Energy

Earth Month, Day 9: Great Lakes Duo

As Earth Month continues on The Nooze, we bring you two stories this Tuesday,(Twosday?) looking at some big issues and big names in the Great Lakes Basin. Gary WilsonFirst, Gary Wilson with the Great Lakes Echo sits down in a rare one-on-one interview with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to talk about Asian carp, an aging oil pipline, and pet coke storage:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: 'Atmosphere of Crisis' Needed for Stronger Action on Asian Carp

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder brought his Great Lakes message to Chicago today as the region’s governors gathered in Chicago for an annual meeting.

Snyder co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The two executives revived the dormant governors group on Mackinac Island last year and the Chicago meeting is an attempt to maintain momentum.

I sat with Snyder at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium overlooking Lake Michigan and he shared his thoughts on physical separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, the 60-year-old Enbridge pipeline that transports tar sands oil through the Straits of Mackinac and the volatile pet coke storage issue... Read more.

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john flesherAnd from John Flesher with the AP, a closer look at the Enbridge pipeline, and the higher-ups who are pressuring the company to prove that the pipeline is safe:

Officials Seek Assurances from Enbridge on Pipeline

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan’s attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge and obtained by the Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

“Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects,” their letter said. “And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes.”... Read more.

Workers pull oil-soaked absorbing booms from the Kalamazoo River near Marshall on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010. (Photo by Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press)

 

 

Earth Month, Day 6: Canadian Oil and Mexican Wolves

Today, we bring you two hot topics from the nation's periphery: Canada's Tar Sands, and Mexican gray wolves (the ones in the story don't actually live in Mexico, but they're pretty close). Laura PaskusFrom Laura Paskus, writing for Al Jazeera America:

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf at Heart of Political Battle in Southwest

CATRON COUNTY, N.M. — Last year, government agents removed a pair of Mexican gray wolves from the Southwestern United States. They were accused of preying on livestock, and their time in the wild was over. Today the female lives in captivity. The male was killed, but his genetic legacy may live into the future.

“Unfortunately, when he was examined by a veterinarian at a facility in New York, it was determined he had a large mass in his abdomen and had to be euthanized,” said Sherry Barrett, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican wolf recovery coordinator. Working with state and tribal partners, the agency has been trying to recover the species that had been hunted to near extinction in the mid-20th century... Read more. 

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jacques leslieAnd from Jacques Leslie, an opinion piece in the New York Times:

Is Canada Tarring Itself?

Illustration by Kristian Hammerstad

START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow.

Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive... Read more.

 

Earth Month, Day 5: Clean Coal?

michelle nijhuisFor today's installment of our Earth Month series we bring you just one story, but it's a doozy: Michelle Nijhuis tackles coal for National Geographic.  

 

Juliette, Georgia Steam and smoke rise from the cooling towers and chimneys of the Robert W. Scherer power plant, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. It burns 12 million tons of coal a year. (Photo by Robb Kendrick)

Can Coal Ever Be Clean?

Coal provides 40 percent of the world’s electricity. It produces 39 percent of global CO₂ emissions. It kills thousands a year in mines, many more with polluted air.

Environmentalists say that clean coal is a myth. Of course it is: Just look at West Virginia, where whole Appalachian peaks have been knocked into valleys to get at the coal underneath and streams run orange with acidic water. Or look at downtown Beijing, where the air these days is often thicker than in an airport smoking lounge. Air pollution in China, much of it from burning coal, is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year. That’s on top of the thousands who die in mining accidents, in China and elsewhere.

These problems aren’t new. In the late 17th century, when coal from Wales and Northumberland was lighting the first fires of the industrial revolution in Britain, the English writer John Evelyn was already complaining about the “stink and darknesse” of the smoke that wreathed London. Three centuries later, in December 1952, a thick layer of coal-laden smog descended on London and lingered for a long weekend, provoking an epidemic of respiratory ailments that killed as many as 12,000 people in the ensuing months. American cities endured their own traumas. On an October weekend in 1948, in the small Pennsylvania town of Donora, spectators at a high school football game realized they could see neither players nor ball: Smog from a nearby coal-fired zinc smelter was obscuring the field. In the days that followed, 20 people died, and 6,000 people—nearly half the town—were sickened...Read more. 

Also, don't miss the story's accompanying slideshow by photographer Robb Kendrick. (Click photo below to see the full show.)

Nijhuis_kendrick

Earth Month, Day 3: Mongolia and the Mekong

josh zaffosFor today's Earth Month installment, we bring you a two-fer: A pair of essays from Colorado-based writer Josh Zaffos, who traveled to the other side of the globe to report on some big stories from some beautiful places. An hour’s drive east of the city of Ulaanbaatar, a steel statue of Mongolia’s legendary warrior Genghis Khan rises 131 feet above the country’s 68 million-acre grassland steppe. © Nick Hall

Giant Steppes: Protecting Mongolia's Grasslands in the Face of a Mining Boom

 Amar Purev, a square-jawed ranger with a no-nonsense demeanor, peers through binoculars from the window of an SUV as it bounces along a double-track path through a green-and-golden sea of hip-high grass. He spots only a few gazelles in the distance, but when the vehicle crests a hill, it halts: Fifty yards away, hundreds of gazelles and their calves graze on stipa, or feather grass. Before Purev can open his door, the animals take off, coursing 40 miles per hour across the flat and boundless expanse that reaches to the horizon.

This grassy ocean is Mongolia’s Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve, a protected area of more than 1 million acres. It is part of a 68 million-acre expanse of grasslands that stretch from forests to desert across the country’s Eastern Steppe. The steppe is the largest intact temperate grassland on Earth, and this reserve protects calving habitat for the Mongolian gazelle, whose herds can eclipse the horizon with thousands of animals. Scientists estimate the gazelle population here at a million, rivaling the wildlife herds of Africa’s Serengeti... Read more.

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Life on Mekong Faces Threats as Major Dams Begin to Rise

A villager washes in the Mekong, with Xayaburi Dam construction in background. (Photo courtesy International Rivers)

In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.

The giant catfish, among the planet’s largest freshwater fish species, is now rare throughout the entire Mekong River Basin. While overfishing and past practices, such as dynamiting or electroshocking pools in the river, contributed to the species’ decline, a much larger threat now looms for aquatic life and human populations along the Lower Mekong River: dams... Read more.

Earth Month, Day 1: Wolves, Water, and Frac Sand

We're kicking off Earth Month in style, with stories about three classic, controversial topics: Wolves, water, and energy. michelle nijhuisFirst, from Michelle Nijhuis, writing for OnEarth magazine, a look at the brouhaha over the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List:

Howls of Outrage

(Photo by Tim Fitzharris/Getty)

About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency's own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place...Read more.

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codi yeager kozacekCodi Kozacek, writing for Circle of Blue, covers the unusual steps being taken at a Michigan mine to monitor pollution:

Rio Tinto's Michigan Nickel Mine Introduces Citizen Water Quality Testing Program

Scheduled to begin production of nickel and copper next year, the Eagle Mine is the first new hard rock mine to open in northern Michigan’s Copper Country in decades. It’s so new that Chevy pickups need Kevlar tires to prevent blowouts on the sharp edges of stones not yet worn by mine traffic.

Puncture-proof tires, though, are hardly the only distinctions that separate the Eagle Mine from others in Michigan or across the United States. Two years ago, Rio Tinto, the mine’s developer, made an unusual proposition to the nonprofit Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust, a local environmental organization...Read more.

The Lake Superior beach at Sand Point is still covered with stamp sands from old copper mines. Approximately 500 million tons of them were dumped into Lake Superior and its tributaries in the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Photo by Codi Kozacek)

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And from Richard Mertens, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, a story about the newest fracking-related unrest:

Next Fracking Controversy: In the Midwest, a Storm Brews Over 'Frac Sand'

A truck dumps a load of sand at the loading terminal for Modern Transport Rail in Winona, Minn. (Phot by Andrew Link/Winona Daily News/AP/File)

Kyle Slaby bounds up the slope behind his house, stopping at the sandstone outcrop he hopes will save his family's farm. The Slabys grow corn and soybeans on the ridgeline above. But these days there's more money – a lot more – in mining the sand below.

Sand has become a valuable – and deeply divisive – commodity in the upper Midwest. Hydraulic fracturing, a method of extraction also known as fracking that has boosted oil and natural gas production across theUnited States, requires sand, and there's plenty of it here. And so in dozens of small towns and rural townships in MinnesotaIllinoisIowa and especiallyWisconsin, the demand for frac sand, as it's called, has brought a surge of new mining activity. Scores of companies have poured in, eager to take advantage of the thick sandstone that underlies the bluffs and ridges of the region's picturesque river country... Read more.

 

 

Announcing our Shale Country Institute

A well pad on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.  Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State University Outreach / Flickr Creative Commons Journalists: Apply for IJNR's 2014 Shale Country Institute!

Our Shale Country Institute will take place in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York from June 24th through the 28th.

While we'll continue the "roving journalists" approach to this Institute, Shale Country will focus entirely on one subject: Fracking.

We'll talk economics, ecology, and environmental toxicology. We'll hear about human health, water and air quality, and citizen science. And we'll get on the bus and meet with scientists, industry representatives, concerned citizens, and many others in the forests, fields and neighborhoods where these important stories are taking place.

While Shale Country is still in active stages of planning, journalists attending the Institute can expect to visit:

  • Buffalo, New York to talk about natural gas transport and pipelines,
  • The Allegheny National Forest to discuss hydraulic fracturing on public lands,
  • Sites near Youngstown, Ohio, where a recent spate of earthquakes led to a pause in fracking while authorities pinpoint the cause,
  • The Finger Lakes of New York, where a contentious proposal is brewing to use abandoned salt mines for natural gas storage.

Application deadline: Friday, May 2, 2014

Map courtesy USGS

This Institute dovetails with the SEJ-hosted Shale Gas and Oil Development workshop at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, from June 22 through mid-day on June 24. IJNR and SEJ will present topically different yet complementary programming, and journalists are encouraged to apply to both if they so choose. Please note, however, that each program requires a separate application, and acceptance to one program does not impact or guarantee acceptance to the other.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Nicholas

Wolves, Wind River Boundary Battles, and Struggling Mountain Frogs

Tuesday Noozeday! Here's some reading to keep you busy on this wintery day: michelle nijhuisFirst, from Michelle Nijhuis writing for On Earth magazine, a look at wolves and their status on the endangered species list:

Howls of Outrage

About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency's own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place... Read more. 

Photo by Matthew Pugliese

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Irina ZhorovNext, Irina Zhorov reports for Al Jazeera America on the complex relationship between the EPA, reservation boundaries, and racial tensions in Wyoming:

Wyoming reservation's redrawn borders put old conflicts back on the map

 

RIVERTON, Wyo. — Look at a map of the pretty pocket of land in central Wyoming known as the Wind River Indian Reservation, and you’ll see towns strung like pearls on the lines of road that traverse the territory. At the southeast corner of the reservation lies Riverton. On the map, the town of 10,615 appears to be part of the shaded rectangle marking Indian Country, yet Wyoming has considered Riverton nontribal land for more than 100 years.

 

That may have to change. A technical ruling on air monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency in December put the town in the reservation, an action that has awakened dormant racial tensions, inflamed an already uneasy relationship between Wind River and Riverton and raised questions about what the boundaries really mean... Read more.

Neither the EPA nor Wyoming monitors air quality over the 2.2 million acres of the Wind River Reservation. But a new EPA ruling giving the reservation the right to monitor air has brought up old disagreements. Photo by Irina Zhorov for Al Jazeera America

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eric wagnerEric Wagner reports on the fight to save the Cascades frog for the National Parks Conservation Association:

Between a bog and a hard place

Late September isn’t the coldest time of year to be in the Seven Lakes Basin of Olympic National Park, but it’s getting there, and so it is with no small amazement that Wendy Palen and I watch Maureen Ryan wade into an alpine pond up to her waist.

“Cold?” Palen asks from the shore, where she is nice and dry.

“It’s actually not too bad,” Ryan says as she rolls up her sleeve and roots around the bottom. She’s searching for a device she placed in the center of the pond last spring, which has been tracking its temperature for several months. By comparing the data from another temperature logger placed on the shore with the one she soon wrests from the muck, she’ll be able to see whether the pond dried out completely during the summer. This, in turn, will help her predict the survival prospects of amphibians in the alpine wetlands of the American West... Read more.

Wagner_Mushaw_frog

Bakken Boom, Trout Fiasco, NSA Climate Edge, and Pete Seeger

New reporting from IJNR alums for your Thursday reading! kirk sieglerFirst, check out this great multi-medi package from NPR's Kirk Siegler and his colleagues about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota:

The Great Plains Oil Rush

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

On a Sunday at dusk, Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder train is jampacked, filled with people heading to their jobs in North Dakota towns like Minot, Williston and Watford City.

Jennifer Brown is watching the snowy plains of northern Montana pass by outside the train's frosty windows. She's moving to North Dakota from Idaho to join her husband, who's been working in the oil fields since last summer.

"I haven't seen him in two months," she says. "It's been really hard."

The Browns ran a logging truck business in northern Idaho, but work was hard to come by. Out in North Dakota, though, a person can make $100,000 or more starting out in the oil fields... Read, hear, and see more.

The "horsehead" pump of an oil rig has become a common feature along the rural North Dakota skyline. (Annie Flanagan for NPR)

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eric wagnerFrom Eric Wagner writing for High Country News, a look at invasive trout in Flathead Lake - a story based on our 2013 Crown of the Continent Institute in Montana.

The great Flathead fish fiasco

The ding! is soft, but Capt. Rod's response is Pavlovian, and he skips over to the charter boat's console with a nimbleness remarkable for a man his size. "Fish on 2!" he calls. He hurries back to the stern and pulls the appropriate rod from its sleeve, then hands it to me. "OK, reel her in."

I steel myself for battle, but this particular fish, a lake trout, is blasé in the face of death. I reel. It resists a little. I reel again. It tugs, kind of. After a minute or so, Rod scoops the trout out of Flathead Lake and hands it to me. Jim Vashro, an avuncular biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, appraises it with a practiced eye. "If you want to be respectable, say 'Less than 10,' " he advises... Read more.

Fishing for trout on Flathead Lake. (IJNR photo)

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Peter ThomsonOn PRI's The World, Peter Thomson investigates the idea that NSA spying gave the U.S. a leg up in the climate-change debate:

Did NSA spying give U.S. an edge at the Copenhagen climate conference?

The latest NSA targets to be revealed by Edward Snowden’s purloined document archive might surprise you: participants in the high-stakes UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

The latest revelation comes from a joint reporting project between the Huffington Post and the Danish newspaper Information, which says it got a top secret NSA briefing paper on the negotiations from Snowden.

The document, which the news outlets have published online, is barely more than a page, and is dated December 7, 2009, the opening day of the Copenhagen conference.

Most of it reads like an article a news summary of the basic issues and conflicts heading into the summit, but it’s distinguished by two short paragraphs at the end of the document marked “TS”—for Top Secret—and “SI”—for Signal Intelligence, or electronic monitoring...Read more.

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michelle nijhuisAnd, from Michelle Nijhuis writing on The Last Word on Nothing, a tribute to Pete Seeger and his environmental legacy

 

Photo of the Clearwater sloop on the Hudson courtesy of Flickr user Sea of Legs. Creative Commons.

My Dirty Stream

You’ve probably heard a lot of Pete Seeger songs in the last couple of days. And no wonder: When Seeger died on Monday, he left behind a very long lifetime’s worth of beautiful, cheeky, unforgettable songs. But what he left me — and the millions of other kids who grew up along the Hudson River during his tenure there — is not a song but a story. And the story is as good a cure for cynicism as any I know.

It goes like this.... Read more.

 

 

Fracking, Fish Hunger Games, and Toxic Algae

New Nooze for your Thursday reading pleasure! Jeremy RunnalsFirst, from Jeremy Runnalls with Corporate Knights magazine, a look at fracking regulation in the U.S.. This story is a result of our 2013 Mining Country Institute!

 

Illustration by Paul Blow

Testing the waters

IRON MOUNTAIN, Michigan – Wherever Jim Peters goes, a contingent from the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan follows. The operations manager at NorthStar Energy LLC and representative for the Michigan Oil and Gas Producers Education Foundation admires their perseverance, but says they’re not there to have a discussion. “They just poison the atmosphere for everyone else,” he complains to a group of journalists gathered on the shores of Lake Antoine. The fracking wars have touched down in “the Wolverine State.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process wherein rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid. Popularized by the discovery of horizontal drilling in the late 1990s, it has led to the natural gas and tight oil boom currently powering the ongoing energy revolution in North America. Thirty-one states now contain potentially viable shale gas plays, including Michigan... Read more. 

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adam hintFrom our very own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, a story about how climate change is altering habitat for fish - and not in the way you might think:

Fish forced into "Hunger Games" when lakes lose trees

Before and after: in a decade, Little Rock Lake’s water levels dropped more than 1.5 meters. Courtesy: Jereme Gaeta

In attempts to predict what climate change will mean for life in lakes, scientists have mainly focused on two things: the temperature of the water and the amount of oxygen dissolved in it. But a new study from University of Wisconsinresearchers is speaking for the trees – specifically, the dead ones that have toppled into a lake’s near-shore waters.

 For fish in northern Wisconsin lakes, at least, these trees can be the difference between pastures of plenty and the Hunger Games.Under ‘normal’ water-level situations, says Jereme Gaeta, a post-doctoral researcher at the UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology and lead author of the study, trees in the water provide “coarse woody habitat.” Not only do they offer a refuge for fishes that would otherwise be lunch, they also provide food for those fishes – serving as structure for algae to grow on and aquatic insects to live... Read more. 

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codi yeager kozacekAnd from Codi Yeager-Kozacek with Circle of Blue, a fantastic multimedia investigation of toxic algae in the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes drinking water fouled by toxic algae

OAK HARBOR, OH — On September 4, 2013, Henry Biggert, the superintendent of the Carroll Water and Sewer District, near Toledo, Ohio, got the first clue that he could have a public health crisis on his hands. An analysis of water samples taken from Lake Erie, the district’s only water source, showed that levels of a toxin released by algal blooms had spiked.

In five years of voluntarily testing for the toxin, Biggert and his staff had never seen anything like it. So they followed protocol and retested the water early the next morning. Unable to process the sample at their own facility, they sent it to another plant nearby and waited.

At 3 p.m. Biggert received the second set of results. They were alarming. Toxin levels in Lake Erie were greater than 50 parts per billion. Levels of the toxin in Carroll Township’s treated drinking water were 3.8 parts per billion—nearly four times the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organization... Read and see more.

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The Best of 2013, Day 12: Crown of the Continent Follow-up

Davidson_B&C dawn

Happy Holidays from IJNR!

We hope you have enjoyed our Twelve-Days-of-Christmas, Best-of-2013 Bonanza here on The Nooze.  Here's one final offering before we take a break for the holiday. We'll be back on December 30 with a few final reminders to support IJNR before the end of the year.

In the meantime, happy holidays to all of you, from all of us here at IJNR!


Fellow Trailer_DavidsonToday, instead of highlighting an alumnus, series, or publication, we'd like to shine the spotlight on some of the great reporting that came out of our 2013 Crown of the Continent Institute. The journalists covered a lot of Davidson_questionsground (Read dispatches from the Crown of the Continent trip here, herehere, here, and here), and learned about wildfire, hydroelectric dams, water quality, non-native vs. native fish debates, collaborative conservation, ranching in predator country, Davidson_marciworking landscapes, native science, species reintroduction, oil and gas exploration, and climate change. Participating reporters represented a wide variety of publications, including the the Bozeman Chronicle, the Helena Independent Record, High Country News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the La Grande Observer, Aspen Public Radio, Northwest News Network, Earthzine, Wyoming Public Radio, Wyofile, Boise State Public Radio, KQED Public Radio, and several others.

The following are some great examples of reporting that emerged following the trip. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed taking the journalists out to learn about these issues firsthand!

(All photos above by Osha Gray Davidson.)

Crown of the Continent 2013 Post-Institute Highlights

Katy NesbittFrom Katy NesbittThe Observer

Praying for loved ones of fallen Arizona hot shot crews

This past week one of the fellows I met on the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resources journey around Montana kept us updated on the temperatures at his home in Phoenix, which were to rise to 118 degrees.

The only time I’ve experienced that kind of heat was on a wildland fire. I was a member of a 20-person crew from the Malheur National Forest dispatched to Tucson to battle a blaze where temperatures reached 122 degrees.

We were put on the night shift and warned of tarantulas, scorpions and rattlesnakes. I encountered each of these creatures during the fire, luckily at a safe distance. But the heat was the biggest risk we were to encounter... Read more.


Osha Gray DavidsonFrom Osha Gray Davidson, freelance

The Great Burning: How wildfires are threatening the West (Rolling Stone)

It was the sound of her neighbors' propane tanks exploding that convinced Nancy Myers she had run out of time. Twenty minutes earlier, the 57-year-old potter had been standing with some friends on a rock-strewn hillside above the village of Yarnell, Arizona, on a hot Sunday afternoon, watching the red coil of flames unspool in the distance, certain that everything was going to be OK – despite the "prepare to evacuate" order issued by the county sheriff's office earlier that day. "Then the storm came down the mountains," she remembers. "The wind shifted and it came straight into town. There was ash and smoke everywhere and big old flames. I went into panic mode."...Read more. 

The fire mappers (Earthzine)

Maps of a wildfire tragedy show why escape was impossible (Earthzine)


anna kingFrom Anna King, Northwest News Network

Hoof-to-Ground: Bringing wild bison back to the west

Northwest Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation stretches across 1.5 million acres. But it turns out that isn’t enough room for the free-roaming bison herd that tribes are attempting to establish. Northwest Native Americans are hoping restored buffalo herds may reopen ancient trade and cultural traditions.

Most American bison were exterminated more than 100 years ago. Now, tribes across the country are trying to coordinate with Canada, the federal government, states and even private ranchers to once again bring herds back to the Western landscape... Read more.


eve byronFrom Eve Byron, Independent Record

The great trout divide

YELLOW BAY — It’s a blustery afternoon at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, but the chill in the air isn’t just from the breeze coming off the water.

Five men are involved in a lively and pointed debate over the future of the fishery here. It’s clear that they’ve had this discussion among themselves before, and on this cool June day no one is making any headway in winning the argument.

The debate boils down to two fish species, some nearly microscopic shrimp and unintended consequences. But it’s also about an ongoing philosophical dilemma over native species vs. introduced species, as well as when to concede defeat and when to continue fighting... Read more.

Anti-fossil fuel coalition asks to be included as defendant in Badger-Two Medicine lawsuit

Gladstone invites energy exec to Front


Marci KrivonenFrom Marci Krivonen, Aspen Public Radio

Tribes in Western U.S. use water to assert sovereignty

In Colorado’s southwest, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe co-manages part of the Dolores Water Project. And, near Durango, the Animas/La Plata project is partially managed by the state’s two tribes. Ernest House directs the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

"Not only do these water projects strengthen tribal sovereignty, but they also solidify a treaty obligation to the Utes here in Colorado. I think that by the tribe’s involvement in a lot of these projects, it provides a very important tool for future economic development, especially, specifically, water," he says.

While the project is different, the goals are similar in Montana. When the tribes take over the dam there, they say, their sovereignty will be strengthened... Read and hear more.


Frankie BarnhillFrom Frankie Barnhill, Boise State Public Radio

13 words you need to know during wildfire season

Idaho's wildfire season is here, and that means you're going to be hearing a lot of firefighting jargon to describe what's going on.

We put together this list of key firefighting terms you're likely to hear in the next few months... Read more.

Why letting some wildfires burn could save homes and prevent future fires


Laura LundquistFrom Laura Lundquist, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Hoof-to-Ground

People will go to great lengths to bring a missing relative home. Calling politicians, making appeals and raising money are just the start. Even as years go by, they don't give up, especially if the first wisps of hope begin to take on the semblance of success.

For Native Americans throughout the West, those wisps came in the form of some high-court rulings and a successful yet controversial quarantine experiment. The ultimate success will be when the tribes can welcome their relatives — bison from Yellowstone National Park — home to their lands. Within the past two years, the tribes of the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations have had a small taste of that success. Now they and dozens of other tribes want more.

To them, the Yellowstone bison — they use the word “buffalo” — is more than just meat on the table, said LeRoy Little Bear of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in a June interview... Read more.


Matt FrankFrom Matt Frank (editor), Science Source

Icon of Change: Notes from the edge of a vanishing glacier, Flathead Beacon, by Allison Mills

In the center of Glacier National Park, Mount Gould’s rounded ridge cradles Grinnell Glacier. On a September afternoon, Dan Fagre walks over a smooth patch of bedrock toward the slab of ice. Below it, newly splintered icebergs fill an opaque blue lake.

The U.S. Geological Survey research scientist, who studies the retreat of the park’s namesakes, stops at a small boulder and taps it with his trekking pole.

“You can tell that this was only recently uncovered by the retreating ice,” Fagre says, pointing out the dusty rock flour left behind by the slow grinding of the glacier. He’s likely the first person to ever touch the boulder... Read more.

Pioneers contribute to world climate study, The Montana Standard, by Kindra McQuillen


Sarah KellerFrom Sarah KellerHigh Country News

Montana's largest utility diversifies its energy mix with hydropower

Montana’s largest utility company, NorthWestern Energy, is moving to diversify its energy mix – an increasing trend in the industry. Seeing the regulatory noose tightening on coal, and questioning the long-term promise of natural gas, the company recently announced plans to buy Montana’s 11 hydroelectric dams from their Pennsylvanian owners. By adding 630 megawatts of stable hydro to a portfolio of wind, coal and natural gas, NorthWestern is fortifying itself for a future when energy prices could be higher and more volatile... Read more.

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds


Irina ZhorovFrom Irina Zhorov, Wyoming Public Radio

When it comes to environmental policy, science isn't always as helpful as lawmakers hope

Science has long been something we look to for answers. But when it comes to policy making, science can’t always provide the clear solutions lawmakers and the public want. That has to do with how science works and the politics that sometimes infiltrate. Two issues in Wyoming demonstrate uncannily well the shortcomings of science when it comes to decision making in the environmental sphere.

IRINA ZHOROV: Remember that scene in Ghostbusters, when Bill Murray’s character is pursuing a seemingly irrelevant line of questioning with a laid out woman as a concerned man stands by?... Read and hear more.