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Housing rows and river flows

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Rockies Today

December 5 · Issue #47 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Housing rows and river flows
Helen Santoro of High Country News reports from the outskirts of Missoula on the Clark Fork Coalition’s work to keep a creek flowing, and finds that as subdivisions spread and drought persists, it’s becoming harder to manage one of the state’s most valuable resources.
Montana’s water rights fractured by new development Montana’s water rights fractured by new development
O’Brien Creek is situated about four miles west of Missoula, Montana. Flowing alongside country roads, it meanders past neighborhoods on its journey to the Bitterroot River, a tributary of the Clark Fork. But years of drought, decreased snowpack and water siphoned off for crops, livestock and lawns have led to dangerously low flows by late summer. To protect the stream and its native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout, the Clark Fork Coalition, a watershed-wide nonprofit, bought the majority of the creek’s senior water rights in 2014. This permits the organization to stop upstream homeowners from using too much water.
But that might be easier said than done. A few summers ago, Jed Whiteley, the organization’s project manager and monitoring coordinator, contacted every homeowner on the formerly agricultural land and told them they had to stop using large amounts of water by mid-July. The homeowners were shocked. “Nobody had made a call on the senior water right in a while,” said Whiteley. “They got used to not getting called on, and all of a sudden, we’re shutting them down.”
And such calls may soon become more common. Montana’s population has risen by 7.4% since 2010, and ranch lands across the state are being subdivided. But when land is divided, so are the water rights, creating an increasingly fractured landscape. For senior water-right holders like the Clark Fork Coalition, this makes protecting a valuable resource even more challenging.
The Clark Fork River’s 14 million-acre watershed stretches from the city of Butte in southwestern Montana all the way to Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho. Once it was dotted with farms and ranches, but in recent decades, tens of thousands of new houses have been built in the region. From 1990 to 2016, over 1.3 million acres of undeveloped land in Montana was converted into housing, according to a 2018 report by Headwaters Economics. The demographic landscape is changing as well: Several western Montana counties are attracting younger people and new residents from across the country.
All this population growth is making water management more complicated.
In more water news out of Montana…
Sen. Daines says he’ll introduce new agreement to settle CSKT water dispute
Montana and Wyoming wind projects advance
Montana utility regulator sets terms for $500 million wind farm near Rapelje Montana utility regulator sets terms for $500 million wind farm near Rapelje
Wind farm gets permit for 277 turbines
More energy news:
Elevated level of benzene detected at Greeley school near oil and gas operation
Broomfield approves second six-month moratorium on oil and gas
Colorado talks a mean game on methane. Bad data, no best practices say otherwise.
Far from the spotlight, small-town Alberta suffers in upheaval sweeping energy sector
Boulder's putting the carbon back
Brett KenCairn, Boulder, Colorado’s senior policy adviser for climate, sustainability, and resilience, explains how the city’s using its resources to find natural ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and embed it in city owned land.
How Boulder is creating a path for cities to scale up carbon sequestration How Boulder is creating a path for cities to scale up carbon sequestration
We’re interested in taking carbon from where it is not useful (the atmosphere) and putting it where it enhances life-sustaining capacities. That means we’re putting carbon back into vegetation (with trees/shade), back into soils (for healthier food, increased water holding capacity, and enhanced biodiversity), and back into oceans (for increased sea life). Stabilizing the climate becomes a co-benefit.
We’re so focused on these natural solutions to carbon that we—with the cities of Boulder and San Francisco taking the lead—recently launched the Urban Drawdown Initiative (UDI) to help cities “drawdown” carbon, pulling it out of the air and putting it back into vegetation, soil, and sea life.
Why are cities doing this?
Inside the Missoula Fire Lab
Meet the scientists who play with fire Meet the scientists who play with fire
Inside Missoula's U.S. Forest Service Fire Lab, Where Scientists Play With Fire
What's killing southern Idaho's bees?
'This is total devastation'—Magic Valley bees dying in droves 'This is total devastation'—Magic Valley bees dying in droves
BLISS — A carpet of dead bees covers the ground in front of his hives.
“It’s devastating,” Tony Kaneaster of Kaneaster Apiary said. “This is just totally devastating. They can’t pick up from something like this.”
Kaneaster grabs a handful of bees from the inch-deep row and sifts through them. They’re light and fuzzy in his hand. The living bees constantly clean out the deceased and push them out of the hive, and gusts of wind can blow away the corpses quickly, so these bodies are fresh.
“Skunks will come in and eat them dead bees on the ground,” Dave Kaneaster, Tony Kaneaster’s father, said. “They don’t stay there very long.”
The Kaneasters have bee yards throughout the Magic Valley, but it’s their hives between the Hagerman Valley and a bit north of Bliss that are dying in droves. Fourteen of their hives have been decimated in the past few weeks. Six of those have been completely wiped out. The Kaneasters run about 100 yards, although not all of those yards are always full of bees.
Three weeks ago this yard of 72 white bee boxes near the Snake River seemed healthy. The Kaneasters nailed the hives shut to prep them for the trek to California, where they would have pollinated almonds in January and February.
Almond pollination is how the Kaneasters, and most Magic Valley beekeepers, make the bulk of their money, but with their bees dying by the minute, the Kaneasters don’t expect these insects to survive long enough to make the journey. They don’t know what to do. 
“I’m not even sure if I’m in business,” Tony Kaneaster said. “We’ve got to have the bees or we aren’t going to eat.”
More wildlife news:
Group's effort to halt Yellowstone bison hunt denied by federal judge
Montana crafting new grizzly management plan
Tribal leaders to state council: Revere, respect neighboring grizzly bears
EPA once again allows 'cyanide bombs'
Congressional panel considers CWD task force
Panel approves bipartisan wildlife funding bill
Canada lynx living at the edges
Daines, Tester want to increase cash to stop invasive species
Are we ready for the coming feral hog invasion?
Public lands education or shaming?
The public lands Instagram blacklist The public lands Instagram blacklist
More public lands news items:
National Park Service mission undermined by invasive animals, study says
Groups sue to restore e-bikes ban in national parks
Opinion: The administration’s relentless assault on America’s public lands
The promise of asylum
What America could lose by curtailing refugee resettlement What America could lose by curtailing refugee resettlement
Stricter resettlement policies come with a cost. They run the risk of shutting out people like Wilmot Collins. As a young man ensnared in Liberia’s civil war in 1990, Mr Collins cheated death. Trapped in gun battles in Monrovia, the capital, he was twice almost killed by government soldiers. Seized by a rebel while he foraged for food, he narrowly avoided execution. Elsewhere, rebels beheaded his brother. Half-starved and sick with malaria, he fled with his wife aboard a cargo ship.
Four years later—and only after lengthy vetting by un and American officials while in Ghana—he reached Helena, Montana’s sleepy capital. He and his wife left, he recalls, with “nothing but the clothes on our backs”, arriving in an alien, snow-flecked place. They stand out. Barely 0.6% of Montanans are African-American. Explore Helena’s dainty streets, cafés or offices and almost only white faces appear.
In 2017 Mr Collins made history when Helena’s voters picked him to run their city. He became the first black mayor ever elected in Montana. After moderate early success as mayor—a funding boost for local services, a plan for affordable homes—he is running for the Senate with a promise to make Washington more civil. Montanans, even rural folk in remote areas, have been nothing but supportive, he says.
His chances of becoming the junior senator from Big Sky Country are slender. Three others are vying in the Democratic primary, which takes place in June. All would be overshadowed if Steve Bullock, Montana’s Democratic governor, were to run for the Senate. Whoever ends up taking on the Republican incumbent, Steve Daines, could struggle. Mr Daines raised a mountainous $1.2m in the latest quarter; Mr Collins lacks big donors. In the same period he gathered only $84,000.
That, though, is not really the point. In few countries would Mr Collins’s story be possible. The candidate himself, a congenital optimist, expects America’s readiness to take in refugees to return. “On the whole, Americans have an open door,” he says, describing how he was met at the airport in Helena, in 1994, by a crowd of strangers who held a banner that read “Welcome home Wilmot”. But the America of 2019 is less welcoming than before. The refugee squeeze is just one sign of that.
What else we're reading today
Report: Native students disciplined at higher rates in Montana
Looking for Alaska’s rural police force? Check the suburbs.
Trump country sees biggest income dips—and jumps
Gov. Brad Little: Idaho is now least-regulated state in the country
Banking agencies give hemp the OK
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