Thursday, October 31, 2013

New satellite technology to detect wildfires an acre in size

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 9:00 AM

What started as a small blaze in the backcountry of central California this summer became the 250,000-acre Yosemite Rim Fire that forced thousands of nearby residents out of their homes. The tab at the end of the fire fighting efforts tallied over $100 million, and that’s not including lost revenue, damaged structures or the tens of millions that some expect will be needed for restoration efforts.

A rendering of the FUEGO satellite, which would snap digital photographs of the Western U.S. every few seconds in search of higher temperatures that could be newly ignited fires.
  • A rendering of the FUEGO satellite, which would snap digital photographs of the Western U.S. every few seconds in search of higher temperatures that could be newly ignited fires.
As outlined this month in Remote Sensing journal, researchers at the University of California in Berkeley now hope that new satellite imaging technology could help with early detection of fires like the Rim, giving fire managers a leg up in planning response. Using state-of-the-art infrared sensors, cameras and processing software, the satellite would be able to identify fires before they reach even one acre in size, monitor the fire’s movement and detail where the fire is most active during firefighting efforts. One satellite would be able to monitor the entire western U.S., researchers on the project say. It’s not simply a fire suppression tool, the Berkeley team says, but a way to help managers plan and react before fires get out of hand.

If the satellite is built (a process researchers hope will start a year from now) it will be a major break-through for wildland firefighting. There have been some advances in fire monitoring during recent years, such as drones that can watch over a fire’s growth and movement, first used in 2007. But fire detection hasn’t changed much in the West since the Forest Service began employing lookouts in 1910 to sit in remote watchtowers and keep their eyes on the land. Technology in the watchtowers has advanced — they now have phones and internet — but those watchers, and any eye-witness reports, are still key to detecting wildfires.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rockies Today, Oct. 30

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Rare-earth miner optimistic about bore findings on Montana-Idaho border
Arkansas-based U.S. Rare Earths said the tests done on bore samples taken from Lemhi Pass on the Montana-Idaho border were encouraging and that the samples were rich enough to spur the building of a concentration and partial separation plant for processing the minerals by 2015.
Billings Gazette; Oct. 30

Montana PSC declines to delay new rule on small-power contracts
The developer of a small hydroelectric project near Helena asked the Montana Public Service Commission to delay its new rule that lowers the generation capacity to three megawatts for "standard offer" contracts with NorthWestern Energy because the Sleeping Giant Power project would generate more power than that and the new standard may derail negotiations with the utility, but the board declined to delay the implementation of the rule.
Helena Independent Record (Lee State Bureau); Oct. 30

Hundreds protest drilling plan for Montana's Beartooth Front
Denver-based Energy Corporation of America's recently announced plans to develop oil and gas leases on Montana's Beartooth Front and in the Big Horn Basin in that state and Wyoming prompted an online petition protesting those plans, with nearly 1,300 signatures collected so far.
Billings Gazette; Oct. 30

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 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): Once when I was hiking through Maui's rain forest, I spied a majestic purple honohono flower sprouting from a rotting log. As I bent down close, I inhaled the merged aromas of moldering wood and sweet floral fragrance. Let's make this scene your metaphor of the week, Aries. Here's why: A part of your life that is in the throes of decay can serve as host for a magnificent bloom. What has been lost to you may become the source of fertility. Halloween costume suggestion: a garbage man or cleaning maid wearing a crown of roses.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesdays with "Camp Sleepover"

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 11:40 AM


Josh Quick's "Camp Sleepover" appears every Tuesday online, and can be seen in the Indy's printed pages every Thursday.

Rockies Today, Oct. 29

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Yellowstone NP winter outfitters concerned about concessions contracts
The mom-and-pop operations in Yellowstone National Park's gateway communities that have provided snowmachines to winter visitors are concerned that concessions contracts will go to large corporations and force them out of business.
Billings Gazette (; Oct. 29

Public comment sought on program to monitor Yellowstone Park's winter plan
The winter-use plan put in place by Yellowstone National Park isn't the last word on that issue, as park officials intend to monitor how well the plan is working and make changes as needed, and on Nov. 22 in Bozeman, park personnel will hold a public meeting on the Adaptive Management Program.
Billings Gazette; Oct. 29

Ten-year study in Alberta found warmer grizzly bears fatter, more fertile
A ten-year study of grizzly bears in Alberta that ended in 2008 found that a warming climate led to fatter, more fertile grizzly bears, and that while grizzly bears in the province's old growth forests tend to live longer, they are less fertile due to limited food sources, while bears living in more developed areas of the province have more access to food and are more fertile, but more prone to die from conflict with humans.
Edmonton Journal; Oct. 29

High lead levels forces Montana DEQ to relocate
On Monday, the 98 employees of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality were told to go home as tests conducted in the former Armory building where the DEQ offices have been located since 2002 came back indicating high levels of lead.
Helena Independent Record; Oct. 29

Alberta jobs focus of Montana economic symposium in Eureka
The "Work in Canada but live at home in Montana," symposium in Eureka on Nov. 4-5 will focus on recruiting Montana workers for jobs primarily in Alberta's oilsands operations, with some sessions examining products that can be made in the Big Sky State and exported north of the border.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; Oct. 29

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Rockies Today, Oct. 28

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Oldest lumber mill in Montana now powered by biomass
F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. in Columbia Falls is the oldest family-owned lumber mill in Montana, and it's also the leader in new technology with a $22-million biomass power plant that went online earlier this month that generates enough power for 3,000 homes.
Flathead Beacon; Oct. 28

American Prairie Reserve piecing together Montana bison range
The decade-long drive of American Prairie Reserve to create a new kind of park in northern Montana to allow bison to roam free over thousands of acres has now amassed 274,000 acres of land and released 274 bison on the land, which is securely fenced to keep the animals from roaming onto neighboring ranches, where the sentiment about creating an American Serengeti is not shared.
New York Times; Oct. 27

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How panda poop plays into clean power (and more from In Other News)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Curses, Foiled Again
Police accused three men of breaking into a home near Palatka, Fla., photographing its contents and then posting the pictures on Facebook, offering to sell any and all pictured items. When a potential buyer asked about a refrigerator, the men said to meet them at the house. A suspicious neighbor saw the men enter the house and called police, who arrested Carlos Rivera, 27, Leandre Green, 25, and Jordan Green, 25. (Orlando Sentinel)

Police investigating an armed robbery at a convenience store in Belleville, Ill., arrested a suspect after he returned to the store five hours later, and the clerk recognized him. (St. Louis’s KTVI-TV)

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Rockies Today, Oct. 25

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

GE subsidiary gives up fight over megaload route through Idaho
Resources Conservation Company International filed documents on Thursday to drop its federal court action to allow the GE subsidiary to transport an oversized piece of equipment along Highway 12 from the Port of Lewiston to the Montana border, and the company said it will find another route to ship the equipment.
Idaho Statesman (Lewiston Tribune); Oct. 25

NRDC analysis tracks effect of wildfire smoke in U.S.
The Natural Resources Defense Council analyzed data from the 2011 wildfire season, and found that two-thirds of U.S. residents were affected by smoke from those wildfires that year, with Texans affected the most, and Illinois residents ranking second, even though no wildfires burned in that state. Contains a graphic showing the intensity of smoke from U.S. wildfires.
USA Today; Oct. 25

Colorado company has drilling plans for Montana, Wyoming basin
Energy Corporation of America left Billings in the mid-1980s when oil and gas prices tanked, but the Colorado-company is back in the Montana city, with plans to develop the oil and gas leases it owns in the Big Horn Basin in Montana and Wyoming near Roscoe and Red Lodge.
Billings Gazette; Oct. 25

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pipelines aren't the only way to ship oil; rail's on the rise

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM

What do melting sea ice, fiery train wrecks and the Bakken oil boom have in common?

No, they’re not part of the latest Hollywood blockbuster — although if I came across a trailer showing George Clooney as a roughneck leaping from a flaming train onto an ice floe with an angry polar bear, you better believe I’d watch it.

The answer is less exciting, but more important: All three factor into a Denver company’s plan to ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in Saskatchewan to a northern Manitoba port via railroad. Colorado-based Omnitrax, one of North America’s largest private rail companies, hopes to bring more than 2 million barrels of oil annually from Saskatchewan to the Port of Churchill in Hudson Bay along existing railroad tracks, starting as soon as 2015.

Similar but unrelated plans are on track to ship tar sands oil from Alberta to coastal British Columbia by rail, as well as crude from North Dakota to Oregon and Washington. Across North America, the number of railcars shipping oil has grown from almost zero in 2009 to a projected 150,000 in Canada and more than 700,000 in the U.S. this year. About 70 percent of North Dakota oil now moves by train, destined for refineries around the U.S. As energy strategist Julius Walker told Bloomberg, “This is a revolutionary change in crude oil logistics that has rarely happened before.”

Despite the rapid expansion, most shipments go virtually unnoticed. Unlike pipelines, which require extensive permitting and environmental review, oil-by-rail requires little new infrastructure or permitting. Five years ago, it was adopted as a stop-gap measure while pipelines like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway were held up by environmental opposition. Soon, though, refiners realized that trains can provide a more flexible, less controversial shipping option without the hefty up-front investment of a new pipeline. Some refiners are even bypassing pipelines altogether: as Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported, the proposed “Freedom Pipeline” from West Texas to Los Angeles was abandoned this year in favor of moving the oil on existing railroads.

The swift and unpredictable rise of oil-by-rail raises questions for transportation officials and environmentalists alike. In July, a train carrying Bakken crude in Quebec derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. The incident spurred a deeper look into the safety of the industry on both sides of the border, and it prompted questions about who should be responsible for preventing future accidents. Some petroleum analysts say crude is no more dangerous than gasoline, which is regularly shipped by train, but independent research from the Manhattan Institute shows that regardless of the type of fuel, pipelines are still the safest mode of transportation.

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Rockies Today, Oct. 24

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana Commerce Dept. awards $500K in tourism grants
The Montana Department of Commerce issued $500,000 in grants from its Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program to eight tourism sites, including $132,500 to Bridger Bowl Ski Area for the construction of the Alpine Cabin near two upgraded lifts on the mountain, $54,000 for improvements to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, and $80,000 to help restore the Blackfeet Tribe's Chewing Blackbones Campground near Glacier National Park.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle; Oct. 24

Another Montana homeowner wins lawsuit for Corral Fire damage
The landowner whose slash pile fire reignited in 2012 and sparked the Corral Fire near Helena that burned 1,800 acres and destroyed four homes has $1.3 million in insurance to pay claims resulting from the Montana wildfire, but so far two lawsuits filed have resulted in $2.4 million in judgments, and with more than 30 other property owners seeking compensation, the insurance money won't go far.
Helena Independent Record; Oct. 24

Montana PSC rejects utility's claim of lost revenue due to conservation
On Tuesday, the Montana Public Service Commission ruled that NorthWestern Energy had overstated its claims of lost revenue due to conservation programs, a claim that the utility's officials said sends a conflicting message about conservation programs, and an official with the Montana Environmental Information Center said the ruling indicated the PSC's hostility toward conservation programs.
Montana Standard (Lee State Bureau); Oct. 24

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