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Reviving purebred bison


Rockies Today

January 10 · Issue #60 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Reviving purebred bison
Scientists and Indigenous leaders team up on project to revive purebred bison population Scientists and Indigenous leaders team up on project to revive purebred bison population
Bison are not what you think they are.
The bison steaks at the swish restaurant downtown, bison burgers from A&W, bison briskets from the farmers market: Not bison. Commercial bison – animals from which today’s bison products are made – are hybrid creatures. Their bison genes are polluted with cattle DNA.
Purebred bison – direct descendants of the animals that blanketed North America before colonization – are scant, protected and short on genetic diversity. Today, there are only about 1,500 purebred plains bison in Canada’s conservation herds, all descendants of 50 animals that managed to dodge hybridization in the early 1900s.
Now, scientists and Indigenous leaders in Western Canada are taking a crack at reviving the purebred bison population. It is a project grounded in science and blended with cultural significance. Researchers in Saskatchewan are building a genome biobank that would allow them to store semen and embryos. They believe they can dramatically deepen the purebred gene pool while quickly expanding herds.
The scientists reckon purebreds could replace hybrids within 20 years. This would better animal health, improve the environment, create new economic opportunities and ensure the animal many Indigenous peoples consider sacred thrives.
“The animal of our ancestors – not some deformity that we created 100 years ago,“ says Blaine Favel, a Cree man who has worked in politics, academics, business and Indigenous circles and who is involved with the project. “It’s our spiritual brother.”
Coal fire
Tri-State Generation to close all of its Colorado, New Mexico coal-fired power plants and coal mines by 2030 Tri-State Generation to close all of its Colorado, New Mexico coal-fired power plants and coal mines by 2030
Craig’s coal mine and plant will close early and Colorado is already working to get ahead of it
The Daily Sentinel reports on what that will mean for Moffat County:
'Equivalent to losing about 98,000 jobs in Denver': How the closure of a coal-fired power plant could rock Moffat County
In more coal news…
Western states face huge cleanup liabilities from coal mining, new report finds
Blackjewel asks federal court to investigate former CEO Jeff Hoops
The coal rebound that didn’t happen
And a nugget from Rob Godby, director of the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy:
Rob Godby
EIA weekly data shows how rough 2019 was for Wyoming coal. For the year production was down 10.2% at 272 million tons (vs 302 mill in 2018) across the state. Q4 production averaged over 1 million tons/wk lower than 2018.
'The great dismantling'
Ex-parks chief: NPS filled with 'anti-public land sycophants' Ex-parks chief: NPS filled with 'anti-public land sycophants'
The great dismantling of America's national parks is under way
This is a systematic dismantling of a beloved institution, like pulling blocks from a Jenga tower, until it collapses. You ask, why on earth would someone want to do that to the popular National Park Service, the subject of one of Ken Burns’ acclaimed documentaries and often called “America’s best idea”?
Because if you want to drill, mine and exploit the public estate for the benefit of the industry, the last thing you want is a popular and respected agency’s voice raising alarms on behalf of conservation and historic preservation.
Because if you want the public to ignore the science of climate change, the last thing you want are trusted park rangers speaking the truth to park visitors.
Because if you want to get the federal government small enough (in the words of Grover Norquist) to “drown it in a bathtub”, the last thing you want is a government agency with high popular appeal that needs to grow rather than shrink.
It is clear that this administration cannot be trusted with the keys to the vault of our most precious places that define us as a nation, such as Mount Rushmore or Yosemite national park.
When this nightmare ends, and we begin to rebuild, we suggest it is time for Congress to consider making the National Park Service an independent institution, more akin to the Smithsonian, and no longer subject to the vicissitudes of a hostile political agenda in a Department of the Interior dominated by extractive industries and anti-public land crusaders.
More public lands goings on:
Groups sue BLM over climate risks from Trump leases
Climate change, booming population threaten Yellowstone area
A Forest to behold
Flare up
Oil producers are setting billions of dollars on fire Oil producers are setting billions of dollars on fire
Meanwhile, in the Bakken…
Gas plant slated for Williams County could ease flaring in northern North Dakota
More energy and climate news:
NEPA rewrite could thwart climate fight against drilling
Wyoming county rejects wind farm applications at first 2020 meeting
Bogus Basin pledges to use solely renewable energy
38 climate protesters arrested after disruption at Colorado Gov. Jared Polis' State of the State
Proponents back away from divisive plan to mine sand for fracking near Kanab
Canada oil sands threatened with prices reaching grim milestone
A path to a new climate plan for Oregon
Trump climate change review rollback a boon for pipelines
What else we're reading today
This Montana group has adventurers working for scientists
Change and questions on the streets after a judge rules Denver's camping ban unconstitutional
Catching deer in the desert: GPS collars help biologists monitor mule deer numbers
Opinion: Trump’s weakening of environmental rules would leave the public in the dark
Listen: Terry Tempest Williams' 'Erosion'
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