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COVID-19 news for the West

As meat and dairy take hits, plant-based alternatives thrive

As the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the meat and dairy industries, plenty of grocery shoppers are turning to plant-based alternatives. Supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 crisis have forced farmers to dump their milk and euthanize their livestock. Meanwhile, makers of plant-based products like Impossible Foods say sales are booming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

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

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

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

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Agencies revamp strategy to address crews’ virus risk

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

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NM cattle ranchers fear ‘demise’ of industry

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

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

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

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

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

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Supersizing USDA’s farm relief arsenal

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

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Notice: Economic injury disaster advance loan for Ag producers

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

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

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

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‘No good answer’ to meat industry nightmare

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

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Colorado Farm & Food Systems Respond & Rebuild Fund

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

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Women In Ranching Program forges new ways of connecting

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

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Coronavirus at meatpacking plants worse than first thought

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

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Livestock producers get lion share of COVID-19 ag aid

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

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Cat Urbigkit: Rejecting an unsustainable system

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

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USDA announces coronavirus food assistance program

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

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In their words: How Westerners are weathering the pandemic

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

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Coronavirus forces new approaches to firefighting

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

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American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fund

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

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Smithfield closes South Dakota pork plant due to coronavirus

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

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

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

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Meat plants are shutting down as workers get sick

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

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The Farm and Food Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act

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

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Deadline for Joint Chiefs extended to May 1

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

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Ranchers see universal lessons in combating lonesomeness

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

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

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

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Surviving isolation: It’s OK to ask for help

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

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Ranch mom shares 5 tips for coping with social distancing

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

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

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

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Colorado farms reinvent to meet communities’ needs

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

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

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

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COVID-19 aid package offers assistance to rural America

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

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

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

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1st rural county COVID-19 case in Montana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cattle market shaken by COVID-19

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

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Policy

Rising river temps threaten salmon. Dams are to blame

More than a dozen federal dams in the Columbia River Basin are the main contributors to rising temperatures that can be deadly for migrating fish, EPA said this week, beginning the process of setting standards. Facing a court-ordered deadline, the agency released a draft total maximum daily load, or TMDL, analysis for temperature in the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Lower Snake River, in the Pacific Northwest. The draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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

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

Read Story

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

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

Read Story

Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

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

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

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

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New Mexico to consider river protections as mining plan looms

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

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

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

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Supersizing USDA’s farm relief arsenal

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

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USDA announces $5million for wetland mitigation banking program

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $5 million for wetland mitigation banks. This funding through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program is to help conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Applications must be submitted by July 6th, 2020.

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California agencies sue state as irrigation war escalates

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

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Feds, tribes raise concerns about cuckoo habitat proposal

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

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Colorado governor signs five major water bills into law

Gov. Jared Polis, even as COVID-19 swept across the state, gave his stamp of approval to five major pieces of water legislation, paving the way for everything from more water for environmental streamflows to a new study on how to limit water speculation. Three of the new laws address water for streams, fish and habitat, allowing more loans of water to bolster environmental flows, protecting such things as water for livestock from being appropriated for instream flows, and using an existing water management tool, known as an augmentation plan, to set aside water rights for streams.

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Early shots fired in legal fight over WOTUS rewrite

Property rights advocates today filed one of the first lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s Clean Water Act rule, arguing that the regulation does not go far enough in limiting the law’s reach. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers last week finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, opening the door for what is expected to be dozens of lawsuits. Most challenges are expected to come from environmental groups and blue states arguing that the rule improperly guts much of the law.

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New Mexico senators weigh in on stream access

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

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‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science

A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts groundwater science at the center of decisions about how to regulate water pollution. Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies.

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Idaho still seeks land exchange with timber company, feds

Idaho hasn’t given up on a three-way potential land swap and cash deal involving a private timber company and the Forest Service that is running into opposition from the Nez Perce Tribe. Republican Gov. Brad Little said the potential deal could increase Idaho’s state-owned lands with timber-producing forests that make money mainly for public schools. The tribe is concerned it could lose access rights for fishing, hunting and other activities it has with the U.S. government if Idaho ends up owning what is now federal land.

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EPA finalizes Trump administration rollbacks on stream and wetland protections

The Trump administration published a final rule Tuesday rolling back Obama-era environmental protections. The final rule, written by the Engineers Corps and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), redefines the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, passed under President Obama in 2015.

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Report: Washington’s wolf population grows at least 11 percent in 2019

Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the death of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. The state’s annual wolf survey, published Monday, sets a minimum number of wolves and packs in the state and guides management decisions for the year to come.

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Plan calls for diverting, storing water from Gila River

Water from two rivers that span parts of New Mexico and Arizona would be diverted and stored under a project proposed by the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity. The BLM and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission are gathering public comments on an environmental review of the proposal. The fight over the Gila River has prompted protests and legal fights over the years. Environmentalists have suggested the effort to divert water would result in a $1 billion boondoggle, but supporters argue that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation districts in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water as drought persists.

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USDA announces coronavirus food assistance program

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

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California moves toward protecting mountain lions

California took a major step yesterday toward giving mountain lions protection as an endangered species. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to approve Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for California Endangered Species Act designation. That launches a yearlong status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will prepare a peer-reviewed status report. The commission will make a final decision at the end of that period.

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USDA Wildlife Services to use $1.3 M to implement, evaluate nonlethal predation management tools

The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.

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Listed species grow as protections shrink

The Fish and Wildlife Service today increased the number of species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even as the agency prepares to narrow the law’s protections. In the first revision of its kind since 2013, FWS added a net total of 67 bird species to the protected list, which now numbers 1,093.

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Trump admin reopens Mexican wolf study

The Fish and Wildlife Service today reopened a debate over the best way to protect the Mexican wolf. Facing legal pressure, the agency announced plans to revise the “nonessential experimental population” designation and management of the wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. The plans require drafting an environmental impact statement supplement.

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Scientists worry agency plan to prevent fires could do opposite

Scientists say the Trump administration’s proposed program to cut down trees to gain an upper hand over wildfire and protect sage-grouse may in fact do the opposite: increase the wildfire threat and risk ecosystem “collapse.” The proposed plan, which the BLM published last week, aims to reshape the ecology of sagebrush ecosystems across 38.5 million acres of federal land in six states to reduce the severity of wildfires and help restore sagebrush.

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Historic agreement to protect monarch butterfly issued by FWS

The candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) potentially applies to over 26 million acres managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. Via the agreement, public and private partners can voluntarily adopt conservation measures that are beneficial to the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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USDA announces May 29th application cutoff for CSP funding in 2020

The next deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding this year is May 29, 2020. Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques.

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Public comment open on programmatic EIS for rangeland restoration in Great Basin

Draft PEIS Available for Public Comment: April 3 – June 2, 2020. The BLM has prepared a Draft Programmatic EIS for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin. The Programmatic EIS analyzes several options for carrying out fuels reduction and rangeland restoration projects. The project area covers nearly 223 million acres and includes portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The project’s purpose is to enhance the long-term function, viability, resistance and resilience of sagebrush communities in the project area. Functioning and viable sagebrush communities provide multiple-use opportunities for all user groups as well as habitat for sagebrush-dependent species. The BLM is inviting the public to review and comment on the Draft Programmatic EIS.

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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

Rising river temps threaten salmon. Dams are to blame

More than a dozen federal dams in the Columbia River Basin are the main contributors to rising temperatures that can be deadly for migrating fish, EPA said this week, beginning the process of setting standards. Facing a court-ordered deadline, the agency released a draft total maximum daily load, or TMDL, analysis for temperature in the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Lower Snake River, in the Pacific Northwest. The draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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Conservation groups ask Washington state to kill fewer wolves

Conservation groups yesterday asked the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to sharply limit the number of endangered wolves that are killed over conflicts with livestock. The state has killed 31 wolves since 2012. The conservation groups want the wildlife commission to amend its rules to require that livestock producers use appropriate nonlethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves. The new rules would ensure that the state kills wolves only as a last resort.

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

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

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Feds, tribes raise concerns about cuckoo habitat proposal

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

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Opinion: Public partnerships key to wildlife planning efforts

The lack of recognition of migration corridors — areas through which large numbers of wildlife migrate and thus serve a vital role for long-term survival — in public land management plans is resulting in lost opportunities to conserve wildlife. Fortunately, the BLM acknowledges the need to amend these plans, and its intent to begin a public process creates an opportunity for Coloradoans to be part of a solution to conserve big game habitat.

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Earth’s insect population shrinks 27% in 30 years

The world has lost more than one quarter of its land-dwelling insects in the past 30 years, according to researchers whose big picture study of global bug decline paints a disturbing but more nuanced problem than earlier research. From bees and other pollinators crucial to the world’s food supply to butterflies that beautify places, the bugs are disappearing at a rate of just under 1% a year, with lots of variation from place to place, according to a study in yesterday’s journal Science.

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Conflicts with wolves in Wyoming decrease as population declines toward objectives

Three measures of conflict between livestock and wolves – livestock conflicts with wolves, compensation for depredations caused by wolves and the number of wolves lethally removed in response to conflicts – decreased as the population of wolves in Wyoming stabilized around the management objective.

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Report: Washington’s wolf population grows at least 11 percent in 2019

Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the death of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. The state’s annual wolf survey, published Monday, sets a minimum number of wolves and packs in the state and guides management decisions for the year to come.

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Yellowstone’s Wolves 25 years after reintroduction: The effects on ranchers

March marked the 25th anniversary of wolf reintroduction. After a quarter-century, there are factual answers to lingering concerns, questions and fears. This is the third in a series that has so far has addressed questions and concerns regarding the decision to reintroduce wolves, whether managers introduced the “wrong wolf” and what effects wolves have had on Greater Yellowstone’s ecosystem. But how have wolves affected ranchers, hunters and others who share the landscape with these long-absent predators?

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Documentary: Sharing the Range

Check out this short film documenting the challenges of living with large carnivores and how the people of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve are meeting these challenges.

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Guard dog program brings back tradition in Portugal as wolves expand

One of the oldest canine breeds on the Iberian Peninsula, Serra da Estrela dogs have been guarding livestock against attacks by Iberian wolves and stray dogs for centuries. While some shepherds still use dogs, the tradition has died out in many areas. Complemented by other coexistence measures, the program intends to reduce livestock predation through providing shepherds with free guard dog puppies, in turn enabling the recovery of the endangered Iberian wolf.

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California moves toward protecting mountain lions

California took a major step yesterday toward giving mountain lions protection as an endangered species. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to approve Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for California Endangered Species Act designation. That launches a yearlong status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will prepare a peer-reviewed status report. The commission will make a final decision at the end of that period.

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USDA Wildlife Services to use $1.3 M to implement, evaluate nonlethal predation management tools

The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.

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Listed species grow as protections shrink

The Fish and Wildlife Service today increased the number of species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even as the agency prepares to narrow the law’s protections. In the first revision of its kind since 2013, FWS added a net total of 67 bird species to the protected list, which now numbers 1,093.

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Trump admin reopens Mexican wolf study

The Fish and Wildlife Service today reopened a debate over the best way to protect the Mexican wolf. Facing legal pressure, the agency announced plans to revise the “nonessential experimental population” designation and management of the wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. The plans require drafting an environmental impact statement supplement.

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Scientists disagree on bison impacts to Yellowstone’s Northern Range

A new report claiming that bison are damaging the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park is drawing criticism from a park wildlife biologist who questions whether the scientists behind it are “looking too narrowly” at the range. The study by Oregon State University researchers contends that bison “have become a barrier to ecosystem recovery in the iconic Lamar Valley.” Bison, they say, have 10 times the impact elk have on the valley’s vegetation.

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Governors Grizzly Bear Advisory Council considers recommendations regarding hunting once delisted

When it comes to grizzly bears in Montana, hunting is more of a sociological and political tool rather than a biological one. “Whether or not there’s a hunting of grizzly bears really is a social and a value-driven issue,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks administrator Ken McDonald. “Biologically, it’s a management tool that’s available to us once bears are delisted. Whether we utilize that tool or not is a bigger question that the public generally needs to weigh in on.”

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Historic agreement to protect monarch butterfly issued by FWS

The candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) potentially applies to over 26 million acres managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. Via the agreement, public and private partners can voluntarily adopt conservation measures that are beneficial to the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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Cattle conflicts prompt FWS to kill Mexican wolves

The killing of four Mexican gray wolves by U.S. wildlife officials has drawn the ire of environmentalists who say management of the species is undercutting efforts to restore the endangered predators to the American Southwest. The USFWS took the action after nonlethal means failed to get the predators to stop killing cattle. The latest deaths highlight a conflict that has persisted since reintroduction began more than 20 years ago. Over the last year, ranchers have seen a record number of cattle kills as the wolf population has increased.

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Carcass removal available on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front

In the ongoing effort to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock producers on the Rocky Mountain Front, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are continuing a carcass collection and removal service again this spring. Carcasses of dead livestock and other animals are significant attractants for grizzly bears, particularly in the spring as the bears emerge from winter dens. Carcass dispersal or removal helps reduce attractants that might otherwise draw bears into conflict with people or livestock.

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BLM plan eyes 1,000 miles of new fuel breaks in 3 states

A plan to help in the battle against devastating wildfires creates fuel breaks 400 feet wide along 987 miles of roads in southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon that will be tied into an existing fuel break system in northern Nevada. The BLM on Friday released a final environmental impact statement for the Tri-State Fuel Breaks Project, opening a 30-day comment period. The agency said creating fuel breaks by clearing vegetation will help firefighters stop wildfires and protect key habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife.

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Fact vs. fiction: The effect wolves have on Yellowstone’s game animals, ecology

This is the second in a series of articles looking at the impact of reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone National Park 25 years ago. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, this article explains what we know and don’t know by allowing federal, state and local wildlife and livestock managers to respond to common questions and concerns regarding wolves.

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Yellowstone’s wolves 25 years after reintroduction: Separating fact from fiction

A group of wolves from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, arrived at Yellowstone National Park on Jan. 12, 1995. The wolves were penned and given time to acclimate to the environment before the first of them were released on March 21, 1995. The purpose of this article, and others to follow, is to examine the reasons, controversies and ramifications of reintroduction. They will separate fact from fiction and reality from fable by allowing federal, state and local managers to respond to persistent claims and concerns.

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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.

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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. 

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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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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.

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Size of the herd still up for debate

There are those who contend Yellowstone’s northern bison herd, numbering 4,000 and approximately 10 times larger than historical size, is leaving a damaging impact on the land. There are those who would argue the shifting landscape is more a part of the natural process that includes a very large herd of ungulates, like the bison and elk. One thing that all agree on is that Yellowstone National Park, and its surrounding ecosystems, are a treasure to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. How to best accomplish that is still up for debate.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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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

As meat and dairy take hits, plant-based alternatives thrive

As the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the meat and dairy industries, plenty of grocery shoppers are turning to plant-based alternatives. Supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 crisis have forced farmers to dump their milk and euthanize their livestock. Meanwhile, makers of plant-based products like Impossible Foods say sales are booming.

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‘Things will change.’ Researchers warn farmers to adapt

Farmers have been warned for years that climate change will disrupt growing conditions and crop yields. Pennsylvania State University researchers released findings this week suggesting those changes could come within the lifetimes of many current farmers and that warming could have major implications for the Corn Belt, the heart of the U.S. agricultural economy.

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

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

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

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

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NM cattle ranchers fear ‘demise’ of industry

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

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

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

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States seek federal beef price-fixing probe

Nearly a dozen Midwestern and Western state AGs joined the growing chorus of officials asking DOJ to investigate anticompetitive behavior by major meatpackers, citing the high price of retail beef while live cattle prices continue to sink. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr,the state AGs on Tuesday said that heavy consolidation in the sector means beef processors “are well positioned to coordinate their behavior and create a bottleneck in the cattle industry — to the detriment of ranchers and consumers alike.” They’re asking for a “thorough examination of the competitive dynamics of this industry.”

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USDA announces $5million for wetland mitigation banking program

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $5 million for wetland mitigation banks. This funding through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program is to help conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Applications must be submitted by July 6th, 2020.

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

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

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Report: Every sector must slash emissions — and fast

Significant economic incentives will be imperative to ensuring all sectors of the global economy can — and do — take the steps necessary to maintain a livable planet, according to a new analysis by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The report outlines pathways business leaders could follow in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, including reducing the amount of deforestation by 75% by 2030.

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‘No good answer’ to meat industry nightmare

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

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Colorado Farm & Food Systems Respond & Rebuild Fund

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

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Coronavirus at meatpacking plants worse than first thought

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

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Livestock producers get lion share of COVID-19 ag aid

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

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Cat Urbigkit: Rejecting an unsustainable system

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

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USDA announces coronavirus food assistance program

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

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USDA Wildlife Services to use $1.3 M to implement, evaluate nonlethal predation management tools

The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.

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

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

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Cargill-led fund to pay U.S. farmers for carbon capture, exchange credits

Global commodities trader Cargill Inc starting this spring will pay American farmers for capturing carbon in their field soils and cutting fertilizer runoff, an executive said. The Soil & Water Outcomes Fund, a partnership with the Iowa Soybean Association and third-party verification company Quantified Ventures, will then sell the environmental credits created to polluters such as cities and companies, including Cargill itself.

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

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

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

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

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Agri-Pulse Poll: Farmers back carbon markets, but divided on climate change

Nearly one in every two American farmers would be interested in being paid to help reduce climate change, even though the climate issue is a relatively low priority and producers aren’t necessarily worried about its impact on their operations. The poll also found that large majorities of farmers already have undertaken many practices that conserve carbon in the soil, reduce the use of pesticides and other inputs, or curb runoff of pollutants.

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Colorado farms reinvent to meet communities’ needs

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

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

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

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COVID-19 aid package offers assistance to rural America

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

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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

Rising river temps threaten salmon. Dams are to blame

More than a dozen federal dams in the Columbia River Basin are the main contributors to rising temperatures that can be deadly for migrating fish, EPA said this week, beginning the process of setting standards. Facing a court-ordered deadline, the agency released a draft total maximum daily load, or TMDL, analysis for temperature in the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Lower Snake River, in the Pacific Northwest. The draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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Shrub encroachment on grasslands can increase groundwater recharge

A new study modeled shrub encroachment on a sloping landscape and reached a startling conclusion: Shrub encroachment on slopes can increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. The effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected during climate change.

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Biologist looks into how native plants survive in the driest soil

What limits the ability of plants to draw water from dry soil? That is the question Cal State Fullerton plant biologist H. Jochen Schenk and his international research collaborators asked in an effort to solve the mystery of how plants suck water from the driest soil. In their study, the researchers found why plants can’t survive and function in this dry soil, including the physical limits to the amount of suction plants can produce to move water up to their leaves.

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New Mexico to consider river protections as mining plan looms

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

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Water quality can impact livestock production

Providing adequate water to livestock is critical for animal health and production. Canadian studies have shown the quality of water accessible to livestock is directly tied to the amount of forage they consume. Studies report improved gains by as much as 0.24 pound per day in yearlings and 0.33 pound per day in calves receiving good-quality water.

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Rethinking (waste)water and conservation

In an article published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, [Kurt] Schwabe and his co-researchers [from the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside] take a close look at how water conservation measures taken in Southern California in the wake of a major drought affected the availability and quality of regional wastewater.

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

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

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Understanding moisture and rainfall

The role that atmospheric water vapour plays in weather is complex and not clearly understood. However, U.S. researchers say they are starting to get a handle on it after teasing out the relationship between morning soil moisture and afternoon rainfall under different atmospheric conditions. “The prevailing wisdom… is that if you have wetter soil in the morning, you’ll have a greater occurrence of rainfall in afternoon, but it’s more complicated than that,” says Josh Welty from the University of Arizona, lead author of a paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

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USDA announces $5 million for wetland mitigation banking program

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $5 million for wetland mitigation banks. This funding through the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program is to help conservation partners develop or establish mitigation banks to help agricultural producers maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Applications must be submitted by July 6, 2020.

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Irrigated crops underestimation risks water shortages

The area of agricultural land that will require irrigation in future could be up to four times larger than currently estimated, a new study has revealed. Research shows the amount of land that will require human intervention to water crops by 2050 has been severely underestimated due to computer models not taking into account many uncertainties, such as population changes and availability of water.

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California snowpack measures below normal for spring

The last seasonal survey of snow in the Sierra Nevada confirms that California had a dry winter that will leave much-needed runoff levels below normal, authorities said yesterday. Sierra snowmelt typically provides about 30% of the state’s water supply.

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California agencies sue state as irrigation war escalates

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

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Colorado governor signs five major water bills into law

Gov. Jared Polis, even as COVID-19 swept across the state, gave his stamp of approval to five major pieces of water legislation, paving the way for everything from more water for environmental streamflows to a new study on how to limit water speculation. Three of the new laws address water for streams, fish and habitat, allowing more loans of water to bolster environmental flows, protecting such things as water for livestock from being appropriated for instream flows, and using an existing water management tool, known as an augmentation plan, to set aside water rights for streams.

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Early shots fired in legal fight over WOTUS rewrite

Property rights advocates today filed one of the first lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s Clean Water Act rule, arguing that the regulation does not go far enough in limiting the law’s reach. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers last week finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, opening the door for what is expected to be dozens of lawsuits. Most challenges are expected to come from environmental groups and blue states arguing that the rule improperly guts much of the law.

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New Mexico senators weigh in on stream access

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

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‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science

A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts groundwater science at the center of decisions about how to regulate water pollution. Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies.

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EPA finalizes Trump administration rollbacks on stream and wetland protections

The Trump administration published a final rule Tuesday rolling back Obama-era environmental protections. The final rule, written by the Engineers Corps and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), redefines the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, passed under President Obama in 2015.

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Plan calls for diverting, storing water from Gila River

Water from two rivers that span parts of New Mexico and Arizona would be diverted and stored under a project proposed by the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity. The BLM and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission are gathering public comments on an environmental review of the proposal. The fight over the Gila River has prompted protests and legal fights over the years. Environmentalists have suggested the effort to divert water would result in a $1 billion boondoggle, but supporters argue that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation districts in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water as drought persists.

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First-of-its-kind water conservation project on sold Colorado ranch

The sale of Little Cimarron Valley Ranch in southwest Colorado represents a successful partnership with a number of different stakeholders and the culmination of an innovative water conservation initiative that sets precedent for a new approach to Alternate Transfer Methods within the Colorado Water Plan. This solution is an attractive alternative as it alleviates the need for “buy-and-dry” transfers. This kind of split-water agreement, whereby water rights are utilized for both irrigation and in-stream flow, has never been completed in the western US until now.

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Las Vegas giving up bid to pump, pipe from rural valleys

Las Vegas water officials said Friday they’re giving up a decades-long plan to pump and pipe groundwater from rural northeast Nevada to suburbs and tourist resorts in the state’s largest metropolitan area. The Southern Nevada Water Authority said it won’t appeal a judge’s order for the authority to recalculate the amount of water that might be available below ground to supply the project.

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Study: Warming makes U.S. West megadrought worst in modern age

A two-decade-long dry spell that has parched much of the western United States is turning into one of the deepest megadroughts in the region in more than 1,200 years, a new study found. Scientists looked at a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico, plus a sliver of southwestern Montana and parts of northern Mexico.

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Largest US dam removal stirs debate over coveted West water

The second-largest river in California has sustained Native American tribes with plentiful salmon for millennia, provided upstream farmers with irrigation water for generations and served as a haven for retirees who built dream homes along its banks. With so many competing demands, the Klamath River has come to symbolize a larger struggle over the increasingly precious water resources of the U.S. West, and who has the biggest claim to them.

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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

Shrub encroachment on grasslands can increase groundwater recharge

A new study modeled shrub encroachment on a sloping landscape and reached a startling conclusion: Shrub encroachment on slopes can increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. The effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected during climate change.

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Saving our planet starts in the soil

Peter Byck, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, is currently helping to lead a $6.3 million research project focused on Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing; collaborating with 20 scientists and 10 farmers, focused on soil health and soil carbon storage; microbial, bug and bird biodiversity; water cycling and much more.

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

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

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Water quality can impact livestock production

Providing adequate water to livestock is critical for animal health and production. Canadian studies have shown the quality of water accessible to livestock is directly tied to the amount of forage they consume. Studies report improved gains by as much as 0.24 pound per day in yearlings and 0.33 pound per day in calves receiving good-quality water.

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Soil pathogens rise as temperatures do

Pathogenic plant fungi are likely to multiply and spread as rising temperatures warm soils, thereby accelerating climate change-induced crop losses, according to research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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

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

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Sweetgrass official trailer

An unsentimental elegy to the American West, Sweetgrass follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montanas breathtaking and often dangerous Absaroka-Beartooth mountains for summer pasture. This astonishingly beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed.

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Fire, mixed-species grazing enhance livestock production in research project

Researchers from Oklahoma State University are partnering with university scientists and researchers in two other states on a project using fire and mixed animal species to graze in an effort to enhance livestock production and more sustainable rangelands.

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Soil pores hold the key to stability for desert soils

With little dead plant material to decompose and create a rich layer of organic matter, desert soils are unique. It is important to study these soils because semi-arid lands cover about one-third of the planet’s land area. Soils with V horizons are often disturbed because populations of cities in arid environments are growing.

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NMSU study finds cover crops can improve soil health

A five-year study by a New Mexico State University researcher found that integrating cover crops, such as legumes and grasses, into existing cropping systems can increase the biological health of soils on hot and dry semiarid lands.

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NRCS hiring 1,000-plus employees to bolster field offices

Understaffed for years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is making a push to hire more than 1,000 employees so farmers can be assured of receiving technical assistance on conservation practices. The increased hires will be welcome in rural America.

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Montana farmers, ranchers implement conservation practices

Agriculture is key to Montana’s economy as well as to the abundance of the Treasure State’s open land. Farmers and ranchers are committed to continuous improvement, growing more food using less resources. They spend most of their time outdoors and enjoy working the land to ensure it’s sustainable; in fact, every day is Earth Day for farmers and ranchers.

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Women In Ranching Program forges new ways of connecting

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

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Returning land to nature with high-yield farming

The expansion of farmlands to meet the growing food demand of the world’s ever expanding population places a heavy burden on natural ecosystems. A new IIASA study however shows that about half the land currently needed to grow food crops could be spared if attainable crop yields were achieved globally and crops were grown where they are most productive.

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

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

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BLM advances large-scale New Mexico wind project

The Trump administration today moved forward on a wind project on public lands in New Mexico as it continues advancing major renewable energy projects for approval by the end of the year. The BLM released a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Borderlands Wind Project in Catron County, just east of the Arizona border, covering about 16,400 acres of BLM land and another 10,000 acres of state and private lands.

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BLM approves controversial Colorado management plan

The BLM has approved what it calls a “balanced” land use plan for southwest Colorado that critics say unnecessarily emphasizes energy development over conservation. BLM’s record of decision approves the new Uncompahgre resource management plan according to a notice in today’s Federal Register. The updated plan has drawn criticism, especially from those opposed to opening tens of thousands of acres in the agriculturally rich North Fork Valley region to oil and gas leasing.

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Greens sue to end ‘unlawful’ grazing at sensitive Arizona site

A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging a federally approved plan to allow livestock grazing on sensitive Arizona lands. The lawsuit centers on stipulations in a resource management plan (RMP) the BLM finalized last year. The complaint says BLM unlawfully approved “expanded livestock grazing” and “expansive vegetation treatments” within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

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

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

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Public comment open on programmatic EIS for rangeland restoration in Great Basin

Draft PEIS Available for Public Comment: April 3 – June 2, 2020. The BLM has prepared a Draft Programmatic EIS for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin. The Programmatic EIS analyzes several options for carrying out fuels reduction and rangeland restoration projects. The project area covers nearly 223 million acres and includes portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The project’s purpose is to enhance the long-term function, viability, resistance and resilience of sagebrush communities in the project area. Functioning and viable sagebrush communities provide multiple-use opportunities for all user groups as well as habitat for sagebrush-dependent species. The BLM is inviting the public to review and comment on the Draft Programmatic EIS.

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

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

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Environmental group: BLM is pushing through Idaho grazing permits

An environmental group claims U.S. officials are using the coronavirus pandemic to force through a long-delayed Idaho livestock grazing allotment decision in critical sage grouse habitat for a powerful agribusiness. WildLands Defense is asking the BLM to delay its March 20 decision approving Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.’s permit on about 94 square miles in southwestern Idaho until the virus abates. The director for the Idaho bureauhas refused. It’s not clear when the agency will issue a final decision, which would start a 30-day appeals process.

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Conservation planning helps save our soil

American farmers and ranchers face a seemingly impossible task — to feed a rapidly growing global population. This challenge is being met with fewer farmable acres, less freshwater and more pronounced climate change. In an effort to assist the landowners and operators to meet these challenges, the National Conservation Planning Partnership (NCPP) was formed to emphasize the critical role that conservation planning plays in advancing voluntary conservation efforts on private lands.

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Can ‘Carbon Smart’ Farming Play a Key Role in the Climate Fight?

Markets are emerging to pay farmers to store more carbon in the soil by using improved agricultural practices. But flows of greenhouse gases into and out of soil are complex, and some scientists are questioning whether these efforts will actually help slow global warming.

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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

Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

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

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Shrub encroachment on grasslands can increase groundwater recharge

A new study modeled shrub encroachment on a sloping landscape and reached a startling conclusion: Shrub encroachment on slopes can increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. The effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected during climate change.

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Agencies revamp strategy to address crews’ virus risk

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

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Fire, mixed-species grazing enhance livestock production in research project

Researchers from Oklahoma State University are partnering with university scientists and researchers in two other states on a project using fire and mixed animal species to graze in an effort to enhance livestock production and more sustainable rangela