Thursday, March 26, 2015
What's New in the New West


Wildfires Trouble New Mexico, Idaho and Montana

New Mexico, Idaho and Montana have had their wildfire troubles this season, while Utah, Wyoming and Colorado have been relatively fortunate. In Montana, almost 100,000 acres have been burned this summer in 19 areas. A meeting will be held tonight concerning one of the latest incidents, the West Riverside fire, which has consumed 3,400 acres and is about 20 percent contained. Read More »

Montana Deer Hunting Hit Hard by Disease

White-tailed deer hunters in eastern Montana will have to scramble for licenses this season. The number of “B” licenses for antlerless white-tailed deer in the region has been reduced for the 2011 hunting seasons from 5,000 to 2,000, because of a tough winter on the animals, followed by a disease outbreak. Read More »

Grizzly Shooting Charges Elicit Outrage in Idaho

Criminal charges levied earlier this week on Jeremy Hill, who shot and killed a grizzly bear cub in his yard last May near Porthill, Idaho, just below the border with Canada, have sparked statements in his defense by Idaho’s local, state, and federal politicians. Hill pleaded not guilty in federal court on Tuesday to the misdemeanor charge of killing an animal protected by the Endangered Species Act. A sow and two cubs wandered into his yard, and he said he was defending his six children. Read More »

Montana and Colorado Get Big Grants to Protect Fish and Ferrets

Among more than $53 million in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants announced last evening to help protect habitat for threatened and endangered species, Montana was a big winner for native fish, while Colorado was awarded substantial funding to reintroduce the extremely rare black-footed ferret to a safe place. Montana’s Stimson Forestlands Conservation Project in Missoula County will receive $4 million to fund a conservation easement of more than 9,300 forested acres. The land, adjacent to another easement of 18,700 acres, continues a landscape-scale conservation effort of several years in northwestern Montana aimed at protecting bull trout, Columbia redband trout, mountain whitefish, pygmy whitefish, and westslope cutthroat. Read More »

Despite Best Efforts, Poaching Still Plagues the Rockies

More than 5,000 reports have been received of poaching in Colorado since 1981, resulting in more than 900 convictions, for which about $800,000 in fines were levied, and $150,000 paid to citizens for reports of suspected poaching, a recent summary asserts. Studies show that poachers kill almost as many animals as legitimate hunters do during legal seasons in various states, says the report, from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). It points out that poachers steal not only revenues generated by legitimate hunting, but kill threatened, endangered and non-game species. Read More »

Scientists Detect Rare Species Using DNA Found in Streams

Problem: You’re a field biologist trying to assess the population of a secretive, imperiled aquatic species—let’s say a salamander—but you can’t find the little devil, so how can you count it? Solution: Don’t try to eyeball the critters. Collect their DNA from cells they shed into the water. Read More »

Cougar on the Rise

In rural New Mexico, trailheads leading into cougar country often are posted with signs that explain what a hiker should do in case of an encounter. Maybe Robert Giannini had read such advice, because he did the right thing—eventually. Read More »

Season of the Match

Last spring and fall, the Colorado mountains were plagued by wildfires. They raged all over the state, popping up and spreading like—well, like wildfire. On Oct. 30, one fire in particular started less than half a mile from my family’s house on the outskirts of Boulder, Colo. Early in the morning, a tiny, unnoticed spark leapt from an illegal campfire and quickly proceeded to engulf the hillsides above it. Read More »

Cutthroat Habitat Faces Collapse

Climate change could reduce the habitat of cutthroat trout, a keystone species already under stress in the West, by as much as 58 percent over coming decades, according to a study published today. Meanwhile, long-term efforts have begun in Colorado to restore selected cutthroat habitats by eliminating other trout. Today’s paper, in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also predicts that by 2080, rainbow trout, whose native habitat includes Idaho in the Rocky Mountain states, could be reduced by 35 percent. Two introduced trout species in the study will not do well, either: Brook trout habitat could decline by an estimated 77 percent, and brown trout by 48 percent. Read More »

Has the Beaver Become an Intruder?

It's been said that the West as we think of it—the “fast-flowing streams and invitingly open banks, celebrated in photographs and songs and pickup truck commercials,” as Kevin Taylor wrote in 2009 in High Country News—is an illusion. In Taylor’s article, the message of this illusion was preached by Grand Canyon Trust project manager Mary O'Brien, who said the species that could bring us back to a wetter landscape that existed before white settlers arrived. Read More »