Manifest destiny today, bees and climate, sage grouse legal wrangling on the horizon. news in brief.


The federal Fish and Wildlife Service decision that the greater sage grouse does not need Endangered Species Act protection — announced in September — was no surprise to anyone who’s been following the bird’s saga. The agency was looking for every reason possible to avoid listing the bird, because of the potential impact it would have on energy production and development across the West. Expect lawsuits, though, from states, industry and hardline environmental groups. The Center for Biological Diversity’s Randi Spivak says, “Greater sage grouse have been in precipitous decline for years and deserve better than what they’re getting from the Obama administration.” Ironically, the hardline groups are partly responsible for the decision they’ll be seeking to overturn. If it hadn’t been for the lawsuit-created pressure of a deadline, it’s unlikely that sage grouse conservation efforts ever would have been strengthened enough to circumvent a listing. 
-Jodi Peterson

A greater sage grouse navigates a hazard near a Wyoming gas field.
Angus M. Thuermer Jr./Wyofile

250 BILLION gallons of water consumed annually by U.S. hydraulically fractured shale oil and gas wells

1 PERCENT that represents of total industrial water consumption nationwide 

In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Duke University scientists show that, while the fracking required to free up the oil and gas trapped in tight shale formations is a water-intensive process, the overall water footprint for shale drilling is smaller than that of other industrial uses, including conventional oil and gas production. The paper sheds new light on the intense scrutiny fracking has received for its water consumption in these dry times. Meanwhile, both sides of the debate have used the study’s seemingly contradictory takeaways to bolster their arguments.
-Jonathan Thompson

On Sept. 28, Shell captured national attention when it announced that the exploratory well it drilled in hopes of extracting the first barrels of oil from Alaska’s Chukchi Sea was a bust. But even as green groups urge the oil industry to abandon its Arctic dreams, some analysts are predicting the world’s growing population will require an additional 10 million barrels of oil a day between 2030 and 2040. Alaska’s politicians are determined to get a piece of the pie, even as they face a sharp decline in the rate of production in the Arctic.
-Krista Langlois 

According to the new definition for Advanced Placement United States History students, Manifest Destiny was driven by a desire for access to “natural and mineral resources and the hope of many settlers for economic opportunities or religious refuge.” The new curriculum took a big step away from the racial connotations of the previous definition, which said the ideal was “built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.”
-Paige Blankenbuehler

In this “Wild Science” video, we explore how climate change may be impacting bee populations near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in western Colorado. Rebecca Irwin of North Carolina State University is investigating whether changes in climate have forced wildflowers to bloom earlier in the year, before bee season. If true, it could have grave consequences for natural ecosystems.
-Dakin Henderson 

A bee pollinates a larkspur plant.
Dakin Henderson

Skiing is one of the immediate, and visible, casualties of climate change, but the cascade of consequences is long. By the end of the century, snow depths in the West could decline by 25 to 100 percent, according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council. The Palmer Snowfield, an international destination well known for its summer skiing, is emblematic of changes in the Cascades. The snowfield’s retreat forced public operations to shut down Aug. 3 this year, the earliest since 1979; typically, people ski there through Labor Day. As climate change affects skiing in the Cascades, what more will be lost? 
-Paige Blankenbuehler

You say

Bob Salsbury: I’ve skied there since ‘68. For the last 10 years, a new pattern has emerged. Winter slugs hard in December, snow-precip-wise, and ends in late January to February. This is change. Deny all you want. The canary has keeled over.

Frederic R. Pamp: I find it hard to get excited about troubles for a rich man’s sport, when climate change is going to kill and/or displace millions of poor people.

Jonathan A. Wiedie: We are a blip. Gone soon enough, on a cosmic scale. This planet isn’t nearly as threatened as our race is.

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