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Biking vs. drilling in eastern Utah


Rockies Today

November 13 · Issue #34 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Biking vs. drilling in eastern Utah
Can energy production coexist with eastern Utah’s emerging recreation economy? Can energy production coexist with eastern Utah’s emerging recreation economy?
The increasingly popular McCoy Flats trail network occupies an intersection where the Uinta Basin’s economic past intersects with its future, illustrating how the region’s growing stake in outdoor recreation could conflict with its energy production.
While Uintah County leaders are delighted with the belated rise of recreation in the extraction-oriented basin, state trust lands officials are nervous. This is because Utah’s scattered mile-square trust sections are embedded within the federal lands that host an expanding network of motorized and nonmotorized trails. These lands are to be managed to raise revenue for public schools. That generally means oil and gas leasing in this energy-rich corner of the Beehive State, as opposed to dispersed recreation, which the agency can’t cash in on.
David Ure, executive director of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), is concerned that his agency could be prevented from developing its mineral assets once trail systems are carved across its holdings. SITLA might legally own 3.4 million acres, he said, but, from a practical standpoint, the agency controls far less when it considers how the public has come to expect unfettered use of numerous trust parcels that then become difficult to develop.
“We are in a battle all the time as to how to do that,“ Ure said, “but at the same time we are also putting money in to accommodate the public on our lands.”
Tensions surrounding the public use of trust lands are as old as Utah statehood, but the ceaseless expansion of dispersed, trail-based recreation is exacerbating the friction.
Maffly also reports on “the key role Utah’s outdoor recreation culture has played in the Wasatch Front’s rise as a tech hub”:
When Utah tech companies recruit, they sell the state’s big peaks as big perks
More turmoil in the Powder River Basin
Navajo leader: Tribe won't back energy company's new mines Navajo leader: Tribe won't back energy company's new mines
The Navajo Nation will not financially back bonds a tribal energy company needs for a trio of newly acquired coal mines off the reservation, the tribal president said Tuesday, explaining that it’s too risky and his administration wants the company to move away from coal.
The Navajo Transitional Energy Co. recently bought Montana’s largest coal mine and two mines in Wyoming at auction after Cloud Peak Energy declared bankruptcy.
The mines can keep operating for now because more than $370 million in reclamation bonds posted by Cloud Peak remain in place, state officials said.
Tribal President Jonathan Nez said he canceled agreements the energy company might have relied on to seek the Navajo Nation’s financial backing for the bonds. He said the company wasn’t forthcoming about information related to acquiring and operating the mines, and he wants to protect the tribe’s finances as revenues decline from the loss of a coal plant and mine on the reservation. Tribal lawmakers had been considering legislation to do the same thing.
“The Navajo Nation’s financial portfolio as well as our resources would be placed in a state of uncertainty if we allowed NTEC to proceed with finalizing the bonds needed to operate these three mines using the (Navajo) Nation’s consent …” Nez wrote in a statement.
The development marks the latest turmoil to hit the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing region, where bankruptcies and declining demand have put a pall over a once-vibrant industry.
More coverage:
Navajo pull backing for tribal energy company over coal mine purchases
Navajo Nation refuses to financially back purchase of Wyoming coal mines
Navajo Nation yanks backing for company's new mines
And analysis from a think tank that advocates for a sustainable and profitable energy transition:
Navajo Nation’s refusal to support NTEC is an act of sovereign responsibility
For some BLM employees, it's move or removal
Interior Department delivers relocation notices to BLM employees Interior Department delivers relocation notices to BLM employees
The Interior Department delivered hundreds of relocation notices on Tuesday, starting a 30-day clock for employees to either agree to move to a location in the western United States or face removal. 
The official “management directed geographic reassignments” were delivered in-person today to each of the employees at the Bureau of Land Management headquarters facing relocation. BLM is moving 27 employees to a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado, and about 220 more Washington, D.C.-based workers to field offices in western states. The employees will have until Dec. 12 to agree to their specific new post or they will be placed into removal proceedings. 
More from E&E News:
BLM may fire employees who don't relocate
Government Executive reported last week on the mood among D.C.-based BLM employees:
BLM employees head for the exits rather than relocate
Got too much milk?
There's a milk glut and Idaho dairies are feeling the pain There's a milk glut and Idaho dairies are feeling the pain
Idaho is America’s No. 3 dairy producer, and nearly three-quarters of the state’s milk comes out of south-central Idaho. According to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, the state’s dairy industry employed roughly 40,000 people in 2015 — and about 27,000 of those individuals worked in support services, from nutrition planning to milk hauling. The Magic Valley is a milk mecca, home to the world’s biggest Greek yogurt plant and some of the largest American-style cheese plants on Earth.
Dairy farmers are the backbone of all that processing, and they’re getting more efficient at making milk. Today’s cows produce significantly more milk than their great-grandmothers did 20 years ago, thanks to improvements in selective breeding and nutrition strategies.
Hernan Tejeda is a dairy and livestock economist at the University of Idaho Extension. He said the state had about 500 dairies in 2016. Now there are 450 dairies, less than half the number Idaho had in the 1990s. At the same time, the number of Gem State cows has increased from 580,000 in 2016 to 614,000 today. When one dairy goes under, another buys its cows or shipping rights, so production doesn’t drop.
The milk glut, which has caused low prices for the past five years, is a simple supply and demand problem — there’s just too much milk on the market. Magic Valley processors don’t have any more capacity available, but some farmers continue to grow their herds.
“When the price is low, folks tend to overproduce because they want to get the same amount of total revenue,” Tejeda said.
Overproduction isn’t just a Gem State problem, it’s a nationwide one. 
Dairy giant with Boise milk-processing plant files for bankruptcy
Federal legislation provides path to legal status for farmworkers
What else we're reading today
Sagebrush helps support ecosystems throughout the West. But today, 50% of the plant’s habitat is gone
After decades of negotiations, restoration efforts on Colorado’s heavily diverted Fraser River are showing signs of success
The politics of Medicaid expansion have changed
BLM suspends oil and gas production on 130 plots in Utah after challenge
Dakota Access operators call climate change 'undefined, vague, and ambiguous' in official filing
Tribe to argue against expansion of Dakota Access pipeline
EPA may let oil waste in waterways. Is the public at risk?
Scientists developing warning system to teach bears to avoid trains
Conservation groups oppose phase-out plan for Alkali Creek elk feedground
Eastern Montana to lure tourists with dark night skies
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