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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: May 14, 2024

By Xavier Martinez

California’s water wars front and center; climate migration on a coastal Washington reservation; Arizona’s plan to combat extreme heat; an all-woman seal hunting crew, and other recent environmental news from around the West.

Despite a wet winter, California’s water wars rage on. Farmers, cities, and environmentalists all claim they’re shortchanged. Frustrated parties blame state policymakers for loosening protections and the Biden team for misapplying species safeguards. Officials counter that antiquated infrastructure can’t adapt quickly enough – making controversial projects seem more necessary. As negotiations over summer water releases loom, the only consensus is the system is fundamentally broken, whether it’s wet or dry. POLITICO

The Quinault Nation faces an existential climate crisis as rising seas and storm surges increasingly inundate their coastal Washington village. Their bold response? A historic relocation to higher ground. The nation has paved the roads and created the infrastructure for a new village site a half-mile uphill – a first step toward fortifying the community against future floods. Logistical and financial hurdles remain, casting a bright light on the massive scale of climate relocation that could soon confront communities worldwide. INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY

Sobering news on California’s forest recovery after recent wildfires and drought. Analyzing satellite data from 2015-2022, NASA researchers found dramatic declines in plant production statewide, with some areas losing upwards of 60 percent of vegetation. Regeneration lags far behind past decades as warmer, drier conditions hinder seedling survival. At Big Basin Redwoods, once-shaded canopies have been replaced with dense shrub growth. The study raises concerns that drought and fire may permanently alter California’s iconic forests. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

A “death trap” for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is limiting how much water can be exported from the critical estuary. Environmentalists argue the state draws too much while failing to safeguard threatened species like salmon and smelt. But officials say outdated infrastructure and regulations restrict vital deliveries to cities and farms. The tensions highlight California’s struggle to balance water supplies and environmental protections. LOS ANGELES TIMES

Companies see financial opportunity in purifying oilfield wastewater for discharge into Texas rivers. As some firms tout treatment methods to make the waste safe, scientists worry about toxic pollutants slipping through. As drought intensifies, regulators are greenlighting these “produced water” releases despite limited toxicity data and fears of fouling waterways. One company plans discharges near the Pecos River, which struggles with salinity – raising stakes for an ecosystem home to the threatened Pecos pupfish. INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS

Arizona is ramping up efforts to protect residents from extreme heat after more than 900 heat-related deaths shattered state records last summer. The state’s new heat officer is coordinating with local governments and groups to expand cooling center access and ensure functional home air conditioning units. New measures include mobile cooling units, extended hours at respite facilities, utility bill assistance, and the nation’s first statewide Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan. ASSOCIATED PRESS

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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 ABCNews.com. MORE »

Xavier Martinez

Xavier Martinez

Editorial Assistant

Xavier graduated from Stanford in 2023 with a degree in economics and is currently a master’s student in Stanford’s journalism program. He has written about the high phone call costs faced by U.S. inmates, temporary Mexican workers’ interactions with the labor market and the efficacy of government healthcare assistance programs. A lifelong lover of charts and maps, he enjoys combining data journalism with narrative-style reporting. 

‘& 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

Associate Director

west.stanford.edu

Past Contributors

Rani Chor
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2024
rchor@stanford.edu
@chorrani
 
Syler Peralta-Ramos
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2022
sylerpr@stanford.edu
 
Anna McNulty
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2021
annam23@stanford.edu
 
Melina Walling
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2021
mwalling@stanford.edu
 
Benek Robertson
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2021
benekrobertson@stanford.edu
 
Maya Burke
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020
mburke3@stanford.edu
 
Kate Selig
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020

 
Francisco L. Nodarse
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2020
fnodarse@stanford.edu
 
Devon R. Burger
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2020
devonburger@stanford.edu
 
Madison Pobis
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2019
mpobis@stanford.edu
 
Sierra Garcia
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2019

 
Danielle Nguyen
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2019
Carolyn P. Rice
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2019
carolyn4@stanford.edu
 
Rebecca Nelson
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2018
rnelson3@stanford.edu
 
Emily Wilder
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2018
ewilder2@stanford.edu
 
Alessandro Hall
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2018
ahall2@stanford.edu 
Josh Lappen
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2017
@jlappen1
jlappen@stanford.edu 
Natasha Mmonatau
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2017
@NatashaMmonatau
 
Alan Propp
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2017
@alanpropp
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