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The fight to balance recreation with wildlife is coming to a head


Rockies Today

October 3 · Issue #11 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Tensions flare over biking, trail running in griz country
As more grizzlies and more recreationists roam the Northern Rockies, a long-stewing tension over mountain biking in bear country is heating up. At the same time, new but related concerns are surfacing about another outdoor sport: trail running.
Who owns the wild: grizzlies or humans? Who owns the wild: grizzlies or humans?
The future of grizzlies, some experts say, will depend on how well they can get along with humans across the landscape. And biking and running? Those activities might just make the two collide.
But Flathead National Forest supervisor Chip Weber says land managers won’t get anywhere by telling people what not to do. There’s no way to separate humans from the natural world. We should focus on bigger questions, like: How can humans and grizzlies coexist? “I reject the notion that we should steer clear of sponsoring things just because there is some risk,” he says. “I think there’s a huge amount of Americans’ use and enjoyment of wildlands, national forests, parks, and state lands that comes with some level of risk, and they’re the ones who can make that choice about whether they take those risks.”
Statistically, grizzlies really aren’t all that dangerous. Yellowstone National Park’s website puts it bluntly: the odds of getting hurt by a grizzly in the park are about one in 2.7 million. Combined, grizzly and black bears have killed fewer than three people per year in the U.S. and Canada since 2010. By contrast, in the U.S. alone, 94 people died kayaking in 2017 and 44 died skiing during the 2016–17 season. It’s all about personal responsibility, Weber says. He encourages recreationists to be smart when they’re outside and choose the risks they’re willing to take carefully.
While public lands face budget cuts, oil and gas drilling, and other threats, Weber sees the debate around recreation in grizzly country as antithetical to the larger conservation movement. “Ultimately, it drives people apart who could be working together for the greater good,” he says.
Chris Servheen served as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator for 35 years. He also led the investigation into Brad Treat’s death. “Public land and wildlife-management agencies have been telling people for years the ways to be safe when you recreate in bear country,” Servheen says. “Do not run in grizzly bear habitat. There’s no safe way to run in grizzly bear habitat.”
Unless they’re protecting their young, bears usually kill or maim people when victims are engaged in fast-moving sports like running or mountain biking, he says. Being quiet in the woods—while hunting, for example—can also lead to trouble. Servheen says those behaviors can surprise the animals, causing them to act defensively and attack.
Speaking of grizzly bear conflicts…
Should carrying bear spray be required for big game hunters in grizzly country?
CWD knocking on Yellowstone's door
Chronic wasting disease reaches Wyoming Range Chronic wasting disease reaches Wyoming Range
Chronic wasting disease found in sick deer near Billings
Additional possible chronic wasting disease case reported in Libby area
Idaho, Nevada working to keep CWD out of their states
For context, don’t miss this long-read on CWD published back in April:
The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health
PacifiCorp details coal plant closures around the West
PacifiCorp details early Bridger, Naughton coal closures PacifiCorp details early Bridger, Naughton coal closures
In the latest blow to Wyoming’s coal industry, PacifiCorp today unveiled early retirement plans for multiple coal-fired electrical generating units in the region, including at the state’s Jim Bridger and Naughton plants.
The utility’s draft 2019 Integrated Resource Plan calls for retirement of two Naughton coal units within six years, early retirement of one Jim Bridger unit in four years and another in 2028 — nine years from now. All four units at the Dave Johnston plant near Glenrock are set to close by 2027 as previously anticipated.
The units’ “useful lives” extend years — and in some cases even more than a decade — beyond the new retirement dates. But the 1.9-million-customer utility would retire the identified units early as it juggles costs and reliability factors, customer preferences and new sources of renewable energy across six states, according to a company statement.
PacifiCorp has 24 coal units in the West. Sixteen would retire by 2030 and another four by 2038. The retirements will reduce coal-fueled generation capacity by nearly 2,800 megawatts in 11 years and by nearly 4,500 megawatts in 19 years.
More on PacifiCorp’s 20-year plan:
PacifiCorp to add 7 GW renewables + storage, close 20 of 24 coal plants
PacifiCorp’s 20-year electricity plan for Utah dials back on coal, amps up on wind and solar
On what the plan means for Montana’s Colstrip plant:
Ben Storrow
This PacifiCorp IRP proposal is stunning:

- 3,500MW of new wind by 2025
- 3,000MW of new solar by 2025
- 600MW of battery storage
- 16 of 24 coal units retired by 2030, including Jim Bridger 1 and 2, and PC 10% stake in Colstrip 1&2.
Jeff L. Fox
@bstorrow Ben, you’re missing a small but important point, PacifiCorp doesn’t own any of Colstrip 1&2, it owns parts of 3&4. Meaning now all the regulated utilities (except NorthWestern Energy) in Colstrip 3&4 are planning for an early closure of Colstrip. #MTLeg
And in more coal news…
Federal court approves sale of Blackjewel mines to FM Coal
Inside Alberta's fledgling energy transition
After oil and gas: Meet Alberta workers making the switch to solar After oil and gas: Meet Alberta workers making the switch to solar
The oil and gas industry has long been a mainstay for young people — especially men — looking for work in Alberta, and Dustin Taylor was one of them.
Taylor was born in Nova Scotia, where his dad worked on an offshore oil rig. He moved to Alberta as a kid, and found himself in yet another province heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry.
“I left school before I graduated and pretty much started working right off the hop,” he said. “And, like most people in Alberta, I ended up working in the energy industry — working in oil and gas, making decent money.”
He started working in oil and gas when he was 16, without finishing high school.
At his first job, he made $60,000 a year. In the years that followed, he made a lot of money. He partied. He didn’t vote. He didn’t care much about politics.
Something started to change for Taylor as the years went on in the oil patch. He remembers the 2010 BP oil spill as a pivotal moment in his thinking.
“It was plastered all over the news for days, and I watched this giant catastrophe just unfold in front of our eyes for days on end,” he said. 
It was, he remembers, “a heartbreaking moment.”
Fast-forward several years, and Taylor is one of thousands of solar workers in Alberta — and one of many who has transitioned out of the fossil fuel sector into renewable energy.
Taylor is one of the workers The Narwhal came across when we started asking questions about the fledgling idea of an energy transition in Alberta. We wanted to know how switching careers, and industries, has impacted workers’ lives.
Dustin left Alberta’s oil and gas sector to work in solar. Here’s why.
More stories we're reading today
Western voters say they want protection, expansion of public lands
BLM move pushes forward amid controversy, congressional opposition
Gunnison sage grouse are vulnerable to climate chaos
Government can't break up, shake BLM sage-grouse suit
Broken Yellowstone wolf teeth reveal theory about ice age extinctions
Opinion: Calm down about ATVs in Utah's national parks
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812