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for people who care about the West

Sage grouse review; false coal stats; elk deaths

HCN.org news in brief.


In early June, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered a review of sage grouse conservation plans, which impact 10 Western states and 70 million acres of public land. The review of the 2015 plans will examine whether or not they give states enough input or if they hinder extractive industry activity on those lands. The original plans were five years in the making and included a long list of stakeholders, seen by many as an impressive compromise between federal and state governments. Republican Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, both of whom worked on a taskforce behind the 2015 plans, stated that wholesale changes were “likely not necessary.” Zinke’s order looks at population targets and captive breeding, which some conservationists fear might be used in lieu of holistic approaches like habitat management. Federal officials have until early August to conduct a review with recommendations.
-Tay Wiles

A greater sage grouse hen roams near a well in the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field on BLM land in Wyoming. A plan aimed at protecting the imperiled bird will be reviewed.
Dave Showalter

6 MILLION: Number of acres of BLM land in southern and eastern Utah whose travel routes will be re-assessed as a result of a lawsuit brought by 10 environmental groups.

10,000: Miles of routes on those acres.

A major lawsuit that pitted the Bureau of Land Management and off-highway vehicle interests against environmental groups in Utah reached its conclusion at the end of May. A settlement requires the BLM to review 13 travel management and five land use plans by 2025, for being too lenient to motorized recreation. Environmental groups brought the suit against the BLM, highlighting areas that should be off-limits to vehicles to minimize damage to wildlife, water quality and wilderness. Opposition to the settlement argued the reviews would result in road closures that infringe on recreation and livelihoods. -Tay Wiles

After President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt falsely claimed that job growth has skyrocketed in the coal sector. Since December 2016, Pruitt said, the country had added 50,000 coal jobs. But those numbers aren’t accurate: Only about 1,300 jobs have been added. Pruitt has also pushed the idea that the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations was behind that growth. Even though the new administration says regulations kill jobs and slow the sale of coal, other factors point to coal’s declining importance in America’s energy mix. The downhill trend of the coal sector is not only from regulation, but also from automation and market forces. That’s likely to continue: The now-booming Permian Basin is expected to be a huge gas producer, and it will further glut the market, lower prices and push utilities further from coal and closer to natural gas. -Jonathan Thompson


Every picture of surf culture and beach culture is very different from the way we look. If you picture a surfer, it’s a white dude with beach-blond hair. ... If you picture a surfer girl, it’s a blond girl in a bikini, hyper-sexualized.”

—Mira Manickam, founder of San Francisco-based Brown Girl Surf, talking about the persistent barriers to minorities enjoying what is arguably California’s most valuable public asset. -Jill Replogle

Bella Maroon rests on her surfboard during a youth program with Brown Girl Surf at Muir Beach. She has since taken on a leadership role in the program as a junior surf instructor.
James Morel/Brown Girl Surf

12: Number of elk an Oregon rancher was arrested for shooting following his many attempts to keep them from eating his hay.

In May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue eliminated the undersecretary position for Rural Development, the only office solely dedicated to improving the economies of rural communities. The position oversaw a $216 billion portfolio for housing, utilities, and business development projects and had offices in 47 states. Perdue posited the removal as a way to elevate the office to report directly to him, but rural advocates say it’s a downgrade. The removal of the position came as Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes a 26 percent cut to rural development programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a 21 percent cut to the agency overall. -Tay Wiles

You say

Walter Kloefkorn: “And why shouldn’t they? We haven’t had actual rural economies for decades. … I’ve been living in rural America for 25 years, working towards solutions. The specifics of rural development cannot be driven from outside.”

Steve Langdon: “Rural communities never wanted this. Only politicians did."

Sheri L. Hughes: “This program was a good thing originally. It brought electricity, phone service and postal delivery to rural areas where there was no profit to the large utility companies and a huge outlay to build the infrastructure to these areas.”