White-nose comes West, readers respond to Grand Canyon harassment, and the election out West

HCN.org news in brief.



A little brown bat afflicted with white-nose syndrome.
Marvin Moriarty/USFWS

Hikers in Washington state, 30 miles east of Seattle, found a sick little brown bat on March 11 and took it to a wildlife sanctuary, where it died a few days later — of white-nose syndrome. The disease has wiped out at least 7 million bats in the East and Midwest, but this marks the first instance of a documented case in the West. Because Western bats’ behaviors and habitats are different, it’s not clear yet how the disease might affect regional bat populations. Some species may remain relatively unaffected. Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service has released recommendations to try to lessen disturbance of hibernating bats and slow the disease’s spread, and researchers are searching for a cure.
-Jodi Peterson

An outflight of Mexican freetail bats from the Orient Mine in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.
Jennifer Kleffner/Colorado Division of Wildlife


A lot of the Republicans have taken to the issue of public lands, and more specifically, federal ownership of public lands and transferring that ownership to the states. And if we dig a little deeper, we know that what’s behind that is the opportunity to do natural gas exploration on public lands. …
It’s kind of the throwback to the ‘Drill, baby, drill,’ that Sarah Palin would say in 2008.

 —Laura Martin, the associate director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, speaking on Soundtable: The West and the White House 

Nationwide, about 12 percent of the country’s eligible voting population is Hispanic, 40 percent of whom live in the West, and that number is growing. Turnout among Hispanics is also increasing: According to exit polls, 53 percent of Latino voters say they voted in 2012, compared with 44 percent in 1996. Turnout among young Latinos is historically relatively low, but experts say the group is more politically engaged this year, and that the rising tide could have profound effects on Western elections.
-Paige Blankenbuehler


17: percent coal production will decline in the West this year, as predicted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration

1,000: number of layoffs economists expect because of that decline 

In early April, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy laid off 465 coal workers from their Powder River Basin mines in Wyoming. Experts warn that more cuts could be on the way. Western coal production is expected to decline significantly as natural gas, wind and solar produce increasing shares of the nation’s electricity. Meanwhile, lawsuits filed by environmental groups last month challenging a handful of major Powder River Basin leases could accelerate the contraction of the coal industry.
-Elizabeth Shogren 

40 PERCENT of California biomass facilities are idle, according to The California Biomass Energy Alliance

Biomass electricity facilities are closing in California and nationwide, pushed out by cheap natural gas and the more generous subsidies for wind and solar energy. One place that could buck the trend: Oregon, where the decision to phase out coal power and ramp up renewable energy consumption could open a door for the controversial energy source. Advocates say Oregon is well-suited to support biomass since it has existing but idle facilities, and because it can use biomass to recycle waste from the state’s timber industry.
Bryce Gray 

On March 16, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent David Uberuaga announced the abolishment of the River District, which was responsible for resource protection and emergency services for 280 miles of the Colorado River. The abrupt decision was in response to a federal report released earlier this year that documented Grand Canyon’s 15-year failure to address the sexual harassment of female federal employees. The park will take the opportunity to review the district’s role and management, say officials. For now, the River District’s six employees have been placed in other jobs within the park; it’s not yet clear what steps will be taken next.
Lyndsey Gilpin

You say:

Kristin Downing:  “As a Grand Canyon river guide, I witnessed this horrible behavior from the park’s river rangers. They got away with it for years.”

Jane Lyder: “Dave (Uberuaga) is a standup guy with daughters of his own. The park is a wonderful place and I met some of the best people I have ever worked with there. We are all sickened by this shadow on it.”

Ken Parsons: “This whole situation is medieval. It stinks.”

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