Wildfire

Earth Month, Day 2: Tumbleweeds and Steelhead

Earth Month continues! sarah gilmanFirst, from Sarah Gilman with High Country News, an investigation of some pesky plants:

Troubleweeds: Russian thistle buries roads and homes in southeastern Colorado

J.D. Wright pauses to check in with his wife of 51 years. “Do you remember, Mama, when that wind was?” After a few minutes perusing her cellphone photos, she reports back: Tumbleweeds first buried the house on November 17. The gusts screamed up and there they were, piled so deep over the doors and windows that Wright, who has a ranch on the Crowley-Pueblo County line in southeastern Colorado, had to call his grandson to come dig the couple out with a front end loader and pitchfork... Read more.

For more on this story - including hilarious, reader-inspired suggestions about how to eliminate tumbleweeds - see here.

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Ashley AhearnAshley Ahearn with EarthFix Radio learns how science can help save salmon:

Stalking Puget Sound steelhead with science

TACOMA, Wash. — You might call Barry Berejikian a steelhead stalker.

Ahearn_steelhead

The government scientist’s pursuit of these anadromous trout has brought him to the deck of the Chasina, a research vessel that’s motoring through choppy gray waters of southern Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

He’s here to lay the groundwork for an experiment that could explain why so few steelhead are completing their journey through Puget Sound and on to the Pacific Ocean.

Since 2007, Puget Sound steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Millions of dollars have been spent improving their habitat but the fish are not recovering.

And scientists can’t pinpoint why... Read 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.

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

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. 

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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. 

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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 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.

Sneaky Birds, Fires, Radishes, and Inmate Ecologists

New Nooze for a Monday morning! First, we bring you two stories from Michelle Nijhuis, writing for Smithsonian.com and Nature, covering a sneaky little bird, and the long-term effects of wildfires:

What is North America's Most Mysterious Bird?

On a hot, dry July evening, a dentist named Mike Hurtado leads two biologists into a narrow, windy stretch of the St. Charles River canyon in southern Colorado. Hurtado grew up hiking around here, and he and his family still refer to this part of the canyon reverentially as “The Place.” Its high granite walls usually echo with the sound of falling water, but the river is at the lowest point Hurtado can remember, and its waterfalls have turned to mere trickles. He and the biologists hope to catch a black swift, and the conditions don’t look promising... Read more.

 

Forest Fires: Burn Out

A little after noon on Sunday 26 June 2011, strong winds toppled an aspen tree onto a power line in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The year had been extraordinarily dry, and the temperatures that week had soared well above normal. When a spark from the power line ignited a fire, wind gusts spread the flames into nearby dense stands of fir and pine.

Within an hour, ecologist Craig Allen, 55 kilometres away at his home in Santa Fe, learned about the fire in an e-mail from a US Forest Service fire manager. “I hope you guys catch this,” Allen wrote back. “We don't need another big fire in the Jemez.”... Read more.

 

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Next, Tom Henry talks about a helpful little vegetable (and also manages to squeeze in a shout-out to IJNR) on the Great Lakes Echo:

Radishes could protect the Great Lakes from harmful algal blooms

I’ve learned an awful lot about efforts to control Great Lakes algae during my many years of environmental coverage, most of which come back to keeping phosphorus and other algae-growing nutrients out of the ditches, streams, and rivers that flow into the lakes.

But I have to admit I’d never given much thought to radishes until this past summer while on a Maumee River watershed expedition with the Montana-based Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources.

That’s right. Radishes... Read more.

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And Phuong Le with the AP writes about an unlikely workforce in the world of conservation biology:

Prison Inmates Save Endangered Species at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

LITTLEROCK, Wash. (AP) — Taylor Davis has dedicated himself to saving endangered Oregon spotted frogs. He spends hours each day tending to eggs or doting on tadpoles, feeding, nurturing and meticulously recording their development.

He's in no hurry.

"We have nothing but time here," said the 28-year-old Davis.

He added, "It's perfect for a prison setting."

Washington state inmates such as Davis have been working as ecological research assistants, partnered in recent years with scientists doing conservation projects. Their efforts include breeding threatened butterflies and growing native flowers and prairie grasses... Read more.

Fire, Water, Ice and Coal

A handful of mid-week Nooze: From Craig Welch with The Seattle Times, a look at why Washington's Taylor Bridge Fire may be a view of what's to come:

Taylor Bridge fire: A glimpse of what's ahead?

Even before the evacuations, before the trees went up in bursts of red and orange, before lightning-fast flames flashed through dry grasses and reduced 63 homes and buildings to rubble, the experts knew: The Taylor Bridge wildfire could be a bad one.

Fire conditions were ripe in that stretch of Kittitas County.

But such predictions are no longer tough calls. The same could be said for much of the West.

In fact, the wildfire that scorched 23,252 acres last week between Cle Elum and Ellensburg offers a nasty glimpse of what fire experts fear may be all too common in the future... Read more.

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Deanna Lynn Wulff with Bilingual Weekly imagines the future of California's water struggles:

In the Trenches of California's Water War: A Farmer, and Environmentalist and a Republican Envision the Future

Water lazily rolls by, acres of pear trees blanket the horizon, and tiny communities dot the landscape. Walnut Grove is a Delta town with 1,500 residents, just one ice cream shop and a mom-and-pop grocery store. It feels sleepy, humid and slow—like the Sacramento River. Brett Baker, a sixth-generation pear farmer who lives nearby, on Sutter Island, describes the area nostalgically:

“I enjoy the peace and quiet, the landscape and scenery,” he said. “I have a personal relationship with almost everyone in my town. I have known them all my life, played sports with them, was coached by them growing up. Out here, there is a real sense of community. When tragedy strikes, your neighbors pick you up and help support you.”... Read more.

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Peter Thomson with PRI's The World investigates a melting trend:

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And Ashley Ahearn and her colleagues at OPB's EarthFix bring us a fantastic multi-media look at the Powder River Basin:

What Wyoming Coal Means for the Northwest

Keith Williams is about to steer his Ford Expedition 300 feet down a dirt road into one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

“Down we go,” says Williams, who’s in charge here at the Black Thunder mine.

The first thing that hits you is the sheer size of this operation. Dump trucks as big as California bungalows rumble around us. Back and forth. Clearing away millions of pounds of clay and dirt to get at the rich coal seam underneath.

It’s like peering into an ant colony under siege... Read, hear and see more.

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Check out the Powder River Basin from above (watch out, though, the soundtrack is... opera? Be sure to turn your speakers down!)

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Cod, Fires, and Carp

A few pieces of Tuesday Nooze: First, from Dan Moulthrop, reporting for Latitude News on PRX, a long look at why American cod fishermen are broke, and Norwegian fishermen are bringing home six-figure salaries:

Two Nations, Under Cod

What’s for dinner? Probably not cod. Cod was once so common in American homes it was simply called “fish.” Now you’ll find cod featured on menus in fancy restaurants. When the cod fishery collapsed in the 1990s, it devastated fishing communities around the world. The American towns still have not recovered; meanwhile, Norway is catching record amounts of cod. What’s so special about Norway? ... Hear more.

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Two (more) stories about Colorado's fires from Michael Kodas, both in OnEarth magazine:

Climate Change Fuels the Perfect Firestorm

The last time I chased wildfires across Colorado was in 2003, while serving as a seasonal wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. I was part of a crew of 20, bouncing through the Rocky Mountains in a battered school bus to put out fires with names like Crazy Woman and the Bluebird. It was a war fought with rakes, spades, axes, and chainsaws, in which I extinguished more flames with shovelfuls of dirt than I did with water. The year before, Colorado had lost 133 homes and more than 138,000 acres to the Hayman fire, at the time the most destructive in state history.

Climate change wasn’t even on the radar of most firefighters I worked with back then, and when the topic did come up, there was a healthy amount of skepticism. This year, it’s hard to find a wildland firefighter who isn’t convinced the warming of the West is making his job more difficult and dangerous... Read more.

First the Fire, Then the Flood: Why Colorado Can't Catch a Break

Praying for rain is common when your state is beset by record-setting blazes, but as always, be careful what you wish for. Heavy downpours create their own hazards. The irony was highlighted for me two weeks ago when the city of Colorado Springs found itself simultaneously under a “red flag” fire warning and a flash flood warning.... Read more.

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And John Flesher with the AP reports on the question everyone in the Great Lakes region has been wondering about: Just how far have the Asian carp gone?

Asian Carp DNA Found in Year-Old Lake Erie Samples

Genetic material from Asian carp has been discovered in Lake Erie water samples collected nearly a year ago, officials said Friday.

Researchers with the University of Notre Dame, Central Michigan University and The Nature Conservancy detected DNA from the invasive fish this week when examining more than 400 samples taken in August 2011. It's the first time DNA from bighead and silver carp has turned up in Lake Erie, although three bighead were caught there between 1995 and 2000.

Scientists are uncertain about whether carp DNA signals the presence of actual fish, but the findings are unsettling because experts have described Erie as the lake that could suffer the biggest harm from an Asian carp incursion. Some say the DNA could be from other sources, such as feces from fish-eating birds.... Read more.

The Higgs Boson, The Future of Fire, a Missing Lake, and 'what global warming looks like'

Happy belated 4th, readers!  Here are a few new Nooze tidbits for you today: From Seth Borenstein with AP, a look at how this summer's heat may well be the new norm:

This US summer is 'what global warming looks like'

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, scientists suggest taking a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.

Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.

These are the kinds of extremes climate scientists have predicted will come with climate change, although it's far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.... Read more.

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Chris Engle of the Petosky News wonders where a local lake went:

Foch Lake future uncertain

MONTMORENCY COUNTY — Steve Ciszewski stands on the shoreline of Foch Lake, recounting 25 years’ worth of fishing trips with his kids and camping with his buddies during bow season.

The way he describes the rise of a full moon over the flooding in a sky unobscured by the glow of city lights — the closest town is Vienna Corners 11 miles away — will give you goose bumps.

Every sportsman has his “spot.” This is his.

The shoreline under his feet, however, is no longer where the lake begins. It’s now 100 yards out, and in between is a bleach-white forest of what used to be flooded timber and feet-deep muck that will swallow a shoe with one misstep. Clam shells, mud-filled glass bottles and water lines 5 feet high on bone-dry stumps are evidence of where the lake had been.... Read more.

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And Kirk Siegler with KUNC radio reports on the pricetag of wildfires - and a growing desire to curb those numbers:

In Colorado, a Push to Control Wildfire Costs

It’s already shaping up to be an expensive firefighting year. The tab for fighting two of the state’s worst blazes – the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires – is now approaching $40 million and climbing.

 Most of that will be borne by us; the federal taxpayer.

The US Forest Service spends about $3 billion annually fighting wildfires. Efforts to shift some of that financial responsibility to residents and communities in the fire-prone forests are often met with a cool response. But there are signs that could soon change... Read more.

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And Ron Seely at the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the discovery of the Higgs boson (aka the "God-particle"), the local members of the team that tracked it down, and why these scientists say the event felt "like being at Woodstock!"

UW-Madison scientists front and center for historic Higgs boson discovery

At a moment in science history that many are hailing as one of the most important in a century, UW-Madison researchers were front and center, playing lead roles in a discovery that takes modern physics to the very edge of human understanding.

Scientists from UW-Madison were deeply involved in figuring out the physics and building and operating the $10 billion machine used to discover a particle believed to be the so-called “God particle,” responsible for giving matter mass and shaping the very early universe.

How important is the particle, known as a Higgs boson?... Read more.