Energy and Environment

Headwaters Economics

The Mountain West is home to huge swaths of public land. A new web-based tool is now showing people exactly where that land is and which agency is managing it.

Bree Zender, KUNR Public Radio

The Nature Conservancy just appointed Obama’s former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as its new interim CEO.  The leadership change comes in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct at the organization. Several top executives were implicated and have stepped down, including the CEO and the President.

Searching For Life 'Out There'

Jun 12, 2019
Brittany Kruger

Since antiquity, humans have been looking up and wondering, ‘Is there life out there?’ or ‘Are we alone?’. The latest Kepler mission data suggests that there are over 40 billion habitable world zones in the universe with the potential to support life. Out of the 40 billion habitable zones, there has to be life out there somewhere, right?

Top politicians are in Vail, Colorado, this week for the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association.

MOAB — About 40 miles north from the tourist hordes in town and set against a backdrop of tan clay and red mesas, the vista looked primed for a nature magazine cover shoot: early afternoon, the desert bloom in full force, awash with purple and yellow flowers. Quiet.

Jenna DeLaurentis

A new hydroelectric dam project could be built within the next few years near Bishop. While many see it as a form of clean energy, some locals are concerned about the effects it could have on the wilderness area. Kurtis Alexander is an environmental reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. KUNR's Bree Zender spoke with him about his reporting.

Department of Energy

It's been more than thirty years since Yucca Mountain in Nevada was picked as the nation's nuclear waste site, and the state has been fighting the project ever since. Under President Obama, it got its wish.

Fast forward to the Trump administration, and that long-running debate is back on the table.

Chronic wasting disease is crippling deer populations in the Mountain West, around the country and in bordering Canadian provinces. It's not a bacterium or a virus or even a fungus, but caused by something called a prion, a type of protein that all mammals have in their bodies.

Jens Lelie / Unsplash

Public lands are a haven for target shooting throughout our region. However, many are leaving bullet casings and litter behind, and that's a problem.

Litter from so-called "trigger trash" is leading to lead contamination of soil and costing taxpayers thousand of dollars in cleanup.

Kurt Miers is with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. He says this issue is common throughout the region, particularly in areas just outside of cities.

Sarah Flanary / U.S. Forest Service

For thousands of years, the Whitebark Pine has provided a valuable food source for birds and bears throughout the Mountain West. But dwindling numbers are forcing forest managers to act.

The tree spans from Alberta and British Columbia in Canada to the Mountain West states of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and parts of Nevada. But, the number of these trees throughout the region is declining, as much as 90 percent in some areas.

Bree Zender

Sierra Nevada snowpacks have been melting faster and faster in recent years, fueled by the effects of climate change. But a new study says that forest fires are also fueling this trend.

What Firefighters' Stories Can Teach Us

May 15, 2019
two firefighters hold hose in front of blaze
Unsplash

Firefighters work in high-stress, high-stakes environments, constantly making choices in the face of cascading uncertainty. They’re putting their lives on the line and taking into consideration everything that’s in the path of a blaze, including people, property, animals, and even environmental resources, like water.

Tim Trad / Unsplash

In a mostly symbolic move, the U.S. House voted Thursday to stop the Trump administration from exiting the Paris Climate Agreement. Meanwhile, many cities and states in the Mountain West are continuing to warm faster than the national average.

 

Resiliency In The Face Of Climate Change

Apr 17, 2019

Climate change is becoming a reality. According to NASA, over the next century, our planet is likely going to see some pretty significant changes. We’re already seeing rising sea levels due to the melting ice caps, along with storms that are stronger and more frequent.

For people living in the American West, the snowpack is becoming less predictable. Summers are longer and hotter, and severe droughts are pushing us to become more reliant on water reserves. Perhaps most notably, those hotter, drier summers are resulting in more and more wildfires.

Examining Fire Resilience In The American West

Apr 16, 2019
Smoke and burned trees from a wildfire
Photo by Joanne Francis on Unsplash

The ecosystems of the American West are under threat from climate change. Analysis by the Bureau of Land Management says areas like the Great Basin are particularly susceptible, with invasive species, increasing temperatures and years of extreme drought, putting the country’s largest desert at risk. 

Bree Zender

The 35-day government shutdown in late December and January halted federal wildfire preparations throughout the country. For the Sierra Nevada, KUNR found that there were key burn opportunities that were missed in that period. In some areas, prescribed burn opportunities won’t happen until later in the spring, because there’s simply too much snow. 

Introducing Science Distilled, A New KUNR Podcast

Apr 10, 2019
Jana Sayson

Science Distilled is a podcast based on the lecture series of the same name, where we break down concepts from cutting edge science and research and learn how they apply to the world around us. The podcast is hosted by KUNR's Paul Boger and Michelle Matus. 

Bree Zender

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently declared a state of emergency and called on the National Guard to speed up forest management ahead of the upcoming wildfire season.

In the Sierra Nevada, federal forest management officials are behind on prescribed fire treatments due to the 35-day partial federal government shutdown, which was followed by a historic snowfall. 

Watch & Listen: Relocating Nevada's Bighorn Sheep

Mar 19, 2019
men running toward helicopter in flight
Kathleen Masterson

Nevada’s bighorn sheep are under threat from disease. To grow the population, biologists have been relocating sheep to new habitat. The bighorn are captured with a net gun, then airlifted by helicopter, medically evaluated, and then driven to their new mountain home. KUNR’s Kathleen Masterson recently attended a relocation in Northern Nevada and she talked about her reporting experience with Bree Zender.

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