Thirty U.S. representatives urge Jewell to reform wild-horse policyIn a letter to U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, 29 U.S. House Democrats and one lone Republican urged that the federal government's policy on wild horses be rewritten.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); June 21
BIA approves Cloud Peak Energy's coal agreement with Montana tribe
On Thursday, the Crow Tribe and Cloud Peak Energy announced that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had approved the tribe's plan to lease 1.4 billion tons of coal on its Montana reservation to the Wyoming company.
Denver Post (AP); June 21
A suspicious package outside the Kettlehouse Brewery's Myrtle Street location prompted a Missoula bicycle cop to call in the bomb squad this morning. Police secured the area, evacuating The Kettlehouse and Le Petit employees and taping off Myrtle Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The IED/EOD (Improvised Explosive Device/Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Response Unit arrived, sending a person in a bomb suit to take an X-ray photograph of what appeared to be a suitcase-sized ammo box. After reviewing the image, it appeared the package had contents of concern. The response unit exploded the package by shooting it with a water cannon and exposing its contents: cans of food, road flares and emergency supplies.
Montana lumber co. offers development rights on parcel to land trust
The Trust for Public Lands is seeking funding to buy development rights on 3,000 acres of the Haskill Basin, which lie adjacent to beside Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain in Montana now owned by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co.
Flathead Beacon; June 20
Montana Supreme Court overturns ban on transfer of bison
On Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that said a lower court erred when it stopped the transfer of bison from Yellowstone National Park to the Fort Belknap Reservation.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); June 20
Senate panel OKs bill to protect North Fork of Montana's Flathead River
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted on a dozen public lands bills, including Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus' North Fork Watershed Protection Act, which was unanimously approved and will now advance to the full Senate for action.
Missoulian; June 20
The water gods created haves and have-nots this year, and nowhere more dramatically than in Colorado. In March, after another dry winter, the whole state was biting its nails. Then: Snowpacalypse! An unusually stormy April built up the snowpack in most of northern Colorado to just about average. In the southern part of the state, however, snowpack in the Rio Grande, Dolores, Animas, San Miguel and San Juan basins sat just above 40 percent of average at the start of May.
So what changed? Was less snow falling from the sky? Or was the mercury rising too high to keep it on the ground? Pederson and two colleagues aimed to find out. Just recently, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, they fingered their culprit: warmer temperatures.
You may be thinking, "Well, duh." And it’s true: This isn’t the most shocking conclusion science has ever reached. But it is still an important one. Before this study, Pederson says, whether temperature or snowfall was driving the declines was still a matter of some contention. During the Dust Bowl, another anomalous time when the Rockies were significantly water-short top to bottom, temperatures were cool enough to build snowpacks, but the snow never materialized. But almost every other time, it’s happened during periods of unusual warmth.
The impact in the last 30 years has been particularly acute at low to mid elevations, where the study found snowcover has declined by about 20 percent since the 1980s. “In February and March, especially, when you warm it up, it really melts out the snowpack,” Pederson says. “Even if you get substantial precipitation, it’s an undercutting effect. Lots of regions remain cold enough to snow, but after the storm passes, we’re getting much warmer air. So you get three feet dumped, and then it gets reduced to six inches. Our model shows that to be one of the major processes — that snowpack gets undercut and doesn’t accumulate or persist as long.”
Remember that while there’s still uncertainty about how climate change will effect precipitation in the West, scientists are extremely confident that temperatures will continue their upward trajectory. I blogged last fall about a climate researcher named Park Williams in New Mexico, who has been studying tree mortality, and similarly trying to tease apart the influence of temperature versus precipitation. Williams, too, found that higher temperatures would be enough to stress some Western forests to death in the coming century, whether or not the region becomes more arid.
That, more or less, is the conclusion of Pederson's work on snowpack, too. So if our water supplies are already being reduced by warmer temps, what does that bode for the future? I asked Pederson if any of the conclusions of his recent research surprised him. “Probably the recent magnitude of warming and of snowcover declines in low to mid elevations,” he said. “Warming in February to March across the West has had a pretty profound impact. We’re ostensibly at the start of this long-term trend. So if this is just the tip of the iceberg, we’re standing at the edge of some very large changes to our water supplies and mountain ecosystems.”
This is cross-posted from High Country News, hcn.org. The author is solely responsible for the content.
USFS, Montana landowners ink road deal to restore public access
George Matelich and Michael Goldberg have signed an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to build a new road across their properties and then donate a permanent easement on that road to the U.S. Forest Service to restore access to Gallatin National Forest lands in Montana denied in 1997, when the landowners gated Cherry Creek Road where it crossed their land.
Billings Gazette; June 19
Montana's natural amenities draw world-class companies
Last year, The ZaneRay Group in Whitefish ranked 10th on Outside Magazine's 30 "Best Places to Work," and Reed Gregerson said locating the company in Western Montana, where recreational opportunities on public lands abound, provides his staff of 22 the perfect life-work balance, a trend reflected in a recent report from Headwaters Economics that found rural counties in the West with more than 30 percent of their land base in federal hands saw a much higher rate of job growth than counties with no federal lands within their borders.
Flathead Beacon; June 19
Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Maybe you've seen that meme circulating on the Internet: "My desire to be well-informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane." If you feel that way now—and I suspect you might soon if you don't already—you have cosmic permission, at least for a while, to emphasize sanity over being well-informed. Lose track of what Kim Jong-un and Kim Kardashian are up to, ignore the statements of every jerk on the planet, and maybe even go AWOL from the flood of data that relentlessly pours toward you. Instead, pay attention to every little thing your body has to tell you. Remember and marvel at your nightly dreams. Go slow. Lay low. Be soft. Have fun with unspectacular influences that make you feel at home in the world.
In late April, Ray Stillwell, president of Green Investment Group, Inc., which in 2011 acquired the former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill near Frenchtown, penned a letter to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock imploring him to reconsider his administration’s support for the proposed federal Superfund designation. Stillwell said he “very strongly” prefers state oversight, citing the “uncertainty associated with lengthy processes” required by the Environmental Protection Agency, and noted his company’s “proven track record of completing successful voluntary remediation of other sites.”
Attached to the letter was a packet of materials intended to support Stillwell’s case. One of the items was a letter from Missoula attorney Thad Huse, who wrote that he’s helped GIGI lure potential new businesses to the property, and attested to a “multi-dollar transaction, which would involve economic development and benefit, that is on hold and in jeopardy, because of the potential Superfund listing of the site by the EPA.”
But as state and federal officials determine how to clean up the 3,200 acres of contaminated land along the Clark Fork River northwest of Missoula, which is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, GIGI’s environmental track record isn’t inspiring confidence, and promises of economic development are becoming harder to believe. The company’s cleanups at two of the shuttered mills it owns in the U.S. and Canada—neither of which were near the scale of what’s required at the Frenchtown mill—are outweighed by a pattern of unmet expectations, litigiousness and doubts over the company’s solvency.
Groups urge BLM to delay decision on 198M-ton coal lease in Montana
Cloud Peak Energy has applied to expand its Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana by 1,600 acres, and on Wednesday, federal and state officials will take up that application, but environmental groups said the hearing should be delayed, given the recent report that questioned the BLM's pricing of such leases.
Flathead Beacon (AP); June 18
Mine developer to make presentation tonight in Montana
The Russell Country Sportsmen's Association has invited representatives of Tintina Resources, the company that wants to develop copper resources on private land near White Sulphur Springs to make a presentation on the Montana project at its monthly meeting tonight at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' headquarters on Giant Springs Road in Great Falls.
Great Falls Tribune; June 18
Federal judge in Montana dismisses oil, gas leasing challenge
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Montana Environmental Information Center, WildEarth Guardians and Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project that sought to block gas and oil leases on 800,000 acres in Montana in a bid to force actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); June 15
Montana tribe's coal future tied up in export fight
As domestic demand for coal in the United States declines, companies are tapping export markets in Asia and elsewhere, but U.S. port capacity must expand in order to fill international orders, a move that has sparked fierce opposition.
New York Times; June 15
Public comment period on Yellowstone Park's winter-use plan closes today
If you haven't yet commented on the latest winter-use plan for Yellowstone National Park, you have until midnight June 17 to do so.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); June 15
The New York Times tracks wild-horse management in the U.S.
The Retro Report provides a retrospective on the history of wild horses in the United States and the Bureau of Land Management's policies riding herd on those animals.
New York Times; June 17
Geldings begin their semi-wild life on a Montana ranch
The 710 young geldings released on the Spanish Q Ranch in Montana have spent all of their lives in Bureau of Land Management holding corrals, making the young horses wary of exploring their new range.
Billings Gazette (AP); June 15
Curses, Foiled Again
A police officer stopped a car for a traffic violation in Clayton, Mo., and asked driver Joseph Meacham, 39, to step out. Meacham obliged but then shoved the officer and fled on foot. He ducked into a building, which turned out to be St. Louis County police headquarters. After Meacham was arrested at gunpoint, Officer Korey Golcynski noted, “It appears the subject had no idea where he was going.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Fugitive Dennis Gholston, 45, attracted the attention of New Jersey State Police by driving alone on the New Jersey Turnpike’s high-occupancy-vehicle lane, which requires vehicles to have three occupants. Sgt. Adam Grossman said troopers searched the car after smelling marijuana and found 410 decks of heroin. A records check uncovered fugitive and traffic warrants. (Newark’s The Star-Ledger)
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