Parts of Montana reached 110 degrees this week—more than 20 degrees above normal—while the nation’s largest wildfire continued to explode in southern Oregon, generating its own weather and prompting state officials to warn residents that they face a long and difficult fire season.
The West is going through “the trifecta of an epically dry year followed by incredible heat the last two months and now we have fires,” said University of California Merced climate and fire scientist John Abatzoglou. “It is a story of cascading impacts.”
Ecologists in a vast region of wetlands and forest in remote Oregon have spent the past decade thinning young trees and using planned fires to try to restore the thick stands of ponderosa to a less fire-prone state. This week, the nation’s biggest burning wildfire provided them with an unexpected, real-world experiment.
Lumber is one of several commodities markets being roiled by extreme weather this summer. The same heat and drought that set the stage for an unusually early and intense fire season in the West have dried up hydroelectric power output and increased air-conditioning demand in the region, which has helped push natural-gas prices to their highest summer levels in seven years.
It has lasted longer than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. It’s dropped water levels perilously low at two of the nation’s largest reservoirs, forced ranchers to sell off herds and helped propel scorching wildfires. And worst of all, the drought blanketing the western United States is not going away.
For the 7th straight week, Extreme (D3)/Exceptional (D4) Drought in the West has set a #DroughtMonitor record as huge degradations in the Northwest/N. Rockies continue to outdo improvements in the Southwest.
59.5% of the West is in D3/D4 compared to 56.8% last week
In the little mountain town of Oakley, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, the spring that pioneers once used to water their hayfields and filled people’s taps for decades dwindled to a trickle in this year’s scorching drought. So town officials took drastic action to preserve their water: They stopped building.
Seven environmental organizations combined to put together a list of 10 ways to boost the basin’s resilience to climate change, with the hope that Utah and the six other states that tap water from the Colorado River will be able to keep using it despite an increasingly desperate drought.
Human water consumption and diversion have long depleted the Utah lake. Its level today is inches away from a 58-year low, state officials say, and Western drought conditions fueled by the climate crisis have exacerbated conditions. The worst part? It’s only July, and the lake historically doesn’t reach its annual low until October.
The factors driving Moab’s housing shortages are complex, but all seem to swirl around the tourist explosion in the red-rock town. Some blame the scarcity of long-term rentals on Airbnb hosts, who in turn point the finger at local government for what they say are failures in development planning.
Calling the forest and town of Jackson streets home is not a unique position in a remote, mountain valley where there’s an acute lack of housing and rent has skyrocketed. Based on reports Bridger-Teton officials receive of people overstaying five- and 14-day camping limits, there are an estimated 300 to 500 people living on the 3.4-million-acre national forest that wraps around three sides of Jackson Hole.
Billings, Montana, is the new No. 1, boosted by its affordability and appeal to remote workers. The index reflects how the housing boom has ignited homebuying activity in smaller to midsize cities around the U.S.
With housing values increasing by well over 20% in the past year in parts of the state, some workers are saying they can’t take low-paying jobs even with recent wage hikes, said Mike Foster, director of the state’s program for distributing coronavirus relief funds.
Well-heeled owners offer clean up of the Coal Basin mine and perpetual access to a new trail network there. The unusual public-private collaboration could serve as a model for restoring environmental danger zones.
After months of uncertainty and heated public debate, the Albany County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant a key permit to the 504-megawatt Rail Tie Wind Project—with a few conditions.
Plans for a large solar farm west of Dillon advanced this week as developer Clēnera secured a sales contract with NorthWestern Energy. The 80-megawatt Apex Solar project is Boise-based Clēnera’s third Montana development to secure terms in the past year. Apex pushes the company’s contracted Montana generation to 230 megawatts, the most of any solar developer.
The merger between a global energy giant and New Mexico’s largest utility could drastically change electricity distribution in the state, with hundreds of millions of dollars for New Mexico utility customers hanging in the balance.
A judge considering legal challenges to government approval of a Nevada mine at the largest known U.S. deposit of lithium said Wednesday she’ll decide by the end of the month whether to grant the conservationists’ bid for a temporary ban on any digging at the site because of potential harm to sage grouse and other wildlife.
The survey found that two-thirds of fossil fuel industry workers believe “climate change is an emerging challenge that we need to address” and that 61 percent of workers believe “Canada should pivot towards a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 to remain a competitive global economy.”
For decades conservation advocates, public land managers, and local leaders have fought to keep the most damaging impacts of extractive industries at bay, with a fair amount of success. But today’s threats—including rural subdivisions, sprawling towns, and unprecedented levels of recreation and tourism—are proving to be every bit as threatening to the ecosystem and its communities as what Charles Wilkinson labeled the “Lords of Yesteryear.“
Glacier National Park drew more than a half-million visitors last month, charting its second-busiest June on record despite imposing a ticketed-entry system aimed at blunting the acute congestion that in recent years has led to paralytic gridlock in the park’s key arterials.
As the popularity of America’s national parks continues to surge, Parks co-creators and Santa Fe-based multimedia journalists Mary Mathis and Cody Nelson urge visitors to educate themselves about and acknowledge the Indigenous tribes whose ties to these sacred spaces span millennia.
Both northern states reintroduced wolves after they had been gone for decades. Their advice to Colorado as it prepares for a voter-approved reintroduction of the gray wolf is the same: Expect the wolf population to repopulate quickly, as long as the new predators of the forest have the right habitat with plenty of deer, elk and moose to eat.
Environmental groups have notified Idaho Gov. Brad Little and other state officials of their intent to file a lawsuit over an expanded wolf-killing law they believe will result in the illegal killing of federally protected grizzly bear and lynx.
Two of the key players in the Northwest debate over breaching four dams to prevent Snake River salmon from going extinct say it’s time to identify how to replace the power from the four dams and other services, such as grain shipping.
For years, biologists and federal officials in the Pacific Northwest have wrung their hands about the decline of the endangered northern spotted owl following the arrival of its more aggressive and adaptable cousin, the barred owl. Now, it appears they have a tool that could turn the tables: a shotgun.
The totem pole was carved by members of the Lummi Nation and is being transported from their home in Washington state to Washington, D.C., as part of a 15-day, cross-continent journey to advocate for the protection of sacred places and the expansion of tribal sovereignty rights.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee deadlocked today on Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Land Management, after more than an hour of contentious debate over her involvement in a tree-spiking case more than three decades ago. But the party-line vote means she can still receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Much of the infrastructure talk in Washington these days focuses on large, complicated projects involving tunnels, bridges and highways. But there is a much more basic matter involving infrastructure that also merits attention: the need to provide clean water to the more than half a million Native Americans who lack the sort of water and sanitation services that other Americans take for granted.
Toxic “forever chemicals” likely are used and discharged into water at 501 sites in Colorado and at least 29,900 across the United States, according to a new analysis by an environmental advocacy nonprofit.
The U.S. Forest Service issued a draft approval of an oil and gas exploration project in the Tendoy Mountains in southwest Montana near Lima in May, stamping the project’s Environmental Assessment with a Finding of No Significant Impact.
State auditors found that an agency intended to educate the public about forestry presented biased information favoring the timber industry and possibly violated state law. The audit was prompted by our investigation last year into the agency.