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New West Daily Roundup for Feb. 4, 2016

Today in New West news: Montana Business Navigator heads to Bozeman, capturing wildlife via motion-sensor camera in Idaho, and Utah’s DAQ set to research “air toxics” in West Valley City.

We previously reported on the Montana Business Navigator, a tool debuted by Governor Steve Bullock and entrepreneurs Sarah Calhoun and Scott Brown earlier in January. Now, according to a press release from the Governor’s office, Bullock is introducing the city of Bozeman to the service. Indeed, earlier this week, Bullock joined entrepreneur Will Price and Bozeman business leaders to make the case once more for both the Montana Business Navigator and its necessity to growing Montana’s economy.

In some ways, the numbers already speak for themselves. According to a press release from the governor’s office, over 3,500 people have visited the Montana Business Navigator site since its launch January 14, with 200 using the actual Business Checklist feature.

“Montana’s small businesses are a driving force of our state’s growing economy,” said Governor Bullock. “The Montana Business Navigator is the result of direct feedback we solicited from entrepreneurs and small business owners across the state who told us about the need to streamline information, cut red tape and make it easier to create jobs.”

“The Business Navigator is the result of hundreds of discussions and working sessions with a diverse group of stakeholders in government, economic development, and private business,” said John Rogers, Chief Business Development Officer for the State of Montana. “We are all very proud of the final product.”

Over in Idaho, a new collaboration between Boise State University and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is hoping to give researchers a better idea of golden eagle migration/distribution across southwest Idaho. To wit: the pair have set up a series of motion-sensor camera sites, baited with roadkill to draw not only eagles but other scavenging wildlife. Once the camera detects something moving, it starts clicking away. To date, the project has amassed over four million images of a variety of animals besides golden eagles: bald eagles, black-billed magpies, ravens, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. You can see a video below. Warning: contains images of carcasses.

The project, led by U.S. Geological Survey research wildlife biologist Todd Katzner and Greg Kaltenecker (executive director of BSU’s Intermountain Bird Observatory), hopes the camera traps reveal behaviors and patterns not commonly seen by eyewitness observation. From a BSU press release:

While the data from one camera are enlightening, allowing a glimpse of the diversity and density of animals in a single spot, Katzner said images gathered from multiple cameras help stitch together the story in a larger context. As researchers view data from various sites they can begin to compare the frequency and daily and seasonal timing of visits from various species and estimate the number of individuals in an area.

Because there are so many sites across the U.S., from Maine to Florida to Oklahoma, it’s impossible for Katzner to pay for staff to trek in, replace the bait and download camera images — a task that has to be performed at least once per week. So he relies heavily on volunteers.

That makes the project a logical fit for the Intermountain Bird Observatory, which already depends on students and community volunteers to gather and disseminate information on a variety of migratory bird species.

“I can see countless opportunities in the future for volunteers and for students in our raptor biology program,” said Kaltenecker. “The project is local and fairly easy to do, and you get immediate results.”

Katzner has published a couple of scientific papers to fit his data into a larger context. “We are looking at the timing of arrival of specific species, and the links to migration, hunger and the amount of food available,” he said. “We also get some amazing natural history stories that contribute to our understanding of the biology of these species.”

One example is a photograph snapped in Pennsylvania showing a golden eagle whose face was covered in porcupine quills — an observation that would have been nearly impossible to record with any other technique.

Both men emphasize the key role played by state, federal and private partners like the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which has provided access to state lands, permits for the use of road kill such as elk and mule deer, and even the carrion itself.

“We appreciate the opportunity to further the study of birds of prey in the local area through partnerships and collaborations,” Kaltenecker said. “IBO does a lot of outreach and we see partnerships like this as long-term relationships that help us tell the larger conservation story.

Finally, up in Utah, the Utah Division of Air Quality, in conjunction with chemists from Bringham Young University, will spend the next two years studying the air quality in West Valley City (located just outside Salt Lake City). Specifically, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the DAQ will be looking at “air toxics,” a set of chemicals considered “especially harmful to human health” such as tetrachloroethylene, which is used in dry cleaning. From the Tribune:

Barickman said the DAQ also plans to study the chemical composition of particulate pollution to determine whether these harmful chemicals — many of which potentially contribute to the formation of secondary particulates — are also present in the particles that build during Utah’s inversions.

The public often doesn’t realize that the actual chemical composition of particulate pollution can vary, as can the health consequences associated with those various particles, Barickman said.

Monitoring concentrations of air toxics in West Valley City will tell the department whether that area exceeds the norm when compared to other urban areas, Barickman said. This study will also evaluate specific subtypes of the chemicals to determine whether they might be coming from, for example, diesel fumes or other industrial pollution.

“It’s information for the agency, but it’s also information for the public,” he said.

“West Valley City is an area where emissions from industry, highways, the airport and winter inversions combine to create exposure concerns for the local community,” Shaun McGrath, EPA’s Region 8 administrator, said in a statement. “The data generated by this project will be critical to understanding and reducing health impacts form hazardous air pollutants in the area.”

To facilitate research, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the Utah DAQ $355,000 in grant money. The DAQ hopes their findings will allow them to discover more about air toxics than previous studies.

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