Environment

Ashley Ahearn

 

The sage grouse represents some of the biggest controversies in the Mountain West. From armed standoffs on public land in Nevada and Oregon, to explosive growth, wildfires, wild horses, big oil and fracking, every issue is connected to the sage grouse. This strange prehistoric bird is a hot button political issue. 

Ashley Ahearn

Western Wyoming is home to many sage-grouse mating and nesting sites. And, in recent years, it’s also become a hub of oil and gas extraction.

Ashley Ahearn heads to oil and gas country to visit a lek with Matt Holloran, who did his PhD on sage-grouse and how natural gas drilling affects them. She also interviews Paul Ulrich, VP of Jonah Energy, who says there’s “more work to be done” and it will involve bringing people together to look for shared solutions to keep sage-grouse around.


Stuart Palley / U.S Forest Service

Firefighters have long studied how fires behave to figure out where they’re going and how to keep people safe. But wildfires are becoming more unpredictable.

InciWeb

A bipartisan group of Western lawmakers have signed onto a new federal bill that aims to reduce the damages of wildfire.

Thousands Of Minks Dead As COVID Outbreak Escalates On Utah Farms

Oct 6, 2020
Mink
KColwell / Flickr Creative Commons

Thousands of minks at Utah fur farms have died because of the coronavirus in the past 10 days, forcing nine sites in three counties to quarantine, but the state veterinarian said people don’t appear to be at risk from the outbreak.

Ashley Ahearn

The sage-grouse plays a big role in the cultural history of several western American Indian Nations. Wilson Wewa, an elder of the Northern Paiute of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, still remembers the first time he saw a sage-grouse lek while gathering medicine with his grandfather.

Wilson shares a story from the Wasco Nation about a grieving woman who finds solace among the sage hens. We are losing these birds, Wilson says, but they provide important lessons about hope and joy in a world that is short on both.

via Lonesome Larry Project

 


Last winter, we introduced you to a Boise middle school student behind the “Lonesome Larry Project, a project by Topher Jones to save the sockeye salmon. His approach? Selling socks. 

Nicholas K. Geranios / AP Images

The federal government’s decision to not breach the four Lower Snake River dams is getting mixed reactions around the region. 


Ashley Ahearn

There are a lot of people who say cows are one of the biggest problems in the West — and are making life a whole heck of a lot harder for sage grouse. But cows are also a symbol of a way of life that many in sagebrush country feel is under attack.

Can we have beef and sage grouse? We meet scientists trying to answer this question — and a rancher in Idaho who grazes his cows in sage grouse country, and is finding ways to make it work.


Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

Colorado regulators are now requiring oil and gas operators to monitor fracking emissions earlier and more often, and provide that data to local governments. Both industry officials and regulators supported the move. But concerns persist, like the fact that the rules allow oil and gas operators to choose how to monitor their own emissions. Regardless, environmental groups see Colorado as a leader in emission monitoring in the region and hope other states follow suit.

Amanda Peacher / Mountain West News Bureau

When Joyce Fabre saw how many cars were parked at the Iron Creek Trailhead when she pulled in, she knew it would be a busy day. It was a warm, late summer morning, and her destination – Sawtooth Lake – is one of the most popular day hikes in Central Idaho. Cars were spilling out of the parking lot and lined the dirt road for a quarter mile. Fabre tightened her boot laces and pulled her backpack onto her shoulders. Before she could get going, her work began: She approached two men as they printed their name on a wilderness permit at the trailhead. 

J. N. Stuart / Flickr Creative Commons

Large numbers of migratory birds have reportedly dropped dead in New Mexico and Colorado.

There’s still confusion over the deaths, like how many died and what exactly killed them. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes the bird deaths in Colorado and New Mexico were caused by an unusual cold front.


Nampa Fire Department

The Nampa Fire Department and the Boise Fire Department have deployed teams throughout the west this wildfire season. Nampa Fire, along with crews from Parma, Kuna and Sand Hollow, fought fires near San Francisco for 23 days. But their work didn’t end there.

 


Episode 3: Streamers

Sep 22, 2020
Ashley Ahearn

As the climate warms and invasive cheatgrass moves in, thousands of acres of sagebursh are burning across the West each year. And sage grouse are feeling the heat too, as the ecosystem shift destroys their habitat.

Caleb McAdoo is a biologist with Nevada Fish and Game. He's lived in sagebrush country his whole life — he loves this landscape — and now, he's watching it disappear before his eyes. What can we learn from wildfire?


screenshot / via AirNow

 

For folks in the fire science world, the smoke that has engulfed most of the western United States is not surprising. As climate change, years of poor forest management and home development practices come to a head, this could be the new normal in the West. But what no one could predict before 2020 was how a global pandemic would exacerbate the health effects of wildfire smoke.

 

Ashley Ahearn

Join Ashley on a frigid trek through the snow in search of sage grouse with a scientist who has been studying the bird for decades. Michael Schroeder takes us on a journey through the frozen sagebrush and back in time to learn some scientific and cultural lore surrounding this bird. Will we find any birds today? Why are they in so much trouble? Should anyone care?


Ashley Ahearn

A few years ago, Ashley Ahearn burned out on the urban rat race, quit her job at a top NPR member station in Seattle, and moved to 20 acres of big sky and sagebrush in rural Washington state to try to better understand this country, and do better journalism in the process. And, along the way, she got curious about a weird, troubled bird known as the Greater Sage-Grouse, that is native to the sagebrush ecosystem — and fits in a whole lot better there than she does. What the heck is a sage grouse and why does everyone get so worked up about this bird?


Cian Fenton/ Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, Idaho had mostly clear skies and acceptable air quality. But over the weekend, smoke from major West coast fires started to slink in.


Idaho Power / via Facebook

 


Ed Cannady / Idaho Salmon Partnership

 

North of Ketchum and south of Stanley is a large alpine lake full of cobalt blue water. The beauty of Pettit Lake is stunning, but under the water lies a long and deep struggle for the survival of Snake River sockeye salmon.

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