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& the West

Published since 2016,  ‘& the West’ offers reporting, research, interviews, and analysis on the environmental future of California and western North America. It is produced by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University.  More about us »

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What we’re reading: February 21, 2024

By Rani Chor

Doubt grows on wolf restoration narrative; flooding causes surge in Valley Fever cases; a “climate bomb” avoided; restricted groundwater use in homes; a new national park in Colorado evokes Japanese internments; and more environmental news from around the West.

Returning predators like wolves to landscapes does not immediately revert the ecosystem to its earlier status. Researchers spent 20 years studying the effects of the return of large carnivores to Yellowstone, finding that long-term, possibly permanent changes to the ecosystem were evident nearly 30 years after the removal of wolves. The popular idea that the return of wolves single handedly reduced elk herds and restored Yellowstone’s natural systems was “wishful thinking” backed by little comprehensive science, their report said. DENVER POST

Debate continues surrounding the conversion of pinyon-juniper forests into biofuel. In parts of California and much of the Great Basin, landowners clear pinyon pines and juniper trees from rangelands to decrease the risk of wildfires and prevent the further spread of trees in sagebrush rangelands. Meanwhile, Nevada officials propose converting trees into green methanol, a renewable energy source. LOS ANGELES TIMES

Intensifying atmospheric rivers in California are leading to a surge in cases of Valley Fever, a potent fungal infection, in California. The flooding caused by intensifying winter rainstorms in California is helping to spread a deadly disease called coccidioidomycosis, or Valley Fever. Antje Lauer, an environmental microbiologist, worries that as developers build more infrastructure and expand into virgin areas of the state, and as climate change creates ever more favorable conditions, Valley Fever will pose an increased threat to public health. GRIST

Federal officials deny permits for pumped storage facilities on Navajo land. The projects planned to use water from groundwater aquifers in the desert and from the Colorado River, whose flows have been declining for decades. The order represents the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is requiring that proposed projects on tribal land need tribal approval first; the Navajo, the commission said, had not consented to these hydroelectric projects. INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS

Biden plans to increase Alaska tribal representation on the Federal Subsistence Board that oversees regulation of subsistence hunting and fishing on federal public lands and waters.. The plan is to add three voting members to the eight-member board that, according to the Interior Department, would be “nominated or recommended by Tribes” and would have “personal knowledge of and direct experience with subsistence uses in rural Alaska….” E & E NEWS

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Stories by Topic

What we’re reading, Dec. 6, 2021

Disappearing snowpack in the West. Is the end of western mountain snowpacks in sight? San Francisco Chronicle Washington Post

Disappearing water in the West. Does groundwater have a future in California, or is its depletion inevitable? Stanford Earth Matters

Disappearing water, Part II. Water agencies serving 27 million Californians are on their own next year, getting nothing from state water projects. Los Angeles Times

Disappearing water, Part III. Small farmers in the Central Valley wonder: where is Kings County water going? SJV Water

Oregon’s proposed Jordan Cove liquified natural gas project abandoned. It was designed to include a liquified natural gas terminal and a 229-mile natural gas pipeline and send liquified natural gas to Asian markets. Oregon Public Broadcasting

Interior Secretary Haaland works to eliminate racist place names, like those using the word “squaw.” How names like “Chinaman Gulch” affected one Asian American. Grist KSUT

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Staff and Contributors

Felicity Barringer

Lead writer

A national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times, Felicity provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction policies. MORE »

Geoff McGhee

Associate editor

Geoff McGhee specializes in interactive data visualization and multimedia storytelling. He is a veteran of the multimedia and infographics staffs at The New York Times, Le Monde and MORE »

Syler Peralta-Ramos

Editorial Assistant

Syler Peralta-Ramos is a member of the Stanford class of 2020. He has lived in Wilson, Wyoming his whole life and developed a keen interest in nature photography and conservation from a young age, inspired by the multitude of photographers that congregate in the Teton region as well as his parents who also share a love for photography.

‘& the West’ is published by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, which is dedicated to research, teaching, and journalism about the past, present, and future of the North American West.

Bruce E. Cain

Faculty Director

Kate Gibson

Program Manager

Past Contributors

Anna McNulty
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2021
Melina Walling
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2021
Benek Robertson
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2021
Maya Burke
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020
Kate Selig
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020

Francisco L. Nodarse
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2020
Devon R. Burger
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2020
Madison Pobis
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2019
Sierra Garcia
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2019

Danielle Nguyen
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2019
Carolyn P. Rice
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2019
Rebecca Nelson
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2018
Emily Wilder
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2018
Alessandro Hall
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2018 
Josh Lappen
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2017
Natasha Mmonatau
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2017
Alan Propp
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2017