Rockies Today, March 19



Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana Land Board approves coal mine expansion
On Tuesday, the Signal Peak Energy coal mine in Montana got a nine-year extension on its life when the state Land Board approved a 7,160-acre expansion of the mine.
Billings Gazette; March 19

Bakken oil trains cited for lag in getting Montana wheat to market
Montana wheat farmers are starting to get nervous about the piles of their crop awaiting transport by rail to market, and BNSF's rail projects designed to expand Bakken oil transports, as well as rail trains of that oil, were cited for the delay.
Billings Gazette; March 19

BLM will conduct formal study of proposed Montana land exchange
The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that the agency will conduct a formal environmental assessment of a proposed land exchange in Montana that would trade a dozen parcels of BLM land contained within the boundaries of a ranch owned by Texas brothers Farris and Dan Wilks for seven parcels owned by the Wilks including some that would restore vehicle access to about 50,000 acres in the Bullwhacker area in Blaine County.
Great Falls Tribune; March 19

Alberta's Athabasca River plan draws sharp criticism from scientists
Andy Ridge, director of water policy for Alberta Environment, acknowledged that Alberta's plan for protecting the Athabasca River from oilsands development isn't the best possible, but it's the best the province could do, given the science available, but opponents of the plan said it relies too heavily on computer modeling and not at all on actual physical observance of the river and the species that rely upon it.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); March 19

B.C. communities learn about KinderMorgan pipeline plans from landowners
Homeowners in Metro Vancouver, including in Surrey, in pockets of Langley Township and Burnaby in British Columbia have been told by land agents for Kinder Morgan that their properties lie within an alternate route for its proposed new twinned Trans Mountain Pipeline, but the first officials of Surrey and Burnaby heard of such a routing was when landowners complained to them.
Vancouver Sun; March 19

Study finds Rocky Mountain wildflower season a month longer
Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado have gathered data on wildflowers for 39 years and found that wildflower season is now a month longer than it was 39 years ago, running from April to mid-September, with earlier spring snowmelt and other climate shifts cited for the reason for the blooming changes.
Los Angeles Times; March 19

Idaho budget board OKs wolf oversight board, cuts funding to $400,000
On Tuesday, the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's request for a wolf oversight board but cut the governor's $2-million funding request to $400,000.
Twin Falls Times-News; March 19

Utah resorts to pitch plan to connect 7 ski areas in Salt Lake, Summit counties
Today at 2 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Sheraton Hotel, Ski Utah and the companies that operate seven ski areas in Salt Lake and Summit counties will pitch a plan to connect those areas with a network of lifts on private property, a plan that does not include the controversial SkiLink proposal, which would connect the Canyons Resort outside of Park City to Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Salt Lake Tribune; March 19

Snowpack levels predict a big water year for Colorado basins
Colorado River water managers are already making room in Colorado reservoirs to deal with snowmelt in the Colorado River basin this spring, and that work is underway in other basins of the state as well, with snowpack levels 40 percent above average for this time of year.
Denver Post; March 19

Mountain West News is a project of the Center for the Rocky Mountain West at The University of Montana. It provides a daily snapshot of news and opinion in the Rocky Mountain region of North America, giving the changing mountain West a tool to understand itself and a platform for the exchange of ideas.

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