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New West Daily Roundup for Aug. 26, 2016

Today in New West news: UI researchers link climate change to beetle outbreak in Yellowstone, Arrow Electronics offering $1M to Indiegogo startups, and Big Sky Resort announces $150M improvement plan.

According to a new study in Ecological Adaptations, researchers from the University of Idaho in Moscow have concluded that rising fall/winter temperatures and changing summer precipitation patterns have driven the outbreak of mountain pine beetles in the Greater Yellowstone Area, killing scores of whitebark pine trees across millions acres and fundamentally changing the region. The UI study is the first to rigorously pinpoint why the outbreaks have occurred—and exhorts forest managers and the public to keep climate in the forefront of their thoughts as they fight against whitebark killoff. From a UI press release:

“By the middle of this century, most years will be as suitable for beetle outbreaks as in the 2000s. It’s where we’re headed,” said Polly Buotte, a postdoctoral researcher in the UI College of Science Department of Geography who led the study, which was supported by the Northwest Climate Science Center and also included researchers from the USDA Forest Service and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Whitebark pine is an iconic and ecologically important tree to the Greater Yellowstone Area. It’s an important source of food for grizzly bears, squirrels and seed-eating birds called Clark’s nutcrackers, and it provides shelter for other trees at high elevations.

Mountain pine beetle epidemics in whitebark pine are no surprise. Models developed in the 1990s by study co-author Jesse Logan, a retired Forest Service researcher, predicted that warming temperatures would lead to more outbreaks. However, the UI-led project sought to identify exactly why.

The researchers created a statistical model with data about whitebark pines, mountain pine beetles and climate in the Greater Yellowstone Area during 1985-2009, including the outbreak years 2000-2009.

[…]

The researchers also created a model showing the potential for beetle attacks in coming decades and found that projected future climate change will continue to lead to conditions favorable to outbreaks.

“This adds pretty strong evidence for the need to include climate as a consideration for managing whitebark pine,” said co-author Jeffrey Hicke, an associate professor of geography at UI.

Planning for potential beetle outbreaks is vital to the success of efforts to preserve the whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone Area, Hicke and Buotte said. For example, Forest Service researchers have bred whitebark pines that resist blister rust, another threat to the species. But managers should consider where beetle outbreaks may soon occur when deciding where to plant them, Buotte said. Forest managers should look for cold microclimates, such as in cold air drainages, which could be a prime spot for replanting because they may remain cold enough to kill the beetles, at least for many years.

Down in Colorado, Englewood-based Arrow Electronics announced it will offer $1 million in funding to a number of Indigogo projects as a part of its Arrow Certification Project. The company, according to the Denver Post, says the investments is meant to stoke startups they believe will pay off—not necessarily for Arrow though. The company stresses they aren’t loaning the money, or buying equity in the companies they choose to sponsor. Rather, they hope the donation “breeds loyalty,” an interesting proposition coming from (by some estimates) Colorado’s largest public company. From the Post:

“It’s not altruism, necessarily. We certainly believe innovation makes the world a better place,” said Matt Anderson, Arrow’s chief digital officer. “But when these companies become successful and became the next Fitbit or GoPro, they’re going to buy their software and hardware and their solutions from us because we helped them design it.”

The rise of product crowdfunding is credited to Indiegogo and rival Kickstarter, which let entrepreneurs pitch a prototype to strangers who give money in exchange for a future product. But many projects don’t fare well. Kickstarter shares its results, and at last count, about one-third of all campaigns were successfully funded. In the technology category, about one in five campaigns were funded.

And stories of successful campaigns that never delivered are constant. Most recently, Skully, maker of the smart motorcycle helmet that crowdfunded on Indiegogo a few years ago, filed for bankruptcy. No refunds will be processed or helmets shipped.

[…]

The partnership with Indiegogo came about mutually. Many of Indiegogo technology campaigns were already using Arrow for supplies and services. Being able to roll out Arrow’s resources to all tech campaigns seemed like the next stage for a crowdfunding site.

“This is without question one of our key strategic alliances here at Indiegogo.” Mandelbrot said. “The best partnerships are created when they further the business interest for both companies. We had an interest in helping our entrepreneurs manufacture their products but we don’t have a significant expertise in electronic manufacturing. Arrow had that but wanted easier access to the new crop of entrepreneurs creating hardware and electronics.”

Arrow, which has already looked at “hundreds and hundreds” of campaigns in an early pilot with Indiegogo, had honed in on the crowdfunder after noticing “literally hundreds of millions of dollars from our customers for projects that started on Indiegogo,” Anderson said.

Arrow says they have been looking at Indiegogo’s tech startups since May. They added to the Post that, out of hundreds, they expect the $1 million will to 20 to 50 companies over the next 12 to 15 months. Each startup selected will be designated an “Arrow Innovator.”

If you want to submit your tech startup for consideration, you can submit a proposal here.

Finally, up in Montana, Boyne Resorts has announced big plans for the future of Big Sky Resort. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Boyne will invest $150 million into the resort across 10 years, providing improvements to both the ski area and surrounding community:

The Big Sky 2025 plan involves the upgrade, replacement or addition of 12 lifts — including a 10-person gondola — as well as incorporating night skiing and building a new hotel complex.

“We’ve been investing here, working with the team and local community to create a destination that is a world-class destination,” said Stephen Kircher, president of Boyne Resorts’ eastern operations. “It’s an exciting moment.”

[…]

Much of the mid- and long-term investments will center on upgrading the mountain’s infrastructure to handle the 650,000 annual visitors predicted in 2025. The resort has plans for new parking lots, a gondola that will run from the base, a new lift that will take skiers and snowboarders up the south side of Lone Peak, as well as a hotel where the tennis courts are currently located, Kircher said.

Among the improvements on the table: “re-concepting” restaurants to appeal to summer travelers, upgrade lifts, and introduce a new “dynamic ticket pricing system.”

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