Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

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.

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.

 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

two bighorn sheep dangle from helicoptor
Kathleen Masterson

Nevada’s state animal has been afflicted by disease for more than a century. The die-offs began when European settlers brought over domestic sheep that carried a bacteria that causes pneumonia in wild sheep. But in recent decades, Nevada’s bighorn population has been slowly rebounding, thanks in large part to efforts by conservationists. Much of the success comes from relocating healthy animals to good habitat to start a new herd. 

A man stands in front of a very large mound of snow.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

The Tahoe region is reporting staggering snowfall totals for the month of February. Truckee received 121 inches while Tahoe City came in at 134 inches. 

Bree Zender

Hundreds of researchers agree that climate change is going to alter the way we will live in the coming decades. Every few years, the U.S. Global Change Research Program releases a National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive look into how the country's climate has changed, and what could be ahead.

Kathleen Masterson / KUNR

Across the globe, more and more people are buying electric cars. That has spurred the need for lithium, which is used to make the car batteries. Financial analysts project that demand will double between 2015 and 2025.

All this has driven the Canadian-owned company Lithium Nevada to go after a massive deposit in Northern Nevada. 

Bree Zender

After the first couple of storms of the winter season, much of the Eastern Sierra is at or above the historic median snow totals for this time of year, but areas in the Tahoe and Truckee Basins are trailing behind. KUNR's Bree Zender has more.

Cardboard boxes crammed together for trash disposal.
Jon Moore / Unsplash

The average Nevadan produces nearly 8 pounds of garbage per person every day. That's nearly twice the national average, according to a new report form the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE. 

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