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Judge halts rollback of sage grouse protections


Rockies Today

October 17 · Issue #18 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Judge halts rollback of sage grouse protections
A federal judge on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction that suspends the Trump administration’s plan to weaken protections for sage grouse on BLM lands across the West. A roundup of coverage:
Court blocks Trump’s plan to ease sage grouse protections in Western states Court blocks Trump’s plan to ease sage grouse protections in Western states
While the halt is temporary, the judge indicated that the environmental organizations that brought the legal challenge — arguing that the Interior Department failed to consider reasonable alternatives and did not thoroughly examine the environmental consequences of its actions — is likely to prevail.
“Under these weakened protections, the B.L.M. will be approving oil and gas leases, drilling permits; rights of way for roads; pipelines and power lines; coal and phosphate mining approvals and livestock grazing permit renewals,” Judge Winmill wrote. “It is likely that these actions will cause further declines of the sage grouse under the weakened protections.”
The Interior Department argued that new leasing is not going to happen immediately, but Judge Winmill said, “the Court disagrees.” The Trump administration’s plan, he wrote, was “designed to open up more land to oil, gas, and mineral extraction as soon as possible. That was the expressed intent of the Trump Administration and then-Secretary Ryan Zinke. There is no indication that current Secretary David Bernhardt is proceeding at any slower pace.”
The decision is the first major legal ruling on the Trump administration’s plan to lift protections for the sage grouse. It represents a significant win for environmental activists, who have criticized it as a giveaway to the oil and gas industry that would devastate the nesting habitat of the bird.
Sage grouse plan halted as ‘more hardships’ for bird cited
Judge blocks Trump admin plan on sage grouse
The lasting shock of buffalo slaughter
Study finds effects of buffalo slaughter evident in Standing Rock Sioux tribe today Study finds effects of buffalo slaughter evident in Standing Rock Sioux tribe today
A Standing Rock Sioux winter count remembers 1882 as the year White Beard went on a bison hunt with the Native Americans.
White Beard was the name the Lakotas and Yanktonai of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation gave to James McLaughlin, the agent who joined the Sioux in one of the last large buffalo hunts in North Dakota.
“This was a happy, though brief, interlude for the people who were now forced to eat government rations most of the time,” a history written by the tribe in 1995 observed. By 1883, the northern herd, which once numbered in the millions, had been eliminated.
In fact, the sudden loss of the bison for tribes associated with Sitting Bull was a disaster that delivered an economic and cultural shock that persists today, more than a century later, according to a study by a team of economists.
The lingering adverse effects of the loss are dramatic, according to “The Slaughter of the Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains” by economists working for the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
The reversal of fortunes: “Historically, bison-reliant societies were among the richest in the world and now they are among the poorest,” the researchers wrote.
The economic and social shocks were the greatest for tribes, like the Standing Rock Sioux, that relied heavily on the bison for their sustenance and lost them rapidly due to a massive slaughter by hide hunters in the 1870s and 1880s.
Today, tribes that once relied on the bison have between 20% and 40% less income per capita than the average American Indian nation, the study found.
Meanwhile, on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming yesterday…
Northern Arapaho Tribe welcomes first bison herd
And last week…
Eastern Shoshone join two other tribes in signing buffalo treaty
B.C. beetle infestation used to accelerate clear cuts
B.C. accelerates clear cuts to fight spruce beetle eruptions. Scientists say it only exacerbates the problem. B.C. accelerates clear cuts to fight spruce beetle eruptions. Scientists say it only exacerbates the problem.
Scientist Diana Six, a North American expert in bark beetles, says you can’t manage a spruce beetle eruption by logging. 
“This idea that you can log your way out is incorrect,” Six, a professor of forest entomology and pathology at the University of Montana, tells The Narwhal. 
“Clear-cutting is probably one of the worst things you can do … It reduces the resiliency of those forests to recover. You’re removing the small stuff that could replace that forest, you’re removing most of the ecosystem. You’re removing seed sources.” 
“It adds insult to injury, without achieving the goal, if the goal is indeed to help the forest recover or survive the beetles.” 
Bulldozing roads and creating other disturbances in spruce beetle-infested forests will often have more of an impact than the beetle itself, says Six, associate editor for the journals of Insects, Journal of Economic Entomology and Agricultural and Forest Entomology.
“When these beetles go through they typically kill the big trees. They don’t kill the young ones because they can’t. That’s just too small of a food source for them. If you go in and do all this kind of logging and trampling and road-building that is going to disrupt this natural process of recovery, substantially.” 
“These forests have been through outbreaks for millennia.” 
Speaking of which, this published last week by JSTOR Daily:
Does forest thinning work?
Idaho's having a landscape made for its shade
Idaho’s Bees to Bears project hopes this simple idea can combat climate change Idaho’s Bees to Bears project hopes this simple idea can combat climate change
As heavy machinery shunted earth, dug pits and generally disturbed a sunny September day, Michael Lucid explained how all this commotion may combat the worst effects of climate change.
“It’s very counterintuitive,” he said of the tumbled dirt and exhaust fumes.
Lucid, who is tall, lean and roughened from a life outside (for five years, he lived off the grid in the Selkirk Mountains), is overseeing the Bees to Bears Climate Adaptation Project in North Idaho’s Boundary-Smith Creek Wildlife Management Area.
The effort is part restoration: The 250 acres north of Bonners Ferry is former wetland dissected and drained by dikes, turned into farm fields and now vacated and dominated by canary grass.
It’s also a test of sorts. Can humans build a landscape better suited for a warming climate?
“This is very experimental,” said Lucid, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
The idea is simple: Build mounds of dirt and plant trees and other bushes on top of them. This will provide shade and lower temperatures, the thinking goes.
The technical term for this kind of work is topographic alteration, a “simple concept with a complicated name. We’re basically trying to create shade,” Lucid said.
While the idea may be obvious, its effectiveness has yet to be tested.
“That’s one of the cool things about this project,” Lucid said. “As far as I know, it’s the first time anybody has done this.”
Idaho Panhandle Bees to Bears Climate Adaptation Project
What else we're reading today
Feds give Navajo uranium clean-up contract to firm with sketchy past
Facing the unknown: Keeping the lights on in Montana's coal country
Dark money and big donors fuel the ballot battle over Proposition CC in Colorado
Heli-tours face headwind from Grand Teton National Park
People are effectively training bears to get into trouble, and Colorado wildlife officials are sick of it
All-electric homes offer a prototype for low-carbon housing in Colorado
Panel probes impact of climate change on animal diseases
Diseases are spreading with climate change. Panic doesn’t have to.
Despite their promises, giant energy companies burn away vast amounts of natural gas
Energy trade groups look to enter Keystone XL pipeline suit
Scrubbing the oil sands' record
BLM chief scorned 'deep state,' 'Pocahontas,' ESA 'hammer'
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