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Inside the chaotic dismantling of the BLM


Rockies Today

September 23 · Issue #6 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Inside the chaotic dismantling of the BLM
As ProPublica reported Friday, internal records from the Bureau of Land Management contradict what its chief told Congress about a plan to ship 200 D.C.-based career staff out West. The plan would weaken the agency, which stands between federal lands and oil, gas and mineral companies.
Inside the Trump administration’s chaotic dismantling of the federal land agency Inside the Trump administration’s chaotic dismantling of the federal land agency
ProPublica reviewed internal memos and an accounting of which Washington jobs are being transferred to existing BLM offices in places like Reno, Salt Lake City, Utah, and the proposed new headquarters in Grand Junction. Employees, who formally learned of the plan two months ago, received assignment letters this week, detailing specific locations in the West, where most BLM properties are located.
Internal documents and recordings of staff meetings obtained by ProPublica, as well as interviews with 10 current BLM employees, show top officials expect the mandatory reassignments to lead to an exodus similar to one at the Department of Agriculture during the summer, when a forced relocation prompted more than 250 researchers in Washington to quit.
More from High Country News:
How BLM employees really feel about moving West
Grand Junction’s BLM headquarters will share a building with oil and gas companies
Idaho Statesman
Picking Grand Junction, a city with limited air service, is clearly a political choice.
Criticism swirls around BLM oil and gas leasing
Public lands go for $2 an acre at auction. And sometimes even less.
BLM sale nets $8.3 million, despite outcry from conservation groups
Federal report highlights reclamation challenges, sparks legislation
More oil and gas news:
‘Only reason we exist’: why an energy transition is hard to fathom in parts of Alberta
Flaring is on the rise nationwide. Where does Wyoming stand?
Scientists use artificial intelligence to aid wolverines
As the Seattle Times reports, artificial intelligence (AI) technology could play a role in helping scientists further protect the deep snow dwellers vulnerable to climate change and habitat loss.
Conservationists harness AI to help wolverine recovery in Washington Conservationists harness AI to help wolverine recovery in Washington
Using remote cameras that detect motion and a machine learning system, a method that finds patterns in a large amount of data, some researchers say they have the answer to tracking the shy creatures during a critical time for their survival.
At the forefront of wolverine recovery in the state, Dr. Robert Long — senior conservation scientist of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo — has placed remote cameras throughout Washington, Idaho, and Montana to track the animals for nearly a decade.
The cameras allow conservationists to collect thousands of images that track the movements of wolverines and determine whether shifts in climate harm the populations. Such information could be used to create corridors for the wolverines, said Long, like the Interstate 90 animal overpass that enables safe passage over highways that cut through the North and South Cascades.
However, finding pictures of wolverines — among tens of thousands of images depicting various wildlife, people and swaying tree limbs that falsely triggered the motion sensors — proved to be time consuming for researchers. A lack of staff and volunteers to classify the photos led to an information lag, with biologists sometimes waiting months or years to use the data found in the images.
Manoj Sarathy, a young gamer and a volunteer at the Seattle-based nonprofit Conservation Northwest, set out to eliminate the problem using his knowledge of AI.
A coal plant closes in Colorado
Tri-State officially retires Nucla coal-fired power plant well ahead of planned 2022 closure
And more coal news:
Biggest coal plant in the West closes one of three units
Colstrip ash cleanup uses more wells to capture fouled water
As coal companies fail, the workers are being left with nothing
The Casper Project explores media mistrust
Wyoming is ground zero for media mistrust. These journalists went there hoping to make it better.
Rod Hicks has spent 30 years as a journalist in seven newsrooms across the country. He’s been a reporter at the Anniston Star in Alabama, an editor for the Associated Press in Philadelphia and has worked in Detroit, St. Louis and Birmingham, Ala.
But before this year, he had never set foot in Wyoming — where residents give the rock-bottom ranking to the news media for trustworthiness, according to a 2017 Gallup poll: Only 25 percent of Wyoming citizens have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in news sources. (The runners up are all red states, too: Nebraska, Utah, North Dakota and Idaho.)
Enter the Casper Project, a journey by the Society of Professional Journalists organization into the heart of media mistrust. For about six months, media people and 36 Casper-area citizen volunteers met on several occasions to try for some mutual understanding.
The bottom-line result wasn’t great: According to a final questionnaire, participants didn’t change their attitudes toward the news media significantly or become any more trusting, said Hicks, who headed the project as SPJ’s “journalist on call,” and who has made six trips to Casper since January.
“But I think we made some progress,” he told me by phone. “Just by exposing people to the journalists and their thinking and how they do their jobs — there’s a lot of value in that.”
SPJ Casper Project
More stories we're reading today
Trump continues to reshape Ninth Circuit with two new picks
Interior watchdog investigating political appointees' review of FOIA requests
Revamping a key conservation fund
Gazette opinion: Montana's bright, diverse energy future
The holdouts: Despite development, some farmers still working land 'until the bitter end' in Bozeman
100 years of designing for national parks
The man who killed Colorado’s last grizzly bear
Chief Standing Bear: Civil rights leader gets a statue in the U.S. Capitol
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812