Skip to content Skip to navigation

... & the West Blog

Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
Massive tracts of land being declared National Monuments violates the very Antiquities Act used to enact them as they are to be "confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected." What object is being protected that requires a landmass larger than Delaware to protect it?
Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
After months of anticipation, the Obama Administration has designated 1.3 million acres of southeastern Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. The decision, announced 22 days before the end of the administration, has been met with praise and criticism. Here, we present several perspectives on this momentous decision.
Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
The tribally led Bears Ears National Monument proposal presents an historic opportunity for President Obama to fulfill his legacy of honoring our nation’s incredible diversity through conservation of public lands. In the process, Bears Ears may have something profound to teach all Americans about healing through listening.
Nov 15 2016 | ... & the West Blog
The Bears Ears region, home to some of our nation's earliest antiquities, can open the eyes of people who want to learn about a past that is older than what is usually taught, and if protected, can help create a more informed national citizenry.
Nov 14 2016 | ... & the West Blog
The veteran journalist Felicity Barringer introduces the Center's news blog, '& the West,' which will feature reports, interviews, and analysis on the future of California and the North American West.

Pages

Subscribe to

 

...& the Best

Western Articles and Media Elsewhere
Compiled by Felicity Barringer and Josh Lappen

Oct. 31, 2017

Grand Canyon Ecosystems Remain Vulnerable to Groundwater Depletion, Development, and Mining, as the Grand Canyon Trust illustrates using a multimedia combination of blog posts, maps, photography, and outside journalism. A series of conservation decisions in past years have put the brakes on new uranium mining, curtailed water-hungry development, and allowed the Trust to restore sensitive springs, but new political headwinds make for an uncertain future. Grand Canyon Trust

A California Program Paying Farmers to Fallow Fields to Conserve Water has been widely lauded as a model of cooperative water management. But it now faces challenges. The rural southeastern Palo Verde Irrigation District agreed to the payments but now prepares to sue Los Angeles's Metropolitan Water District for potentially undercutting the deal by buying up agricultural land. At the same time, many of Palo Verde’s board members are among the largest recipients of Metropolitan money, raising questions of conflict of interest as urban and rural players both work to preserve their water, and what all characterize as “a fair deal.” Related: read a Stanford student’s comics journalism story about the Palo Verde deal. The Desert Sun Bill Lane Center

Forty Years of Forestry Changes Highlight the Economic and Cultural Frustrations of rural western communities. Shrinking Forest Service budgets have allowed low-paid and abused guest workers to replace rural locals on backwoods crews. A retired contract forester explores the racial, economic, and political dynamics of public-lands forestry to explain rural resentment of federal land managers, growing nativism, and rock-bottom working conditions. High Country News

Despite its Reputation for Environmental Virtue, California Produces Dirty and Energy-Intensive Oil, say researchers at Stanford University and regulators at California’s Air Resources Board. Played-out oil fields require high-pressure steam injection and other nontraditional extraction techniques which cause the energy demands of oil production to skyrocket, inflating the state’s greenhouse gas emissions profile. Environment 360/Yale University

Wind Energy Jobs Prompt Ambivalence and Interest in Western Coal Country. As wind turbine manufacturers seek to supply skilled technicians for a wind energy boom in Wyoming, they attract frustration and attention from laid-off coal and oil workers. At the same time, lingering political and environmental uncertainties continue to hold up unified management of the West’s electrical grid. Salt Lake Tribune Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal News UtilityDive

Oct. 18, 2017

The Trump Administration Approved a Private Company’s Plan to Pump Water from the Mojave Desert Aquifer to California Cities. But, as Senator Dianne Feinstein pointed out, the proposed pipeline needs state approval because some of the land involved is state-owned. “Our state can still require a stronger review of Cadiz’s plans,” the senator said. “The fight to protect our desert isn’t over.” The Desert Sun

Mobile Home Residents Are Much More Likely to Have Low-Quality Water and Frequent Cutoffs, a UCLA study published in the journal “Environmental Justice,” has found. The researchers found that although such systems serve a small number of people — and thus may not be robust financially — they account for a disproportionate number of water quality violations. They were also four time more likely to be cut off for at least a day. Circle of Blue

The Pacific Coast Coal Company Has Proposed Reopening the John Henry Coal Mine About 30 Miles Southeast of Seattle, where there has been little mining for years. The federal government has already ruled that reopening it and resuming the noise and vibrations of mining activity would have no significant environmental effect. Oregon Public Broadcasting

A Proposed New Mine Faces Some New Hurdles over in Wyoming, where coal mining is part of the culture. WyoFile

Almost All Western States Will Exceed the Carbon-Reduction Goals set out in the now-repealed Clean Power Plant according to a new study from the Rhodium Group, a research firm. Thanks to a decline in national power sector emissions since the plan was drafted, and the fact that the price of natural gas stayed low far longer than the government had predicted, the report predicts that power levels in 2030 will be between 27 and 35 percent lower than in 2005; the clean power rule sought a reduction of 32 percent. Mountain West News Rhodium Group

Non-Native Mountain Goats Placed in Utah’s La Sal Mountains Are Taking to the New Turf With Abandon. But is the turf taking to them? The delicate alpine land, conservationists fear, is at risk because they believe the state is putting the needs of hunters above the needs of the landscape. A court earlier this year refused to interfere with the goat transplant program; a second new site for goats in being eyed on Utah’s western border. Salt Lake Tribune

Sept. 21, 2017

The Wildfires Scorching the West and Blackening Its Air Are Also Cutting Its Ability to Store Water. In Colorado, when the Paonia Reservoir was completed in Gunnison County in 1962, the dam’s outlet was designed to be 60 feet above the lake’s bottom. That was before 55 years of sediment filled the dam. Now the bottom of the lake is above the outlet. That’s been happening all over the West for decades, but now fast-spreading wildfires – and the erosion that follows – are making it much worse. Water Deeply

For All Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proselytizing for New Twin Tunnels Through the Delta, It Did Not Convince one of the state’s richest water districts, the Westlands Water District. The board of the district, the first farmer-run district to take a stand on the tunnels, on Tuesday rejected the idea of helping pay for the $17.1 billion project. If this was not a fatal blow, it was certainly severely damaging. Nine months ago, water specialists at the Public Policy information Center offered a scaled-down alternative. Sacramento Bee PPIC

Reports Have Shown the Pain Climate Change Is Causing and Will Cause in Many Western States, but in Montana, the Pain Will Be More Acute, according to a new analysis. “Montana is going to get warmer and the warming is going to be greater than in a lot of parts of the United States and the world,” the report's lead author said. “The kinds of fires that we’ve had this summer are completely consistent with what we would see in the future,” she added. "We’ll see more insect outbreaks. We’ll see warmer streams and that will stress our native fish, our coldwater fish.” The report also predicts that earlier onset of snowmelt and spring runoff will reduce late-summer water availability in some watersheds. Montana Public Radio Montana Climate Report

So Shy and Bottom-Dwelling That It Wasn’t Identified Until the 1950s, the Vaquita Marina, a Small Mexican Porpoise, Is About to Disappear — despite years of conservation efforts and fishing bans. Vaquitas have been so decimated by gill nets used by Mexican fishermen off Baja California that extinction is not only possible, but likely. Worse, Mexican fishermen netting vaquitas as incidental catch are often after another endangered marine species, the totoaba, whose swim bladder fetches huge prices in China. Last year, biologists determined there were only 30 vaquitas left. Hakai Magazine

For Years, Fisheries Scientists Called It “the Blob,” Blaming the Large Offshore Mass of Warm Water for Disrupting the Food Chain for migratory fish. Now the blob has dissolved, but its impact on the salmon lingers. Associated Press

Sept. 2, 2017

A “Flash Drought” in Montana Has Left the State’s Eastern Half a Large, Crop-Burnt Cinder, even though the state received good rains last fall. But then the moisture tap shut off completely. Some 17,500 square miles of Montana are suffering exceptional drought. Yields of wheat, barley and hay are sharply reduced, and the price of hay has skyrocketed. The same desiccated region was the site of the largest wildfire in the nation, which burned more than 270,000 acres. Water Deeply

It’s Not Just Droughts and Pumping, It’s Pollution That Has Cut Back Groundwater Supplies, because polluted groundwater does no one any good. The problems are often nitrates and salt from nitrogen fertilizer and manure, both basic elements of rural living. As newly-formed groundwater agencies look to enhance their resources, they may opt for intentional groundwater recharge. But intentional recharge can improve or degrade groundwater quality. Public Policy Institute of California

Bark Beetles Are Threatening the Habitat of an Endangered Squirrel in Southern Arizona’s Coronado National Forest, so managers are trying to thwart the pest by placing capsules containing anti-aggression pheromones among the trees. Officials say the capsules send a signal that ward off male beetles looking to reproduce. The tree-killing insects have destroyed acres of trees around the West. Associated Press

Thermometers Almost Popped Their Tops as Heat, Stretching East from the Pacific Northwest to the mountain states, and south to southern California, means the end of the summer is proving to be even more sweltering that the months that preceded it. What does climate change have to do with it? Salt Lake Tribune Oregon Public Broadcasting
Los Angeles Times San Jose Mercury-News

How Did a Democrat Hold Such Sway in a Republican State? An explanation could be found in tributes to Cecil Andrus, the Idaho Governor and former Interior Secretary who died last week at 85. As an aide said, “he was elected four times in three different decades, a Democrat in practically the most Republican state in the nation, a conservationist in a state where timber, mining and agriculture were paramount. He built a remarkable record of accomplishment that occurred while his party never once controlled either house of the Legislature.” The Spokesman-Review

Aug. 21, 2017

Visitors Are Overwhelming National Parks, leaving solitary contemplation out of the question in places like Utah’s Zion National Park. Meanwhile, the six-year-old effort to remove bottled water and bottle waste from parks is ending. Yale Environment 360 Washington Post

In the Pacific Northwest, Steelhead Are Scarce This Year and Idaho has canceled its harvest season this fall and instead will implement rules allowing only catch and release. Part of the reason — when they migrated out in 2015, there were horrendous river conditions: record low flows and high water temperatures. Lewiston Tribune Seattle Times

Colorado River Water Users’ New Habits of Conservation did more than lush winter snows to increase the river’s lost this year. Inkstain/John Fleck

Denver Is Pushing to Become Hospitable to Electric Cars as it uses money from Volkswagen settlement to build more charging stations. “Without electrified transportation, we cannot meet those climate goals,” said Terry Svitak, the city’s electric car project chief. “And the market is pushing us this way… Both collectively, and individually, cities can make a difference” in fighting climate change. Denver Post

The Remnant of a Volcano at The Edge of Hawaii, Kauai Is a Test Lab where local visionaries and Tesla are trying to prove their concept that sunlight and batteries can provide most of the electricity communities need. Tesla has opened a revolutionary grid-scale battery installation, testing if and how storage can make renewable energy more dependable. Grist

Aug. 3, 2017

The Price of Being a Small Community or a Remote One in the West Is High. Either environmental utilities cost more, or are more flawed and potentially dangerous than those in urban areas. California communities where fewer than 1,000 people live pay more than double for their sewer service, and even in cities housing 10,000 and 50,000 people, the median rate is still twice that of the large urban areas. In New Mexico, small communities struggle to deliver clean water; in tiny Santa Cruz, the water from 180 feet down is laced with uranium. Circle of Blue    Santa Fe New Mexican

As a New Coal Mine Permit Is Debated in Wyoming, a Podcast Lays out the Arguments. The idea is to focus on technology to turn coal into other products, not simply fuel for power plants. Landowners and environmental groups and even another coal company dig in to oppose it. Also, two international wind turbine makers fighting it out for dominance in a state ended with superb wind resources. (Segment starts at 1 min., 15 seconds from beginning.) Wyoming Public Radio

In Alaska, Some 56 Native Groups Are Crammed Into an Area the Size of Indiana. Some feel that their people will have more power and better lives if they unite. But not everyone agrees. They are debating a proposal to have a tribal government that eventually would be responsible for essential services like taxation, public safety, education, a court system, fish and game management, and alcohol control. Each tribe's top elected leader would join a 56-member legislative council. Alaska Dispatch News

In Larger and Larger Pockets of the West, Bison Are Back, and They Might Help Slow Climate Change. The near-destruction of the American bison by European settlers has long been a parable of environmental heedlessness, but bison are back. As climate change advances on the region, that may be a good thing. The need for a symbiotic relationship between bison ranchers and the environment means that the more bison, the higher the chance that the land they live on and the grasses they eat will be well-managed. This means more carbon is sequestered. As the new herds are encouraged to mimic the natural movements of their forebears, they may help restore over-grazed land to its natural state, sequestering even more carbon. Well-managed herds could slow climate change. Bloomberg

Water Hazards are Rare When Golf Is Played on the Navajo Reservation. But there are plenty of other hazards. Like putting. “Being from Albuquerque,” said Eric Frazier. “I’m not used to putting in the dirt. It was really challenging but it was really fun. I would like to do it again.”Navajo Times

July 20, 2017

Ever Since Wolves Returned around the West, Ranchers’ Conviction they Are Destroying Livestock has helped them get compensation. Not all their claims are well documented, and special state set-asides are showing the strain of payments. One rancher said that last year wolves killed 41 calves and 11 cows in Baker County — where there are 3 resident wolves and no confirmed wolf kill of livestock since 2012. Earth Fix | Oregon Public Radio

Land Wars Are Nothing New Around the West, but an Ongoing One Near Rifle, Colorado Has a New Twist. To keep an Conoco Phillips subsidiary off 2,500 federal land where one ranching family has grazed cattle for decades, Susan Robinson, a widow who owns an adjacent 560 acres, has gone to court to prove that title is hers because her family’s cattle occupied it uninterrupted for 18 years. The oil company, TOSCO, says it installed a pipe without Robinson’s objection, which weakens her claim. But she traces the fights over this land back to Joseph Robinson, her late husband’s grandfather. Denver Post

Until Western States’ Electrical Grid Is Less Balkanized, Electricity Is Not Efficiently Used Our colleague Natasha Mmonatau's reporting is confirmed by a new analysis that explains that, thanks to a bumper harvest of sunshine this spring, California had to discard enough electrons to power 55,000 homes for six months, simply because the divided authority over the grid meant it couldn’t get the power to places that needed it. A representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council is urging that these barriers fall. High Country News

Farmers Have Centuries of Knowledge Built into the Way They Deal with the Earth, but that Knowledge, Like their Soil, Is Being Reworked. In Moonpark, California, John and Molly Chester are using their organic farm as an experiment in building healthy soil through regenerative farming. The idea is to allow soil to replenish itself, making fertilizer increasingly unnecessary. Another effect is allowing the soil to store carbon, by not plowing up the soil. It’s another ay to limit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Video) KCET

Showing When Water Conservation Is Good for Utilities and for Homeowners, a Chicago-based research group’s new report on the Arizona towns of Tucson and Gilbert is a conservationist’s dream. In the wake of sharp cuts in water use starting in the mid-1980’s, Tucson’s water rates are 11.7 percent lower; and conservation ensures that total water use remained the same over three decades, while the population grew by 240,000. Circle of Blue

The West’s Fire Season Roars on, endangering electricity at Yosemite National Park; 4,000 residents of Mariposa County have been evacuated. Los Angeles Times

July 10, 2017

Anticipating an Energy Department Report Predicting an Oversupply of Green Energy that would overwhelm the nation’s energy grid, Jacques Leslie issues a rebuttal based on the advances in battery and renewable technologies. Yale Environment 360

California Gov. Jerry Brown Has Declared the Drought Is Over, But Rural Residents of The Central Valley Will Be Grappling for Years with the long-term impact of the years-long thirst, as their wells have either been dried up by new and deeper shafts installed beside them, or are vulnerable to this. Water Deeply

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wants to See More Fossil Fuel Extraction from Public Lands. But His Method May Not Work. As a Congressional Research Service report said, increasing opportunities for federal leases “may not translate into higher levels of production on federal lands, as industry seeks out the most promising prospects and higher returns which in recent years have come on more accessible nonfederal lands.” E&E News

Oil Slicks, a Little Dab’ll Do You. If You Are a Shorebird, That Is. Every feather gooked-up with oil means the bird has to work that much harder to fly.  A new study shows that birds with just a light coating of oil covering less than 20 percent of their body surface had to expend approximately 20 percent more energy than birds flying oil-free. On Earth /NRDC

To Quote from the U.S. Water Alliance: “Native American Lands Have Some of the Poorest Water Infrastructure in the Country” “Thirteen percent of homes on reservations lack access to clean water or sanitation, a significant number compared to 0.6 percent for non-Native Americans.” John Fleck takes a look at the striking issues of environmental justice from Indian Country to California’s Central Valley Inkstain

As Summer Fires Spread Around The West, The Evacuations Begin. A small town in Montana; the area around a big ski resort in Colorado; a rural region in central British Columbia; workers at the Hanford nuclear site in southeast Washington are sent home, thousands of evacuations continue in and around Oroville in Butte County, California as the Wall Fire remains untamed; and dramatic video of fawns being rescued in Arizona. Montana Public Radio Colorado Public Radio  AP Spokane Public Radio Sacramento Bee Washington Post