Skip to content Skip to navigation

Articles Worth Reading: August 21, 2018

... & the Best

Colorado River cutbacks loom in 2020; some Arizona farmers may fight to avoid them; Phoenix learning to fight the “silent storm” of heat deaths; Native Nations run the last salmon cannery in British Columbia, and more of the best environmental journalism in the past month. 
 

By Felicity Barringer

Colorado River Cutbacks Possible by 2020, the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts.The result could be water shortages in the Lower Basin states of Arizona, New Mexico. If Lake Mead’s elevator drops below 1,075 feet, as is likely in 2019, decade-old agreements mean downstream users will lose water the next year. Arizona farmers would be hit hardest. KUNC Radio Circle of Blue John Fleck

Arizona Farmers Who Depend on Irrigation Will Fight Cutbacks before they let one third of Pinal County’s agricultural fields go fallow. “That’s a pill we’re not going to swallow,” said one, a board member of the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, one of the county’s largest. “It would be a huge economic hardship.” Water Deeply

Phoenix Has Learned That Heat Can Kill, and More Is Killing More People. As summer temperatures have reached well above 100 degrees for days on end, Phoenix lost 155 people to heat-related deaths in 2017. To gird itself against the “silent storm” of heat deaths in the future, it aims to prepare for heat emergencies the way other cities prepare for hurricanes. Phoenix is in competition for a $500 million grant to make its ideas a reality. KJZZ/NPR

When It Comes to Sage Grouse Protections, Wyoming Wants to Keep Its Level of Protection. Even as the Interior Department seeks cutbacks in requirements for mitigating the destruction of sage grouse habitat, the state that houses one-third of these birds is pushing back. The federal government apparently will not disturb Wyoming’s rules even as it cuts back on similar safeguards of its own. In a recent letter to the Bureau of Land Management, Gov. Matt Mead said the federal agency should “defer to the state’s assessment of how to apply avoidance, minimization and, if necessary, compensatory mitigation to address impacts to this State-managed species.” Wyofile

The Ocean Off the San Diego Coast Just Broke All-Time Temperature Records. “Just like we have heatwaves on land, we also have heatwaves in the ocean,” said Art Miller of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At risk are kelp forests and coral reefs, and the marine “heatwaves” last longer than those in the atmosphere. A new study predicts they will become more common. The Guardian

The Last Salmon Cannery in British Columbia Is a Sign of the Future, as Native Nations are taking over the business of processing the fish that have sustained them for centuries. In 2015, the owner of St. Jean’s cannery, Gerard St. Jean, sold a controlling interest in his family’s business to NCN Cannery LP, a partnership between five of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations that call the western side of Vancouver Island home. Hakai Magazine

 

Previously: Articles Worth Reading: August 6, 2018

 

Submit a Comment

We'd like to know what you think. We will not share your email address or add you to any lists. If you'd like to be notified about new blog posts and news from the Center, you can join our mailing list.

You will receive emails no more than once a week. We will not share your information.

 

...& the Best

Western Articles and Media Elsewhere
Compiled by Felicity Barringer, Devon Burger, Madison Pobis, and Sierra Garcia

Articles Worth Reading: February 18, 2020

Oil Drilling, Coal Mining and Grazing Can Begin Where They Were Barred in an area that was, until recently, within the bounds of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. If fossil-fuel companies decide it could pay, coal mining or oil and gas development could now happen on more than 1,000 square miles within the former boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Tribal and advocacy groups requested measures to protect cultural sites in the Bears Ears area, but the new plan includes none of them. In fact, tribal spokesmen say the new plan removes protections that pre-dated the official designation of Bears Ears as a National Monument in 2016. Boise State Public Radio

After Three Texas Coal Plants Closed, Air Pollution Fell Dramatically, with emissions dropping by 152,000 tons in the first year. This included an 11 percent reduction of fine particulate matter that can cause asthma. This is an important step, but environmental advocates are still pushing Texas to monitor unauthorized air pollution. Though legal air pollution is declining, other emissions are increasing and are expected to worsen in the future. Texas Observer

Water Bottling Companies Have Rights to Water from a Small-Town Spring, but Washington State is looking to change that. When the tap into spring-fed sources, companies deplete springs and aquifers in order to ship water elsewhere and make a profit. This follows similar local efforts in Oregon and Montana — though a Montana county’s ordinance has been challenged in court. Washington is working to protect its local water supply as water scarcity becomes a more pressing issue. The Counter Pew Trusts Stateline

Printed Batteries Are Now Available, with Imprint Energy, a Bay Area company, printing hundreds of thousands of batteries that hold more energy and they claim are safer than lithium-ion products. They may help us tackle a number of environmental questions in a more efficient and safer way. Christine Ho, the company's co-founder and CEO, discusses the possibilities in this podcast. Green Tech Media

The Death of Even One Mountain Lion is a Significant Loss. Los Angeles is one of just two major cities that has big cats living within city limits. In the Santa Monica mountains, it is clear how difficult coexistence can be. Under certain conditions, property owners may take lethal action to protect their pets and livestock; the property owner responsible for killing a mountain lion called P-56 had lost 12 animals in nine separate invidents. Yet the loss of the mountain lion can have serious ramification on the species that already lacks genetic diversity. Outside Online

Articles Worth Reading: February 4, 2020

California Adopts Mandatory Composting Regulations to cut organized waste disposal by 75 percent over the next five years. Recycling rates have dropped since China stopped accepting much recycling; California’s recycling rate is down to 40 percent. Among other things, the rule aims to recover one-fifth of the edible food that is now thrown away. California is the first state to require groups that generate food waste – like grocery stores and restaurants -- to donate some unused food to people in need. Waste 360

By Allowing an Oil Company’s Operations to Harm Beluga Whales, the federal government is shirking its responsibility under the Endangered Species Act, according to lawsuits filed by two environmental groups on behalf of beluga whales in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The seismic blasts used by companies exploring to discover oil deposits, the nonprofit groups claim, can cause hearing loss in the whales, disrupt their communications, and hurt their ability to catch fish. Associated Press

Rainfall Causes Exponentially Larger Floods than Snowmelt, new research indicates. A study of 36 years’ worth of data shows rainfall-driven flooding can be 2.5 times more extensive than floods generated by snowmelt. This means that the western U.S. might face new challenges as the atmosphere continues to warm and more precipitation falls as rain. Stanford Earth

Starting With Four Northern California Communities, PG&E is Working to Build Microgrids that can resist fire-related power outages. These small power networks are usually plugged into the main electrical grid, but at times of fire-related shutoffs, they can be disconnected, creating independent islands of power. They will keep lights burning in areas that are especially vulnerable to outages, but microgrids also raise concerns about carbon impacts, as long as the grids continue to be powered with diesel. Utility Dive

Microsoft Pledged to Become “Carbon Negative,” meaning the company will remove more carbon than it emits by 2030—but the Xbox gaming console might stand in its way. The device uses a disproportionate amount of electricity, but its emissions also depend on individual behavior. A 2019 study by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory found that annual emissions from Americans playing video games equal those of 85 million refrigerators or five million cars. Grist

Articles Worth Reading: January 21, 2020

Glacier National Park is Going… Going… Not Quite Gone. While the park has lost more than three-quarters of the glaciers that defined its landscape 75 years ago, it still has at least 26, contrary to predictions that by 2020 warming would cost the park all its namesake ice. So park officials have been removing the official signs warning that all glaciers would melt by 2020, and a scientist is explaining why some predictions are iffy. Montana Public Radio

The Navajo Nation and Salt River Project Are Working Together to Develop a Solar Energy project. This 200-megawatt project is an important step in the Navajo Nation’s effort to move away from coal, which was an economic lifeline until the closing of the Navajo Generating Plant late last year. Associated Press/Durango Herald Native News Online

When Smoke’s in the Air, Death Rates Inch Up, finds a new study by University of Washington researchers and Washington state health officials. Researchers correlated a dozen years of deaths starting in 2006 and matched them with wildfire smoke’s locations, finding a one-percent increase in non-traumatic mortality on smoky days. “Estimates of death represent the tip of the iceberg,” said one researcher, pointing other, less-dramatic health consequences. Crosscut

Scientists Think They Know How a Million Seabirds Died: a 700-day marine heat wave in the northeast Pacific. Between 2014 and 2016, the heat wave led to above-average surface water temperatures, killing many small fish that the seabirds, known as common murres —as well as other species in the Gulf of Alaska—rely on. Associated Press KQED PLOS

Three Men, a Boy, and Four Goats — Traveling Together On A 100-Mile Trail. Bruce Kirkby recounts his experience and shares striking images of a father-son adventure in Utah. Maptia

Puget Sound Tribes and Scientists Join Forces to Breed Millions of Clams When members of the Suquamish tribe noticed a decrease in local cockle populations, Elizabeth Unsell, the tribal shellfish biologist, approached the Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) about possible options. Now, the tribe, PSRF, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have strategies to enhance shellfish breeding; this year, they succeeded in breeding more than a million juveniles The New Food Economy

Articles Worth Reading: January 6, 2020

Two Arizona Leaders Clashed Repeatedly Over Who Could Use How Much Colorado River Water. But when Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, realized their impasse could hurt all the water users they represented, they found a way to agree. So the fractious forces within Arizona united to join California and Nevada to approve the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan governing the future of the Colorado River. A year-end editorial called it “nothing short of historic….it proves that people with wildly different viewpoints can learn to work together and accomplish things that matter.” Arizona Republic

Successful Conservation Means More Seafloor Opening to Trawlers, some 15 years after extensive closures decimated the fishing industry that scrapes the ocean floor for fish like rockfish, perch and sole. Overfishing and crude methods led environmentalists to seek protection for the fish and the coral reefs. They successfully pushed for large closures, but have made peace with many fishermen as they now work to revive the industry in a sustainable fashion. The new task: revive consumer interest in species that have long been off the shelves. Fortune

Tumbling Into the New Year, Drivers in Washington Found Themselves Trapped by a growing forest of tumbleweeds. Thousands of the plants, which grow copiously in a valley near state route 240, were dislodged by high winds on New Year’s Eve, then clustered in an area of the highway that quickly became impassable. At least 20 people were trapped in cars under the growing pile of plants. One state trooper called it a “tumbleweed avalanche;” indeed, the plants, which had piled up to heights of 20 feet or more, were eventually removed by a snowplow. Spokane Statesman-Review Atlas Obscura

New Mexico’s Wind-Blown, Shape-Shifting Gypsum Dune Field Became the Country’s 62nd National Park in late December, and is now known as White Sands National Park. This is a traditional outcome for most national monuments, and it happened a little over a year after two national monuments in Utah were cut down or cut apart. But after 86 years as a national monument, the 275-square-mile stretch &mdash which grew slightly thanks to a land exchange with the national missile range nearby — has full park status. The area, with more than 800 animal species, has been described as a desert Galapagos. REI Blog

Diagnosis: Desertification. Prescription: Bison. In northern New Mexico’s state of Chihuahua, where decades of cattle-grazing have left dry fields that strong local winds turn into dust clouds, a local rancher is raising a herd of bison, whose grazing habits are conducive to restoring land dessicated by cattle. The ranch, called El Uno, is hoping to help restore both the bison — nearly wiped out from Canada to Chihuahua by Western settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries — and the land itself. Living On Earth Podcast

Articles Worth Reading: December 16, 2019

Alaska’s Cod Fishery Shuts Down for 2020 Season Due to Climate Stress. The marine heat wave of 2014 slashed fish stocks in half with steady declines predicted for the future. Dwindling cod populations aren’t only bad for marine species like steller sea lions, but also for the local fishermen who have historically relied on the fishery for much of their income. “I'd like to think that I could fish cod one more time before I retire, but I don't know. I simply don't know where we're going here,” says Frank Miles, a pot cod fisherman based in Kodiak. NPR

The Ruling on Lawsuit Upholds Rights for Klamath, Yurok, and Hoopa Valley Tribes in a case where irrigation water was redirected for threatened and endangered species in the Klamath River. High Country News

Unbridled Groundwater Pumping Could Dry Up Arizona’s San Pedro River as more and more wells are drilled to support a growing population. More than 350 animal species and 600 plant species rely on the ecosystems supported by the river, and some are hurtling toward extinction. Even if all pumping stopped today, the basin would likely still see reduced outputs after years of extraction and hydrologic change. Arizona Republic

Increasing the Water Taken From the Delta May Not Hurt the Delta Smelt because the tiny fish is already too far gone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife found. Two scientific experts on the California fish dissect this opinion, and argue that the government’s habitat restoration plans may be too diffuse to do much good. “Current smelt populations are too small to be able to see an immediate … response to habitat changes alone,” they found. California Water Blog, PPIC

Studying Urban Coyotes Resonates With the Lived Experience of Social Inequity for Christopher Schell, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus.“Coyotes are big enough to be the apex predator in cities, but still small enough to navigate those cities,” says Schell. He discovered pups learn not to fear humans by watching their parents. “Each generation is bolder than the last,” he says. But city-dwellers do fear coyotes. “They’re hated on. They’re feared. People try to eradicate them from an environment. They learn quickly and figure out ways to survive in cities.” Recognizing racial and social inequity in the urban landscape, he says,may provide a fresh perspective on what science often overlooks. University of Washington Magazine

Articles Worth Reading: December 2, 2019

A Downward Trend for California’s Colorado River Water Consumption is shown by the most recent datasets. A favorable snowpack melt in the Sierras reduced the stress on Southern California water needs from the Colorado River. “Simply put, we are consistently using less water,” in spite of population growth, says Eric Kuhn, a retired general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. John Fleck/Inkstain

Idaho Fisheries Managers Predict Long-term Success for Sockeye Salmon despite a small percentage of recruits making it back to Snake River. Unusually high water temperatures and harsh transitions from soft to hard water led to low success in the past few years. New adjustments to the program and favorable conditions could mean much higher returns of salmon to the Sawtooth Basin in 2020 and 2021. Associated Press/Idaho Falls Post Register

The First Recording of a Blue Whale Heartbeat Suggests an Upper Limit for Animal Size. Researchers at Stanford University recovered the data from a monitor that the team attached to a blue whale with suction cups while it was surfacing between dives near Monterey, California. During dives up to 200 meters, the 220-ton whale’s heart rate can slow to as few as two beats per minute in order to conserve oxygen. Even after surfacing, their hearts likely can’t beat faster than 37 beats per minute, and this ability to bounce between such extremes is what helps such a massive animal dive so deep for food. If a deep-diving animal were any bigger, it’s likely the heart couldn’t beat fast enough to compensate for the oxygen lost during dives. The Atlantic

Lighthouse Relocation Stirs Up Tensions in a Coastal California Town. Eroding cliffs surrounding the original landmark prompted the community to move the local Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. Some locals want to preserve the names of those buried or lost at sea, but native tribes are worried that a new location would disturb ancestral burial grounds and reinforce painful histories. Los Angeles Times

A Man Unearths His Ancestral History of the Crow Tribe in Yellowstone Valley by inviting tribal members to share stories and spending time in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. An archaeological excavation revealed the original foundations of a fort that had remained intact for more than 130 years. A new school curriculum centered on the fort and the history of the land has sparked new energy to honor the Apsalooke people and their traditions. Mountain Journal

Graphics & the West

Where California Grows Its Food

See the most detailed survey ever done of crops and land use in California. It covers nine million acres of land devoted to grapes, alfalfa, cotton, plums, you name it – food for people and animals all over the world. View map »

California's Changing Energy Mix

A look at the energy sources California utilities have used gives us insights into the state’s progress in decarbonizing its electricity supply. In 2015, 35% of total electricity generation (in-state generation plus imported electricity) came from zero-greenhouse-gas sources, which include solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear. View Graphic »

U.S. Conservation Easements

Conservation easements of various kinds cover more than 22 million acres of land in the United States, according to the National Conservation Easement Database, a public-private partnership. Take a look at our interactive map of nearly every conservation easement, with details on over 130,000 sites. View map »

 

Recent Center News

Feb 18 2020 | ... & the West Blog, ... & the Best | Stories Recommended by the ‘... & the West’ Blog
Opening once-protected national monument land to coal mining; closing Texas coal plants means cleaner air; Washington state looks to limit water bottling companies’ access to spring-fed water; the potential of printed batteries; and more environmental news from around the West.
Feb 7 2020 | Nora Hennessy Spotlight | Center News, Happenings, Topics of the West
Internship co-sponsored by the Bill Lane Center tasks Stanford graduate student with evaluating Palo Alto's energy storage programs
Feb 4 2020 | Center News, Happenings
Calling all journalists: Apply for a Bill Lane Center media fellowship beginning February 17, 2020.