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CWD reaches wild Montana elk

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Rockies Today

November 26 · Issue #43 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Editor’s note: We’re beginning our Thanksgiving break tomorrow, so you can expect the next edition on Monday. A convivial holiday to all. Cheers.

CWD reaches wild Montana elk
About a week after Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks announced that chronic wasting disease was detected in a moose for the first time in the state, the agency announced Monday that it suspects the first case of CWD in wild elk. The cow elk was harvested near Red Lodge, inside the northeast corner of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Mountain Journal’s Todd Wilkinson unpacks the implications
Chronic wasting disease reaches wild elk in Montana Chronic wasting disease reaches wild elk in Montana
Tens of thousands of elk—part of more than a dozen different large herds, migrate seasonally in the tri-state area of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho between the high country and lower elevations each year, often mixing while on summer and winter range. The fear is that if CWD takes hold in areas where large numbers of elk congregate, it could quickly spread.
“That infected elk from Red Lodge was not that distant from the elk in Yellowstone Park and they are not distant from the feedgrounds of Jackson Hole,” [Jim Posewitz, a retired veteran of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks,] observes. “You’ve got to suspect that the leakage of this disease is coming from Wyoming and the toleration of unnaturally feeding elk not only by the state but the U.S. Interior Department.”
For years, wildlife disease experts have warned and ridiculed Wyoming and the federal government for operating artificial feed programs that congregate thousands of elk around hay and alfalfa pellets every winter. The controversial practice, widely condemned by veterinary epidemiologists and professional wildlife management organizations, happens at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming  and at 22 feedgrounds operated by the state of Wyoming, most of those on federal land administrated by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
The National Elk Refuge falls under the management purview of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a department, like the National Park Service, within the US Interior Department.
Bruce Smith spent 22 years as a senior staff biologist at the National Elk Refuge and warned about the congregating elk was setting up the population for a potentially catastrophic outbreak of disease. He made his case for phasing out the artificial feeding of elk in his critically-acclaimed book, ”Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd.“ 
Now retired and living in Bozeman, Smith isn’t surprised by confirmation that it has reached elk in Montana but he worries about its consequences—not only ecologically with its impact on wildlife but the potential fear it might cause within the hunting community.
Background on CWD’s potential threat to humans, by the Mountain West News Bureau’s Rae Ellen Bichell, published in April:
The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health
And a recent essay by Christine Peterson:
Faced with chronic wasting disease, what’s a hunting family to do?
More wildlife news:
Adult onset hunters: A new type of sportsman could be the key to funding conservation
WyDot receives $14M grant for Dry Piney wildlife crossing
Sockeye salmon run falters, but Idaho officials optimistic
How roadkill became an environmental disaster
Colstrip's clock ticks
Montana utility regulator has 'significant doubt' about Colstrip's future Montana utility regulator has 'significant doubt' about Colstrip's future
Montana’s Public Service Commission expressed “significant doubt” Monday that the Colstrip Power Plant would burn more a than a few more years and acknowledged risks of $300 million for NorthWestern Energy customers if the utility doesn’t address early closure.
But that acknowledgement was as close as regulators came to requiring NorthWestern to address Colstrip risks as a condition of the utility’s request to increase customer rates by $6.5 million. Monday, the commission tied up loose ends in the rate case, but decided to leave questions about consumers’ big Colstrip risks alone.
Four of the coal-fired power plant’s six owners, who collectively own a 70% share in the facility, have individually made plans to stop investing money in the power plant beginning in 2025. The commission’s expert staff said many of the Colstrip issues, raised by the decisions of the other owners, couldn’t be tackled unless NorthWestern recognizes the realities of the power plant’s useful life are changing.
Montana Public Radio’s Kayla Desroches reports from Colstrip:
Colstrip: 'A little scared, a little concerned, a little bit hopeful'
Meanwhile…
Talen Energy to pay $450K for Colstrip pollution violation
More energy news:
BLM shrinks mine leasing but bypasses climate concerns
U.S. coal mining jobs fall to near-record low levels
Wyoming gas revenues down 74% in 'new reality'
Benzene spike measured near Greeley elementary school
Montana utility regulators give residential solar panel users a break—for now
Navajos reach deal to turn vented methane in southern Utah into hydrogen
Opinion: Alberta seeks Ottawa’s help—and money—to clean up abandoned wells
Canada won't explain claim pipeline expansion will raise $500M in tax revenue
Enviros say Army Corps wrongly permitted Keystone XL pipeline
Digesting Thanksgiving leftovers: One Utah facility turning food waste into energy
Crypto cowboys
As Wyoming embraces the cryptocurrency industry, WyoFile’s Andrew Graham explores the potential risk and reward in this two-story package published today:
Blockchain: Can Wyoming woo a digital revolution? Should it? Blockchain: Can Wyoming woo a digital revolution? Should it?
Links drive allegation of insiders writing crypto bills
Interior's revolving door
Chris D’Angelo and Jimmy Tobias report on the big loophole in the Trump administration’s ethics pledge, and identify “key officials who have dashed through the revolving door at Trump’s Interior Department”: 
How the Interior Department got swamped How the Interior Department got swamped
In October 2017, Ben Cassidy walked away from his lucrative lobbying gig at the National Rifle Association, where he raked in as much as $288,333 per year, for a post at the Department of the Interior. He’d spent nearly seven years trying to reshape the agency as part of the gun lobby, and despite seemingly clear ethics rules against it, he was soon working on national monuments, sport-hunted animal trophy imports and other issues he’d lobbied on.
In July, less than three months after his conduct became the subject of a formal department ethics probe, Cassidy quietly left his position as the Interior Department’s senior deputy director of intergovernmental and external affairs to join Safari Club International. The Washington, D.C.-based trophy hunting advocacy group has close ties to the Trump administration and is one of several organizations that successfully lobbied the Interior Department to roll back prohibitions on importing lions and elephants killed for sport in certain African countries.
Cassidy is a prime example of the revolving door at President Donald Trump’s Interior Department. A HuffPost review found that at least 11 former officials have landed jobs in industry or lobbying since leaving the federal agency.
Three of them ― Cassidy, Vincent DeVito and Todd Wynn ― departed not long after getting wrapped up in a formal investigation by the agency’s Office of Inspector General. That probe targets six current and former officials who maintained close ties to former employers, and stems from a complaint the D.C.-based nonprofit Campaign Legal Center filed with the Interior Department’s internal watchdog that cites HuffPost’s reporting and alleges a “disturbing pattern of misconduct” across the agency.
What else we're reading today
Relocated BLM staff face salary cuts
Yellowstone Wi-Fi signals to fly
Missoula stands out in report on LGBTQ inclusion
America trashes 40% of its food. A Colorado startup is connecting the discards to dinner tables.
Inland port opponents rally in Salt Lake City before heading into court to face rioting charges
Alcohol-related car crashes declined in Idaho after Washington legalized marijuana next door
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