Our archives

Major Funders:
Foundation for Community Vitality
Greater Montana Foundation
Encouraging communications on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.
Madison River
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, getting Montana's oil, coal and crops from fields to market is becoming an increasingly complex situation, and Tom Lutey from the Billings Gazette provides a good picture into the complex tangle that Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the state's primary rail carrier, is dealing with to keep materials moving through the state.

A sixfold increase in the amount of oil shipped from the Bakken oilfields in Montana and North Dakota in six years, coupled with a 50 percent gain in grains from North Dakota, most of which moved across Montana to ports in Washington and Oregon, have slowed shipments across the state as trains wait their turn.

Also in the news, the largest conservation easement in Canada's history is put in place in Alberta, Wyoming's wolf plan update gets a hearing today in federal court, and British Columbia reports the third-highest number of acres burned this past wildfire season since record-keeping began in 1950.

Rockies today

BNSF races to upgrade Montana system to deal with increased rail shipments
The unanticipated increase in shipments of oil by rail have strained Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's system across Montana to beyond capacity, where trainloads of grain, oil and other freight have to wait their turn on the two lines the railroad runs through the Big Sky State.
Prairie Star (Billings Gazette); Sept. 28

Hearing today on Wyoming's new rule on wolf management
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, whose decision last week put wolves in Wyoming back under federal protection, will hold a hearing today on Wyoming's new administrative rule put in place last week to cure the deficit addressed in Jackson's ruling, which the state says should allow the wolf hunt scheduled to start Oct. 2 to go forward.
Casper Star-Tribune; Sept. 28

Federal judge rules BLM violated law on Idaho grazing leases
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Monday in a lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project that the Bureau of Land Management again violated federal law when it renewed grazing leases in south-central Idaho without considering how rangeland degradation was affecting sage grouse habitat on four grazing allotments.
Twin Falls Times-News (AP); Sept. 30

Conservation easement in Alberta largest in Canada's history
The $37.5-million deal between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and a ranching cooperative in Alberta will ensure the nearly 30,000-acre Waldron Ranch along the East Range of the Rockies will remain undeveloped.
Calgary Herald; Sept. 30

Report cites scarcity as reason for increase in price for Alberta farm lands
The RE/MAX Farm Report 2014 said that tile drained farm land in southern Alberta sold for more than $10,000 an acre this year, a 20 percent increase from last year's price, and that the per-acre price for farm land in central Alberta increased from $3,400-$6,500 last year to $4,500-$7,500 this year.
Calgary Herald; Sept. 30

B.C. timber industry racks up record losses due to wildfire
The amount of forest lands burned by wildfires in British Columbia this season is the third largest recorded since the province began keeping records in 1950, with 1,424 fires burning 887,108 acres of forest lands.
Vancouver Sun; Sept. 30

Wyoming employers consider Montana county model on health-care costs
According to data from the Kaiser Foundation, Wyoming has some of the highest health-care costs in the nation, and the Wyoming Business Coalition on Health is asking private and public employers to share health-care cost data to provide them with a stronger negotiating position with insurance companies, a model based on that of Missoula County in Montana.; Sept. 28

Forbes' annual 'richest Americans' list contains 5 Coloradans
Bill Gates contained his run at the top of Forbes' annual list of the 400 richest Americans, and five Coloradans were on the list, with DISH network founder Charlie Ergen ranked the highest of the five at No. 26.
Denver Post; Sept. 30


SW Colorado water district prepares 'what-if' plan for Colorado River water
A 15-year drought has left water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell near historic lows, and states in both the Upper and Lower Colorado River Commissions are working on contingency plans to meet requirements under the Colorado River Compact, and toward that end, the Southwestern Water Conservation District in Colorado set out three measures it would take to meet the compact, including release of water from the Navajo Reservoir and two others and reducing use.
Durango Herald; Sept. 29

EPA plans to plug Colorado mine to stop flow of polluted water
Water flowing from the Red and Bonita mine is pouring water tainted with cadmium, zinc, iron and aluminum into Cement Creek in the Animas River watershed in southwest Colorado, and in 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will install a concrete bulkhead to stop the flow of the polluted water.
Durango Herald; Sept. 30


Montanans must work together on coal, emissions policies
The federal Environmental Protection Agency's released a proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions that assigned each state a goal for such reductions, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has released a draft roadmap of how to meet its goal of reducing such emissions by 21 percent by 2030, and all Montanans should step up and participate in the state's effort to reduce emissions while maintaining the state's coal industry.
Missoulian; Sept. 30

Colorado takes right path on monitoring water near oil, gas fields
As oil and gas development moves ever closer to Colorado communities, concerns are rightly increasing about the effect such operations may have on water resources, making Colorado's pilot project that provides real-time water monitoring near drilling operations a timely and important one.
Denver Post; Sept. 28

Beyond the region

Oregon, California senators want more info on flammable railroad shipments
In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and California U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein urged more disclosure by railroads to local first responders about flammable materials being transported.
Portland Oregonian; Sept. 30

King Fire in California now 92 percent contained
The 152-square-mile King Fire in California was reported to be 92 percent contained Monday evening, with full containment estimated to be Oct. 4, and the cost of fighting the fire is estimated to be $91 million.
Reno Gazette-Journal (AP); Sept. 30

Canadian dollar sinks to six-month low of 89.4 cents US
The Canadian economy's stall in July is being cited for the decline in that country's dollar, which fell to 89.4 cents U.S. today.
Edmonton Journal (Financial Post); Sept. 30

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"S o, what we saw this year was a below average number of fires, but in terms of the area burned, quite above normal."

Chief provincial fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek, discussing British Columbia's 1,424 wildfires this year that burned nearly 890,000 acres, the third-highest since record-keeping began in 1950.
- Vancouver Sun (Canadian Press)

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux reviews "Stuff Matters" and "Unruly Places"


Mountain West Perspectives
Fifty years after the Wilderness Act became law, it's time again for Capital W Wilderness


Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana