supporters say the shield is needed to protect private property rights.

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A comprehensive new federal roadmap for climate action on farms

Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation that would set a national goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions from the U.S. agriculture sector by 2040. The Agriculture Resilience Act also introduces sweeping changes to federal conservation and agriculture programs to reach that goal.

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Western yellow-billed cuckoo clocks in renewed habitat debate

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a noticeably shrunken but still sprawling critical habitat for the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo. In a long-awaited revision today, the federal agency proposed designating approximately 493,665 acres across seven Western states as critical habitat. The move would extend ESA protections to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

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BLM calls wild horses ‘existential threat’ to public lands

The Bureau of Land Management is now formally referring to wild horses and burros as an “existential threat” to federal lands, mirroring acting BLM chief William Perry Pendley’s controversial characterization of growing herd sizes.

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Colorado’s western slope prepping for wolves

This well-reported article from Elizabeth Stewart-Savery covers all the angles of the wolf reintroduction controversy in the state. A comprehensive and nuanced introduction to this important issue at a time of outsized rhetoric.

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Groups want cows corralled to protect endangered jumping mouse habitat

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, environmental groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to keep livestock and wild horses out of streams and other wetlands on forest land in southeastern Arizona, resulting in damage to habitat required by the New Mexico jumping mouse, an endangered species found only in the Southwest.

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California challenges Trump administration’s new water management rules

The state of California has opened another front in its expanding war with the Trump administration over environmental protections, this time with a legal challenge to new water management rules designed to aid farmers. In a lawsuit filed yesterday, California officials contend the administration violated laws including the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act with two biological opinions concerning water project management.

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Idaho extends wolf hunting and trapping seasons

On February 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted nine proposed modifications to wolf hunting and trapping for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, extending wolf hunting opportunity, opening more areas to wolf trapping and extending trapping seasons.

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Perdue outlines green goals for farmers

The USDA will redouble its efforts on carbon sequestration and reducing farming’s environmental impact, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said today — without referencing global climate change. Perdue said the department would encourage more practices that limit carbon emissions, a goal that would also improve soil health and boost farm productivity as the world’s population continues to grow.

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Washington lawmakers want to fund solutions for healthier soil and less gassy cows

Bipartisan proposals before the Washington Legislature would help scientists learn about storing carbon in agricultural soils and invest in GPS-guided tractors and climate-friendly cattle feed.

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.

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California bill would bar insurers from declining fire coverage

Amid mounting cries of California homeowners being denied wildfire insurance in high-risk areas, state lawmakers want to require insurance companies to cover all existing homes, as long as they meet new safety standards. The measure would also require insurance companies to give homeowners financial incentives for fire safety upgrades.

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Trump to California farmers: here’s more water

In a controversial record of decision signed today, the Trump Administration commits to delivering additional irrigation water to farms south of the California’s ecologically sensitive and hydrologically crucial Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

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Interior announces grants to 11 western states for big game winter range and migration corridor scientific research

Today, the Department of the Interior announced another round of $3.2 million in grant funding for 11 western states, bringing the Department’s and other stakeholders’ support of big game species habitat conservation and scientific research for migration corridors and winter ranges to more than $22 million. These grants are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to execute on Secretary’s Order 3362.

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BLM to fund 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in West to help fight wildfires

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced plans to fund 11,000 miles of strategic fuel breaks in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, California, Nevada and Utah in an effort to help control wildfires. The fuel breaks are intended to prop up fire mitigation efforts and help protect firefighters, communities and natural resources.

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New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Act: public meetings and comment

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held state wide and public comments will be accepted through April 18, 2020.

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Utah legislation proposes predator hunting to achieve deer and elk objectives

Utah House Bill 125, which expands the use of hunting predators to manage ungulate herds such as elk and deer, is one of the predator wildlife management bills moving through this year’s legislative agenda.

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Jaguars, snakes derail Arizona copper mine

A federal judge yesterday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service must redo an endangered species analysis that allowed other agencies to approve the Rosemont Copper project in the Coronado National Forest. The site lies within the range of America’s only jaguars, northern Mexican gartersnakes and other endangered species in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson.

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Administration proposes deep energy, environmental cuts

President Trump’s $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 budget request released today proposes major cuts to energy and environmental programs to help shore up national security spending.

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Emergency water rights bill heads to Idaho governor’s desk

Legislation granting an emergency water right when crews are trying to clean up spills in Idaho waterways passed the House on Tuesday and is headed to the governor’s desk. The House approved the measure the state Department of Environmental Quality says is needed to prevent someone from contending their water right is being violated due to an emergency cleanup.

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BLM struggles to fill top positions in new Western HQ

When the Bureau of Land Management moves its Washington-based headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., this year, more than half of the senior leaders there may be as new as the office itself. BLM has been scrambling to fill more than a dozen high-level positions in the new agency headquarters.

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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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Saving water for Utah farms: ‘Banking’ may be the key in face of growth

Most states across the West have adopted some sort of water sharing program that provides more flexibility for users in time of need, or in time of excess. Called “water banking,” the strategy essentially allows water right holders to allow others to use their water and make revenue from it. On Wednesday, Utah inched closer to implementing its own program via a legislative proposal, that if passed, would institute a 10-year pilot project.

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USFWS: Trump regulations boost risk for migratory birds

The Trump administration’s controversial narrowing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will reduce environmental protections that can be expected from industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted today. In proposed new regulations that have immediately prompted heated debate, the federal agency today acknowledged diminished private mitigation as one likely result of limiting the law’s coverage to the intentional killing of migratory birds.

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House committee votes to overturn Trump ESA revisions

The House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a suite of bills along party lines, including legislation that would overturn the Trump administration’s controversial rules revising the Endangered Species Act. The full committee also voted to approve two bills that would advance the establishment of wildlife corridors on federal and Native American lands nationwide.

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Idaho agency wants to spend $408,000 a year to count wolves

Idaho’s top wildlife official on Tuesday requested authorization from state lawmakers to spend $408,000 to count wolves. The expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. Idaho stopped counting wolves in 2015 after it was no longer required to do so by USFWS following the lifting of protections for wolves under the ESA.

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New Mexico needs realistic, sustainable water plan

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has long talked about the importance of water to the arid state, even campaigning on the idea of creating a 50-year plan to guide management of the finite resource. Her administration is now asking lawmakers for more money and manpower to start what some experts say will be a multiyear endeavor.

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New California groundwater regulations could reshape water use and agriculture

California’s first attempt at regulating a precious resource — groundwater — begins Friday, and experts expect a rocky start. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires critically overdrafted basins to balance their pumping and get on a “sustainable” path by 2040, could fundamentally reshape water use and agriculture in California. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are expected to be forced out of production.

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Conservation reserve program is ‘competitive’ this year, despite lower rental rates

Despite lower rental rates, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program is “competitive” this year, a USDA official said at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. The 2018 farm bill raised the cap on the number of acres to be enrolled in the CRP from 24 million to 27 million.

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California budget proposal includes $6.7B toward natural resources

The state budget proposal delivered earlier this month by California Governor Gavin Newsom includes billions of spending on natural resources and the environment.

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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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ACEP interim rule comment deadline extended

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the public comment period on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).Comments will now be accepted through March 20, 2020.

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Final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule unveiled

The final Waters of the U.S. rule unveiled by the Trump administration today eliminates Clean Water Act protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands and more than 18% of streams, and replaces regulations set in the Reagan administration.

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Lawmaker proposes wolf-free zones in southern Idaho

Some areas in Idaho would be declared wolf-free zones and other areas where the animals have killed livestock would have increased wolf-killing opportunities under legislation proposed yesterday by state Sen. Bert Brackett. The state Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the measure.

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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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Petition seeks federal protections for Rio Grande fish

Environmentalists are asking federal wildlife managers to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a fish found only in the Rio Grande in Texas and the Pecos River in New Mexico. WildEarth Guardians filed the petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, saying it is part of a campaign focused on vulnerable species found in rivers and streams across the West.

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ESA scores a win with Colorado River fish

A humpbacked Colorado River fish that’s been federally protected for more than half a century has escaped from the edge of doom, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. In what officials are calling an Endangered Species Act success story, the federal agency is proposing to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened status. The move would retain protections for the fish but also signify its “partial recovery” and ease some regulatory requirements.

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BLM to consider proposed revisions to grazing regulations

The Bureau of Land Management has published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to consider proposed revisions to the agency’s grazing regulations. The proposed revisions aim to “update, modernize and streamline the grazing regulations and provide greater flexibility for land and resource management.” Comments on the proposed revisions may be submitted in writing until February 28, 2020.

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Wyoming executive order includes landowners in corridor designation process

In one of the most significant changes proposed by the new executive order, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers won’t be the only people at the decision-making table when it comes to migration corridors. The governor will also have help from landowners and others on the ground and the state will support the formation of local working groups to help inform the designation of new corridors.

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Wyoming legislation proposes to compensate ranchers for wolf depredation

A new bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature this week would create a new compensation program for ranchers whose livestock is killed or damaged by gray wolves outside of game hunting zones. the legislation would create a $90,000 fund to compensate ranchers for any losses related to gray wolf attacks, and would be active for two years.

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Montana releases new bison management plan

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this week released a document nearly eight years in the making that outlines how bison could be restored in the state as publicly managed wildlife

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Final Trump WOTUS rule expected soon

The Trump administration is expected to finalize a rule limiting which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act this month.

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Oregon governor proposes new wildfire protection plan

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling for a major expansion in the state’s wildfire response plans in a new legislative concept. The draft proposal outlines the governor’s long-term vision for how the state should adapt to wildfire, reduce wildfire risks on forestland and improve fire suppression.

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Trump admin launches review of grizzly bears

The grizzly bear’s future as a protected species will get another gander, as the Fish and Wildlife Service today initiated a full-bore study of the iconic animal. The review will mark the federal agency’s first comprehensive update on the grizzly bear since 2011 and could lead to proposed revisions of its Endangered Species Act status.

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Ahead of vote, wolves may already be living in Colorado

One day after a measure to introduce wolves was placed on this year’s ballot, CPW announced that a wolf pack was spotted, photographed and video recorded by hunters in Colorado back in October.

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New bill would encourage native plants on federal land

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) want the Interior Department to create a five-year pilot program promoting native plant species to preserve ecosystems and help reverse land and water degradation. Their new bill, S. 3150, aims to prevent and eradicate devastating invasive species through greater use of native plant material for federal land maintenance and restoration.

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NRCS seeks comments on ACEP interim rule

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), USDA’s premier conservation easement program that helps landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. Comments will be accepted through March 6, 2020.

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Wolves on the ballot in Colorado

It’s official, wolf reintroduction will be decided on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced the campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.

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California eases way for land clearing to prevent wildfires

California regulators said Tuesday that they have streamlined the state’s permit process to make it faster to approve tree-thinning projects designed to slow massive wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years.

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Interior Department to formally define “habitat” in the ESA

The Interior Department is moving to formally define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act, part of an anticipated second wave of changes to the bedrock conservation law under the Trump administration. According to a notice published Monday, the addition to the ESA is undergoing interagency review.

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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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Delisting gray wolf leads end-of-year legislation blitz

Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills before leaving the capital for the holidays, including legislation to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. S. 3140 would direct the Interior Department to issue a rule removing the gray wolf from federal protections.

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Bennet unveils discussion draft to create new tax credit for farmers and ranchers to capture carbon in the land sector

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released a discussion draft of legislation to establish a new tax credit for farmers and ranchers, state and local governments, and tribes, to sequester carbon in agriculture, forestry, rangelands, and wetlands.

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New in-stream flow rights in New Mexico

Surface water rights in the state of New Mexico are typically granted to individuals for diverting water from streams and rivers to irrigate crops and support food production. Now, the state has granted its first water rights permit to keep water in a river.

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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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Debate over extended elk hunt proposal

A debate recently heated up in Montana caused by the complexities of tying elk conflict reduction to access to private land.

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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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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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Wildlife

Fight over jaguar habitat in Southwest heads back to court

A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest. Groups had sued arguing that a 2014 decision by the USFWS to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species. With the order released this week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with the USFWS.

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Safe Passages

As the climate changesaltering where animals graze and find suitable habitats, migration corridors are more important than ever to their survival. In this Washington Post feature story, Ben Guarino and team dig in deep on this vital issue.

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Judge asked to force decision on wolverine protections

Wildlife advocates yesterday asked a U.S. judge to force the government into deciding whether the snow-loving wolverine should be federally protected as the rare predator becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. The request comes in a lawsuit filed in Montana almost four years after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to take swift action to protect the animal.

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Idaho board gets $400K to kill problem wolves

Legislation sending just under $400,000 to a state board to use to kill problem wolves in Idaho headed to the governor’s desk yesterday. The state Senate voted 26-4 to approve the budget bill that taps money in the state’s general fund to kill wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife.

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Stanford researchers uncover benefits of diversified farms for protecting wildlife

The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.

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Court rejects critical habitat for jaguar

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Reversing a trial judge’s 2017 opinion that had been hailed by environmentalists, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal agency was “arbitrary and capricious” in its decisionmaking.

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U.S. Department of the Interior approves paintballs to haze grizzly bears

According to a Facebook post from Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor, people may now legally shoot grizzly bears with paintballs if they come too close to homes or other possible areas of threat, such as barns, grain bins or schools. 

Read Story

Study looks at realities of increasing Yellowstone fees to pay for wildlife conservation

Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.

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Legislation introduced in US House to require delisting of gray wolves

Legislation proposed Friday by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would require Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

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BLM may be forced to repay $125M in latest legal setback

A federal judge’s order nixing yet another attempt by the Trump administration to revise greater sage grouse protections may prove to be a costly bureaucratic mess. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush yesterday threw out rule changes adopted by the BLM in 2018 that shortened public comment times and administrative protest periods involving oil and gas lease sale parcels that overlap sage grouse habitat. Bush’s order requires BLM to conduct a “notice-and-comment rulemaking” to adopt these changes and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.

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Support for wildlife overpasses bridges the rural-urban divide in Nevada

In Nevada, as in much of the American West, roads and other development have cut through or encroached on migration routes that wildlife has used for centuries. That has led to an increase in costly—and often deadly—animal-vehicle collisions, and a recognition of the need for solutions, such as overpasses and underpasses for wildlife to use to cross roads.

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Arizona bill would shield info on endangered species on private land

Biologists looking for endangered species on private property would be required to keep much of what they find secret under a proposal poised for quick approval by the Arizona Legislature. Opposition has unsuccessfully argued that if the new policy becomes law it will hinder public monitoring of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. Supporters say the shield is needed to protect private property rights.

Read Story

Western yellow-billed cuckoo clocks in renewed habitat debate

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a noticeably shrunken but still sprawling critical habitat for the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo. In a long-awaited revision today, the federal agency proposed designating approximately 493,665 acres across seven Western states as critical habitat. The move would extend ESA protections to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

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Public Meetings: New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Action Plan

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held from February 25 to March 18, 2020 throughout the state.

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Colorado’s western slope prepping for wolves

This well-reported article from Elizabeth Stewart-Savery covers all the angles of the wolf reintroduction controversy in the state. A comprehensive and nuanced introduction to this important issue at a time of outsized rhetoric.

Read Story

Groups want cows corralled to protect endangered jumping mouse habitat

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, environmental groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to keep livestock and wild horses out of streams and other wetlands on forest land in southeastern Arizona, resulting in damage to habitat required by the New Mexico jumping mouse, an endangered species found only in the Southwest.

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Idaho extends wolf hunting and trapping seasons

On February 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted nine proposed modifications to wolf hunting and trapping for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, extending wolf hunting opportunity, opening more areas to wolf trapping and extending trapping seasons.

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Pronghorn worries prompt lawsuit over Wyoming gas field plan

Environmental groups are suing over plans for a potentially huge Wyoming gas field they say would endanger pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park by hindering a migration route between the park and a basin.

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Study upends management strategy for sage-grouse

A new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management suggests managers may need to overhaul guidelines meant to protect greater sage-grouse by focusing less on factors like grass height and vegetation cover and more on broad impacts to the landscape.

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Montana compensation fund dwindles as livestock losses to predators increase

A Wyoming rancher was awarded nearly $340,000 last month after disputing wildlife managers’ initial offer to pay for several livestock killed by grizzlies and wolves. While the large payout is unusual, Montana ranchers say it’s calling attention to funding issues for livestock losses on their side of the border.

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.

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Elk test positive for brucellosis outside of Montana’s disease surveillance area

State officials say brucellosis has been found in elk in southwestern Montana’s Ruby Mountains, the latest evidence that the disease continues to slowly spread among wildlife in the Yellowstone region. Two elk tested positive for exposure to the disease during recent sampling by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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Washington rancher provides a clear, though sleepy-eyed, view of ranching with wolves

After losing a calf to a confirmed wolf attack earlier this month, Anatone rancher Jay Holzmiller is doing all he can to prevent another such incident — and he wants to see a more proactive approach from state officials.

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Interior announces grants to 11 western states for big game winter range and migration corridor scientific research

Today, the Department of the Interior announced another round of $3.2 million in grant funding for 11 western states, bringing the Department’s and other stakeholders’ support of big game species habitat conservation and scientific research for migration corridors and winter ranges to more than $22 million. These grants are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to execute on Secretary’s Order 3362.

Read Story

Utah legislation proposes predator hunting to achieve deer and elk objectives

Utah House Bill 125, which expands the use of hunting predators to manage ungulate herds such as elk and deer, is one of the predator wildlife management bills moving through this year’s legislative agenda.

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Jaguars, snakes derail Arizona copper mine

A federal judge yesterday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service must redo an endangered species analysis that allowed other agencies to approve the Rosemont Copper project in the Coronado National Forest. The site lies within the range of America’s only jaguars, northern Mexican gartersnakes and other endangered species in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson.

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New wildlife crossings in the West designed to save animals’ lives

More wildlife overpasses and underpasses are coming to highways in the western United States, thanks to a better understanding of migration corridors boosted by GPS collar technology.

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Grizzly captures, kills, down substantially in Wyoming

Wildlife managers relocated or killed substantially fewer grizzly bears in northwestern Wyoming in 2019 compared to 2018. Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials say abundant natural food such as berries helped keep bears away from livestock and other non-natural sources of food.

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Panel abandons griz depredation comp model, awards ranch $339K

An arbitration panel ruled January 27th that Wyoming Game and Fish Department should pay a Hot Springs County rancher $339,927 for stock killed by grizzly bears and mountain lions, almost four times the offer that Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulations allowed. 

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USFWS: Trump regulations boost risk for migratory birds

The Trump administration’s controversial narrowing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will reduce environmental protections that can be expected from industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted today. In proposed new regulations that have immediately prompted heated debate, the federal agency today acknowledged diminished private mitigation as one likely result of limiting the law’s coverage to the intentional killing of migratory birds.

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New Mexico ranchers say hungry elk are damaging property

Some northern New Mexico ranchers are asking state wildlife managers to do something about herds of elk they say are damaging property and eating hay that was stockpiled for cattle over the winter. Members of the Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association reported the damage earlier this week and notified the agency that they would have to start shooting the elk. State law allows landowners to lethally remove animals that are causing damage on private property.

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Bighorn sheep released on tribal lands in North Dakota

Thirty bighorn sheep are running free on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation as part of a new agreement between the state of North Dakota and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. The bighorns brought from Montana were released Tuesday as part of a plan to reestablish the sheep in the western part of the state.

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House committee votes to overturn Trump ESA revisions

The House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a suite of bills along party lines, including legislation that would overturn the Trump administration’s controversial rules revising the Endangered Species Act. The full committee also voted to approve two bills that would advance the establishment of wildlife corridors on federal and Native American lands nationwide.

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Idaho agency wants to spend $408,000 a year to count wolves

Idaho’s top wildlife official on Tuesday requested authorization from state lawmakers to spend $408,000 to count wolves. The expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. Idaho stopped counting wolves in 2015 after it was no longer required to do so by USFWS following the lifting of protections for wolves under the ESA.

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Montana summit to focus on grizzly bear education, resources

State and Federal wildlife managers are offering a first-of-its-kind summit on grizzly bear education in Helena this week. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is bringing together groups across the state involved in human-bear conflict education to make sure they’re using consistent messages. The summit will also compile a catalogue of education offerings and other resources, ranging from grants for electric fencing to bear spray demonstrations.

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Ladder Ranch works to support sage grouse

On the Ladder Ranch, a multi-generation family works to keep their public lands ranching operation afloat while protecting the greater sage grouse.

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Lawsuit planned to stop Idaho-Wyoming natural gas pipeline

Two environmental groups have given notice they intend to file a lawsuit to stop a proposed underground natural gas pipeline from Idaho to Wyoming the groups say will harm protected grizzly bears and other wildlife.

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California’s monarch butterflies critically low for 2nd year

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row (29,000 butterflies compared to compared to about 4.5 million in the 1980s). Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western United States due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases.

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Lawmaker proposes wolf-free zones in southern Idaho

Some areas in Idaho would be declared wolf-free zones and other areas where the animals have killed livestock would have increased wolf-killing opportunities under legislation proposed yesterday by state Sen. Bert Brackett. The state Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the measure.

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Groups prepare to sue over grazing in Wyoming grizzly range

Conservationists worried that continued livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest could endanger grizzly bears are preparing to sue the U.S. government. Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection allege a 2019 decision to allow grazing to continue in a large area of Bridger-Teton National Forest violates the ESA.

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Petition seeks federal protections for Rio Grande fish

Environmentalists are asking federal wildlife managers to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a fish found only in the Rio Grande in Texas and the Pecos River in New Mexico. WildEarth Guardians filed the petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, saying it is part of a campaign focused on vulnerable species found in rivers and streams across the West.

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Updated conflict management resource available

People and Carnivores recently completed an update to their large carnivore conflict management resource which includes a list of peer-reviewed research papers, summarized and categorized, from the last 20 years focusing on North America.

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ESA scores a win with Colorado River fish

A humpbacked Colorado River fish that’s been federally protected for more than half a century has escaped from the edge of doom, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. In what officials are calling an Endangered Species Act success story, the federal agency is proposing to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened status. The move would retain protections for the fish but also signify its “partial recovery” and ease some regulatory requirements.

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Wyoming executive order includes landowners in corridor designation process

In one of the most significant changes proposed by the new executive order, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers won’t be the only people at the decision-making table when it comes to migration corridors. The governor will also have help from landowners and others on the ground and the state will support the formation of local working groups to help inform the designation of new corridors.

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Wyoming legislation proposes to compensate ranchers for wolf depredation

A new bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature this week would create a new compensation program for ranchers whose livestock is killed or damaged by gray wolves outside of game hunting zones. the legislation would create a $90,000 fund to compensate ranchers for any losses related to gray wolf attacks, and would be active for two years.

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Why aren’t more wildlife crossings being built?

Although they are a proven benefit to drivers and animals alike, bridges and tunnels across roads aren’t being built fast enough, experts say.

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Trump admin launches review of grizzly bears

The grizzly bear’s future as a protected species will get another gander, as the Fish and Wildlife Service today initiated a full-bore study of the iconic animal. The review will mark the federal agency’s first comprehensive update on the grizzly bear since 2011 and could lead to proposed revisions of its Endangered Species Act status.

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Ahead of vote, wolves may already be living in Colorado

One day after a measure to introduce wolves was placed on this year’s ballot, CPW announced that a wolf pack was spotted, photographed and video recorded by hunters in Colorado back in October.

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Montana pays for predators

The state of Montana has made more payments to ranchers for livestock killed by predators in 2019 than any previous year, paying out more than $247,000.

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Wolves on the ballot in Colorado

It’s official, wolf reintroduction will be decided on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced the campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.

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Grizzlies not drawn to elk hunts, study finds

A study by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team shows that late season elk hunts provide food sources in the form of gut piles for resident grizzly bears, but the timing of transient bears moving into the park does not coincide with the hunting season.

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Interior Department to formally define “habitat” in the ESA

The Interior Department is moving to formally define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act, part of an anticipated second wave of changes to the bedrock conservation law under the Trump administration. According to a notice published Monday, the addition to the ESA is undergoing interagency review.

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Congress funds nonlethal conflict-prevention positions

Article by NRDC staff attorney Zack Strong shows how organizations (USDA-Wildlife Services, NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife), when focused on shared values, can work together to provide agricultural producers valuable tools to prevent damage and losses caused by predators.

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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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25 years of re-living with wolves in Yellowstone

Park Service Veteran Norm Bishop tried to prepare the Yellowstone region for wolves. Today he reflects on what we’ve learned.

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Delisting gray wolf leads end-of-year legislation blitz

Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills before leaving the capital for the holidays, including legislation to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. S. 3140 would direct the Interior Department to issue a rule removing the gray wolf from federal protections.

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Canadian conflict prevention efforts important with expanding grizzly bear population

The Waterton Biosphere Reserves efforts to prevent conflict prevention stand as an example for communities facing conflicts with grizzly bears for the first time as the population continues to expand its distribution.

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Emergency-only feeding to reduce conflict

The Bridger-Teton National Forest plans to reduce elk congregating at winter feed grounds and Chronic Wasting Disease by feeding only in emergency situations to reduce damage or commingling with livestock.

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Debate over extended elk hunt proposal

A debate recently heated up in Montana caused by the complexities of tying elk conflict reduction to access to private land.

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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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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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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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Working Lands Economics

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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Farmers, ranchers eye compensation for conservation

Western farmers and ranchers are increasingly advocating that they can play a key role in using their lands, water and management practices as tools to engage in market-based programs, including payment for ecosystem services projects. These projects can create opportunities for partnerships with landowners, business, nongovernmental organizations and agencies that can significantly improve the environment, business climate and quality of life within Western watersheds.

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White House seeks $45B for agencies

Congress is rushing to respond to the novel coronavirus on multiple fronts, including eyeing a new $45 billion White House request to bolster agencies and a far broader $1 trillion package that would include help for the ailing airline industry.

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Coronavirus stress-tests the food supply network

COVID-19 has sent swaths of the U.S. food system into overdrive, as manufacturers, distributors, grocers and food safety regulators try to meet demand from consumers stockpiling food and other essentials. In addition, the USDA is rolling out more plans to help rural areas affected by the virus, including a private partnership to deliver meals to students. Farm credit officials asked ag lenders to work with borrowers whose operations are being squeezed by the virus and the economic slowdown.

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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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Farmers gain options for marketing soil health

As soil health takes on a higher profile with food companies and consumers, various avenues are emerging for farmers to collect environmental incentives. The growing number of soil health programs can seem overwhelming, but one farmer and soil health advocate believes it’s a case of more is better.

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Study looks at realities of increasing Yellowstone fees to pay for wildlife conservation

Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund set for Senate floor vote

One day after President Trump tweeted his support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to take steps today to bring to the floor legislation that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the national parks maintenance backlog, senators said.

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Work to reduce wildfire risks in Colorado and other Western states has economic benefits

Projects to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect water sources in the U.S. West have created jobs and infused more money in local economies, researchers say, and they were funded by a partnership between governments and businesses that has become a model in other countries.

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Hunting is declining, creating a crisis for conservation funding

Americans’ interest in hunting is on the decline, cutting into funding for conservation, which stems largely from hunting licenses, permits and taxes on firearms, bows and other equipment. Even as more people are engaging in outdoor activities, hunting license sales have fallen from a peak of about 17 million in the early ’80s to 15 million last year, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data.

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BLM and Forest Service announce 2020 grazing fees

The Federal grazing fee for 2020 will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the BLM and $1.35 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. This is the same as the 2019 fee. The newly calculated grazing fee was determined by a congressional formula and takes effect March 1, 2020.

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Finance 101 webinar series: the basics of conservation transactions

David Hoffer of Lyme Timber Company joined the Conservation Finance Network for a two-part webinar series. In part 1, David walks through an overview of financing terms and concepts, including basic transaction structures, how different participants come together in conservation transactions, the time value of money, and key considerations affecting financial returns. In part 2, David reinforces those financing terms and concepts in a series of case studies illustrating how real deals come together.

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Last year’s historic floods ruined 20 million acres of farmland

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, heavy spring rains across the nation in 2019 caused nearly 20 million acres of farmland to go unplanted. Farmers incurred, collectively, billions of dollars in losses, disrupting rural economies across the country as well as the communities they support.

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Mountain West land values in 2019

Each year the USDA, through the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), reports on agricultural land values. Generally speaking farm real estate average values per acre have stayed relatively stable in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming from 2015 to 2019. Across the Mountain Region, values have risen 8% over five years in large part due to a significant rise in values in both Idaho and Utah. In Idaho, farm real estate average land value per acre was upwards of $3000 / acre in 2019. The Mountain Region includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

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New report outlines policies to generate additional revenue for landowners

In a new report, the Center for American Progress outlines policies that could generate additional revenue for farmers and ranchers who adopt climate-friendly practices, like storing more carbon in soils, installing energy-efficient technology and protecting land from development. The think tank estimated the proposals could eventually help landowners earn an additional $8 billion a year through federal investments and their own cost savings.

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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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Ecosystem services market consortium to start selling carbon credits

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, founded by some of the nation’s largest agribusinesses, will begin selling carbon credits in January or February, said the organization’s executive director, Debbie Reed.

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Bennet unveils discussion draft to create new tax credit for farmers and ranchers to capture carbon in the land sector

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released a discussion draft of legislation to establish a new tax credit for farmers and ranchers, state and local governments, and tribes, to sequester carbon in agriculture, forestry, rangelands, and wetlands.

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Valuing California’s ecosystem services

The ecosystem services of working landscapes in California are essential to the state’s future. To protect them, they must have an economic value. Article features WLA Advisor Stephanie Larson

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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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Cattle call on the eastern plains

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

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Water

Federal court rejects California water ‘takings’ case

A federal court yesterday rejected a case from a California city and irrigation districts that claimed the Bureau of Reclamation violated their constitutional property rights when it did not deliver water during a drought. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims case touches on the broad questions of whether the water in a delivery contract is property and whether a contract holder must be compensated if Reclamation doesn’t deliver it. Judge Elaine Kaplan ruled they do not.

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New water fellowship for young farmers

National Young Farmers Coalition excited to launch the first Young Farmers Water Fellowship in Colorado. Through in-person and virtual trainings, the Fellowship will guide ten young farmers and ranchers towards water leadership positions in Colorado. Selected fellows will receive a $2500 stipend and support from Young Farmers to run for a seat on a water board or commission. Application deadline is April 13, 2020

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Farmers take water fight to the Supreme Court

Nearly 20 years after Oregon and California farmers stormed irrigation canals in protest of a decision to cut off water deliveries, they have taken their case to the Supreme Court. The farmers want the Supreme Court to rule on whether curtailing water deliveries can amount to a “taking” of property without just compensation under the Constitution’s 5th Amendment.

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West’s biggest reservoir is back on the rise, thanks to conservation, snow

The largest reservoir in the Western U.S., Lake Mead, is rising again after more than a decade of decline. Colorado River water consumption has decreased by 25 percent over the past two decades, even as the population it serves has grown around 50 percent.

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USDA investing $1 million in California water quality improvements and wildfire mitigation

The USDA will be investing more than $1 million in California this fiscal year for wildfire mitigation and improving water quality. The efforts are being made possible through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.  The Partnership allows the USFS and NRCS to work with farmers and landowners in implementing conservation and restoration projects on a substantial scale.

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Farmers to face water shortages as new century unfolds

Farmers will deal with a myriad of issues in the coming decades that will impact production in the fields. One problem that has been increasing is the lack of water. From 2020 to 2080, the number of irrigated acres in the U.S. is projected to drop by several million acres, according to the USDA.

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New model improves management of wetland, floodplain and river habitats

Wetlands, floodplains and aquatic habitats are some of Utah’s most important ecosystems. But in recent years these habitats have faced mounting pressure from encroaching land use and increased demand for water. Now researchers at Utah State University are developing new tools that help preserve and increase the area and quality of wetland, floodplain and aquatic habitats.

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Utilities and enviros paddle together on Lower Snake River

Environmentalists and Pacific Northwest power producers are urging elected officials to seek “collaborative solutions” for the myriad complicated issues roiling the Lower Snake River. In a letter to the governors of Washington state, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, 17 leaders of energy companies, utilities and conservation organizations called for a “new dialogue with all sovereigns and constituents” with a stake in the river and its bounty.

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About 40 million people get water from the Colorado River. Studies show it’s drying up.

Scientists have documented how climate change is sapping the Colorado River, and new research shows the river is so sensitive to warming that it could lose about one-fourth of its flow by 2050 as temperatures continue to climb.

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Soaking up soil health

Rainfall is scarce throughout New Mexico, which is hard on soil and crops. Farmers can’t change the weather, but they can change how they manage soil to retain more water and grow flavorful, high-nutrient produce.

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California challenges Trump administration’s new water management rules

The state of California has opened another front in its expanding war with the Trump administration over environmental protections, this time with a legal challenge to new water management rules designed to aid farmers. In a lawsuit filed yesterday, California officials contend the administration violated laws including the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act with two biological opinions concerning water project management.

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Trump to California farmers: here’s more water

In a controversial record of decision signed today, the Trump Administration commits to delivering additional irrigation water to farms south of the California’s ecologically sensitive and hydrologically crucial Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

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Arizona farmers push back against tracking data on groundwater wells

The agriculture industry is pushing back against efforts in the Arizona Legislature to track the amount of water being drawn from large groundwater wells in rural areas around the state. State water officials say getting the data would help Arizona better plan for future water use. But the agriculture industry sees bills to install measuring devices and submit annual reports, for example, as moves toward regulation.

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As groundwater depletes, arid American West is moving east

Even under modest climate warming scenarios, the continental United States faces a significant loss of groundwater—about 119 million cubic meters, or roughly enough to fill Lake Powell four times, a first-of-its-kind study has shown. The results show that as warming temperatures shift the balance between water supply and demand, shallow groundwater storage can buffer plant water stress—but only where shallow groundwater connections are present, and not indefinitely.

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Colorado ranchers get help from unexpected source

Agricultural producers in Southwest Colorado, mostly cow-calf ranchers, expended less labor to access the same amount of water to irrigate their pastures since implementing improvements to their irrigation ditches as part of a community-wide project. They also have seen improvement in riparian habitats. A new video portrays the impact to the community of these project improvements.

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Army Corps trades Alaska wetlands for sewage system fixes

By law, the Army Corps of Engineers must ensure that Alaska wetlands damage is offset by restoring or preserving other wetlands nearby. But that’s not what’s happening on Alaska’s Arctic tundra, and a precedent-setting permit there could have significant consequences for other developers, including those behind the controversial Pebble mine.

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Emergency water rights bill heads to Idaho governor’s desk

Legislation granting an emergency water right when crews are trying to clean up spills in Idaho waterways passed the House on Tuesday and is headed to the governor’s desk. The House approved the measure the state Department of Environmental Quality says is needed to prevent someone from contending their water right is being violated due to an emergency cleanup.

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California governor launches water management plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new plan for California’s water yesterday that he said would boost conservation, double the state’s salmon population and avoid drawn-out courtroom battles. The vision relies on “voluntary agreements” that will move the state away from the water wars that pit agricultural interests against environmentalists, and the wet northern part of the state against its arid south.

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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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Saving water for Utah farms: ‘Banking’ may be the key in face of growth

Most states across the West have adopted some sort of water sharing program that provides more flexibility for users in time of need, or in time of excess. Called “water banking,” the strategy essentially allows water right holders to allow others to use their water and make revenue from it. On Wednesday, Utah inched closer to implementing its own program via a legislative proposal, that if passed, would institute a 10-year pilot project.

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New Mexico needs realistic, sustainable water plan

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has long talked about the importance of water to the arid state, even campaigning on the idea of creating a 50-year plan to guide management of the finite resource. Her administration is now asking lawmakers for more money and manpower to start what some experts say will be a multiyear endeavor.

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New California groundwater regulations could reshape water use and agriculture

California’s first attempt at regulating a precious resource — groundwater — begins Friday, and experts expect a rocky start. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires critically overdrafted basins to balance their pumping and get on a “sustainable” path by 2040, could fundamentally reshape water use and agriculture in California. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are expected to be forced out of production.

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Final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule unveiled

The final Waters of the U.S. rule unveiled by the Trump administration today eliminates Clean Water Act protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands and more than 18% of streams, and replaces regulations set in the Reagan administration.

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Trump admin fast-tracks Colorado River pipeline

The Trump administration has put one of the largest new water projects on the Colorado River on the fast track, raising concerns among environmentalists. Utah first proposed building a 140-mile pipeline from Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border more than a decade ago. Last fall, the Utah Division of Water Resources updated the proposal, removing a hydropower plant and cutting $100 million from its price tag.

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Wetlands conservation program marks 30 years, over $6B in grants

The conservation grant program that has helped preserve and restore nearly 30 million acres of wetlands across the continent has turned 30. President George H.W. Bush signed the North American Wetlands Conservation Act into law in December 1989, establishing the grant program as waterfowl populations declined because of habitat loss.

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Study finds flooding damage to levees is cumulative–and often invisible

Recent research finds that repeated flooding events have a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of earthen levees, suggesting that the increase in extreme weather events associated with climate change could pose significant challenges for the nation’s aging levee system.

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Ag water users profiled in new Colorado River report

A year-long effort to bring the perspectives of key agricultural water user interests into the current Colorado River Compact discussions culminated in the release of two special “Water Review” reports.

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Last year’s historic floods ruined 20 million acres of farmland

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, heavy spring rains across the nation in 2019 caused nearly 20 million acres of farmland to go unplanted. Farmers incurred, collectively, billions of dollars in losses, disrupting rural economies across the country as well as the communities they support.

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California moves toward single water tunnel under delta

California is moving forward with its biggest water project in decades, a single tunnel beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that will help move Northern California water south to cities and farms.

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Final Trump WOTUS rule expected soon

The Trump administration is expected to finalize a rule limiting which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act this month.

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New research finds ranchers consider diverse factors in managing their land

A new study evaluates the complex decision-making process of how ranchers choose to manage their land, more specifically how they choose to irrigate their land and why. They found that various reasons go into deciding how land is managed—not just money.

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Colorado water rights abandonment list forthcoming

On July 1, 2020, the Colorado Division of Water Resources will publish its initial decennial list of water rights considered to be abandoned. Water right holders may object, and if necessary, protest in water court. Objections to the initial list will be due to DWR on July 1, 2021.

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New in-stream flow rights in New Mexico

Surface water rights in the state of New Mexico are typically granted to individuals for diverting water from streams and rivers to irrigate crops and support food production. Now, the state has granted its first water rights permit to keep water in a river.

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Importance of restoration projects on private lands

The ponds, wetlands and streams on Idaho’s private working lands provide critical hydrologic, ecological and habitat benefits that extend far beyond the fence lines.

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On the Range

The surprising benefits of flash-grazing

This technique helps protect the watershed and enhance ranch operations. It also promotes even, consistent grazing. As a result, in combination with increased water retention, pastures become better habitat for increasingly threatened pollinators, like bees and butterflies.

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A mustang crisis looms in the West

With too many animals on public lands and too many on the public’s hands, the federal wild horse management program is short of money and palatable solutions. As everyone, federal agencies and staff included, scale back due to coronavirus, the issue could get even worse.

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Stanford researchers uncover benefits of diversified farms for protecting wildlife

The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.

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Coronavirus stress-tests the food supply network

COVID-19 has sent swaths of the U.S. food system into overdrive, as manufacturers, distributors, grocers and food safety regulators try to meet demand from consumers stockpiling food and other essentials. In addition, the USDA is rolling out more plans to help rural areas affected by the virus, including a private partnership to deliver meals to students. Farm credit officials asked ag lenders to work with borrowers whose operations are being squeezed by the virus and the economic slowdown.

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Reminder: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands enrollment now open

Farmers and ranchers may now apply to enroll their grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands program. The signup runs through May 15, 2020. “Through this CRP Grasslands signup, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands and pastures, while maintaining the land as working grazing lands,” said Richard Fordyce, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity, while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”

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Farmers gain options for marketing soil health

As soil health takes on a higher profile with food companies and consumers, various avenues are emerging for farmers to collect environmental incentives. The growing number of soil health programs can seem overwhelming, but one farmer and soil health advocate believes it’s a case of more is better.

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How regenerative agriculture could save the planet

Calls for plant-based diets to save the planet from the climate crisis are growing louder. But there is another, quieter, revolution reshaping the agricultural world. Farmers like Slabbert and their supporters say that what people eat is not as important as how they farm. They believe cattle and cropland could help save the planet.

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Cover crops can benefit hot, dry soils

A new study published in Soil Biology and Chemistry shows that cover crops have universally positive effects on the soil microbiome. Other studies have shown benefits of cover cropping on the soil microbial community, but most of them have been one-offs influenced by specific site conditions, unique seasonal effects, idiosyncratic management regimes, and the researchers’ chosen analysis methods. Study author Nakia Kim’s work is different in that he looked for universal patterns among dozens of these one-off studies.

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BLM calls wild horses ‘existential threat’ to public lands

The Bureau of Land Management is now formally referring to wild horses and burros as an “existential threat” to federal lands, mirroring acting BLM chief William Perry Pendley’s controversial characterization of growing herd sizes.

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Montana’s grand prairie experiment

In northeast Montana, the American Prairie Reserve and the Nature Conservancy are protecting huge swaths of native grassland. But their methods differ. APR aims to build a huge bison reserve, while TNC has formed alliances with local ranchers

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Soaking up soil health

Rainfall is scarce throughout New Mexico, which is hard on soil and crops. Farmers can’t change the weather, but they can change how they manage soil to retain more water and grow flavorful, high-nutrient produce.

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Wyoming researchers turn to ancient grains

Are there opportunities for new grains to fill growing consumer demand for niche products? Here’s how one University of Wyoming Extension educator surveying malting barley markets in the Big Horn Basin and an Extension agricultural economics scientist browsing a recipe book in France came to the same conclusion.

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Ranch manager new president-elect conservation district group

Michael Crowder, general manager of the Barker Ranch in Washington, has been named president-elect of the National Association of Conservation Districts. He will serve as president-elect for one year.

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Diversity has the power to regenerate farmland

America’s original prairies were once vibrant with flowers, forbs and grasses, supporting the health of the soil beneath. But in the conversion to agricultural land, they lost the diversity that promoted productivity and protected against pests and disease. Plant diversity holds extraordinary power for regenerative agriculture.

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Summer field course: Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship

Apply systems ecology concepts to management of Western ranch lands
through hands-on learning, selected readings, and observations and discussions with ranch managers, scientists and fellow students. The course will draw on multiple disciplines, including agriculture, animal sciences, business, ecology, forestry, rangeland sciences, watershed protection and wildlife management and conservation through a four-week course, May 18 – June 10, 2020, organized as two 10-day field sessions.

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Can farming make space for nature?

After Brexit, the obsessions of Jake Fiennes could change how Britain uses its land. “Beginning next year, British farming will transition to a new system of support, which will be linked to ‘public goods,’ such as water quality and biodiversity.”

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Ranchers blindsided by Trump’s border wall

Since 1994, the Malpai Borderlands Group has worked to steward approximately 800,000 acres of rangeland in southern Arizona and New Mexico. They have been lauded as a model of collaboration for their work with environmental groups, scientists, nonprofits and federal and state land managers, with the goal of using ranching as a tool for conservation while safeguarding the land’s ecological importance. But with three of their ranches located along the U.S. Mexico border, there was one development the group’s collaborative efforts couldn’t stop: Trump’s border wall.

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Soil carbon is a valuable resource, but all soil carbon is not created equal

Building up soil carbon can help cut greenhouse gas concentrations in the air. It also improves soil quality in many ways: It gives soil structure, stores water and nutrients that plants need and feeds vital soil organisms. However, current efforts to promote carbon storage in soil miss a key point: Not all soil carbon is the same.

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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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Hunting is declining, creating a crisis for conservation funding

Americans’ interest in hunting is on the decline, cutting into funding for conservation, which stems largely from hunting licenses, permits and taxes on firearms, bows and other equipment. Even as more people are engaging in outdoor activities, hunting license sales have fallen from a peak of about 17 million in the early ’80s to 15 million last year, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data.

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Horse rich & dirt poor: film on wild horse management in the West

A film about the complex issue of wild horse management in the West is continuing to make the rounds of film festivals, community town hall events, and is also being widely viewed through social media channels. The film explains how wild horses and burros are devastating precious riparian areas and crucial habitats for sensitive species and megafauna. 

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The key to this ranch’s successful grazing strategy? People!

When we talk about grazing management, we usually think about how to manage livestock, and we think of forage and the soil below it. But there’s one more factor to consider – people – and that’s the key to the success of Bill and Dana Milton. The success of their 30-year experiment in Holistic Management is, in large part, thanks to the relationships they built with a federal agency and researchers.

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BLM and Forest Service announce 2020 grazing fees

The Federal grazing fee for 2020 will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the BLM and $1.35 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. This is the same as the 2019 fee. The newly calculated grazing fee was determined by a congressional formula and takes effect March 1, 2020.

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Development of soil enrichment project protocol

The Climate Action Reserve is developing a Soil Enrichment Project Protocol that will provide guidance on how to quantify, monitor, report and verify agricultural practices that enhance carbon storage in soils. The primary greenhouse gas (GHG) benefit targeted will be the accrual of additional carbon in agricultural soils, with hopes to incentivize GHG emission reductions from other sources, such as N2O from fertilizer use.

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Opinion: To improve conservation, start with listening to rural landowners

With more than 50 percent of the U.S. designated as agricultural land, we are seeing greater emphasis being placed on fostering landscapes where conservation and agriculture sustainably coexist. If we’re going to make progress on global environmental issues, we need ranchers, farmers, and other landowners to get involved. The simple act of listening to them can be the place to start.

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Outcome-based grazing: meet the participating ranches

The Bureau of Land Management implements an initiative known as Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations. It is designed to offer a more collaborative approach between the BLM and its partners within the livestock grazing community when issuing grazing authorizations to permit grazing on public lands. Meet a handful of demonstration projects testing out outcome-based grazing on specific ranches around the West that are being used to share knowledge, identify, demonstrate, and develop best practices.

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Healthy soil is key to feeding the world

Conventional wisdom says we need industrial agriculture to feed the world. Not so, says geologist David Montgomery: Practices that focus on creating healthy soil can transform agriculture.

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New research finds ranchers consider diverse factors in managing their land

A new study evaluates the complex decision-making process of how ranchers choose to manage their land, more specifically how they choose to irrigate their land and why. They found that various reasons go into deciding how land is managed—not just money.

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Could farming secure the future of America’s national parks?

An experimental project underway at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, about 20 miles south of Cleveland, allows farmers to be stewards of the land and protect its rich cultural heritage.

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WA wildlife department to purchase ag land

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seeks to expand access to hunting and fishing with the purchase of agricultural lands in Asotin and Garfield Counties.

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30 Harvests

Today farmers face the largest challenge of this generation – creating sustainable food systems and solving climate change. And they only have 30 harvests until 2050 to do it.

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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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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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Forest & Fire

Scientists predict above-average U.S. wildfire activity for 2020 after sharp drop in 2019

Last year brought the U.S. its lowest amount of wildfire destruction since 2004, but it’s likely an anomaly in a period of increasing wildfire threats, according to a new analysis. The sharp decrease was likely due to heavier rainfall, but it doesn’t change the long-term patterns.

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USDA investing $1 million in California water quality improvements and wildfire mitigation

The USDA will be investing more than $1 million in California this fiscal year for wildfire mitigation and improving water quality. The efforts are being made possible through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.  The Partnership allows the USFS and NRCS to work with farmers and landowners in implementing conservation and restoration projects on a substantial scale.

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USDA invests more than $2M in Oregon to improve forest health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $2 million this fiscal year in Oregon through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to improve forest health.

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U.S. Forest Chief: ‘tough choices’ to fund wildfire prevention

The U.S. Forest Service has been working with states and other partners to treat more acres every year in hopes of reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire, but Forest Chief Vicki Christiansen acknowledged that a budget proposal for the next fiscal year reflects “tough choices and trade-offs” that could mean no funding for some programs.

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Work to reduce wildfire risks in Colorado and other Western states has economic benefits

Projects to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect water sources in the U.S. West have created jobs and infused more money in local economies, researchers say, and they were funded by a partnership between governments and businesses that has become a model in other countries.

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California bill would bar insurers from declining fire coverage

Amid mounting cries of California homeowners being denied wildfire insurance in high-risk areas, state lawmakers want to require insurance companies to cover all existing homes, as long as they meet new safety standards. The measure would also require insurance companies to give homeowners financial incentives for fire safety upgrades.

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BLM to fund 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in West to help fight wildfires

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced plans to fund 11,000 miles of strategic fuel breaks in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, California, Nevada and Utah in an effort to help control wildfires. The fuel breaks are intended to prop up fire mitigation efforts and help protect firefighters, communities and natural resources.

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Nearly broke, Oregon forestry department seeks emergency infusion

Seven months into the state’s two-year budget cycle, officials at the Oregon Department of Forestry say they’ve blown through most of the budget that lawmakers approved for the entire biennium and are asking lawmakers for an emergency cash infusion – from $52 million to $132 million – otherwise, agency officials say, they’ll have exhausted their budget by March.

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Oregon timber companies, environmentalists sign ‘historic’ pact

Environmental groups and timber companies in Oregon, which have clashed for decades, yesterday unveiled a road map for overhauling forest practice regulations. The agreement came after the two sides quietly held meetings in Salem and Portland over the last month to try to find common ground, instead of filing competing initiative petitions and lawsuits.

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Forestry pioneer retires from Northern Arizona University

A Northern Arizona University forestry expert who was ahead of his time in urging communities across the West to thin dense stands of trees and set fire to the landscape as a way to ward off catastrophic wildfires has retired from his position at the school. Members of Congress, state legislators, the U.S. Forest Service and countless others looked to Wally Covington for science-based advice on how to restore forests to a condition when natural fires regularly would burn the undergrowth and small trees.

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Prescribed burns benefit bees

Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species than similar forests that have not burned in over 50 years, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

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New synthesis on ecology, history, ecohydrology, and management of pinyon and juniper woodlands

This synthesis reviews current knowledge of pinyon and juniper ecosystems, in both persistent and newly expanded woodlands, for managers, researchers and the interested public. They draw from a large volume of research papers to centralize information on these semiarid woodlands.

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With wildfires on the rise, indigenous fire management is poised to make a comeback

As the world watches bushfires take a massive toll on Australia, experts in indigenous fire management are reporting an uptick in interest in their work. While challenging at times, the USFS is already incorporating indigenous techniques into fire management projects and is working with tribal leaders on land stewardship efforts, thanks to collaborative partnerships that have been piloted in ancestral territories of the Karuk tribe in northwestern California.

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Emails show administration manipulated wildfire science to promote logging

Political appointees at the Department of the Interior have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

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Is mowing or close grazing of rangelands as beneficial as prescribed burning?

When it comes to restoring rangeland habitats, there is no replacement for “prescribed fire,” according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) ecologists. A recent study shows that fire is better than mowing because it restores soil health and promotes growth of grass that is more nutritious for grazing cattle.

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Oregon governor proposes new wildfire protection plan

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling for a major expansion in the state’s wildfire response plans in a new legislative concept. The draft proposal outlines the governor’s long-term vision for how the state should adapt to wildfire, reduce wildfire risks on forestland and improve fire suppression.

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Tipping point identified for deforestation that leads to rapid forest loss

University of Cincinnati geography researchers have identified a tipping point for deforestation that leads to rapid forest loss. Global satellite imagery shows transitions occur quickly after blocks of forest are cut in half.

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Worsening wildfires stoke health concerns

Increasingly intense wildfires are scorching forests from across the Western U.S. to Australia and stoking concern among residents and health professionals about long-term health impacts from smoke exposure.

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Research to help land managers take risk-analysis approach to wildfires

New digital tools developed by Oregon State University will enable land managers to better adapt to the new reality of large wildfires through analytics that guide planning and suppression across jurisdictional boundaries that fires typically don’t adhere to.

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California eases way for land clearing to prevent wildfires

California regulators said Tuesday that they have streamlined the state’s permit process to make it faster to approve tree-thinning projects designed to slow massive wildfires that have devastated communities in recent years.

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Rebuilding forests post-fire

A legal battle over a plan to clear dead trees and burn them in a biomass plant is an example of a philosophical divide in California over how best to manage forests as wildfires grow larger and more deadly and destructive.

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Study identifies key western forests

A study by Oregon State University researchers has identified forests in the western United States that should be preserved for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, as well as to enhance biodiversity.

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Funding, Employment, etc.

USDA seeks public comment on revised conservation practice standards

USDA’s NRCS is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 49 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions posted this week with the public comment period closing April 23, 2020.

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Over three million acres enrolled in general CRP

After nearly four years without a general signup, 3.4 million acres were recently enrolled in the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. 

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New water fellowship for young farmers

National Young Farmers Coalition excited to launch the first Young Farmers Water Fellowship in Colorado. Through in-person and virtual trainings, the Fellowship will guide ten young farmers and ranchers towards water leadership positions in Colorado. Selected fellows will receive a $2500 stipend and support from Young Farmers to run for a seat on a water board or commission. Application deadline is April 13, 2020

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Join National Young Farmers as Colorado organizer

National Young Farmers Coalition is hiring a Colorado Organizer. Young Farmers seeks a dynamic, part-time Colorado Organizer to support young farmer chapters and members across the state and help drive forward farmer-led change in the Colorado General Assembly. Members and producers are encouraged to apply. Deadline to apply is April 6, 2020

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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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Becoming an Outdoors-Woman

The Wyoming Game & Department is excited to offer two Becoming an Outdoors-Woman programs. At the traditional Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, learn the basics of canoeing, archery, fly-tying, shooting skills, backpacking, outdoor photography and much more. Held June 26 – 28, 2020 at the Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp outside Dubois, WY. Registration fee is $150. Beyond B.O.W. – Hunting is for 20 women who want to learn comprehensive skills to begin hunting. Participants will be able to choose rifle, shotgun or archery instruction during the Hunting Methods section, as well as complete a Hunter Education Internet Field Day.

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EQIP signups ongoing – reach out to your NRCS office

Have you or someone you work with considered signing up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)? This working lands conservation program helps farmers and ranchers pay for conservation practices – like improving irrigation efficiency, restoring pasture, or nutrient and pest management – on their land, and deadlines are coming up soon! EQIP signup deadlines vary by state and while some may have already passed, there are many more deadlines coming up at the end of March and later in the spring. 

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Reminder: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands enrollment now open

Farmers and ranchers may now apply to enroll their grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands program. The signup runs through May 15, 2020. “Through this CRP Grasslands signup, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands and pastures, while maintaining the land as working grazing lands,” said Richard Fordyce, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity, while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”

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USDA seeks proposals for on-farm conservation and soil health test projects

The USDA NRCS is accepting proposals through May 11, 2020 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials), now in its second year. On-Farm Trials, part of the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, help support the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural land.

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Montana sets Agricultural Conservation Easement application cutoff date for April 17

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana is accepting applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). While NRCS accepts easement applications on a continuous basis, applications for the next funding consideration must be submitted by April 17, 2020.

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Forest Stewards Guild now hiring for 2020 summer and fall youth corps programs

Do you like the outdoors? Are you looking for a summer job? Then you should apply to be a Forest Stewards Youth Corps (FSYC) Crew Member. FSYC has summer and fall programs with crews based out of U.S. Forest Service Ranger Stations. Applications for summer are due March 22nd and for fall are due March 29th and June 7th.

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Public Meetings: New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Action Plan

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held from February 25 to March 18, 2020 throughout the state.

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.

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USDA reminds producers of Feb. 28 deadline for CRP general signup

There is less than two weeks before the enrollment deadline of February 28, 2020 for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 2020 general signup. This signup is available to farmers and private landowners who are either enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling for another 10- to 15-year term.

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Montana EQIP and RCPP application deadlines announced

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Montana has set a March 13, 2020, application cutoff for agricultural operators to be considered for the next conservation program funding cycle through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

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Now accepting applications for TomKat Ranch Regenerative Ranching 2020 Summer Internships

The Regenerative Ranching Summer Internship (June – August) is a paid educational opportunity that provides broad exposure and experience for individuals interested in regenerative food systems. This program is designed to offer knowledge, experience, and connections to the next generation of regenerative food system professionals. Applications will be accepted through March 13, 2020.

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Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund

The Network for Landscape Conservation is pleased to request proposals for the second annual funding round of the Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund. The purpose of the Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund is to accelerate the pace of conservation at scale across the United States through targeted support of collaborative Landscape Conservation. Pre-proposals are due by 9 pm ET on March 13th, 2020.

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Applications open for High Plains soil health demo

Producer applications are currently being accepted to participate in FARMS (Farmers Advancing Regenerative Management Systems), a Soil Health Demo program new to the High Plains region. Through this program, producers from Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado are eligible to receive financial, technical and social support as they work toward improving soil health on their farming operations for the next three years. Applications are due by March 15, 2020.
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Summer field course: Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship

Apply systems ecology concepts to management of Western ranch lands
through hands-on learning, selected readings, and observations and discussions with ranch managers, scientists and fellow students. The course will draw on multiple disciplines, including agriculture, animal sciences, business, ecology, forestry, rangeland sciences, watershed protection and wildlife management and conservation through a four-week course, May 18 – June 10, 2020, organized as two 10-day field sessions.

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Ranch apprenticeship at Bar V Ranch, Arizona

Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation department is offering a six-month internship-apprenticeship to a self-motivated beginning or aspiring rancher on the Bar V Ranch southeast of Tucson, Arizona. The Bar V Ranch is a 14,000-acre working ranch composed of semi-desert grasslands and riparian corridors north of the Empire Mountains in the Cienega Creek watershed. Applications are due February 21, 2020.

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Grassfed Exchange 2020 Herd Fellows application open

The Grassfed Exchange 2020 planning committee is excited to invite young farmers to apply for The Herd Fellows Scholarship. This is a scholarship to the Grassfed Exchange Conference in Fort Worth, Texas on May 27-29, 2020. The application deadline is March 1, 2020.

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New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands Coordinator

NMCEWL, a network of groups and individuals whose purpose purpose is to support and enhance ongoing efforts to improve the health and productivity of New Mexico working lands that support agriculture and the environment, is seeking a full-time coordinator for a two-year grant funded position. They are seeking someone who has a passion for championing and supporting the ongoing and diverse efforts of agricultural producers, other land and natural resource managers, organizations, and agencies currently engaged in their efforts to improve working lands in New Mexico.

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Project Administrator for Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, Montana

Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA) is seeking to hire a Project Administrator. RSA, a nonprofit organization led by conservation-minded volunteers many of whom are ranchers, focuses on the importance of ranch families and their contributions to their communities, to the ecosystems they manage, and to feeding the world. Application review will begin March 2, 2020. Submit applications to ranchstewards@gmail.com.

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Range Ecologist/Wildlife Biologist in Gillette, Wyoming

Precision Wildlife Resources is announcing an opening for a Range Ecologist/Wildlife Biologist located in Gillette, Wyoming to support their engagement with Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program throughout Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Applications are due by March 14, 2020.

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RFP for Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund

The Network for Landscape Conservation is requesting proposals for the second annual funding round of the Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund.
Through generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Catalyst Fund will distribute approximately $335,000 in funding this year through competitive grants to Landscape Conservation Partnerships that are poised for catalytic growth as they move from collective vision to collective action. Pre-proposals are due March 13, 2020.

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Assistant ranch manager position near Model, Colorado

Holistic ranching career opportunity on an 80,000 acre, remote, progressive ranch, one hour from the nearest town (Model). The candidate will work underneath the company general manager, will reside on the ranch and will be expected to learn, help plan, execute and eventually share in certain of the ranch’s management of grazing, range ecology, livestock, marketing, infrastructure, maintenance, finances, and more… Please email replies along with a one-page cover letter, resume and three references to hunt@machocreeklodge.com. Salary DOE/competitive with benefits. Applications will be accepted on or before February 10, 2020.

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Seeking ranch help at Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch, Colorado

Hiring ranch help! Canyon of the Ancients is a small working guest ranch located in southwest Colorado that raises grassfed beef, lamb and organic vegetables, and free ranch eggs while also providing luxurious lodging to tourists from around the world. They are looking for a couple or individual who can help on the ranching/farming/livestock part of business.

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Workshop helps Oregon’s working lands change hands

In Oregon, 10.5 million acres, or 64%, of the state’s farm and range land is expected to change hands over the next 20 years as the average farmer and rancher reaches retirement age. For landowners who have questions about passing their land on to the next generation, and for beginning farmers and ranchers wondering how they can access affordable land, the Oregon nonprofit Rogue Farm Corps is convening a day-long event on February 13 in Pendleton.

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BLM to consider proposed revisions to grazing regulations

The Bureau of Land Management has published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to consider proposed revisions to the agency’s grazing regulations. The proposed revisions aim to “update, modernize and streamline the grazing regulations and provide greater flexibility for land and resource management.” Comments on the proposed revisions may be submitted in writing until February 28, 2020.

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Sentinel Landscapes Partnership announces a new interactive landowner resources tool

The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership recently introduced an Interactive Landowner Resources Tool. By compiling over 300 landowner assistance programs in a single, user-friendly location, this product makes it easier for you to find voluntary, state and federal landowner assistance programs. In addition, the updated website includes interactive GIS maps and information pertaining to local Sentinel Landscape events, project highlights and funding data.

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Corridors and Crossings Senior Program Officer

The Center for Large Landscape Conservation is seeking a Senior Program Officer to join their Corridors and Crossings program. The SPO will oversee the implementation of the program’s strategic plan; provide policy and technical expertise on local, state, federal, and tribal corridor and connectivity initiatives; and manage programmatic budgets, timelines, and workflows.

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Farm manager couple wanted at Elkstone Farm, Colorado

Elkstone Farm is a permaculture-inspired farm in the mountains of northwest Colorado, near Steamboat Springs. The farm owner is currently looking to hire a farm manager couple to partner to take the farm to the next level in its second decade.

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NM Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Workforce Development Pilot Program (AWD) offers incentives to the state’s agricultural businesses to hire interns. The AWD Pilot Program is intended to provide hands-on educational opportunities for students aspiring to careers in agriculture, as well as young or beginning farmers and ranchers. Applications are accepted until February 28, 2020.

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Center for Collaborative Conservation’s Fellows Program

The CCC Fellows Program challenges students, faculty and practitioners to use a collaborative approach to help communities improve their livelihoods and contribute to local and global conservation goals. The deadline for applications is February 21, 2020.

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Working Lands Internship Program

The Montana Rangeland Resource Committee and Rangeland Resources program at Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) are seeking students and hosts for a Summer 2020 working lands internship program. Applications are due February 1, 2020.

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Assistant Professor of Wildlife Conservation on Working Lands at CSU

This new faculty position will add much needed expertise on wildlife conservation on working/private lands. With a 20% extension appointment, the faculty member will contribute to research and teaching, as well as playing a critical role in outreach across the CSU extension network in Colorado and beyond. Applications are due January 31, 2020.

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FSA Grasslands Conservation Reserve Program (GCRP) sign-up period

The sign-up period for CRP Grasslands in 2020 runs from March 16, 2020 to May 15, 2020.

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NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) accepting proposals

NRCS RCPP is currently accepting FY 2020 proposals. Potential partners are invited to propose RCPP projects where NRCS and partners co-invest in impactful and innovative solutions to on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.

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FSA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment open

The 2020 CRP enrollment period began on December 9. The deadline for agricultural producers to sign up for general CRP is February 28, 2020, while signup for continuous CRP is ongoing.

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EPA Environmental Justice Grants opportunity

The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program provides funding to support community-based organizations in their efforts to collaborate and partner with local stakeholder groups as they develop and implement community-driven solutions that address environmental and/or public health issues for underserved communities. Applications are due February 7, 2020.

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FSA encourages producers to enroll in Agriculture Risk and Price Loss Coverage Programs

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) encourages agricultural producers to enroll now in the Agriculture Risk Loss (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. March 15, 2020 is the enrollment deadline for the 2019 crop year.

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Coordinator for the Coalition to Enhance Working Lands (CEWL) in New Mexico

NMCEWL (www.nmcewl.org) is seeking a full-time coordinator for a two-year grant funded position. We are seeking someone who has a passion for championing and supporting the ongoing and diverse efforts of agricultural producers, other land and natural resource managers, organizations, and agencies currently engaged in efforts to improve working lands in New Mexico.

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Rose Foundation invites applications for projects to protect California wildlands

Through its California Wildlands Grassroots Fund, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment will award grants of up to $7,500 to projects designed to permanently protect intact wildlands on both public and private lands in order to preserve California’s wilderness and native biological diversity. Deadline to apply is February 15, 2020.

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NRCS seeks comments on ACEP interim rule

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), USDA’s premier conservation easement program that helps landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. Comments will be accepted through March 6, 2020.

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WLA in the News

WLA Logo

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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