Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rockies Today, October 6

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 2:26 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

The ozone problem

Researchers in Colorado and around the country are starting to take a closer look at how air pollution from oil and gas development, particularly ground-level ozone, affects public health.

Some researchers are starting to draw a straight line between ozone and oil and gas development. In a study published in September in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers in Pennsylvania found that exposure to oil and gas air pollution was associated with exacerbated asthma attacks. It was the first scientific study of its kind.
Another report this summer linked asthma attacks and oil and gas development. It was written by an environmental advocacy coalition, the Clean Air Task Force, and said tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks here in the future would be caused by oil and gas development. The report was not peer-reviewed. The oil and gas industry in Colorado rejected the study.
Another recent study was the first to quantify the contribution of the oil and gas industry on the amount of ozone on Colorado’s Front Range.
“Oil and gas contributed seventeen percent to ozone production locally,” said Erin McDuffie, who is a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Overlooking ozone stymies Utah gas project

A federal judge has invalidated the BLM’s approval of 16 gas wells in Utah’s Uinta Basin, saying the agency didn’t sufficiently analyze how the wells would contribute to the rural region’s worsening air quality.

The ruling illustrates how ozone could be the Achilles’ heel for future development in the hydrocarbon-rich Uinta Basin, already saddled with transportation bottlenecks that render its 30-million-barrel output of crude less valuable than oil produced elsewhere. Although the basin is rural, it has been plagued with an unusual wintertime ozone problem that is largely attributed to the region’s oil and gas boom. Emissions and leaks from drill rigs, wells, pipelines, tanks and compressors react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone during cold-weather inversions.

How scientists track North Dakota’s spewing gases

Airborne methane is difficult to track using conventional analysis, but the “crisp signal” of ethane serves as evidence that the Bakken is leaking raw natural gas, including huge amounts of methane.

What they found in the skies over the Bakken that May was the equivalent of 1 to 3 percent of the world’s estimated emissions of ethane floating over a relatively tiny place. It was evidence that the Bakken was leaking raw natural gas, including huge amounts of methane, which is 86 times more potent as a global warmer than carbon dioxide during the first nine years of its life. Then it decays into carbon dioxide, which can last for centuries.
The study concluded that the Bakken was leaking methane at a rate of 275,000 tons per year. That meant finding and closing the leaks would have about the same impact on climate change as removing 1.45 million cars from the nation’s highways for a year. The ethane leak, of similar size, was so big that it was detected in Europe.

Paris climate accord now official

The most comprehensive international climate agreement ever will take effect next month after the European Union on Wednesday pushed the pact past the threshold required for it to be enacted.

The Paris agreement commits rich and poor countries to take action to curb the rise in global temperatures that is melting glaciers, raising sea levels and shifting rainfall patterns. It requires governments to present national plans to reduce emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Canada also ratified the agreement on Wednesday.

Plight of Yellowstone River forges alliances

Biologists, business owners, and river recreationists come together to discuss adapting to the new normal.

Scott Opitz, the FWP fisheries biologist on the Yellowstone River, said there have been significant changes to the way snowpack feeds the Yellowstone. Runoff is starting earlier and ending sooner, reducing available habitat for fish in the hot months of July and August.
“Now we see below average flows more often than we used to in that mid-summer, early fall time frame,” Opitz said.
He said that’s a time when fish are looking for deeper holes or cooler spots in the river, a place of refuge from high temperatures. Portions of the Yellowstone saw temperatures above 70 degrees this summer, well above the ideal temperature for trout.

The scheme to nullify Missoula’s gun ordinance

Will Montana’s conservative attorney general write an opinion to nullify the state’s first local law requiring background checks for most gun sales and transfers?

How Trump is recoloring the West’s politics

Donald Trump’s ridicule of Republican Party leaders, his calls for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and for a ban on Muslim immigration, and the vitriol and violence evident at his rallies raise major questions about our nation and our democracy. But how are they playing out in the West? In this episode of West Obsessed, the writers and editors of High Country News discuss Trump’s run for president and the impact its having in the region.

U.S. crude reaches $50 a barrel

For the first time since late June, U.S. crude passed $50 a barrel, partly due to data suggesting the market is beginning to work through its supply glut.

U.S.-traded oil prices climbed after the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest data Wednesday showed U.S. crude supplies fell by 3 million barrels in the week ended Sept. 30, down for the fifth straight week. The surprise drop brought total inventories to 499.7 million barrels, the lowest since January, though they were still 38.7 million barrels higher than a year ago.

Opinion: Wyoming needs to stop stalling wind

It makes sense for the state and federal government to impose severance taxes when oil, gas, precious metals and other minerals are permanently taken from the land. But taxing energy production from renewables such as wind and solar as if they, too, were not renewable, makes no sense. Nor does it make sense to single out a specific form of energy production that has the capacity to meet consumer demand and help reduce carbon emissions.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Duck, duck, quail: city considers expanding livestock beyond chickens

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 10:26 AM

Except for the stray “quack” occasionally ringing through the air, it’s unlikely that passersby would notice the ducks trotting around the backyard of a South Fifth Street home. That’s where Kevin Pierce keeps his two Swedish blue duck hens, along with four chickens.

“They’ll bond and imprint on you, and they’re as friendly as dogs or cats,” Pierce says. He hasn’t officially named his ducks, though. He admits he usually just calls them something like “Wiggles” and “Waddles.”
Two Swedish blue ducks are responsible for inspiring a new proposal to allow urban duck-keeping. - KATE WHITTLE
  • Kate Whittle
  • Two Swedish blue ducks are responsible for inspiring a new proposal to allow urban duck-keeping.

Wiggles and Waddles ran afoul of the law when an anonymous caller reported Pierce to Missoula Animal Control last fall. Urban livestock regulations permit residents to own up to six female chickens, but not any other kind of domestic egg-layer, as Pierce discovered. He says almost everyone he encountered thought the duck citation was funny, except for the animal control officer who wrote the ticket and the city attorney’s office.

“They acted like I was some kind of criminal,” he says. “I mean, it’s just a couple ducks.”

Pierce ended up paying an $85 fine and found a legal loophole that lets him keep his ducks, though he prefers not to discuss it on the record. But for other residents who might be facing the same kind of fowl trouble, Pierce reached out to his neighbor, Councilwoman Michelle Cares. The Ward 6 representative agreed that ducks should be allowed, and she’s now sponsoring an amendment to the city’s urban chicken ordinance that would include ducks and quail under similar restrictions. She personally keeps chickens, but has never raised ducks.
Ducks can be shy of strangers, and thus difficult to get a good picture of. - KATE WHITTLE
  • Kate Whittle
  • Ducks can be shy of strangers, and thus difficult to get a good picture of.

Chickens were a controversial topic in Missoula in 2007, when city council went through a six-month process and lengthy public debates over whether to permit residents in the urban core to keep hens. (The whole thing even inspired the Indy's Cluck-Ups awards for "dubious accomplishments" that year.)

Cares is aware of the history, but she thinks ducks and quail will go over without much fuss. She’s heard from people who’d like to include turkeys, geese and guinea fowl, as well, but those go a feather too far for her.

“No bird farms,” she says.

Care’s proposal limits each license holder to six ducks, six chickens or 10 quail. Residents of single-family homes are eligible, as well as multi-family apartment renters as long as they get permission from all residents and the landlord. Cares is also suggesting reducing the $15 annual cost of bird licenses to a one-time-only fee.

At a committee discussion Sept. 28, most other council members expressed support for her measure.

“From what I’m seeing, it’s fine, chickens are not ruining our town,” Cares says. “Hopefully this will also continue to improve our town.”

Council’s public hearing for the duck and quail proposal is set for Oct. 17.

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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): At a recent party, a guy I hardly know questioned my
 authenticity. "You seem to have had an easy life," he jabbed. "I bet you haven't suffered enough to be a truly passionate person." I didn't choose to engage him, but mused to myself, "Not enough suffering? What about the time I got shot? My divorce? My five-year-long illness? The manager of my rock band getting killed in a helicopter crash?" But after that initial reaction, my thoughts turned to the adventures that have stoked my passion without causing pain, like the birth of my daughter, getting remarried to the woman I divorced, and performing my music for excited audiences. I bring this up, Aries, because I suspect that you, too, will soon have experiences that refine and deepen your passion through pleasure rather than hardship.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): It's theFrank and Focused Feedback Phase, Taurus — prime time to solicit insight about how you're doing. Here are four suggestions to get you started. 1. Ask a person who loves and respects you to speak the compassionate truth about what's most important for you to learn. 2. Consult a trustworthy advisor who can help motivate you to do the crucial thing you've been postponing. 3. Have an imaginary conversation with the person you were a year ago. Encourage the Old You to be honest about how the New You could summon more excellence in pursuing your essential goals. 4. Say this prayer to your favorite tree or animal or meadow: "Show me what I need to do in order to feel more joy."

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Many of my readers regard me as being exceptionally creative. Over the years, they have sent countless emails praising me for my original approach to problem-solving and art-making. But I suspect that I wasn't born with a greater talent for creativity than anyone else. I've simply placed a high value on developing it, and have worked harder to access it than most people. With that in mind, I invite you to tap more deeply into your own mother lode of innovative, imaginative energy. The cosmic trends favor it. Your hormones are nudging you in that direction. What projects could use a jolt of primal brilliance? What areas of your life need a boost of ingenuity?

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Love wants more of you. Love longs for you to give everything you have and receive everything you need. Love is conspiring to bring you beautiful truths and poignant teases, sweet dispensations and confounding mysteries, exacting blessings and riddles that will take your entire life to solve. But here are some crucial questions: Are you truly ready for such intense engagement? Are you willing to do what's necessary to live at a higher and deeper level? Would you know how to work with such extravagant treasure and wild responsibility? The coming weeks will be prime time to explore the answers to these questions. I'm not sure what your answers will be.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Each of us contains a multiplicity of selves. You may often feel like there's just one of you rumbling around inside your psyche, but it's closer to the truth to say that you're a community of various characters whose agendas sometimes overlap and sometimes conflict. For example, the needy part of you that craves love isn't always on the same wavelength as the ambitious part of you that seeks power. That's why it's a good idea to periodically organize summit meetings where all of your selves can gather and negotiate. Now is one of those times: a favorable moment to foster harmony among your inner voices and to mobilize them to work together in service of common goals.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Pike's Peak is a 14,115-foot mountain in Colorado. It's not a simple task to trek to the top. Unless you're well-trained, you might experience altitude sickness. Wicked thunderstorms are a regular occurrence during the summer. Snow falls year-round. But back in 1929, an adventurer named Bill Williams decided the task of hiking to the summit wasn't tough enough. He sought a more demanding challenge. Wearing kneepads, he spent 21 days crawling along as he used his nose to push a peanut all the way up. I advise you to avoid making him your role model in the coming weeks, Virgo. Just climb the mountain. Don't try to push a peanut up there with your nose, too.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): "It isn't normal to know what we want," said psychologist Abraham
Maslow. "It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement." He wasn't referring to the question of what you want for dinner or the new shoes you plan to buy. He was talking about big, long-term yearnings: what you hope to be when you grow up, the qualities you look for in your best allies, the feelings you'd love to feel in abundance every day of your life. Now here's the good news, Libra: The next ten months should bring you the best chance ever to figure
out exactly what you want the most. And it all starts now.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Practitioners of the Ayurvedic medical tradition tout the healing power of regular self-massage. Creativity expert Julia Cameron recommends that you periodically go out on dates with yourself. Taoist author Mantak Chia advises you to visualize sending smiles and good wishes to your kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, and other organs. He says that these acts of kindness bolster your vigor. The coming weeks will be an especially favorable time to attend to measures like these, Scorpio. I hope you will also be imaginative as you give yourself extra gifts and compliments and praise.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): The coming weeks will be one of the best times ever for wrestling with God or tussling with Fate or grappling with karma. Why do I say that? Because you're likely to emerge triumphant! That's right, you lucky, plucky contender. More than I've seen in a long time, you have the potential to draw on the crafty power and unruly wisdom and resilient compassion you would need to be an unambiguous winner. A winner of what? You tell me. What dilemma would you most like to resolve? What test would you most like to ace? At what game would you most like to be victorious? Now is the time.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Are you grunting and sweating as you struggle to preserve and maintain the gains of the past? Or are you smooth and cagey as you maneuver your way towards the rewards of the future? I'm rooting for you to put the emphasis on the second option. Paradoxically, that will be the best way to accomplish the first option. It will also ensure that your motivations are primarily rooted in love and enthusiasm rather than worry and stress. And that will enable you to succeed at the second option.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Do you believe that you are mostly just a product of social conditioning and your genetic make-up? Or are you willing to entertain a different hypothesis: that you are a primal force of nature on an unpredictable journey? That you are capable of rising above your apparent limitations and expressing aspects of yourself that might have been unimaginable when you were younger? I believe the coming weeks will be a favorable time to play around with this vision. Your knack for transcendence is peaking. So are your powers to escape the past and exceed limited expectations.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): In one of your nightly dreams, Robin Hood may team up with Peter Pan to steal unused treasure from a greedy monster – and then turn the booty over to you. Or maybe you'll meet a talking hedgehog and singing fox who will cast a spell to heal and revive one of your wounded fantasies. It's also conceivable that you will recover a magic seed that had been lost or forgotten, and attract the help of a fairy godmother or godfather to help you ripen it. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rockies Today, October 4

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 1:59 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Idaho’s disappearing caribou

The dozen caribou that live deep in the forests of the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho, near the Canadian border, are among the most endangered species in the lower 48 states. Wolves and the “unanticipated ecological consequences of development” could wipe out the herd entirely.

Part of the problem is that the Selkirk herd is international. The caribou can be found in the snowy old-growth forests of Idaho and extreme northeast Washington, but spend about 90 percent of their time in southern Canada. The threat to the animals there is so serious that Canadian government sharpshooters began killing wolves from helicopters. In the Selkirk Mountains, they have killed just 19 so far.
Widespread wolf culls further north in Alberta are credited with saving theLittle Smoky caribou herd in the Peace River region. But the price was high: About 1,000 wolves were killed over a decade.
The Selkirk herd is not the only one so greatly imperiled. At last count, there were some 1,354 mountain caribou in 15 subgroups in southern British Columbia. Ten years ago, there were thousands. Today, all are in steep decline and listed as endangered in Canada, primarily because of wolves.

Colorado’s backcountry taproom

Last week the U.S. Forest Service streamlined the recreation permit process to encourage access for younger visitors, groups, non-profits and schools seeking to explore public lands. Two days later, about 2,000 hikers climbed a White River National Forest Service trail to a remote hut where Upslope Brewing was hosting its second annual “backcountry tap room.”

“The fact that people are attracted to their public lands and getting out is awesome,” [Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest, said]. “But at the same time how do we manage this? How do we manage so we can get a huge number of people enjoying the outdoors, building a stewardship ethic, building a constituency that supports public lands and still not have a negative impact on all the things everyone wants to see?”

Malheur effects linger

The goings on at Sagebrush Rebellion hotspots around the West.

In Utah, the base level of vitriol around land management is often a level above most other places in the West. And the current battle over whether to create a Bears Ears National Monument in the southeast corner of the state is riling residents again, opening the festering wound of the 1996 designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Gillette comes to terms with ‘new norm’

A dispatch from Gillette, Wyoming, six months after Black Thursday, March 31st, when Peabody and Arch Coal cut 465 miners between them.

Gillette is the coal capital of the nation’s most productive coal-mining state, and while it has not boarded up its doors or “rolled up its streets,” as Mayor Louise Carter-King puts it, the town remains in the grip of an economic downturn. Some indicators point to recent stabilization, but prolonged unemployment and increased stress on social services tells the tale of tough times.

Feds to review Columbia, Snake dams

Three federal agencies that operate and market power from 14 dams in the Columbia Basin announced they are going to do an environmental review on future operations of the structures.

Over this review the federal agencies will evaluate the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts on flood risk management, irrigation, power generation, navigation, fish and wildlife, cultural resources and recreation. The dams include the four dams on the lower Snake, the five dams on the Columbia, Hungry Horse in Montana and two other dams in the Columbia watershed.
The dams not only provide tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity that can be turned on immediately, they also make the Columbia River a major shipping corridor with $20 billion of cargo and 10 percent of all U.S. wheat exports moving through the dams. Dam supporters also say taking out dams will increase the carbon that contributes to climate change.

More spent nuclear fuel headed to Idaho

The Navy and U.S. Department of Energy want to build a $1.6 billion nuclear waste facility in eastern Idaho that would handle spent fuel from the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered warships.

Barring protests, a document approving the plan could be issued early next month. Officials say site preparation would likely begin in 2017, with the facility becoming operational in the early 2020s.

Texting for help in Wyoming

Wyoming has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation, and last week the state joined the National Crisis Text Line to make it easier for people at risk of suicide to reach out for help.

People can text “WYO” to 741–741 and hear back from a crisis counselor within five minutes. The counselors can help them talk through their problems, and then help them find services in their communities.
The National Crisis Text Line has exchanged over 23 million messages since it started in 2013. These messages provide data about the days and times when people most often experience suicidal thoughts. The service also tracks 27 topic areas important to mental health, such as bullying, body image, and LGBT issues.

Canada’s oil industry facing $10 billion loss

The Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think-tank, says Canada’s oil extraction industry is headed for a $10 billion loss this year, the first time on record it has failed to be profitable two years in a row.

Wyoming OSHA botches Opal explosion aftermath

In 2014, a massive explosion tore through the Williams natural gas processing plant in Opal. Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation in the aftermath and found a number of safety violations, but never collected fines nor released a final report. Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce interviews the director of the Department of Workforce Services to find out why.

DOJ defends Badger-Two Medicine decision

The Justice Department has urged a federal judge to reject a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate a 6,200-acre energy lease in Montana that was canceled by the Obama administration in March.

The lease is within a 165,000-acre area deemed by the government to be a traditional cultural district of the Blackfoot tribes. It’s the site of the creation story for the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and the Blackfeet Nation of Montana.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rockies Today, October 3

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

The power of voter-driven ballot initiatives

Direct democracy puts a slew of contentious issues before Western voters.

Every Western state except New Mexico allows citizens to make new laws at the ballot box, compared to just over half of all states. The region embraced direct democracy 100 years ago as a populist response to corporate power and ineffective government. This election season, individual states will vote on approving universal healthcare, legalizing assisted death for terminally ill patients, creating the country’s first carbon tax, and repealing the death penalty. And in addition to wage hikes, multiple states will consider measures that would establish tougher background checks for gun and ammo sales, and legalize marijuana.

Largest Colorado wind project moving forward

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission green-lighted a settlement Xcel Energy and several other parties reached on the 600-megawatt Rush Creek Wind Project, which will be the state’s largest wind farm.

Xcel Energy plans to place 300 locally manufactured Vestas wind turbines across 116,000 acres in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, and Lincoln counties. A 90-mile transmission line connecting into a substation near Deer Trail in Arapahoe County will bring the power generated into the Front Range.
Rush Creek, which is capped at a cost of $1.1 billion, is expected to eliminate one million tons of carbon emissions a year versus more traditional generation, Xcel Energy said.

Feds back protections for glacier-dependent insects

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the western glacier stonefly and the meltwater lednian stonefly to the government’s list of threatened species. The two are dependent on high-alpine, glacier-fed melt-water streams in Glacier National Park—glaciers that are disappearing.

Some context:

Crude math

The decision to temporarily halt construction on part of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline has the oil industry on edge, partly because the pipeline would cut the cost of getting Bakken crude to market and put North Dakota oil on a more level playing field with the rest of the country.

The boom in shale oil and gas production in North Dakota was followed by a boom in pipeline construction here — 1,400 new miles built over the past five years, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. More oil is transported by pipeline now than rail.
Still, pipelines aren’t totally safe. Federal data shows 77 spills or other significant incidents with crude lines just last year, though zero fatalities.
That risk concerns the thousands of protesters camped on the North Dakota prairie who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Montanans to vote on trapping ban

I-177 would ban commercial and recreational trapping on public lands.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks statistics, around 50,000 furbearing animals are harvested every year by between 5,000 and 6,000 licensed trappers in the state. In the trapping season from 2013 to 2014, 52,922 furbearing animals were taken. The previous year, 72,591 were taken, and the year before that, 66,919 were taken. The lowest number in the last decade came in 2008–2009, when only 37,201 were harvested.
The vast majority of animals trapped are muskrats and coyotes, two species that generally comprise more than half of all harvested furbearers combined.

How warming might affect Alberta agriculture

As the climate changes, among the “winners” could be farmers in Alberta, who may find they’re better able to grow corn.

Rising temperatures may also bring some benefits not only for corn farming but also for agricultural production in greenhouses, said Robert Fernandez, a former executive director of the Alberta Economic Development Authority.
“With the energy industry going sideways, one thing we have seen and looked at over the last three or four years is the real opportunity for Alberta to take advantage of controlled agriculture in a greenhouse environment and high-tech environment,” Fernandez said.
Adding carbon dioxide into greenhouses can increase yields by boosting the potential for photosynthesis to promote crop growth.
Fernandez and others believe Alberta is well-positioned to funnel carbon from oilsands operations into commercial greenhouses to dramatically improve yields, similar to operations in Holland.

When bear spray doesn’t cut it

A grizzly sow twice mauled Bozeman’s Todd Orr on Saturday, and then he summoned the poise to record a gruesome video of his injuries.

Review of export terminal buoys coal companies

Powder River Basin coal companies are optimistic after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a “favorable” draft environmental impact statement for the Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview, Washington, a port that would send coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asian markets.

“Millennium Bulk Terminals would certainly help Montana coal reach Asian utilities, especially in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,” [said Rick Curtsinger of Cloud Peak Energy, which mines coal in southeast Montana].

The price of Australian thermal coal from its Newcastle terminal, seen as the Asian benchmark, is on the rise, which could help alter the trajectory of the following graph of U.S. coal exports.

Crested Butte sheds threat of molybdenum mine

The final chapter in the longest running mine fight in the West may soon be written.

Freeport-McMoRan — the world’s largest moly producer and owner of the Climax Mine near Leadville and the soon-to-shutter Henderson Mine near Empire — has inked a preliminary deal to permanently remove mining claims from Mount Emmons and return about 9,000 acres to the Forest Service. It will also work with Crested Butte to continue treating tainted water flowing from a long-defunct mine on the mountain.

Books: Life in the underbelly of small-town Wyoming

A review of J.J. Anselmi’s new book, Heavy: A Memoir of Wyoming, BMX, Drugs, and Heavy Fucking Music, and the boom and bust cycles that shape the fates of Wyoming’s young people.

Martinez would work the nearby oilfields for eight or nine months at a time and then quit to blow his money on partying and travel until he was broke. Anselmi paints his life and death as products of the nauseating boom-and-bust cycle in which Rock Springs and its residents have always been trapped.

Yoga with goats (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 9:59 AM

Foul-Feathered Friends
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting a recent uptick in cases
 of "live-poultry-associated salmonella," repeated its earlier (apparently largely ignored) alert that people should not be kissing chickens (or ducks or turkeys). CDC noted the recent popularity of urban egg farming, but reminded "hipster" farmers and faddish pet patrons that cuddling the animals, or bringing the little darlings into the home (even those that appear clean and friendly), can spread dangerous bacteria for which humans are unprepared.

Suspicions Confirmed
 A recent working paper by two Louisiana State University economists revealed that the state's juvenile court judges dole out harsher sentences on weeks following a loss by the LSU football team (among those judges who matriculated at LSU). The differences in sentences were particularly stark in those seasons that LSU's team was nationally ranked. (All sentences from 1996 to 2012 were examined, for first-time juvenile offenders, except for murder and aggravated-rape cases.)
 The NCAA's two-year probation handed to Georgia Southern University's football program in July included a note that two football players were given "impermissible" inside help to pass a course. It turns out that even though GSU's former assistant director of student-athlete services stealthily wrote five extra-credit assignments for each of the players, still, neither player was apparently in good enough shape to pass the course.

 A paramedic with the St. Louis Fire Department discovered on Aug. 4 that his car, in the station's parking lot, had been broken into and was missing various items. Minutes after he filed a police report, the station received an emergency call about a pedestrian hit by a car, and the paramedic and crew rushed to the scene. As he was helping the victim, the paramedic noticed that his own gym bag and belongings were strewn about the scene and concluded that the man he was attending to was likely the man who had broken into his car. The paramedic continued to assist the man, and police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they would arrest the man as soon as he was discharged from the hospital.
Raylon Parker, doing his duty in August on a grand jury in Halifax County, North Carolina, listened to a prosecutor lay out a case, and to Parker's apparent surprise, the case was against Raylon Parker (for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill). Still, he voted on the indictment, which passed (though, due to grand jury secrecy, we do not know which way he voted). One possibility: He voted to indict, assuming a judge would toss it out, tainting the prosecutor's case. However, Parker's judge said the indictment — signifying "probable cause" — was still valid and that she would not inquire how Parker had voted.

Bright Ideas
 Business is booming for Lainey Morse, the owner of No Regrets Farm in Albany, Oregon, and the founder of "Goat Yoga" – an outdoor regimen of relaxation carried out among her wandering goats. "Do you know how hard it is to be sad and depressed when there are baby goats jumping around?" she asked, proudly noting that she is booked up right now, with a waiting list of 500. One problem has surfaced, though (as she told a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter): Naive baby goats try to eat flower designs on yoga mats, leading Morse to permit only mats of solid colors.
 Wesley Autrey, 42, was arrested by Scranton, Pennsylvania, detectives in September in a drug bust with five bags of heroin and four of cocaine (along with $3,083 cash) and charged with dealing. Autrey (street name, for some reason: "Newphew") wet his pants during the arrest, which police said he did under the mistaken impression that heroin would dissolve when exposed to urine.
Eau de Toilette: Although India's sacred Ganges River remains ridiculously polluted, it retains holy credibility for Hindus, who consume and bathe in it regularly for salvation. Since reaching the Ganges can be difficult for India's poor, the country's postal service (with 155,000 offices) began recently to offer home delivery of the Ganges, in bottles, for the equivalent of about 22 to 37 cents. (Tip: Water bottled in the small town of Gangotri, which is near the origin of the river, is likely cleaner; the other bottler, in the city of Rishikesh, which is holier but located farther down the river, likely presents worshippers a stronger test of faith.)
 "Clitoris activism is hot in France right now," reported London's The Guardian in August, highlighted by the introduction in school sex education of a 3-D model of the organ – demonstrating, by the way, that it more resembles a "wishbone" or a "high-tech boomerang" than the "small, sensitive" "bud" of dictionary description. French clitoris scholars emphasize that most of the several-inch-long organ is internal and just as highly excitable as its male counterpart, and their wide-ranging societal campaign includes a magazine whose title translates to "The Idiot's Guide to the Clit."

Recurring Themes
Goldfish Revisited: (1) Emma Marsh of Kuraby, Australia, shelled out $500 in September for her goldfish's emergency medical care to remove the pebble stuck in poor Conquer's throat. (Brisbane's Courier-Mail noted that the $500 could have bought 40 replacements — that $500 is about what an actual bar of gold of Conquer's weight would cost.) (2) Elsewhere Down Under, researchers from Murdoch University in Perth said in August they were working on a goldfish-control program after learning that one species dumped in the nutrient-rich Vasse River in Western Australia could grow to 4 pounds — and the size of a football.)

Music researcher David Teie announced in September that he had landed a deal with major label Universal Music to distribute his "Music for Cats" (touted in News of the Weird in February). The music, with Teie accompanying on the cello, includes painstakingly timed "purring" and "sucking" sounds designed to relax kitties, and he reiterated plans to move on to special music for other animals. (In a similar vein, artists led by Dominic Wilcox staged a brief August show in London of exhibits and paintings of scenes that Wilcox thought would appeal to dogs, and would, he said, garner "tail wags." One interactive exhibit, for example, featured an open car window simulator hosting an array of scents.)

The Passing Parade
Hippie grandmother Shawnee Chasser, 65, who has lived in a tree since 1992, is under siege by county officials in Miami who plan to tear down her tree house by December unless she brings her property up to code. It's a full-featured, well-appointed tree house — and she owns the land underneath, but prefers the "heaven" of her high perch, especially when it rains. Six times since 2004, cars have left New Hope Road in Raleigh, North Carolina, and crashed into the home of Carlo Bernarte, and in September he desperately sought help from traffic officials (and indicated that it might be time to move). (He suggested the state install a barrier, but apparently that would block drivers' line of sight.)

A News of the Weird Classic (December 2012)
A research team at Lund University in Sweden, led by neuroethologist Jochen Smolka, concluded that one reason dung beetles dance in circles on top of dung is to cool off, according to an October (2012) report on To arrive at their conclusion, the team went to the trouble of painting tiny silicone "boots" on some beetles, to protect them from the ambient heat experienced by a control group of beetles, and found that the booted beetles climbed atop the dung less frequently. Explained Smolka, "Like an air-conditioning unit, the moist (dung) is cooled by evaporation."

Thanks This Week to Rob Boyden, Michael Brozyna, Russell Bell, and Edgar Pepper, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Rockies Today, September 30

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Texas tycoons lock up Idaho land, lock out hunters

Brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who made their fortune in the oil well services business, have been buying up land all over the West and closing off access. In southern Idaho, hunters recently learned that 172,000 acres of timberland and a vast road system in Adams, Valley and Boise counties will no longer be open to hunting.

The story about the Wilkes’ purchase has taken on a life of its own. Opponents to the transfer or sale of public lands are using the closures as Exhibit A of what can happen if lands that are traditionally open to the public go into private hands.
But it’s the way the story affects snowmobilers, four-wheelers, loggers and hunters such as Wolfinger that has given this story legs, as well as the Wilkses’ unwillingness to talk to anyone about their actions or their plans

Colorado law limits oil-worker safety enforcement

Part 4 of The Denver Post’s four-part special report “Drilling Through Danger.”

Colorado oil and gas regulators receive dozens of reports about workplace accidents every year. But the regulators, lacking legislative authority, don’t punish companies with repeated worker safety problems or share the reports with federal safety officials. And the majority of deaths in the industry go undocumented by the regulators, The Denver Post has found.

Study: Mercury pervasive across the West

USGS research ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith recently published a study of mercury contamination in the West and found it to be “widespread, at various levels across western North America in air, soil, sediment, plants, fish and wildlife.”

According to the study, mercury can come from a number of different natural and manmade sources. In Idaho, historic gold and silver mining is one source — as the element gets released into the environment, flowing into downstream watersheds. But Collin Eagles-Smith says that’s not the only way mercury is released. The scientist says western wildfires burn vegetation that’s a natural holder of mercury.
“So depending on where you have a burn, you could have hundreds of years of accumulated mercury released into the atmosphere in one pulse.”

Inside the coal cleanup crisis

In the following video, Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson and The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier examine the problem of coal mine reclamation, from Pennsylvania to Wyoming.

Transboundary tribal treaty opposes grizzly delisting

Tribal leaders from the U.S. and Canada, concerned about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to remove the grizzly bear from the federal endangered species list, plan to sign a joint treaty today aimed at blocking the proposed hunting of grizzly bears in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

“There should be no doubt that delisting and trophy hunting the grizzly bear on ancestral tribal and treaty lands threatens irreparable harm to tribal rights if it is not challenged,” said Stanley Grier, chief of the Piikani Nation in Brocket, Alberta.

Officials promote Colorado-to-Oregon gas pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled against the $5.3 billion project in the spring, but several western Colorado officials will travel to Coos Bay, Oregon, next week in hopes of persuading FERC to reconsider. The pipeline would carry natural gas from Colorado’s Piceance Basin to an export terminal at Jordan Cove on Coos Bay.

Canada’s approval of a similar project, which would compete with Jordan Cove for customers in China, Korea, Japan and other Pacific Rim nations, illustrates the need to move quickly, [Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn] Bolton said.
“It just floors me,” Bolton said. “They’re going to beat us to the market, which is completely asinine for this country to let that happen.”

Canada increasingly vulnerable to wildfire

The acreage consumed by wildfires every year in Canada is expected to at least double by the end of the century, according to a new report by Natural Resources Canada.

The annual report, The State of Canada’s Forests, noted that even if the world manages to limit global warming to an average 2 degrees Celsius, Canada could still experience a temperature rise of 4 degrees C by 2100. The report said such warmer conditions will change the species composition, size, and age distribution of Canada’s forests, a natural resource that generated more than $22 billion in gross domestic product for the country in 2015.

As High Country News has reported:

The ancient, stunted boreal forests that ring the Arctic Circle contain 30 percent of the world’s land-based carbon, and when they burn, that carbon is released into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming.
But most emissions from boreal fires don’t come from the trees at all — they’re released from the tundra-like peat that makes up the forest floor. The ground literally burns.

Cellphones and serenity in Yellowstone

Is Yellowstone National Park a refuge from ringing cellphones? Not anymore.

Signal coverage maps for two of Yellowstone’s five cellphone towers show calls can now be received in large swaths of Yellowstone’s interior, such as the picturesque Lamar Valley and other areas until just recently out of reach.
The maps were obtained by a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has for years fought against new telecommunications infrastructure in the first national park in the U.S.
“The ability to disconnect, the serenity value of that, is a park resource that they’ve given away without a thought,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “They have ceded the telecommunications programs to the companies.”

OPEC move signals increase in U.S. drilling, fracking

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries promised its first production cut in eight years, seemingly ending an effort led by Saudi Arabia to flood the global crude market and push higher-cost shale companies out of business. It worked: More than 60 oil companies declared bankruptcy over the last 30 months.

Total production from the three biggest U.S. shale oil plays — the Permian and Eagle Ford in Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota — may rise by 30,000 barrels a day next year if explorers can set their budgets with $50 crude. If crude trades between $55 and $65 next year, the three plays may add an additional 700,000 barrels in 2018, the [Bloomberg Intelligence] analysts said.

Uber a boon for Bozeman

After almost two months after its arrival in Montana, Uber, the ride-hailing service, is proving popular among drivers and riders alike.

“My experience has been really good,” [Sarah] Martinez said. “There is not any other job where I could drop my kids off, work three hours, and then pick my kids up from school.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

City makes aggressive move against Merc lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 10:03 AM

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent wants Preserve Historic Missoula out of the way of the impending Missoula Mercantile demolition, and he wants them gone quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Nugent and his staff fired off a response to the group’s lawsuit only 24 hours after learning about it on Sept. 15, then followed up with a 17-page, shotgun-style motion to dismiss two business days later.

What’s more: The city hadn’t even been served with the complaint yet.

“We were just trying to activate it so this would be expedited,” Nugent says. “This is a big community issue and the public deserves to have this resolved.”

Preserve Historic Missoula attorney Michael Doggett describes the city’s move as rare, saying he hasn’t seen it during his five years practicing law.

Doggett spoke with the Indy outside the Missoula County Courthouse on Sept. 27 after shuffling away from the case’s first scheduling hearing in District Court, where its David versus Goliath nature was on display. In District Court Judge Dusty Deschamps’ courtroom, Doggett sat across from four lawyers representing the various defendants, including the city, developers HomeBase Montana and the Merc’s property owners. Deschamps commented that he didn’t know Doggett, then proceeded to explain the basics of court briefing procedure. When the hearing was over, Doggett didn’t mingle to meet his counterparts or the reporters standing around. He just headed for the stairs.
The city responded to a placeholder complaint filed by Preserve Historic Missoula, setting the group's lawsuit to block demolition of the Missoula Mercantile in motion before it had intended. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • The city responded to a placeholder complaint filed by Preserve Historic Missoula, setting the group's lawsuit to block demolition of the Missoula Mercantile in motion before it had intended.
Preserve Historic Missoula’s administrative appeal, which seeks to vacate the demolition permit approval issued by Missoula City Council Aug. 1, is a last-ditch effort to stop HomeBase from tearing down the Merc. With its first move, the city signaled how aggressively it intends to defend council’s decision.

Nugent says he sprung into action after reading a comment from Preserve Historic Missoula president Page Goode in a recent Indy cover story indicating the group planned to take its Merc fight to court. His office checked court records, saw the initial paperwork Doggett filed two weeks prior and decided not to wait.

“They weren’t planning to serve [the lawsuit] anytime in the near future,” Nugent says.

The initial, vague complaint was filed as a placeholder to preserve his clients’ rights, Doggett says, and was prepared before council had even published its findings of fact upon which council members based their decision. But after the city, by responding, initiated court proceedings, Preserve Historic Missoula’s unfinished allegations were repeated in local media.

The group sought to explain itself in a Sept. 22 press release by arguing that its actions were not a “lawsuit” per se, “but simply asking the District Court to uphold and enforce the Missoula Historic Preservation Ordinance as written.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Deschamps and attorneys for all parties, including the preservationists, agreed to pursue an expedited court schedule.

“I think everyone wants to know one way or another what’s going to happen,” Doggett says.

Scheduling, however, was delayed two weeks. Doggett had filed an amended complaint the evening prior, and neither the opposing attorneys nor Deschamps had time to review it.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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): What's the difference between a love warrior and  a love worrier? Love warriors work diligently to keep enhancing their empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. Love worriers fret so much about not getting the love they want that they neglect to develop their intimacy skills. Love warriors are always vigilant for how their own ignorance may be sabotaging togetherness, while love worriers dwell on how their partner's ignorance is sabotaging togetherness. Love warriors stay focused on their relationship's highest goals, while love worriers are preoccupied with every little relationship glitch. I bring this to your attention, Aries, because the next seven weeks will be an excellent time to become less of a love worrier and more of a love warrior.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): How will you deal with a provocative opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate your approach to work? My guess is that if you ignore this challenge, it will devolve into an obstruction. If you embrace it, on the other hand, you will be led to unforeseen improvements in the way you earn money and structure your daily routine. Here's the paradox: Being open to seemingly impractical considerations will ultimately turn out to be quite practical.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Is it possible that you're on the verge of reclaiming some of the innocent wisdom you had as a child? Judging from the current astrological omens,  
suspect it is. If all goes well, you will soon be gifted with a long glimpse of your true destiny – a close replica of the vision that bloomed in you at a tender age. And this will, in turn, enable you to actually see magic unicorns and play with mischievous fairies and eat clouds that dip down close to the earth. And not only that: Having a holy vision of your original self will make you even smarter than you already are. For example, you could get insights about how to express previously inexpressible parts of yourself. You might discover secrets about how to attract more of the love you have always felt deprived of.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): I'm not asking you to tell me about the places and situations where you feel safe and fragile and timid. I want to know about where you feel safe and strong and bold. Are there sanctuaries that nurture your audacious wisdom? Are there natural sites that tease out your primal willpower and help you clarify your goals? Go to those power spots. Allow them to exalt you with their transformative blessings. Pray and sing and dance there. And maybe find a new oasis to excite and incite you, as well. Your creative savvy will bloom in November if you nurture yourself now with this magic.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): One of your old reliable formulas may temporarily be useless or even deceptive. An ally could be withholding an important detail from you. Your favorite psychological crutch is in disrepair, and your go-to excuse is no longer viable. And yet I think you're going to be just fine, Leo. Plan B will probably work better than Plan A. Secondary sources and substitutes should provide you with all the leverage you need. And I
bet you will finally capitalize on an advantage that you have previously neglected. For best results, be vigilant for unexpected help.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Attention! Warning! One of your signature fears is losing its chokehold on your imagination. If this trend continues, its power to scare you may diminish more than 70 percent by November 1. And then what will you do? How can you continue to plug away at your goals if you don't have worry and angst and dread to motivate you? I suppose you could shop around for a replacement fear – a new prod to keep you on the true and righteous path. But you might also want to consider an alternative: the possibility of drawing more of the energy you need by feeding your lust for life.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Thank you for 
all the entertainment you've provided in the past 12 months, Libra. Since shortly before your birthday in 2015, you have taken lively and gallant actions to rewrite history. You have banished a pesky demon and repaired a hole in your soul. You've educated the most immature part of yourself and nurtured the most neglected part of yourself. To my joyful shock, you have even worked to transform a dysfunctional romantic habit that in previous years had subtly undermined your ability to get the kind of intimacy you seek. What's next? Here's my guess: an unprecedented exemption from the demands of the past.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rockies Today, September 27

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 5:51 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Missoula OKs gun sale background checks

In Missoula City Council’s boldest move since, well, wrestling the city’s water utility from a global equity firm, Monday night it approved the state’s first ordinance requiring background checks for private firearms sales.

City council member Bryan von Lossberg drafted the proposed legislation. He says the ordinance is all about saving lives and reducing suicides and domestic violence. He also says the goal is to decrease the number of guns in the hands of those not allowed to legally possess firearms. That includes but is not limited to convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens or minors.
“First and foremost it’s just a responsible action to do. Nobody is under any illusion, especially myself, that this solves all issues. It doesn’t. It’s one tool in a whole suite of tools and actions and programs, but I’m convinced by the data that it saves lives,” von Lossberg added.

For context, read the Missoula Independent’s recent feature story on Councilman von Lossberg’s controversial ordinance:

Safety suffers when drillers use subcontractors

Part 2 of The Denver Post’s four-part special report “Drilling Through Danger.”

The Denver Post found documentation for 38 deaths in the state’s oil and gas industry between 2003 and 2014 — and the large majority of those, 34, involved workers for subcontractors. Details of another 13 deaths that the Bureau of Labor Statistics said occurred in that time span were not available.
“Oil and gas has been a poster child for the ways in which contracting out a lot of very hazardous work can be a fatal mistake and cause a lot of really serious problems,” said Peter Dooley, a safety and health project consultant with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

Investigating harassment claims in Yellowstone

Federal investigators are visiting Yellowstone National Park today to look into an employee’s claims of sexual exploitation of female workers and financial misconduct.

In Yellowstone, the sexual exploitation of female employees has been rife in the park’s special projects division, which does construction and maintenance, equipment operator Robert Hester said in a statement submitted last week to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In one case, a supervisor kept a young female worker drunk and she was in effect paid to have sex, a situation that was common knowledge in the park, Hester said.

Off-the-grid couple could upend Colorado water law

“Living off the grid in Colorado’s vast San Luis Valley, Chuck and Barbara Tidd needed to find a source of energy to supplement their solar panels. Their solution, to use a creek on their property to generate power, led to a legal battle that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court — where they won. That decision worries some who say their new right could upend water law that goes back 150 years.”

A Casper businessman wants the state to trade him land in the Laramie Range in southeast Wyoming for another parcel somewhere else, saying it will make it easier to manage his ranch. But sportsmen argue losing the state parcel would lock them out of more than 4,000 acres of public land used for hunting and recreation.

“That is the №1 spot. It’s the best elk hunting experience I’ve had on public land in Wyoming,” said Guy Litt, a Laramie hunter. “The layout of the proposed exchange would isolate so much BLM and Forest Service land so it would no longer be accessible by foot.”

What would the Clean Power Plan change for you?

As legal arguments commence over the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan—the country’s most ambitious attempt yet to fight climate change—let’s pause and ask: How big of a deal is the Clean Power Plan, and what will it actually change for you?

The last hours of Wyoming alpinist Kim Schmitz

…when word of the Jackson climber’s death in a car crash in Idaho spread through the climbing world last week, it stirred emotions. Life was pain for Schmitz. But death, especially in a car wreck, seemed a cruel and banal ending to a heroic life. A California native who grew up in Oregon, he was as tough as they come but his armored shell shielded a gentle soul.

Wolves in Washington’s crosshairs remain elusive

Wildlife managers are struggling to find and kill the remaining wolves in northeast Washington’s Profanity Peak pack after officials confirmed at least eight cattle were injured or killed by the wolves this summer.

In the first three weeks of August, wildlife managers shot and killed five adults and one pup from the pack. The department says they are still hunting six wolves, including four pups, in rugged forested terrain. The hunt has garnered national media attention and has been denounced by some environmental and animal rights groups.

More on Washington’s wolf packs:

$12M won’t go far in restoring Yellowstone River

Exxon’s paying $12 million to settle damages caused by a burst pipeline that sullied 85 miles of the Yellowstone River and its banks in 2011. That’s not much money.

“There’s an exhaustive list for specific projects, but how we get that winnowed down … into a project to put money into is what this next month is about,” said Bob Gibson, Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman in Billings.

Wildfire-cost reform stalls in Congress

The cost of the Idaho’s Pioneer Fire, the largest in the nation, exceeded $93 million by Thursday, and with 430 firefighters still on the ground, the cost is certain to exceed $100 million before it is done.

Ralph Rau, the chief of fire management for the Agency’s Northern Region in Missoula, Mont., told a Western Governors’ Association workshop on Sept. 20 that the agency still has flexibility to use fire people in other roles. But like a bipartisan coalition of senators, conservation groups and timber companies, he says Congress needs to address what it calls a fire-borrowing problem.
When the Forest Service exceeds its wildfire suppression budget, it borrows from other funds that pay for fuels management, trail work, wildlife habitat improvement and other duties. That makes it stop efforts to reduce fuels and carry on other tasks.

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