Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

Bree Zender / KUNR Public Radio

Researchers say forest fires are typically good for rebooting the health of forests, but a new study published in the journal Ecosphere says that high-intensity wildfires are dramatically changing the plant habitat structure of forests in the Sierra Nevada. 

A new study suggests huge fire blankets can help protect homes during wildfires.

A wildlife overpass on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana
Montana Department of Transportation

This time of year the number of vehicle collisions with deer and other wildlife are at their highest, a problem that’s especially acute in parts of the Mountain West.

On Tuesday, officials in Nevada held a summit to discuss how the state can address an issue that each year results in more than 500 reported crashes, costs taxpayers more than $19 million, and kills an estimated 5,000 wild animals, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Off-road vehicles such as ATVs and UTVs will soon be allowed on roads in Utah’s national parks after a controversial policy change last week.

 


U.S. Geological Survey

Chronic Wasting Disease is a wildlife illness similar to Mad Cow Disease.  It’s rooted itself in the Mountain West and is thinning herds throughout the region.

Nevada and Idaho are the only states in our region with no confirmed cases of the highly contagious and fatal wildlife infection. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t made it there.

U.S. Department of Energy

Waste from the nation's worst nuclear accident could remain in our region for another 20 years.

In 1979, a nuclear reactor had a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania. And the waste from that incident has been living in Idaho since the 1980s.

Researchers are looking into what may be a peaceful solution to the timeless struggle against a Mountain West rodent. They’re giving prairie dogs birth control. 

A study published this week in the journal Science found that the bird population in the U.S. and Canada has fallen by nearly 30%, or 3 billion birds, over the past 48 years.

 


For the second time this year, kids around the world are striking from school to demand action around climate change. And it’s happening just before world leaders gather at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. There were only a handful of strikes in our region last time but this time there are several dozen.

Our region is leading the way on training helicopter pilots to fight fires at night.  There are costs and hazards involved but the move could also help firefighters get the most threatening blazes under control more quickly.

Much of the Mountain West saw record breaking snowfall last year which was great news for the mountain resort industry. This year's snowfall may be less intense. 

Bree Zender

Note: Fire officials say mandatory evacuations for Milford area have been lifted, but area residents should be prepared to evacuate if needed. Other mandatory evacuation orders remain intact.

The Walker Fire continues to burn south of Susanville.

It’s charred nearly 44,000 acres and has been 7 percent contained, making it the biggest wildfire in California so far this year.

KUNR’s Bree Zender visited some of those who have been displaced by the evacuation orders to find out how they are adjusting. 

InciWeb

Editor's note: As of 9/13/2019, KUNR has stopped actively updating this web post. The U.S. Forest Service-Plumas National Forest is providing regular updates on Facebook.

09/12/2019 at 10:00 PM:

The burn area for the Walker Fire has grown to 49,272 acres, with 32 percent containment.

09/11/2019 at 10:45 PM:

Dan Meyers / Unsplash

Lawmakers in our region are meeting Thursday to discuss the potential economic windfalls from nuclear waste storage. It's the first meeting of Wyoming's Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee, which was created earlier this year.

Drones are increasingly being used to study the effects of wildfires. This drone is collecting data from a large prescribed burn earlier this year at the Fishlake National Forest in Utah.
Desert Research Institute

From more intense wildfires to prolonged droughts, climate change is impacting the ecology of the American West. That’s got researchers in our region looking at a new way to fight some of these impacts: drones.

You might not know it but there’s a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose job includes killing wild animals – to the tune of millions each year.  It used to be called Animal Damage Control. Now it’s simply called Wildlife Services. Depending on who you talk to, the agency is controversial and secretive or, well-managed and essential.

For a lot of people, when they hear about forensic science that's used to solve crime, they think of the CSI television franchise that's set in places like Miami, New York and Las Vegas. But in fact, one of the most advanced forensic laboratories in the country is here in the Mountain West.

A checkboard pattern of public land occurs along the I-80 corridor in Nevada, dating back to the U.S. Government's decision to subsidize construction of railroads by giving companies land in this pattern.
onX

Millions of acres of public land throughout our region are inaccessible to the public. A new law in Nevada is trying to fix that.

A new species of tumbleweed is more vigorous and invasive than ones we've seen in the past. Its range could spread throughout the Mountain West. 

A shot of a prescribed burn taking place earlier this year at the Fishlake National Forest in Utah.
Desert Research Institute

A recent study says the American West should be doing more prescribed burns to keep forests healthy and to help lessen the impacts of wildfires across our region. It also concluded that there needs to be a change in how we perceive the practice out here for that to happen.

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