Meatpacking plant closures caused by coronavirus outbreaks, including one at the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, sent shockwaves through the food system. But some small producers were ready to seize an opportunity. Long sought policy changes that could make the food system more resilient to such shocks are also gaining traction, as WLA’s policy director Patricia Dowd explains.
COVID-19-driven closures at meatpacking plants have resulted in lower prices for ranchers because of the growing number of cattle in the pipeline. On the other end of the supply chain, people are paying more for meat in the stores and can’t always find what they’re looking for. Grocery stores have put per-customer limits on some meat purchases. Meanwhile, there has been a huge surge in demand by both ranchers and consumers for the services of smaller processing plants around the state. The question that ranchers, processors and agriculture experts are asking is whether current concerns about the health and reliability of the beef supply will produce lasting changes.
Fewer steps in any process can reduce the margin for error, and as the nation is facing significant challenges to its industrial food system highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense to some to rely on a short supply chain.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fifth-generation Flying Diamond Ranch builds land stewardship into their business model.
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.
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.
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.
The pandemic sweeping through major U.S. cities is now wreaking havoc on rural communities, with some recording the nation’s most new confirmed cases per capita in the past two weeks. The virus is infecting thousands of often impoverished rural residents every day, swamping struggling health care systems and piling responsibility on government workers who often perform multiple jobs they never signed up for. Officials attribute much of the spread in rural America to outbreaks in workplaces, living facilities and social gatherings.
The federal government’s PPP and CFAP relief programs leave out beginning farmers even as the coronavirus decimates their primary sales outlets. Talk to young farmers and one verb comes up repeatedly. Pivot. They have all had to pivot and then do it again as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated their customer bases and traditional supply chains.
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on meat consumption, and the damage may linger for several years, food and agriculture analysts say. A string of reports in recent weeks suggest that meat consumption in the United States and globally has entered a downward trend due to the pandemic and that consumer preferences have changed, even as longer-term forecasts point to strong demand.
On Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock issued a new directive, which requires face coverings be worn in certain indoor spaces and for certain organized outdoor activities in counties currently experiencing four or more active cases of COVID-19.
Gov. Bullock says the directive requires businesses, government offices, and other indoor spaces open to the public to ensure that employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and other members of the public wear a face mask that covers their mouth and nose while remaining inside these spaces. The directive also requires face coverings at organized outdoor activities of 50 or more people, where social distancing cannot be maintained.
“To save family farms, ranches, and rural communities from economic collapse, the United States should launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature”—that pays private landowners to protect the water, air and natural places that everyone needs to stay healthy.” The report focuses on expanding conservation easement programs and increasing conservation easements nationwide, setting aside as much as 55 million acres by 2030 under long-term or permanent protections.
The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) outlines key information from President Trump’s Executive Order (EO), titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities.” The EO streamlines infrastructure investments by instructing agencies, including executive departments, to use “emergency authorities” for swift implementation of projects.
Are you a farmer or rancher whose operation has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. USDA is accepting applications now through August 28, 2020. Producers should apply through the Farm Service Agency at their local USDA Service Center.
States are facing significant shortages of conservation officers, who help protect natural resources and wildlife. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has triggered major budget cuts, further threatening funding for environmental conservation and could result in additional cuts to conservation districts that are already cash-strapped and understaffed.
Well into the growing season, many farmers who have lost both revenue and markets as a result of the ongoing pandemic continue to struggle with paying existing farm debt. While broader debt relief efforts are needed to address the unsustainable levels of farm debt that are saddling farmers all across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced changes to federal farm loan programs that may provide immediate, short-term relief to some farmers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the meat processing industry in a tailspin amid Tyson and Smithfield plant closures owing to outbreaks of COVID-19, there is a potential nationwide meat shortage looming. This shortage, coupled with consumer uncertainty during this anxious time, has seemingly contributed to a surge in demand for plant-based alternatives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ballot measure to widen wolves’ comeback could threaten partnership between conservation community and agriculture. Colorado’s statewide wolf-reintroduction ballot initiative is rankling rural communities, rekindling old conflicts over the purpose of public lands. It’s straining the hard-won partnership that ensures, if not pure nature, the conservation of open landscapes in the face of Colorado’s population growth and development boom.
As of March 1, approximately 95,000 federally protected wild horses and burros were estimated to roam on BLM-managed public lands in the West — more than three and a half times what the land can sustainably support and the most ever estimated by the BLM in a given year. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond highlighted the BLM’s challenging mission to preserve and protect these animals in an op-ed published last week in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Federal regulators have thrown a significant curveball at a coalition that has been planning for years to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border in order to save salmon populations that have dwindled to almost nothing. Federal regulators refused to let the current owner fully transfer the impoundments to a nonprofit to carry out the demolition.
Low runoff, top-of-the-thermometer temperatures and little rainfall have translated into a dismal summer on the Rio Grande, with large river stretches south of Albuquerque already dry. But water managers are finally breathing a sigh of relief. The state of New Mexico has received permission from neighboring states to access up to 38,000 acre-feet of water, or more than 12 billion gallons, that is currently stored under the Rio Grande Compact agreement.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its initial review of a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has concluded that the petition presents substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. Accordingly, the Service will now begin an in-depth review of this species to determine whether it should be listed under the ESA.
House Democrats have proposed planting trees on tens of millions of acres of land to help head off climate change. On federal land, though, the goal raises a question: How many of those trees will one day be cut down?Reforestation on land overseen by the Forest Service isn’t strictly about planting new trees. The agency’s mixed missions of protecting wild areas and watersheds while providing timber supplies are bound to keep playing out as Democrats push the agenda, according to congressional and industry sources.
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the acceptance of more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands during the recent signup period that began March 16 and ended May 15. The number of acres offered during this signup period was 1.9 million acres, over 3 times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed a 2018 Montana District Court decision that struck down federal efforts to remove Yellowstone grizzlies’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act. The delisting in 2017 turned over management of the species to the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, allowing the states to plan bear hunts.
The Trump Administration has taken action throughout 2020 to narrow the scope of which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The recently limited rule took effect on June 22, 2020, which in essence, opens the doors for developers anxious to get to work ahead of future legal action and the 2020 presidential election. Colorado’s position as being the sole state refusing to comply with the WOTUS rule is significant, and is worthwhile to monitor.
The Senate has approved a bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands, a measure supporters say would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.
The Klamath Basin battle over irrigation rights and private property has been in a legal dispute for 18 years. The Klamath “takings” case (Baley v. United States) stems from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cutting off irrigation water to the federal Klamath Project, located in Northern California and southern Oregon, in 2001. Klamath water users sued the United States to assert that Klamath Project water users have a Fifth Amendment property interest, which entitles them to compensation for the 2001 shutoff. The case will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued a memorandum to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen providing direction that will serve as a blueprint to help modernize the agency’s systems and approaches to ensure national forests and grasslands continue to meet the needs of the American people.
The Trump administration’s proposed narrowing of Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections will have a “likely negative” impact on birds that includes “increased” mortality, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service study made public today.
The agriculture industry would be able to participate in a growing carbon credit market under bipartisan legislation introduced recently that would funnel money to farmers who use sustainable practices. The legislation tasks the U.S. Department of Agriculture with creating a certification program to assist farmers and forest landowners in “implementing the protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices.”
President Donald Trump will sign an executive order directing agencies to waive the requirements of environmental statutes like the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in order to expedite federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects, according to four people briefed on the matter. The president cites the current “economic emergency” in his rationale for the order.
U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would direct the Agriculture Department to help farmers, ranchers and landowners use carbon dioxide-absorbing practices to generate carbon credits, a rare collaboration on climate change. The proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program that would help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets.
The BLM is proposing to streamline rules governing timber harvests, sales and other forest management activities in the name of reducing wildfire risks across the West. The BLM announced a proposal to establish a new categorical exclusion (CX) under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would streamline the agency’s review of routine timber salvage projects and operations.
The EPA issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams. The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.
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.
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.
Colorado and other Western states will be hard pressed to shield their rivers and streams under a new federal Clean Water Act rule finalized last month, largely because hundreds of shallow Western rivers are no longer protected, and writing new state laws and finding the cash to fill the regulatory gap will likely take years to accomplish, officials said. Though many agricultural interests and water utilities support the new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, as it is known, Colorado Attorney General and director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said they will take legal action to protect streams that are no longer subject to federal oversight.
In a game-changing decision for struggling Southern Resident orcas and endangered salmon, Washington state will exercise its authority—for the first time ever—to require federal dam operators to keep the Columbia and Snake rivers cool enough for salmon survival. Washington state issued Clean Water Act 401 Certifications that require eight federal dams on the Lower Columbia and Lower Snake rivers to meet safe limits for temperature and oil pollution.
Attorneys for the U.S. government and the state of Wyoming urged an appeals court yesterday to throw out much of a judge’s ruling that blocked the first grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 in almost three decades. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It involves more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park that had their protections stripped away and then restored by a judge in Montana just as hunting was scheduled to begin.
Environmentalists have failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that grazing authorizations unlawfully harmed bull trout on seven allotments in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. The appellate court has rejected allegations from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Center for Biological Diversity that more than 100 federal grazing decisions — including permit approvals and operating instructions — violated the forest’s management plan over a decade.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The state budget proposal delivered earlier this month by California Governor Gavin Newsom includes billions of spending on natural resources and the environment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Trump administration is expected to finalize a rule limiting which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act this month.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A debate recently heated up in Montana caused by the complexities of tying elk conflict reduction to access to private land.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed one of the three members of an endangered wolf pack in the northeastern corner of the state in an attempt to reduce the pack’s attacks on cattle. The adult, non-breeding female member of the so-called Wedge wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle on public and private grazing lands in northeastern Stevens County was killed Monday.
A rare frog has been found beyond its known range in the Southwest. A U.S. Forest Service volunteer recently photographed a Chiricahua leopard frog in an earthen stock tank near the town of Camp Verde in central Arizona. Biologists later confirmed that at least 10 of the frogs were living there. The aquatic frogs were thought to be only in eastern Arizona, western New Mexico and northern Mexico but historically were more widespread.
The author of “Eager,” a book about beavers, suggests ranchers should be rewarded for wolves appearing on their property. Ben Goldfarb points to similar programs in Sweden, Arizona and Montana.
California’s only known gray wolf pack has eight new pups. Eight youngsters were tallied in the Lassen Pack in northeastern California, according to an April-through-June report from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Genetic testing of their excrement shows at least four are male and two are female, according to the agency.
Conservation groups asked the federal government Wednesday to provide Endangered Species Act protections to a southeast Alaska wolf population they say is under threat from factors including the loss of habitat and hunting and trapping.
With greater sage-grouse numbers continuing to decline throughout their range in the western United States, one state is engaging ranchers to preserve habitat for the bird, known for its elaborate mating rituals.
A two-year search for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades has found none, a scientist said Wednesday. Researchers tested the DNA of thousands of scat piles sniffed out by dogs. Many piles looked like wolf droppings, but all turned out to be from dogs. “If wolves are in the South Cascades, they are lone wolves.”
Negotiations among environmentalists and state and federal officials in Arizona and New Mexico have resulted in a set of recommendations and other provisions that environmentalists say will help protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl while allowing forest thinning projects to move forward.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured and euthanized a subadult male grizzly bear about five miles west of Shelby on June 19. The bear had been involved in multiple conflicts between Ethridge and Ledger this spring, and attempts to prevent incidents were unsuccessful. In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the decision was made not to relocate the bear because its undesirable behavior appeared engrained and posed a human safety risk.
Conservationists say Nevada’s unprecedented interpretation of state water laws to restrict groundwater pumping for development in the desert northeast of Las Vegas could help prevent the extinction of a tiny endangered fish. The order that the state engineer issued this week in a decades-old legal battle is expected to curtail development across 1,500 square miles that share the same groundwater supply in the driest state in the nation.
The state of Washington on Friday authorized the killing of two wolves in the Togo pack in Ferry County because of repeated depredations of cattle grazing in the Kettle River Range. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the pack has been involved in seven cattle depredations in the past 10 months.
A federal judge has upheld U.S. Forest Service grazing plans that allow the lethal removal of grizzly bears that are caught killing cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest of Wyoming.
Many people care about the future management of Mexican wolves, judging by the 40,000-plus public comments submitted during a Fish and Wildlife Service review period that expires tonight. The public outpouring put the issue atop the federal government’s “what’s trending” list of regulatory actions today and underscored the tricky choices ahead as FWS reviews the “nonessential experimental population” and management of the wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.
Following calls from landowners for additional conflict prevention capacity at the 100+ person meeting convened by WLA near the Gravelly Range in Montana in November, an additional range rider has hit the ground in the region. The new range rider is working to prevent grizzly bears from preying upon livestock in response to increasing bear activity. “We’re trying to protect livestock, and we’re trying to keep bears out of trouble,” said John Steuber, Montana state director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.
When drought reshuffles the green-up of habitats that mule deer migrate across, it dramatically shortens the annual foraging bonanza they rely on. That is the main finding of a new University of Wyoming study, which shows the benefits of migration are likely to decrease for mule deer and other migratory herbivores as drought becomes more common due to ongoing climate change.
USDA staff at the Agricultural Research Service are searching for the Asian giant hornet (AGH) in hopes of preventing a serious threat to the U.S. beekeeping industry. “If AGH were to become established in Washington State, it could pose a serious threat to the beekeeping industry. AGH could subsequently impact the state’s billion-dollar agriculture industry.”
U.S. officials will delay the repair of an impassable northern Idaho road in important grizzly bear habitat near the Canadian border because of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Stories of an “insect apocalypse” came to a head in 2018 as scientists sent out the alarm on the dramatic loss of populations around the world. But there’s another less-told but equally important story of bringing uncharismatic minifauna back from the brink through cooperation among sometimes-opposing groups: private landowners, public officials and conservation activists.
A coalition of conservation groups sued the U.S. government Tuesday over livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest, saying grizzly bears are too often killed by ranchers and wildlife managers for pursuing cattle in such settings. Forest officials decided in October to allow livestock grazing to continue across more than 260 square miles (690 square kilometers) in the Green River headwaters of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Migratory birds may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change compared with birds that stay put during the winter, scientists reported May 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that residential birds in North America have expanded their ranges into warming northerly areas since the 1970s, while the breeding grounds occupied by migratory birds have shrunk.
One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen that died in the first four months of the year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. But ranchers say they face constant pressure from the wolves, pointing to the more than two dozen cattle that were killed just last month.
For farmers and ranchers, prioritizing sustainability extends far beyond their own land. That’s how a unique initiative called Farmers for Monarchs was born. The collaborative involves farmers, ranchers, landowners, researchers, academic institutions, government agencies, conservationists and businesses, all working together to sustain monarch butterfly populations on farms and ranches across the country.
Birds living on river banks are ingesting plastic at the rate of hundreds of tiny fragments a day, according to a new study. Scientists say this is the first clear evidence that plastic pollutants in rivers are finding their way into wildlife and moving up the food chain.
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.
Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. government from killing coyotes and other predators in Idaho until environmental studies are carried out. The Western Watersheds Project and two other groups are also asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho in the lawsuit filed Thursday to rule that an eastern Idaho facility in Pocatello that manufactures poison to kill predators is operating in violation of environmental laws.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the climate changes, altering 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the Ladder Ranch, a multi-generation family works to keep their public lands ranching operation afloat while protecting the greater sage grouse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although they are a proven benefit to drivers and animals alike, bridges and tunnels across roads aren’t being built fast enough, experts say.
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.
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.
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.
Park Service Veteran Norm Bishop tried to prepare the Yellowstone region for wolves. Today he reflects on what we’ve learned.
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.
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.
A trillion dollars worth of American farmland will change hands in the coming years. Wealthy investors are likely to buy more of it with the power to shape rural communities and the environment.
Presented by Conservation Finance Network in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, the 2020 Boot Camp Webinar Short Course explores the latest trends and strategies in funding and financing being put to work for land and resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship. With an emphasis on hands-on tools and lessons from relevant case studies, we review innovative and overlooked opportunities in conservation finance in this 4-part video series.
For western lands, the answer goes beyond the simple economics of production value. Ranchland value varies according to water rights, location, terrain, public land grazing allotment — and finally, its hay production and livestock stocking capacity. Land values can also be impacted by economic downturns, including a pandemic. Many ranches are priced according to their acreage amounts, both deeded and their public land allotments, instead of agriculture production value.
A coalition of nearly 50 hunting, fishing, birding and conservation groups recently sent a letter to the House of Representatives, united in calling for market-based tools and incentives to help combat climate change.
Check out this recorded discussion on long-term and short term forecast, tools for predicting forage production, and beef market outlook during 2020 drought. Featuring: Annie Overlin and Kevin Jablonski – CSU Range Extension, Justin Derner- USDA-ARS, David Augustine-ARS, Dannele-USDA-ARS, John Ritten- UWY, Steve Oswald and Kenny Burk- southern CO ranchers.
Tired of the terms “unprecedented times” or “these challenging times”? I know they wear me down, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that right now things are different, and the future is a little murkier. Perhaps this is a good time to take control of some of that future, which can be a simple as creating a succession plan.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought the instability of the consolidated meat and poultry sectors into sharp focus. This has led to increased discussions, and some action, among consumers, producers, farm organizations, and Congress about how to expand and support small and medium sized slaughter facilities upon which many farmers and ranchers rely. Luckily, there are a few existing federal programs that could be expanded to further support small, local, and regional meat and poultry processing plants and increase farmers’ access to slaughter and processing options.
With Earth’s wildlife now facing an extinction crisis, a group of economists and scientists is hoping to persuade governments that it pays to protect nature. Specifically, expanding areas under conservation could yield a return of at least $5 for every $1 spent just by giving nature more room to thrive. That in turn would boost agricultural and forestry yields, improve freshwater supplies, preserve wildlife and help fight climate change – all of which would boost global economic output on average by about $250 billion annually.
Healthy soil is drought-resistant and produces more nutritious food. And New Mexico “could gain economically by building soil health and feeding its own people,” reads the “New Mexico Farm and Food Economy” report from the Crossroads Resource Center. The report notes that New Mexico farmers sell about $3.1 billion of food products every year. But New Mexicans spend $6.5 billion annually on food grown outside of the state.
There are a growing number of “carbon farmers” who are reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases by taking better care of the soil that sustains their farms. That means making changes like plowing fields less often, covering soil with composted mulch and year-round cover crops, and turning drainage ditches into rows of trees. Now Congress is considering legislation that would make these green practices eligible for a growing international carbon-trading marketplace that would also reward farmers with cash.
Starbucks is adding plant-based meat to its U.S. menu for the first time. The Seattle coffee chain said today that a breakfast sandwich made with imitation sausage from Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods is now available at a majority of its U.S. restaurants. Starbucks said earlier this year that it would add plant-based meat to its menus worldwide as part of an effort to reduce its environmental impact.
Water Asset Management, a New York City-based hedge fund, is buying irrigated land on the western slope of Colorado as an investment in the future potential value of the water. Although the company isn’t doing anything illegal, its actions have rekindled deep-seated and long-held fears about water in the West—that it could hasten the death of agricultural communities’ way of life and create an unregulated market for water that would drive up prices and drive out family farms.
Forging a new path for accelerating and scaling agricultural conservation is at the heart of a new public-private partnership announced today by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Truterra, LLC, the sustainability business at Land O’Lakes, Inc., one of America’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives.
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.”
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced Thursday over $4.4 million in grant funding for habitat conservation projects in 11 western states that conserve migration corridors and winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn, including $3.1 million from a public-private partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), according to a news release.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.