BACK TO THE WEST | US Wildlife Agency Considers Protecting Yellowstone Bison | Quick shots

MONTANA

Wildlife agency plans to protect Yellowstone bison

HELENA — A wildlife agency that lost key court decisions over its denial of petitions to protect bison in Yellowstone National Park will undertake a comprehensive study to determine whether the animals should be covered by the Endangered Species Act extirpated, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said June 3.

The decision follows a federal court ruling in January that ordered the US Fish and Wildlife Service to review its 2019 denial of petitions seeking additional protections. US District Court Judge Randolf Moss in Washington, DC, said the agency did not give a reason for its decision to rely on some scientific studies while rejecting others.

The January ruling was the second time a federal judge has ruled the agency wrongly denied motions to list Yellowstone bison as threatened or endangered.

According to findings to be published in the Federal Register on June 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the petitions — first filed in 2014 — present substantial and credible information that the protections sought may be needed in based on reductions in animal range, lack of tolerance to bison outside the park, and loss of habitat and genetic diversity.

The agency will now conduct a year-long review to determine if any protections are needed, the draft notice says.

Bison in and around Yellowstone National Park are managed under a federal-state agreement to keep bison wild while preventing the spread of brucellosis – a bacterial infection that can cause animals to miscarry – to livestock from Montana. The Interagency Bison Management Plan calls for bison to be captured, tested for brucellosis, and sent for slaughter when they leave the park. Bison can also be hunted outside the park.

Judge orders US to decide if wolverines need protection

BILLINGS – A federal judge has given US wildlife officials 18 months to decide whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, after years of dispute over the risk that climate change and d other threats pose to rare and elusive predators.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s order comes after environmentalists challenged a 2020 decision under the Trump administration to suspend animal welfare in the lower 48 states, where no more than 300 of the animals are believed to remain.


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Conservationists have argued that wolverines face localized extinction due to climate change, habitat fragmentation and low genetic diversity. Warming temperatures are expected to decrease the mountain snowpack that wolverines rely on to dig dens to give birth to and raise their young.

The Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to protect wolverines in 2000 and first proposed protections in 2010. It later sought to withdraw that proposal, but was blocked by a federal judge who said dependent animals snow were “right on the climate track”. change.”

Wildlife officials previously estimated that 250 to 300 wolverines survive in remote areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington state. Animals from recent years have also been documented in California, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon.

WYOMING

10,000 people filled Casper Arena for the Trump rally

Crowds at the May 28 rally, hosted by former President Donald Trump, filled Casper’s Ford Wyoming Center to capacity, something that hasn’t been done since the venue was placed under new management in 2016.

Estimates put the crowd at around 10,000 people, according to a person familiar with the count.

No one was officially turned away, as they were able to watch the rally outside on the big screen.

Brad Murphy, the venue’s general manager, didn’t reveal how much money the Ford Wyoming Center made from the rally, citing a customer request, but said it was on par with some of their biggest events. in the venue’s history: Elton John, Eric Church, Bret Michaels and the two biggest days of the annual College National Final Rodeo.


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Just before Trump appeared on stage on Saturday, an announcer came on the public address system and claimed the crowd was the largest in state history. It’s wrong. A number of University of Wyoming football games exceeded the rally crowd size. For one thing, the team’s season opener last year drew a crowd of 27,007 spectators.

Paid for by the Save America Political Action Committee, one of Trump’s leadership PACs, the rally was organized to support Harriet Hageman, Trump’s pick to challenge one of his greatest political foes, Rep. Liz Cheney.

Cheney angered Trump and many other Republicans because of his vote to impeach him following the Jan. 6 uprising at the United States Capitol.

UTAH

Navajos sign water rights agreement with state and federal

MONUMENT VALLEY — Federal officials signed an agreement with Navajo Nation leaders on May 27 that provides funding for clean water infrastructure for reservation residents and resolves issues regarding longstanding Navajo claims over water rights in the drought-stricken western United States.


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The signing formalizes the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement, which became law in 2021 as part of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. As part of the agreement, the federal government will pay the Navajo Nation $210 million for drinking water infrastructure in San Juan County – the portion of the 27,00 square mile reservation that is in the ‘Utah.

Many Navajo homes lack running water. Residents often fill containers at public taps or depend on water deliveries from voluntary organizations.

Utah, which was also a party to the settlement, will pay the Navajos $8 million as part of the settlement.

A 1908 court ruling declared that tribes were entitled to as much water as needed, including from the Colorado River, to establish permanent homelands. Although they have superior rights, the Navajo were left out when seven western states divided up shares under the Colorado River Compact a century ago.

IDAHO

Groups File New Lawsuit to Stop Idaho Gold Mine Drilling

BOISE — The U.S. Forest Service violated environmental laws by approving exploratory drilling by a Canadian company hoping to build a gold mine in Idaho west of Yellowstone National Park, two environmental groups said .

The Idaho Conservation League and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in May to stop Excellon Idaho Gold’s Kilgore gold exploration project in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Clark County.

The groups cite potential harm to grizzly bears, wolverines, lynx, bighorn sheep, whitebark pines, Columbia spotted frogs and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Grizzly bears in the area are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and whitebark pine, a grizzly bear food source, has been nominated for listing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Excellon Idaho Gold is a subsidiary of Excellon Resources Inc., based in Toronto, Ontario. It acquired the project from British Columbia-based Otis Gold Corporation in 2020.

Otis Gold Corporation said the zone contains at least 825,000 ounces of gold near the surface, and potentially more below. He said he eventually plans to build an open-pit mine if exploration reveals the gold is mostly near the surface, or an underground mine if the gold is deeper. These types of mines would require additional approval from the Forest Service.

Environmental groups filed a similar lawsuit in 2018 to stop exploratory drilling by Otis Gold Corporation and won. The Forest Service in November 2021 approved a new plan involving road construction and 130 drill stations proposed by Excellon Idaho Gold. These operations, according to the lawsuit, should begin on July 15.


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