GATHERING IN THE WEST | Grizzly bears from glaciers might face hunters; Pecos River Shortages Reflected | Quick shots
State seeks to end protections for grizzly bears in glacier region
BILLINGS – Montana is asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to lift endangered species protection for grizzly bears in the northern part of the state, including areas in and around Glacier National Park, officials said December 6.
The request, if successful, would open the door to public grizzly bear hunting in Montana for the first time in three decades. It comes after bear populations have grown, causing more trouble, including grizzly bears on livestock and periodic mutilations of people.
Removing federal protections would give state wildlife officials more flexibility to deal with bears that come into conflict, said Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte. But wildlife advocates have warned of overhunting if protections are lifted.
Northwestern Montana has the greatest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, with over 1,000 bears in Glacier National Park and nearby forested wilderness, an area known as the Ecosystem of the northern continental divide.
In March, U.S. government scientists said the region’s grizzly bears were biologically recovered, but needed continued protection under the Endangered Species Act due to the death of man-made bear and other pressures.
Grizzly bear hunting is prohibited in the United States outside of Alaska. Bears considered problematic are regularly killed by wildlife officers.
Wildlife advocates have warned of state control over grizzly bears, after Republicans, including Gianforte, advanced policies that make it much easier to take down another controversial predator, the gray wolf.
Up to 50,000 grizzly bears once lived in the western half of the United States. Most were killed by hunting, trapping and habitat loss following the arrival of European settlers in the late 1800s. Populations had declined to less than 1,000 bears by the time they received. federal protections in 1975.
Montana held grizzly bear hunts until 1991 under an exemption from federal protections that allowed 14 bears to be killed each fall.
State braces for future shortages on the Pecos River
ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico’s top water official has issued an order setting the framework for dealing with future water shortages on the Pecos River.
Water managers have increased supplies in Southeastern New Mexico by pumping groundwater, allowing farmers to continue to irrigate cropland throughout the Carlsbad area and in New Mexico to meet their obligations delivery service to neighboring Texas.
While the pumping has helped offset dwindling surface water supplies this year, officials warn it may not be able to meet demand in years to come if drought persists and monsoons summer produce less rain.
The latest seasonal outlook shows that much of the southwestern United States can expect drought to persist through February. New Mexico has already experienced more dry years than wet years in the past two decades, resulting in declining reservoirs and record river flows.
The order issued last week by State Engineer John D’Antonio said the need to administer surface and groundwater rights in the Pecos River system “is so urgent” that a plan had to be worked out.
While authorities encourage water-sharing agreements and other options, the ordinance sets out the process for the state engineer’s office to distribute water based on priority if the supply of junior water rights holders should be reduced. It would be up to the office to determine who has valid rights and whether public health or safety could be compromised by cuts and whether this would result in more for older users.
The state engineer’s office said pumping groundwater has also helped ensure New Mexico’s continued compliance with the Pecos River Compact, which requires a certain amount of water to flow to the south to Texas.
Zion National Park iconic trail requiring permits
SALT LAKE CITY – Zion National Park will soon require reservations to hike a famous southern Utah trail perched on the edge of a red rock bluff, officials said on Friday.
Beginning April 1, those who wish to hike the narrow Angels Landing hike will need permits provided through a lottery system.
The lottery will be fairer to visitors and reduce congestion on the trail, said Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. Overcrowding is a major concern on the steep cliff-bordered trail, where a small number of people typically fall and die each year, park officials said.
The number of people visiting Zion has grown rapidly in recent years, from around 2.8 million visits in 2011 to almost 4.5 million visits in 2019.
Angels Landing is one of the top destinations and more than 300,000 people traveled it in 2019, according to park officials.
There will be two lotteries, one seasonal and another one day before the planned hikes. Each draw costs $ 6 per person to participate and winners must pay a fee of $ 3 per person. This will cover the cost of running the lottery and ranger to verify permits on the trail.
Park officials did not immediately say how many people would be allowed per day, but planning documents described a previous experiment that limited visitors over Memorial Day weekend to 120 people per hour on the trail.
Governor proposes bill to create moment of silence in schools
PIERRE – Governor Kristi Noem said on December 13 that she had drafted a bill to create a moment of silence at the start of each day in public schools in South Dakota, a step she said would restore protections for prayer in class.
A draft of the bill said it would provide students and teachers with a respite from the frenzy of daily life and set a tone of decorum conducive to learning. Students and teachers can voluntarily engage in prayer, reflection, meditation, or other calm and respectful activity during the minute of silence, the bill says.
School employees would not be able to dictate what action students or teachers should take during the moment of silence, and no student can interfere with how other classmates are involved in the minute.
The bill states that the minute’s silence should not be interpreted as a religious exercise.
The bill is not Noem’s first attempt to introduce religiously inspired ideas into public schools.
In 2019, she successfully demanded that the national motto “In God We Trust” be displayed in all public schools, sparking national debate and drawing criticism from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Madison, Wisconsin-based foundation argued it would lead to “more expensive things.”
South Dakota’s legislative session begins January 11.
Partnership extends power lines to tribal homes
CHILCHINBETO – Work teams from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity are partnering with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to extend power lines to homes in several tribal communities, including Chilchinbeto, Kayenta, Chinle, Kaibeto and Coppermine.
At a project site in Chilchinbeto, crews are working to extend a nine-mile stretch of power lines.
As of December 9, the partnership had connected 29 homes since the arrival of teams from Los Angeles at the end of November.
Tribal officials said the goal is to connect as many homes as possible to the electricity grid within six weeks.
The partnership enables the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to conduct rural field training for its work teams to help them gain experience in extending power lines to remote communities in remote areas. adverse weather and rough terrain conditions, while covering the costs of labor, equipment and travel.
The Tribal Service Authority provides materials for projects, labor, and meals for visiting work teams.