Record temps; hot dam; roadkill for dinner

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

COLORADO
Driving up western Colorado’s gorgeous McClure Pass, we spotted a banner in front of a ranch house, proudly proclaiming: “BEEF AND JESUS.” Apparently Hindus have the right idea after all. In any case, it’s nice to see ecumenicism thriving in the rural West.

THE WEST
The long-running disaster movie we used to call “Summertime” began with a series of unsettling events. In Northern California, record-high temperatures — over 110 degrees Fahrenheit — caused more than 100 young Cooper’s hawks, none yet ready to fly, to leap out of their nests, reports The Washington Post. Many were injured or died in what Portland Audubon staffers dubbed a “hawkpocalypse.”

In Pendleton, Oregon, where temperatures hit 117 degrees, up to 20% of the birds brought to the Blue Mountain Wildlife rehabilitation facility died. Unable to bear their hot nests, some took to the air in desperation, falling from as high as 60 feet to the ground. “This was definitely happening across the entire state,” said Sally Compton, director of the nonprofit Think Wild.

In Alaska, reports Inside Climate News, the permafrost has proved less than permanent, getting so warm in places that steel supports for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline slumped or started sliding. Workers were forced to install “chillers” to keep the ground around pipeline supports frozen.

What climate scientists are calling a “megadrought” meant that Grand Junction, Colorado’s 58,000 people had to dip into the rapidly shrinking Colorado River for drinking water, reports the Colorado Sun, for the first time in more than 50 years.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Snake River sockeye salmon already struggle to reach their spawning grounds, 900 miles from the sea. This summer they braved more than a blockade of eight dams; extreme heat made the last 300 miles of their uphill swim impossible. The fish need rivers 70 degrees or cooler to survive, but at Lower Granite Dam in southwest Washington, the water temperature was already into the 90s. The solution? “To bypass the heat, sockeye take the highway,” reported the Los Angeles Times. Some 400 salmon had already passed the dams’ fish ladders during the previous weeks, but on this particular July day, only eight were captured. All were placed in a tank of ice-cooled water in a pickup driven by state biologist John Powell, who served as salmonid chauffeur. Powell faced a long drive to reach an Idaho hatchery by nightfall, punctuated by emergency stops to buy chlorine-free ice to keep the fish tank’s water below 70 degrees. His trip was just one of several planned for this summer. Over the decades, $18 billion has been spent to save the increasingly endangered fish. Though retired biologist Steve Pettit acknowledges that the salmon’s situation is dire, he continues to believe the rescue effort is worth it: “The sockeye still coming back to Idaho are in my opinion museum pieces.” And reporter Richard Read’s fast-paced story ended hopefully: Turns out that one of the eight chauffeured salmon, No. 3DD.003D45155, is “ready to become a father.”

There is a sensible solution, and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson appalled many of his fellow Republicans by proposing it: His $33.5 billion plan would tear down the four lower Snake River dams, replace hydropower with other energy sources and compensate businesses, among other measures. He hopes to give the economically valuable fish, which once numbered in the tens of thousands, a fighting chance. Simpson put it simply: “I think you need to preserve those species that God has given us.”

COLORADO
Like so many places in the West (and the nation), the resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado, is short on both workers and housing to put them in. Town finance director Rob Zillioux bluntly told the town council that even “staff members are losing hope to have a life here. … The economy is broken when you can’t live and work in the same place.” Meanwhile, he added, the town’s funky vibe was disappearing, losing the classic “dirty hippie element” that was “a big reason many of us came here.” The town is now considering an “empty-house tax” on second homes to raise money for affordable housing.

WYOMING
You won’t go hungry in Wyoming now that roadkill is back on the menu, reports The Associated Press. Since April, deer, elk, moose and pronghorn found dead on the road have been fair game for cooks as Wyoming follows the lead of some 30 states, including Idaho. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauded the new law, saying roadkill is healthier than meat “laden with antibiotics.” Wyoming averages an estimated 3,000 wildlife collisions a year, so roadside dining has never been easier.   

Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected], or submit a letter to the editor

High Country News Classifieds
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.