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Wyoming could lead the world toward a cleaner energy future. In Gillette, international contestants compete for a $7.5 million Carbon XPRIZE—the team that finds the most profitable use for carbon captured from a coal-fired power plant’s exhaust will win. And near Rock Springs, researchers are developing a plan to store carbon dioxide waste deep underground to keep it out of the atmosphere. Both endeavors are key to the global race to meet climate mitigation targets. Read the story at westernconfluence.org.

 

easement-4-768x520Conservation easements, under which a landowner gives up certain property development rights in exchange for payment or tax deductions, are one of the most widely used tools for permanently protecting open spaces on private lands. However, the mechanisms behind conservation easements, especially the tax incentives, are complex and face regular court challenges. “We are very much still in the grand experimental phase with regard to conservation easements,” says conservation easement legal scholar Nancy McLaughlin. Read more about the challenges conservation easements face and proposed reforms to strengthen this tool in Western Confluence magazine.

campersRV owners are changing. “The demographic used to be 45 to 65 years old. Now it’s more like 28 to 75,” says Carey Gabrielle, Sales Manager at Camping World of Longmont, a 65-acre RV dealership along I-25 on the Colorado Front Range. Campers are not just for sightseers. They’re for athletes and adventure-hogs, families and single people, 20-somethings (hashtagging #vanlife) and active retirees, and everyone in between. Read the story.

scurlock

Brucellosis is spreading, even as Wyoming tries to protect wildlife from the disease. This story follows the convoluted path of an exotic infection that cripples and causes abortions in cattle, harbors in wild elk and bison, and causes terrible night sweats and fever in humans. It entered the U.S. from the Mediterranean a century ago, flared up in domestic livestock, was the target of massive U.S.D.A. efforts, and now persists in wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This is the tale of one state wildlife biologist’s efforts to manage for the disease. Read the article.

REHydrologic modelers have relied on the rigorous but extremely complicated-to-solve Richards equation, or RE, since 1931. Now a UW researcher has published a new solution.

This is really a press release and not an actual reported article. I wanted to post it here because I had fun distilling Dr. Ogden’s incredibly complex equation paper into a digestible tale of an epic quest and discovery. Read the story at the UW News site.

Aquifer recharge, storage, and recovery, or ASR, has potential to offer a more sustainable alternative to reservoirs for future water storage. Water managers in the West are tackling projects to test, study, and implement this technology. Read the story at WesternConfluence.org.

A University of Wyoming ecologist, a botanist, and their graduate students designed a study to learn how sagebrush grows back at abandoned oil and gas wells. Their most surprising finding was about another family of vegetation. Read the story at WesternConfluence.org.

fire“The trees are not just burnt trees,” Northern Cheyenne artist Bently Spang says. “They watched this whole thing happen with my generation and a lot of other generations, so they need to be honored. …My feeling is that that final drawing is their voice, is them telling the story of the fire.” Read the story at WesternConfluence.org.

Through their books and letters, leadership and activism, Mardy and Olaus Murie transformed how America thinks about and takes of wilderness. This year, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of our national Wilderness Act, which they helped to forward. Read this profile at WyoHistory.org about their lives and influences.

wolf“The story of wolves in Yellowstone has been made true by repeated telling, not by good science. The trophic cascade story is stated as if it is undisputed fact, but it is not. It’s a lovely story, a simple clear one. But in reality, it is more nuanced, more complex, and it may even be dead wrong.” Read the story at WesternConfluence.org.

conservation-fenceIn an uncommon example of wide-scale ecosystem engineering, Howell and his team have made gradual, large-scale changes to how they move cattle through this and other ranches, and by their count they have successfully improved forage, biodiversity, and notably, livestock productivity. Scientists, however, who have studied “rotational grazing”—one term for the kind of practice Howell has implemented—have been unable to measure the benefits ranchers like Howell claim. Read the story at WesternConfluence.org.

Trappers' Point overpass for pronghorn migration in Wyoming.This fall, the Wyoming Department of Transportation wrapped up construction of six wildlife underpasses and two overpasses along a stretch of highway crossed by thousands of migrating mule deer and pronghorn antelope each spring and fall. The overpasses were built specifically to help pronghorn, who are reluctant to use low, dark underpasses because they rely so heavily on their eyesight to warn them of danger. Photographer Joe Riis visited the overpass at the Trappers’ Point migration bottleneck to learn how it was working. Read my post and view his photos at Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, to learn what he found.

Aaron Otteman at a Wold Properties oil well, High Country News.A mom-and-pop oil company prospects for oil in central Wyoming, where the fuel isn’t known to exist in valuable quantities. One geologist portrays the challenges and motives behind the risky business of wildcatting. Read the article at High Country News.

On the second Saturday of every month, connoisseurs of Scotch whisky gather in remote Atlantic City to sip and discuss. Bob and Barbara Townsend, owners of the Miners Delight Inn and Cowboy Two-Bit Saloon, curate each tasting by drawing from their impressive collection of 77 single-malt Scotches. Read the story at WyoFile.

Joan Anzelmo, former Colorado National Monument Superintendent

The retired Park Service superintendent stands by her controversial decision not to allow a major bike race in the monument, and continues to be passionate about preserving landscapes. Read the conversation in High Country News.

Why do animals migrate? What drives them to undertake long and sometimes dangerous journeys? What are they looking for? I spent several seasons following migrating pronghorn in western Wyoming searching for answers. Read the story and see more of Joe Riis’s amazing photography at High Country News.

Link to an accompanying video here.

In 2006, Dina Mishev was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her insurance company eventually dropped her. Last year, she signed up for the federal Preexisting Conditions Insurance Plan (PCIP), a relatively affordable option to insure people who’ve been denied coverage on the private market due to a preexisting condition. “I never thought I would say this, but I love my insurance company,” she said.

One piece of federal health care reform could be helping a lot more Wyomingites than it is so far. Read the story at WyoFile.

An opinion piece about struggling with the idea of slaughtering a deer for its meat. From High Country News‘ “Writers on the Range” column, this story appeared in several newspapers around the West including the Casper Star-Tribune. Read the op-ed here.

He lives alone in a handmade cabin in Atlantic City, Wyo., and has dedicated the last several years of his professional life to researching a large primate that he believes wanders the forests of western North America. If you don’t already know about him, you should. If you’ve met him, you might learn something new. Wildlife biologist, ethnobotanist, mechanic, builder, wood-stove-refurbisher, gardener, biker, musician, “the father of goat packing,” friend to hundreds, and much more, it’s as if John Mionczynski has lived for 300 years. Read the profile at WyoFile.

Article rounding up the history of the North Platte River Basin, which covers the southeast quarter of Wyoming, for WyoHistory.org. Read about railroads, reservoirs and more here.