Rare Rocky Mountain insects need snowfields to survive
HELENA – Federal Nature Conservation Agencies say two species of rare insects in the Rocky Mountains need several thousand acres of glaciers and snowfields to survive a warming world that threatens them with extinction.
The Western Glacier Stonefly and the Meltwater Ledniche Stonefly live in streams that flow from melting glaciers and snowfields. Scientists say the insects are not doing well and facing continued decline as they are projected to lose 80% of their habitat in Glacier National Park by 2030.
The stonefly threat underscores the threat global climate change poses to mountain peaks, which are “biodiversity hotspots” – home to a rich variety of plants, animals and insects that scientists are still learning about.
The two species live in and around Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Native American tribal areas in western Montana. More recently, they have been found in creeks in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and Wyoming.
They are mostly found in steep, remote areas that are difficult to reach and away from backcountry trails.
A new draft of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery plan suggests the possible transplantation of some of the insects to new areas, explores ways to artificially reproduce populations, and research the heat tolerance of stoneflies.
The Wildlife Service listed her as an endangered species in 2019 after being sued for action by environmentalists. According to the agency, the two species each need at least 3,087 hectares of glaciers and snowfields to protect against prolonged decline. This is how much meltwater habitat insects had in northwest Montana in 2005, but much has been lost since then.
Conservation area buys ranch, growing to over 700 square miles
BILLINGS – A private wildlife sanctuary attempting to build a Connecticut-sized park where bison and other wildlife can roam free in the U.S. Northern Plains says it is buying a 50 square mile ranch to be sold to the Charles M Adjacent to Russel National Wildlife Refuge.
The deal for the 73 Ranch in Central Montana along the Musselshell River expands the size of the American Prairie Reserve to more than 700 square miles. The purchase price was not disclosed, The Billings Gazette reported.
Since 2001, the reserve has tried to merge millions of acres of adjacent public and private lands to create a vast nature reserve.
The US Bureau of Land Management attempted to buy ranch 73 in August, in part to provide access to inland areas that hunters were dying to reach. The deal failed after a government-ordered appraisal did not meet the seller’s terms.
The reserve has more than 800 bison and plans to increase its herds to thousands of animals in the coming decades.
A decision by federal officials on the reservation’s proposal to change the grazing lease for its bison on the property it leases north of the Missouri River is pending. The proposal was heavily opposed by many landowners in the area and Republicans, including Governor Greg Gianforte.
Arches National Park requires timed tickets
SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah national park famous for its above-ground sandstone arches will require timed entry tickets from visitors during its peak season next year.
Arches National Park officials said on December 10th that instead of trying to reduce the number of visitors over the six-month period, they would try to spread them over the day. The announcement came a week after nearby Zion National Park announced that reservations would be required to hike the famous Angels Landing Trail by the cliffs.
At Arches, attendance has increased 66% over the past decade and is well on its way to breaking another record this year with nearly 1.7 million visitors at the end of October, said park spokesman Kait Thomas. Sometimes Arches is so crowded that officials had to close the gates for hours to delay entry.
Tickets will be available for a total of 2,700 vehicles per day, which is roughly the average number on a busy day in 2019, she said.
The system will only be in effect between April and October next year and tickets are only needed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outside these times and months, people can enter without a ticket.
Reservations are $ 2 each and can be booked on the entertainment.gov website on January 3rd on a first-come, first-served basis.
Located in southern Utah, Arches is known for its sandstone arches, the most famous of which is the Delicate Arch, a towering formation seen on many Utah signs and license plates.
UNM calls on students to unionize
ALBUQUERQUE – The University of New Mexico plans to appeal a ruling that graduate students can unionize.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Nov. 28 that the UNM had filed an appeal in the Second District Court.
Cinnamon Blair, a spokeswoman for the university, said the UNM wanted a “correct and thorough legal review of the issues” by the courts.
In December 2020, graduate working students applied for union recognition for the first time. A hearing officer for the State Employment Service for Public Employees found that the students were not regular employees because their employment lasts for one semester.
Graduates appealed. Both sides argued before the board. In August, the board of directors sided with the working students. Earlier this month the board asked graduate students to do a “card check” to see if a majority would like to be unionized.
Blair says the appeal letter is not intended to adversely affect graduate students’ worth.
Chile drop back to spice up New Years Eve
LAS CRUCES – Organizers say the annual Chile Drop will return to Plaza de Las Cruces this year for a personal celebration in 2022.
The celebratory event took place practically last year as COVID-19 spread during the winter months. It was recorded and broadcast to viewers on December 31st.
This year downtown Las Cruces has live music, food and entertainment for New Year’s Eve. Main Street will be closed off around the square to make the event pedestrian friendly.
Coronavirus-safe protocols put in place by the state for outdoor events are being followed, event coordinator Russ Smith said. That means no masks are required outdoors.
One change this year will be the determination of the color of the chilli. In previous years, when the clock struck midnight on January 1st, great chile, surrounded by lights, would turn red or green, or a combination of both, in what is known in New Mexico as Christmas. This year the coordinators decided to let residents vote online on their preferred color by scanning a QR code. The vote will run until 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Voters can choose between red or green. Smith said they had opinions that the chile should take on other colors like pink or orange, but officials from the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership decided to stick with the colors from New Mexico’s famous question – red or green?