conservation

The energy industry can have an impact on politics in Wyoming, but other states as well. In North Dakota political spending is way up, with 17 million spent this year, more than double what was spent in 2010. Inside Energy’s Emily Guerin reports on why the stakes have suddenly gotten so high.

North Dakota has always been a friendly, easy place to vote. It is the only state in the country without voter registration, and precincts are small enough that poll volunteers often recognize people who come through the door.

Two Wyoming children are leading the charge against African elephant poaching. 

The Tooth Fairy Project is an elephant conservation event in Jackson on Saturday and Sunday. Two Jackson children, 11 year old Lily Marvin and 9 year old Alex French are headlining they event after they caught a filmmaker’s attention because of their passion for saving elephants.  The filmmaker is creating a documentary called Elephant Daze about elephant poaching and plans to incorporate the children into the documentary.

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The Center for Western Priorities has started a new campaign to show political candidates how important land conservation is to voters.

The campaign is called “Winning the West” and includes paid advertisements, a website, and a series of public events across several western states.

Greg Zimmerman is the policy director at the Center. He says the campaign was started after a Colorado College poll showed that voters across the political spectrum voted for candidates who support land conservation.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming have found that energy development is scaring off river otters in the Upper Green River Basin.

Scientists counted the number of otters in several waterways throughout the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming. The rivers farther away from energy development had dozens of otters, but the New Fork River had only two.

Report co-author Merav Ben-David says research shows that otters don’t like the noise and commotion associated with development, and she says another concern could be water contamination.

Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge outside of Casper could see improvements to its Steamboat Lake facilities. BP is funding an initial planning phase that could expand the refuge for both wildlife and the public.

Director of Science at Audubon Rockies, Alison Holloran, says Steamboat could see more reeds and water flora planted in its shallows to create more habitat for birds. Signs and a viewing platform could be installed as well to allow residents close views of Wyoming's nesting and migratory bird populations.

A Wyoming conservation group is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with a new director.

A host of recreation and conservation organizations from around the nation, including some local Wyoming groups, have asked Congress to address inadequate trail maintenance in the National Forest system. According to a 2013 study requested by Representative Cynthia Lummis the Forest Service’s trail maintenance backlog was $314 million in 2012. The study said poorly maintained trails inhibit trail use, could harm natural resources, and maintenance costs will only grow the longer the backlog remains unaddressed.

A study by several University of Wyoming researchers on salmon spawning in the Pacific Northwest could help pacific fish populations as well as Wyoming trout numbers. Clifford Riebe is an assistant professor in UW's Geology Department and helped author the study.

The report says certain kinds of riverbeds help salmon spawning and since trout and salmon are closely related Riebe says managers in both areas could use the data to grow fish populations.

Trupeter Swan society

Trumpeter swan numbers rose dramatically this year on the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge near Rock Springs.  This winter, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department conducted an aerial survey of the refuge and counted over 300 trumpeter swans wintering there.

Shoshone National Forest Management Plan Questioned

Mar 10, 2014

A new plan governing management and uses of the Shoshone National Forest is set to be finalized soon. But some groups, like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, take issue with parts of the plan.

Of concern is an increase in motorized use in the Frank's Peak and Wood River roadless areas. Independent Contractor Charles Wolf Drimal says during the Forest's planning process, those areas were identified as having the highest wilderness potential.

Sage grouse in Wyoming could get new protections, if a Bureau of Land Management plan is adopted.

The agency is proposing to cap the amount of disturbance that can happen on public land where the bird lives, and to impose other rules designed to protect sage grouse habitat.

The BLM’s Lisa Solberg Schwab says part of their plan involves adopting the core area strategy that Wyoming has already established.

A new report questions the assumption that sage grouse dislike tall things.

It’s often assumed that the birds avoid tall structures, such as electrical poles or wind turbines, because they fear that predators could perch on top. But report co-author Karl Kosciuch says that’s not necessarily true. His team reviewed the existing scientific literature about how the birds respond to development, and they found no evidence one way or the other.

More than half the U.S. population uses smartphones and apps. And as the appetite for mobile information continues to grow, some Wyoming entrepreneurs are poised to cash in, for the sake of conservation. Wyoming Public Radio's Rebecca Huntington has more.

REBECCA HUNTINGTON: When Story Clark gets into her Prius, she doesn't just start her engine. She also revs up a new mobile app that she's developed with her business partner Madi Quissek.

STORY CLARK: So I'm hooking it up. It's TravelStorysGPS. The app is hands-free. And we're going to get going right now.

The federal government is getting ready to issue its first eagle-take permit for a wind power project in Wyoming. 

Normally, killing eagles is illegal. But the five-year permits allow wind companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty.

The Power Company of Wyoming hasn’t actually applied for a permit for its Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project in Carbon County yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started asking for public input in anticipation that it will.

A wind energy company that was fined a million dollars Friday for the deaths of 14 golden eagles at its Wyoming facilities says it’s making strides to mitigate future bird deaths.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee says Duke has removed rock piles that can attract prey and employs field biologists who send out alerts if turbines need to be shut down. She says they’re also working to install a radar system.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wyoming office has mismanaged at least $14 million in easement payments, and employs supervisors who lack the knowledge to properly administer easement programs in the state. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. Easements are used to permanently retire a piece of land for conservation purposes.

Snake River Ranch

Ranchers have always planned for the next season and the next generation…and as such have been natural conservationists. But new management tools in the conservation toolbox are making it easier for land owners to be successful stewards of their land. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that ranchers are up for the challenge. 

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After what the state characterized as a knock-down, drag-out fight with Chesapeake Oil, it’s planning to allow drilling in a sage grouse conservation area.

The protected areas were established by executive order in 2011 in order to conserve critical sage grouse habitat, with the goal of keeping the bird off the endangered species list. The new plan modifies the protections in an area near Douglas where Chesapeake has oil and gas leases. 

Three conservation organizations have released a series of web videos, encouraging Wyomingites to improve water quality.

The videos highlight best management practices some landowners are using to handle E. coli, selenium and sediment, among other issues.

Kathy Rosenthal is the watershed coordinator for the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, one of the partner groups producing the videos. Rosenthal acknowledged a lack of awareness as one of the major obstacles for Wyoming’s water quality going forward.

A new report released today by the Wilderness Society says Wyoming’s Red Desert and the Wyoming Range are too special to drill for oil and gas. The report – titled Too Wild to Drill – lists a dozen locations across the U.S. 

The Wyoming Range was initially opened for leasing in 2005, but the Forest Service canceled those leases in 2011. Appeals by operators have left the leases in limbo since then, but the U-S Forest Service is expected to decide later this year whether they will allow energy development.

A study commissioned by the Center for American Progress found that voters in western states think that there should be more balance between conservation and energy development.

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More than two dozen outdoor advocacy groups wrote the US Forest Service this week, asking it to remove almost 45,000 acres-worth of land in the Wyoming Range from consideration for oil and gas leases.

The organizations, including Trout Unlimited and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, said the land comprises vital habitat for mule deer, moose and cutthroat trout.

Wildlife interest groups and agencies in Wyoming and Idaho are working to increase the populations of trumpeter swans in the region. Loss of habitat has limited numbers within the species. The Teton Regional Land Trust is working with the Wyoming Wetland Society, local offices of US Fish and Wildlife Services, and the Idaho Fish and Game departments to build a nesting colony in Teton valley.

A report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils says the oil and gas industry is using at least seven billion gallons of water per year in just four states: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. The report says after industry is done with that water, it turns into a hazardous material, and in some cases cannot be reused for other purposes.

Powder River Basin Resource Council member Robert LeResche says he’s also worried about states’ lack of regulations regarding the quantity of water used.

New report seeks to help states protect sage grouse

Mar 29, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report that’s meant to help states figure out how to protect sage grouse and keep them off the endangered species list. 

Bob Budd with the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust helped put the report together. He says the document provides information about the key threats to sage grouse, but leaves it up to states to develop or revise their conservation plans.

Tens of thousands of acres of land in the Bridger-Teton National Forest have been retired, protecting the land from energy development. But the conservation group leading the effort, Trust for Public Lands, still has some work to do to protect a tract of land in the Upper Hoback Basin.

The group raised $8.75 dollars last year to buy oil and gas leases on 58,000 acres of land from Plains Exploration and Production Company.

A poll conducted by Colorado College reveals that 73% of Wyoming voters think of themselves as conservationists. Program coordinator Brendan Boepple says polled residents also believe that public lands support the state’s economy and that they should not be sold to alleviate deficits.

A new National Wildlife Federation Poll shows that protecting public lands and addressing climate change is big for those who hunt and fish.   Given a choice between protecting America’s public lands and prioritizing the production of oil, gas and coal, 49 percent want to protect public lands and just 35 percent choose fossil fuel production.   John Gale of the Wildlife Federation says maintaining and improving access to public lands also ranked high on the priority list.