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Know the West

A strong Western snowpack, sexual harassment in the Grand Canyon and leaky oil and gas production

HCN.org news in brief.


A Department of Interior investigation of Grand Canyon National Park found a long history of sexual harassment and hostility among employees in its River District. Twelve women and one man, along with 22 other witnesses, provided evidence of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation by a handful of boatmen and supervisors during Park Service trips over a 15-year period. The report, made public in January, has increased scrutiny of the agency’s Grand Canyon office, leadership, employees and institutional culture, which does little to encourage accountability in positions of power. High Country News is seeking more information from other potential victims. 
-Lyndsey Gilpin  

An employee ... reported that Supervisor 1 made inappropriate comments to her during a 2014 river trip. She said that when she asked him what she could do to help with river trip duties, he responded that she could help him by being “naked in (the) motor well” of his boat. She did not report the incident to her employer or to NPS supervisors.

Investigative Report of Misconduct at the Grand Canyon River District, Office of the Inspector General


Rafts tied on Boat Beach on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.
Billy McDonald

100 BILLION: amount of gas, in cubic feet, producers vented and flared in 2013

1.3 MILLION: number of households that gas would heat for a year. 

On Jan. 22, the Bureau of Land Management announced proposed rules on emissions from oil and gas production on leases the agency administers. While similar rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency last fall applied only to new and modified facilities, the BLM rules would impact all facilities, including some 100,000 existing onshore oil and gas wells. The regulations target natural gas loss from venting, flaring, leaks, pneumatic devices, storage tanks, drilling and the unloading of liquids. The BLM estimates that the regulations will reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, by 166,000 tons per year, and of volatile organic compounds, precursors to harmful ozone, by 400,000 tons per year.
-Jonathan Thompson

According to February measurements, snowpack is largely above normal in the West. Utah claimed the biggest increase from early season snowpack, from 84 to 118 percent, but an unlikely state is leading the charge: California. Over the past month, the state’s snowpack increased from 90 to 127 percent. But the strong snowpack is still not enough to make up the water deficit from the persisting drought. Elsewhere, only Montana and Wyoming are below the historic benchmark for “normal” — and not by much. Both states are more than 80 percent of normal for this time of year.
-Paige Blankenbuehler 


“If it was a question of which would be worse for Borrego, get rid of the agriculture or the golf courses, I think the majority of the people would say better to get rid of the agriculture.”

—Joan Kirchner, resident of Borrego Springs, California, where officials say water use must be reduced by 70 percent over the next 20 years. 

Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder has been named the new CEO of the American Lands Council, the organization leading the charge for state takeovers of federal lands. She replaces Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory. Fielder has links to militant organizations like the Oath Keepers and has publicly supported the message of the Malheur Refuge occupiers.
-Joshua Zaffos

You say

Garett Reppenhagen: “The fight between public lands for all Americans versus private land developed for individual profit is moving to a climax. Let’s save the last wild, outdoor spaces we have left.”

Marty Williamson: “Take the Republican Party back from extremists. The Tea Party folks are killing us.”