Author Pat Munday once referred to the Big Hole River as “Montana’s Last Best River.” The multitudes who cherish the Big Hole, be they ranchers, anglers, photographers or outfitters, would likely agree with Munday’s assessment. They would probably concur also that the river is in peril – facing threats from climate change, prolonged drought, irrigation withdrawals, pollution from nutrients, being loved to death by recreationists, development and more. The summer of 2021 posed grim challenges. Current conditions suggest 2022 might buckle the knees of anyone who cares about the Big Hole River.
The Colorado River is the epicenter of the nation’s water and climate crisis, according to an annual report from the conservation group American Rivers that ranked the waterway the country’s most endangered. “The eyes of the world have been on the Colorado for a couple years now as the system has been quite literally crashing,” said Matt Rice, the group’s southwest regional director.
Rising temperatures have made the water in the Snake River unsuitable for native salmon—a species central to many communities’ sustenance, spirituality, and economy and one that had already been decimated by the construction of dams.
Thousands of students in the Pacific Northwest are fighting to protect salmon and steelhead by joining tribes and state officials to call for the removal of four dams along Washington’s Lower Snake River.
The Interior Department said it plans to open roughly 144,000 acres up for lease next week and will charge oil and gas companies higher royalties to drill on federal land, raising the fees for the first time. Under the plans unveiled Friday, royalty rates would increase to 18.75 percent from 12.5 percent for oil and gas lease sales.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council, Taxpayers for Common Sense and other groups also advocating for a higher royalty rate celebrated the “long-overdue” announcement. But to the conservation groups that want federal oil and gas leasing to end, the news felt like a betrayal.
Utah trust lands officials hope to trade state land in and around Bears Ears for 142,000 acres of BLM land with development potential all over the state, but time is running out for legislative approval.
Chances are, the Great Salt Lake is part of your daily life, even if you don’t live in Utah. If you pop open a can of soda in the United States, it more likely than not contains magnesium harvested from the Great Salt Lake, which gives the container its strength. The fruit, vegetables and almonds you buy at the grocery store were likely grown with potash fertilizer produced from material in the lake’s salty water, too. And with the lake’s two largest mineral companies ramping up to harvest one of the world’s hottest commodities—lithium—bits of the Great Salt Lake soon could be found in your phone, laptop and car battery. And the revenue the state collects from minerals like lithium will also be used to shore up the imperiled lake’s health.
TransWest Express spent years lining up permits and easements from local governments and landowners to build a massive power line to supply renewable energy to cities in the southwestern U.S. It secured all that it needed—except one.
U.S. utilities and startup firms are trying to convince lawmakers, regulators and customers that they can convert aging coal power plants to house small nuclear reactors, a so-far unproven way to deliver electricity. Supporters say the smaller-scale reactors could prove cheaper and faster to build than their massive predecessors; skeptics say the effort is a gamble on a technology with unproven economics.
These zero-carbon products aren’t always clean to Native Americans who live near the mining projects. Finance company MSCI estimates the majority of U.S. reserves for cobalt, lithium and nickel are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations.
Adding carbon-capture systems to existing coal-fired power plants in Wyoming could cost the average residential ratepayer an additional $100 per month, according to Black Hills Corp’s initial filings to the Wyoming Public Service Commission.
Experts say overhauling Canada’s entire energy infrastructure in a short amount of time represents an unprecedented technical challenge that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. In Alberta in particular—where the ghosts of cancelled pipeline projects still haunt the public consciousness—some observers believe the country has lost the political will and spirit of national unity that’s required to get big things done.
Starting in August 2022 and continuing through the next five years, officials plan to apply a piscicide called rotenone to Hidden Lake in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. They’ll also apply it to almost 50 stream miles in the Buffalo Creek watershed. The treatments will extend to Buffalo Creek’s confluence with Slough Creek, a tributary of the Lamar River. Officials aim to remove non-native rainbow trout, which continue to threaten much of the park’s wild, native Yellowstone cutthroat trout population. After the rainbow trout are gone, fisheries managers plan to stock the drainage with Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
As the West grows so does its infrastructure, but for elk, deer and other migrating big game, roads and housing developments are barriers. A new U.S. Geological Survey report details these migration routes to help ensure they persist.
The hunting and cull numbers are a far cry from the target that interagency officials set last fall during a meeting in Missoula. At the time, the partners agreed to cull 600 to 900 bison from Yellowstone’s population.
Prompted by a court order, federal wildlife managers have issued a new draft plan for managing Mexican gray wolves in the Southwestern U.S. in an effort to address illegal killings of the endangered predators.
Could jaguars return to the Southwest U.S.? Some experts think it’s possible. Jaguars from southern populations in Mexico could recolonize their former territories in Arizona and New Mexico, or humans could reintroduce them there.
Missoula’s skyrocketing housing prices continue to destroy records. The median sales price of all homes sold in Missoula in 2021 was $450,000, a 28.6% increase over 2020, when that number stood at $350,000. To put that in perspective, the 11.1% that housing prices rose between 2019 and 2020 was the largest year-over-year increase in at least two decades in Missoula.
People moving into Montana seek the same things its residents appreciate—access to the outdoors, less congestion and a slower pace of life. In fact, 66 percent of newcomers to Montana rated a desirable natural environment as an important factor in their relocation, the most sought-after feature among a list of 22, according to a recently released study by Montana State University Extension.
For surrounding counties in the Treasure Valley, the prospect of growth means many things: It can be an added pressure on development, the potential to change the character of a community, or provide an opportunity to do things right. Three cities in particular, from three nearby counties, are feeling the impacts of local growth and development in their own backyard.
There is a “massive” shortage of affordable housing in Ketchum, city staff found. Census data shows residential construction has slowed and the proportion of long-term rentals have declined, while short-term vacation rental have increased.
For more than 100 years, Native American students at day and boarding schools—even within tribal boundaries—faced punishment inside the classroom for speaking the only language they knew. But a growing movement in New Mexico aims to revitalize the Indigenous languages that schools once tried to extinguish.
A perceptible disconnect exists between the realities of tribal communities and traditional sources of capital development. Without viable investment opportunities for those living at or below the poverty level, economic development becomes stunted. But despite the inequities, the Northern Cheyenne people remain resilient in the face of poverty, food insecurity and more.
The cases hinge on whether a person passing through the airspace above a private piece of land is trespassing, and their outcomes may impact public access to millions of acres of public land in the West.
Colorado over the past 20 years has suffered more “major” natural disasters than Florida and is among nine states where the number of events causing $1 billion or more in damage has more than tripled over the past 40 years, according to a new study.
Canada is favoring oil projects with lower carbon emissions per barrel to help meet its climate targets, a strategy that may block Suncor Energy’s plan to expand bitumen mining to feed its key oil sands operations.