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

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


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.

The Best of 2013, Day 9: High Country News

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.

HCN logo For Day 9 of our Best of 2013 series, we bring you not a specific journalist, nor a series, but a publication: High Country News. Winner of Utne Reader's 2013 Award for Best Environmental Coverage, HCN is a fantastic publication based in the tiny town of Paonia, Colorado, and focused on environmental news in the West. Incidentally, a dozen of their writers and contributing editors are IJNR alumni!

hcn_logo_dog_tshirtSome of the following stories require a subscription, although most don't. That being said, we can't recommend HCN highly enough, and we hear that subscriptions make great Christmas gifts! (We don't usually use the blog to promote consumerism, but you can also get great HCN swag on their website, including dog t-shirts. How great is that? Now you know what to get for that pooch who loves high-quality environment journalism.)

Without further ado, a line-up of some of the greatest hits of 2013 from our HCN alumni:

Cally CarswellFrom Cally Carswell:

The Tree Coroners: To save the West's forests, scientists must first learn how trees die

There are few better places than Frijoles Mesa to study the mortality of trees. This tongue of land lies partly within the grounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. To the west rises Cerro Grande, a mountain riddled with the charred skeletons of fir and pine trees. To the southwest are the lingering scars of another fire, one so intense that its heat alone killed trees that weren't consumed by the flames themselves... Read more.

Second Yarnell investigation reaches damning - and tragic - conclusions

Lessons from the flooded Front Range

Snapshots of a forest two years after a megafire

sarah gilmanFrom Sarah Gilman:

Will drilling cost the Arctic its wildness?

In the dark of a far-north winter night, amidst 70-mph winds, the nine-member crew of the tugboat Alert released its towline and set the Kulluk oilrig adrift on heaving seas. Loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lubrication oil and hydraulic fluid, the Kulluk ran aground off uninhabited Sitkalidak Island 45 minutes later. It was New Year’s Eve, 2012, and the Alert and the Aiviq, another boat contracted by Royal Dutch Shell, had been towing the Kulluk from Shell’s first exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, to a Seattle shipyard, when they were caught in the terrible Gulf of Alaska storm... Read more.

After South Dakota's deadly whiteout, a look at blizzards past

The Blue Window: Journeying from redrock desert to icy wasteland

A field program teaches undergrads to think differently about public lands

Sarah KellerFrom Sarah Keller:

Montana tribes will be first to own a hydroelectric dam

Most of the people who run Kerr Dam on northwest Montana's Flathead Reservation sit hundreds of miles away, and some are even across the country, in the offices of Pennsylvania Power and Light.

But that's likely to change in 2015, when the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have the option to buy the dam, thereby becoming the country's first tribal hydroelectric owners and operators. Rocky Mountain Power Company built the 205-foot-tall impoundment on the Flathead River, four miles downstream of Flathead Lake, against the will of many tribal members in 1938. Gaining control of Kerr Dam will have significant economic and cultural benefits for the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille – the three tribes of the Flathead Reservation... Read more.

New study shows how helping desert soil could save our snow

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds

Climate change: moving from science to policy

Jodi petersonFrom Jodi Peterson:

Public lands with no way in

What do the Troublesome Wilderness Study Area in Colorado, the Sabinoso Wildernessand Cowboy Springs WSA in New Mexico, and the Fortification Creek WSA in Wyoming have in common?

They’re all public lands – and none of them can be reached by the public.

Western lands have long had a patchwork of owners: federal, state, local, tribal and private. In the late 1800s, the federal government gave railroad companies every other square mile along rail corridors, creating a public-private checkerboard. But because it’s illegal to even step across a corner from one public parcel to another, many of those pieces of land remain inaccessible. Others are marooned in a sea of private property with no right of way. Some landowners even illegally close public roads across their holdings... Read more.

Feeding elk - and spreading chronic wasting disease

Death in the desert

Made in the American West, consumed in China

michelle nijhuisFrom Michelle Nijhuis:

For the love of trees

Last summer, after 15 years in western Colorado, my family moved back to the Pacific Northwest. The move was a shock in many ways, taking us from dry to wet, rural to town, red politics to blue. The topography here is different, the wildlife is different, and the trees are very, very different.

But our neighbors' attachment to the forests is familiar. Whether surrounded by graceful aspen or scrubby juniper or majestic Douglas fir and western hemlocks, people care about trees in a way that goes beyond politics and logic. For most of us, forests are part of the personality of our places, and when they change, we change, too... Read more.

The mysterious reappearance of the white-bottomed bee

From other contributors:

nathan rice



Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country, by Nathan Rice

josh zaffos


'Port Gamble Predicament' inches toward resolution, by Josh Zaffos


Judith Lewis Mernit


Dead Southern California puma would have spread genetic diversity, by Judith Lewis Mernit



Matt Jenkins


New Hope for the Delta, by Matt Jenkins


Photo by Robert Campbell

Mining Country Follow-up

Here are some final posts from our 2013 Mining Country Institute, and links to some of the many stories that the journalists on the trip are already cranking out! IJNR's own Adam Hinterthuer reports from the road:

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Mary Catherine O'ConnorFrom Mary Catherine O'Connor, a story for Outside Magazine online about the status of wolves in the public eye:

Wolf Tourism: So Hot Right Now

It's hard to be stealthy in a 40-foot motor coach. But Phil, our fearless driver who had been schlepping the 20 of us journalists around Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin all week, did his best as we ventured deeper into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, in search of wolves. 

Our secret weapon was Dave MacFarland, carnivore staff specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Wildlife Management. He had scouted the area earlier and had found some signs of the local Pembine pack. But the scat was days old so he wasn't very confident that any wolves would be close enough to hear his howls... Read and hear more.

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chris engle and raccoonChris Engle with the Gaylord Herald Times and Petoskey News covers the region's wolves from a different angle:

Wolf hunt on for 2013, up to voters in 2014

UPPER PENINSULA — Michigan’s first wolf hunt in 50 years could be its last, at least for the foreseeable future, as referendums will put the fate of further hunts in the hands of voters.

Licenses will go on sale late this month for the 2013 season, the first state-sanctioned wolf hunt since Michigan stopped paying a bounty on wolves in the 1960s. 

A total of 1,200 licenses will be available starting Saturday, Sept. 28 and hunting opens with Michigan’s rifle deer season Friday, Nov. 15. 

A harvest quota has been set at 43 wolves.

Brian Roell, a wildlife biologist and field wolf specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Marquette, said Michigan’s wolves are a “success story,” re-establishing themselves in the Great Lakes State after earlier attempts to transplant them to the Upper Peninsula failed... Read more.


Chuck QuirmbachAnd from Chuck Quirmbach with Wisconsin Public Radio, a whole handful of stories that came from the Institute:

DNR Says Wolf Hunt Quotas Will Adjust Population

Pipeline That Would Send Crude Oil To Superior Still In Planning Phase

Lake Superior's Ongoing Transformation, Courtesy of Climate Change

With its Legality in Limbo, Harvest Camp Begins Planning for Winter Occupation

Mining in Upper Peninsula: A Window into Northern Wisconsin's Future?

One State Over, A Soon-To-Be Mine Stirs Up Controversy of its Own

Chuck Quirmbach interviews Lake Superior. (Photo by Mary Catherine O'Connor)

Fracking Gag, Wildfires, Solar Future, and a Chuckling Frog

New Nooze for your Wednesday reading pleasure: Don HopeyFirst, from Don Hopey with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a look at an unprecedented legal move in response to a fracking settlement:

Pittsburgh-area shale settlement 'gag' questioned

The Hallowich family in 2010, standing on a hillside near their home to illustrate the proximity of several gas wells around their property. (Photo by Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

The non-disclosure agreement prohibiting Chris and Stephanie Hallowich from talking about the 2011 settlement of their high-profile Marcellus Shale damage case in Washington County, or saying anything about gas drilling and fracking, isn't unusual. It happens often in settling such cases.

But the insistence that their two minor children, then ages 7 and 10, are also bound by the "gag order" is.

Several independent legal scholars and attorneys involved in the Hallowich side of the case say they know of no other settlement agreements that gag the children of parents involved in legal settlements, and questioned whether such an agreement is enforceable... Read more. 


Osha Gray DavidsonFrom Osha Gray Davidson, an awesome piece in Rolling Stone about fire in America:

The Great Burning: How Wildfires are Threatening the West

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.

Photo by Gene Blevins/Reuters/Landov


Ryan RandazzoA big, multi-part series by Ryan Randazzo and his colleagues at the Arizona Republic about the future of solar energy in Arizona:

See the complete series, including text, photos, and video, here.

Or, read individual parts here:

Emerging Arizona solar industry faces uncertain future

Costs of rooftop solar out of reach for many in Arizona

Federal and state subsidy debate key to Arizona's solar future

Company's solar leases draw fans, but feds open inquiry into pricing

Solar doesn't have a lock on future as major power source


Ashley AhearnAnd finally, from Ashley Ahearn with EarthFix radio, tracking a laughing frog in the name of science:

Tracking an Alpine Frog that Chuckles and Beeps for Climate Change Research

The Cascades frog is only found in the alpine wetlands of the Pacific Northwest, though its range used to extend down to Northern California and up to British Columbia. Scientists are concerned its range will continue to shrink with climate change. (Photo by Ashley Ahearn)

Olympic National Park, Wash. — Maureen Ryan scales rocky trails at 5,000 feet elevation as nimbly as the mountain goats that wandered through camp earlier this morning.

The amphibian researcher leads her team of scientists down off a ridge line in the Seven Lakes Basin of Olympic National Park to her “lab”, you might call it. It’s a series of pothole wetlands cupped in the folds of these green, snow-studded mountains - perfect habitat for Cascades frogs (Rana cascadae).

Ryan, a researcher with the University of Washington, is an expert on alpine amphibians. She’s also part of a group of scientists from around the region, coordinated by the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative at the USGS, who are trying to understand and project how the warming climate will affect these frogs’ ability to feed, mate, and ultimately, survive... Read, hear and see more.

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Boom & Bust, Fracking Contamination, Realities of Wildfire, and Ghost Net Busters

After a bit of a summer hiatus, The Nooze is back in action!  Over this week we'll bring you highlight stories from the past month, and pick back up with regular blog posts starting in August. josh zaffosFirst, from Joshua Zaffos, writing for the Sierra Club's magazine, a look at oil and gas exploration in the West:

Busting Out of Boom and Bust

IN LATE JUNE, WHEN THE SNOW DISAPPEARS from the high-country forests, Jock Jacober moves hundreds of cows into the meadows of Coal Basin in Colorado's White River National Forest. Located between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, the mid-elevation pastures are part of the 221,500-acre Thompson Divide, undeveloped public lands that provide important summer livestock forage and essential elk-calving habitat.

From the growing mountain town of Carbondale, Jacober and his three sons operate Crystal River Meats, processing grass-fed beef that he and other local ranchers raise. Started in 1999, the specialty business has grown to distribute to Whole Foods and Natural Grocers supermarkets. Most of the ranchers rely on U.S. Forest Service grazing leases in Coal Basin and other designated roadless parcels in the Thompson Divide. "For 100 years, guys have been running cattle up there," Jacober says. "It's a good place to grow food for the valley." Read more.

Colorado rancher Jock Jacober (Photo by David Clifford)


John roachNext, from John Roach, contributing writer at NBC News, a story about the bottom line in the debate about fracking and water quality:

Natural gas found in drinking water near fracked wells

Elevated levels of methane and other stray gases have been found in drinking water near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania's gas-rich Marcellus shale region, according to new research. In the case of methane, concentrations were six times higher in some drinking water found within one kilometer of drilling operations.

"The bottom line is strong evidence for gas leaking into drinking water in some cases," Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told NBC News. "We think the likeliest explanation is leaky wells," he added... Read more.

A Marcellus shale gas extraction well pad and farm in Pennsylvania. New research finds contaminated drinking water, in some cases, in homes within one kilometer of these wells. (Photo by Robert Jackson)


Michael Kodas_2In the midst of fire season and in the wake of the tragic Yarnell Hill fire, an interview on NPR with IJNR alumnus Michael Kodas about the realities of wildfire today:

The New World of Firefighting Realities, Climate and Humans

An aerial tanker drops fire retardant on a wildfire threatening homes near Yarnell, Ariz., on July 1. An elite crew of firefighters was overtaken by the out-of-control blaze on June 30, killing 19 members as they tried to protect themselves from the flames under fire-resistant shields. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

Writer and photojournalist Michael Kodas has been documenting firefighting and firefighters for more than a decade. His current book project, Megafire, an examination of the new world faced by firefighters, will be released in 2014. Kodas, also the author of High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, lives in Boulder, Colo. He traveled to Arizona after 19 elite Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters from Prescott died June 30 battling a lightning-sparked wildfire in nearby Yarnell... Read more. 


Ashley AhearnFrom Ashley Ahearn with EarthFix, a story on Public Radio International's The World about deadly abandoned fishing nets, and the folks who are battling them:

Ghost Net Busters: Global Activists Dive to Remove Deadly Lost Fishing Nets

Pascal van Erp saw his first ghost net when he was exploring a ship wreck in the North Sea.

“It was a very scary thing,” the Dutch diver says. He says the abandoned fishing net almost got him. Other creatures weren’t so lucky.

“A lot of sea life was captured by the nets and the fishing lines,” he says.

The experience haunted van Erp, and he soon realized that ghost nets – nets lost or cut from fishing boats – were a global problem. So he founded an organization called Ghostfishing International to help raise awareness about the issue and connect people around the world who are working to remove nets... Read and hear more.

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Dispatches from the Road: Crown of the Continent, Day 3 - Native Science, Species Reintroduction, Protecting Sacred Spaces

IMG_0344 - Version 2 On Friday, the group began the morning with a discussion about multimedia journalism with embedded multi-media guru Mike Scott.

Following the discussion, the journalists headed north to Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, where they gathered at the Blackfeet Community College to learn about the Native Science Field Center, where traditional knowledge of plants, animals, places, stories, and language in taught alongside western science to students of all ages. The group also heard about natural resource education and management on the reservation, concerns and ambiguity about oil and gas development, and the Iinnii Initiative, a multi-agency, inter-tribal, transboundary working group that is attempting to bring free-ranging bison back to the Front Range.

Members of the Native Science Field Center and the Iinnii Initiative discuss traditional knowledge, western science, and bison reintroduction at Blackfeet Community College.

Panelists in this discussion included Helen Augare-Carlson, director of the Native Science Field Center; Melissa Weatherwax, also with the Native Science Field Center; Terry Tatsey, director of USDA programs at Blackfeet Community College; Keith Tatsey, USDA equity project coordinator; Keith Aune, senior bison conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and coordinator of the Iinnii Initiative; and Leroy Littlebear, Native American Studies professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.

Beaver pond in the Badger-Two Medicine, looking north towards Glacier National Park.

The journalists next visited the Badger-Two Medicine, a unique parcel of land adjacent to the Reservation and Glacier National Park. This area is culturally important to the Blackfeet, and is ecologically important as well, but has been threatened by oil and gas development and ATV use in the past. Motorized vehicle use is now banned in the area, and oil exploration has largely stopped, but not all subsurface leases have been relinquished, and the possibility of drilling in the future remains very real.


After hiking into the Badger-Two Medicine, the Fellows heard from Jack Gladstone, Blackfeet tribal member, about the tribe's origin stories and traditional beliefs. He also treated them to an impromptu, trail-side concert. Gladstone was joined by Kendall Flint, president of the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance; Mary Riddle with Glacier National Park; Lou Bruno, also with the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance; and Steve Thompson, with the Cinnabar Foundation.

The Badger-Two Medicine.

Dispatches from the Road: Crown of the Continent, Day 2 - Collaboration, Predators, Working Landscapes

Day two of the Institute dawned sunny, and fellows gobbled up an early breakfast at the Flathead Lake Biological Station before boarding the bus for the Swan Valley and a long day of programming.

Melanie Parker, executive director of Northwest Connections, talks to the group about grizzlies, loggers, recreation, conservation, and collaboration.

At Northwest Connections in Condon, Montana, the group heard from executive director Melanie Parker about grizzly bears, conservation, and the area's long history of natural resource extraction, especially logging and hunting. She explained how, over several years, a community at odds came together to preserve the most important parts of the landscape, ecologically, culturally, and economically. She was joined by Chris Bryant with The Nature Conservancy, who explained the Montana Legacy Project, an ambitious program to conserve 310,000 acres formerly owned by Plum Creek Timber.

Gordy Sanders, research manager with Pyramid Mountain Lumber.

The group also heard from Gordy Sanders, resource manager with Pyramid Mountain Lumber, about how a family-owned mill has survived the changing economic climate and land management policies of the past few decades.

Eric Graham, range rider for Blackfoot Challenge, Jim Stone of Rolling Stone Ranch, and Greg Neudecker, Fish and Wilidlife Biologist, meet with the journalists at the DOT's composting facility in Clearwater Junction.

After spending a glorious morning in the Swan Valley, the group traveled south to the Blackfoot Valley, where they heard from a number of parties invested in protecting not only the area's predators - grizzlies and wolves, specifically -but also the livelihood of the area's ranchers, many of whom run cattle on land that has spent several generations in a single family. Seth Wilson with the Blackfoot Challenge led conversations about a carcass composting program facilitated by Montana DOT, as well as new efforts among ranchers to take a more pro-active management approach to their property and livestock. Joining him were Jim Stone of Rolling Stone Ranch, Bruce Friede with MT DOT, fish and wildlife biologist Greg Neudecker, rancher Bob Rawlins, range rider Eric Graham, and wolf biologists Ed Bangs and Mike Mitchell.

Jim Stone talks with journalists about management practices on Rolling Stone Ranch in the Blackfoot Valley.

Finally, the group boarded the bus for the 3 hour drive up the Front Range. Two episodes of road construction later, they arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, where they all agreed the view from the deck was well worth the wait. Over a spectacular home-cooked dinner, they heard from Randy Gray, former mayor of Great Falls, Montana, and rancher Karl Rappold about the history of the Front Range, and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.

View from the deck of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, looking west into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.Northwest Connection's dairy barn-tunred-classroom.The Swan Valley.

Dispatches from the Road: Crown of the Continent, Day 1 - Fire, Wildlife, Dams, Water Quality, Fish

Fellows learn about wildfire past and present from Ron Wakimoto, professor of forest fire science, University of Montana.

Fire and water marked the first full day of the Crown of the Continent Institute in Montana on Wednesday, June 26. Beginning with a mid-morning discussion about the history of fire with Ron Wakimoto, professor of forest fire at University of Montana, and concluding with a trout fishing expedition on Flathead Lake, the full contingent of 18 fellows (Don Hopey finally arrived after a grueling trip from Pittsburgh!) worked their way north from Missoula and got engaged in a series of environmental issues along the way.

Dale Becker, wildlife biologist with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, discusses wildlife highway crossings, grizzly-chicken conflicts, and reintroduction efforts on the Flathead Reservation.

Wakimoto was also joined by two officials with The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes - Tom McDonald and Dale Becker -  who talked about their wildlife management program and set up a visit to the spectacular Kerr Dam on the Flathead River. There, the fellows had a chance to visit with Jordan Thompson, a lawyer for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, about the dam's history and future - which will likely see its operation turned over to the tribes.

Kerr Dam, Polson Montana

Flathead Lake and its watershed, which straddles the U.S.-Canada border, was the primary focus of the second half of the jam-packed first day of the Crown of the Continent Institute. Among the highlights for the journalists was a full-blown debate among officials from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Fish and Wildlife Protection and the Tribal fishery officials over the aquatic battle between Lake Trout and native Bull Trout.
After a dinner at the Flathead Lake Biological station, the fellows finished the day on the gorgeous lake and were treated to a sunset exploding in color over the nearby mountains.

Fellows fish for Lake Trout on Flathead Lake.

Sunset and wake on Flathead Lake.

This Day One Dispatch was written by Mike Scott, assistant metro editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and IJNR's multi-media magician.

The Global Lunchscape, Drought in the Southwest, Great Lakes-Mississippi Split, and Allies Against Natural Gas

New Nooze for your Wednesday reading pleasure!  Lots of really fantastic stuff today:

Peter Thomsonsam eatonFirst, from Peter Thomson, Sam Eaton, and the rest of the good folks at PRI's The World, an exciting new blog:  What's For Lunch, which is the newest chapter of their Food For 9 Billion project.

What's for Lunch: Under Pressure from Climate Change, A Global Tour of Our Changing Lunchscape

What’s for lunch?

It’s a question just about everyone on the planet asks every day, but it’s also one that most of us don’t really have to think much about. If we’re lucky enough not to be among the world’s billion or so chronically undernourished souls, we can generally be confident that whatever we have for lunch — or breakfast, or dinner — will be tasty, familiar, affordable and as available as ever.

But for how much longer?... Read more.

Listen to part of the project:

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Cally CarswellCally Carswell with High Country News weighs in on the drought's impacts on New Mexico, and not just in the form of fire:

New Mexico on Fire

New Mexico is burning. Again. In June 2011, winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour propelled an aspen into a power line in the Jemez Mountains, near Los Alamos, igniting a 156,593-acre blaze that became known as the Las Conchas Fire. It was the biggest wildfire in the New Mexico's recorded history, until the next year, when lighting struck the Gila National Forest in the southern part of the state, sparking the 297,845-acre Whitewater-Baldy Fire. Now, in its third year of drought, northern New Mexico is burning anew. Two fires started late last week, one in the Santa Fe National Forest east of Santa Fe, and another in the Jemez Mountains, quite near the Las Conchas burn scar. Both were kindled by trees falling on power lines.... Read more.

Firefighters march into the Gila during the Whitewater-Baldy fire of 2012. Courtesy Gila National Forest.


john flesherJohn Flesher with the AP brings word of new steps in the fight against Asian carp:

Gov. Quinn Open to Great Lakes-Mississippi Split

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Saturday that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems is the "ultimate solution" to prevent voracious Asian carp from overrunning the lakes, a potential step toward resolving a longstanding regional feud.

During a meeting with governors of several neighboring states, Quinn said it would be a massive and costly undertaking to rework the Chicago canal project that linked the two giant watersheds a century ago. He defended Illinois' efforts to block the advance of silver and bighead carp toward the lakes by hiring commercial fishermen and operating an electric barrier, but acknowledged more needs to be done... Read more.


Photo Doby/NPR

Jeff Brady with NPR talks about how natural gas is creating some unexpected alliances in Oregon:

Natural Gas Export Plan Unites Oregon Landowners Against It

Rancher Bill Gow doesn't want the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline to travel across his Douglas County, Ore., ranch. While he has refused to negotiate with the pipeline company, ultimately a court may force him and other landowners to allow the project on their land. (Photo Jeff Brady/NPR)

A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.

Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like "fracking," drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down, along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.

Whether the United States should export some of its newly abundant supplies of natural gas is a controversial issue before the Department of Energy. About two-dozen applications have been submitted to the agency for exports to countries that don't have free-trade agreements with the U.S... Read and hear more.