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A deer documentary and 'hipneck' hunters


Rockies Today

November 7 · Issue #31 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

'Deer 139'
WyoFile’s Katie Klingsporn reviews the new documentary ’Deer 139,’ which she describes as “a love letter to Wyoming landscapes, gritty human adventure and, mostly, the incredible annual cycles of migrating animals.”
Film traces burly, beautiful migration route of Deer 139 Film traces burly, beautiful migration route of Deer 139
Grazing along roadways, pilfering gardens or silhouetted on snowy hillocks, mule deer are such a customary part of the Wyoming landscape that it’s easy to overlook them.
Pay a little closer attention, though, and you’ll find an animal that’s more than just a placid backyard ungulate. You’ll find a formidable traveler and a hardy survivor. A creature whose inherent intelligence compels it across disparate landscapes on annual migrations, treks made ever trickier by the proliferation of human-made obstacles.
Sam Dwinnell knows this well. Dwinnell, a research scientist at the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environmental Resources, studies mule deer in the Wyoming Range. As a result, she understands that mule deer migrations are not only remarkable treks, but ones facing mounting threats.
To help a wider audience appreciate the story of mule deer migrations, she came up with an audacious plan: Track the migration path of one particular doe that criss-crosses 85 miles from scrub desert to craggy peaks and make a film about it.
That film, “Deer 139,” has just been released. The movie, which premiered in Jackson and just showed at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada, embarks on a tour through Wyoming communities this week. The tour begins today in Laramie before traveling to Etna, Lander, Cody and Big Horn.
The film, which is part science, part adventure and part comedy, is a love letter to Wyoming landscapes, gritty human adventure and, mostly, the incredible annual cycles of migrating animals.
Dwinnell said the team strove to use the vessels of humor and outdoor adventure to deliver a message about wildlife, science and land management.
“We just want to get these stories of migration out there,” she said. “For conservation to happen, the knowledge has to be in the public domain. And so, these visual storytelling projects are really our attempt at getting the science that’s normally locked up in the ivory towers of academia … out to … a broader audience.”
Deer 139 trailer on Vimeo
'Hipnecks' and hydroponic microgreens
Stories published today by Stateline and The Colorado Sun together shed light on the values of some of the West’s beginning hunters and farmers.
Recruiting foodies and ‘hipnecks’ as the new hunters Recruiting foodies and ‘hipnecks’ as the new hunters
Before she went hunting for the first time, Crystal Egli practiced walking around with a replica rifle, feeling its heft while “on the verge of tears.” Egli had discovered the appeal of hunting — but had serious qualms about holding a rifle due to a lifelong fear of guns. 
“Why don’t I hunt?” the 35-year-old Coloradoan asked herself. “That’s a great source of organic, free-range, grass-fed meat. What’s stopping me? The answer was firearms.”
With the help of friends and mentors, Egli became more comfortable handling a rifle and found she was a good shot. When she bagged a deer for the first time, she took a knee over the animal and gave thanks.
“I put my hands on her and talked to her,” she recalled. “I told her she’s beautiful and she’s going to feed my family, and she was going to be the first meat that my daughter eats.”
Egli’s story is one that state wildlife agencies are hoping to replicate. The number of hunters has fallen sharply in recent decades, and data shows that most hunters are older, white men even as the country’s demographics shift. With less money coming in from hunting and fishing licenses and sales taxes, state officials realize that to keep their conservation and wildlife agencies afloat they must recruit hunters for whom the activity is not a passed-down tradition.
States have begun targeting new groups to fill the ranks of hunters: foodies, city-dwellers, young adults and women. Rather than counting on family heritage and cultural ties to carry the hunting message, they’re preaching the gospel of ethically sourced food, healthy protein and respect for wildlife.
Colorado’s newest farmers are YouTube-taught, social justice-minded and preaching the gospel of microgreens Colorado’s newest farmers are YouTube-taught, social justice-minded and preaching the gospel of microgreens
Lake Coeur d’Alene’s toxic time bomb
As Lake Coeur d’Alene gets sicker, Idaho governor orders review of data As Lake Coeur d’Alene gets sicker, Idaho governor orders review of data
As Lake Coeur d’Alene’s overall health continues to deteriorate, Idaho Gov. Brad Little ordered a third-party review of the data on Wednesday.
The request could set the stage for a more concerted effort to protect the lake, or it could simply “kick the can down the road,” said Phil Cernera, director of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s lake department.
Either way, Cernera welcomed the review, noting that a decade of data collected by both the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho has shown continued declines in the lake’s health.
“The lake management plan is obviously not working,” he said. “Our water quality is declining.”
Since the 1990s, the volume of phosphorus flowing into the lake has roughly doubled, according to a 2017 presentation on the topic. That’s a troubling development for a lake that has roughly 75 million metric tons of sediment polluted with lead and other heavy metals, the toxic legacy of more than a century of mining in Idaho’s Silver Valley.
Those toxins are mostly concentrated in the lake’s sediment. However, increased plant growth in the lake, spurred by higher levels of phosphorous, threatens to ultimately reduce the lake’s oxygen to a point at which the heavy metals could become resuspended in the lake water.
Oxygenated water acts like a cap on the metals, keeping them locked in the sediment. At the same time, a warming climate will increase the likelihood of those metals resuspending as snowpack levels decrease and water temperatures rise during the summer months.
Don’t miss Emily Benson’s High Country News cover story on Lake Coeur d’Alene, published in June:
A dangerous cocktail threatens the gem of North Idaho A dangerous cocktail threatens the gem of North Idaho
And speaking of Idaho waters…
Idaho chinook, steelhead in trouble
Decarbonizing Colorado—at a savings
“The world may be a raging dumpster fire,” writes Vox energy wonk David Roberts, “but Colorado has the potential to be an island of sanity, moving toward a cleaner, cheaper, healthier energy system in a way that benefits all state residents.”
Colorado’s cleanest energy options are also its cheapest Colorado’s cleanest energy options are also its cheapest
Of all the states in the US, Colorado may be the best prepared for a genuine, large-scale energy transition.
For one thing, thanks to its bountiful sunlight and wind, Colorado has enormous potential for renewable energy, most of which is untapped. The state currently generates only 3 percent of its electricity from solar and just under 18 percent from wind.
The political climate is favorable as well. As of earlier this year, Democrats have a “trifecta” in the state, with control over the governorship and both houses of the legislature. Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a promise to target 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. In their last session, he and the legislature passed a broad suite of bills meant to boost renewable energy, reform utilities, expand EV markets, and decarbonize the state economy.
Colorado has the three main ingredients it needs to get going on clean energy: a healthy economy, plentiful sunlight and wind, and Democrats firmly in charge of state government.
Over the last year or so, energy systems modeler and analyst Christopher Clack, with his team at the energy research outfit Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE), has been taking a close look at what Colorado is capable of in terms of clean energy, and what it might cost. (The research was commissioned by renewable energy developer Community Energy.)
VCE has built a model called WIS:dom (ahem, “Weather-Informed energy Systems: for design, operations, and markets”). It can simulate the Colorado electricity system with incredibly granular accuracy, down to a 3-kilometer, 5-minute range, year-round. Using that tool, they have simulated various clean-energy initiatives the state might take, and their impact.
I’ve been tracking their progress.
Meanwhile, in Montana…
Montana regulators endorse $6.5 million rate increase for NorthWestern Energy customers
Tribes to again defend Indian Child Welfare Act
Court to rehear law on adoptions of Native American children Court to rehear law on adoptions of Native American children
A federal appeals court announced Thursday that it will take a second look at an emotionally fraught lawsuit governing the adoption of Native American children.
In August, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. It was a defeat for non-Indian families in multiple states who had adopted or sought to adopt American Indian children.
On Thursday, the New Orleans-based court said a majority of its active judges have voted to re-hear the case. It means Native American tribes and the federal government will again have to defend the law, which they say is critical to protect and preserve Native American culture and families.
Fate of Native children may hinge on U.S. adoption case
Who can adopt a Native child?
What else we're reading today
The Native musician and poet revitalizing Indigenous food sovereignty
Could tax on gear, marijuana trim maintenance backlog?
A century of protection, a future of connection
Official grizzly bear population estimate up slightly
Wyoming takes steps toward new CWD policy
The power of bison as muses for social change
How do we know when a species at risk has recovered? It's not just a matter of numbers
Idaho, DOE sign deal on spent nuclear fuel
Here's what it's like to be a journalist in the middle of the deadly California wildfires
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812