Complexities of Competing Interests in the American West

The history of wildlife conservation in the United States is commonly told

Paul
Burow
Kroon G01
9:00am
The history of wildlife conservation in the United States is commonly told as a progressive narrative of enlightened environmental stewardship. The American bison is a potent national symbol of our natural heritage'one grounded in both the excesses of 19th-century capitalism and violent state expansion, and the redemptive promise of renewal through endangered species protection. This presentation examines the concatenations of two historical narratives: the efforts of elite conservationists to protect the bison through wildlife protected areas under the auspices of the American Bison Society, and the efforts of Sli_ and Ksanka peoples in western Montana to sustain and revitalized their own relationship with bison. The National Bison Range was one of the first wildlife refuges in the United States and played a vital role in sustaining bison for the future. But its creation was deeply implicated in the settler colonial project of dispossessing S'li_ and Ksanka lands and undermined culturally and materially important human-animal relationships with bison on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Elite conservationists failed to recognize the extant bison herd on the reservation, sanctioned by tribal leaders and maintained by the tribal community, as an effective Indigenous effort to maintain an important connection to this threatened species and prevent its extinction. Ultimately, elite conservationists made use of the opening of the Flathead Indian Reservation to white settlement in the allotment era to further their vision of endangered species protection as a vital project of the nation. This history has important implications for contemporary conflict over control of wildlife areas on Indian reservations as tribal nations contest histories of dispossession and violence to develop alternate, decolonized futures.

Thirty years of sampling in the Wind River Range (WRR) of Western Wyoming

Taylor
Ganz
Kroon G01
9:00am
Thirty years of sampling in the Wind River Range (WRR) of Western Wyoming has shown that alpine lakes are increasing in nitrogen content and slowly acidifying. In many regions of the American West, atmospheric deposition of ammonium from fertilizers and nitrous oxides from combustion drive these changes. I hypothesize that in the WRR, deposition accumulates in the snowpack through the winter and then is rapidly released in early summer when the snow melts. This study focused on Deep Lake, a 60.5 acre headwaters lake at 3,218m in the Bridger Wilderness area, where lake chemistry samples have been collected annually as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) and Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) since 1984. These data suggested that the WRR ecosystem is at critical threshold of transitioning from nitrogen limited to nitrogen saturated. We collected 101 water samples from the inlet, outlet and mid-lake in May and June during peak snowmelt and in August when the basin was snow free. Samples were analyzed for concentrations of Ca2+, K+, Mg2+, Na+, NH4+, NO3-, Cl-, SO42-, total Nitrogen, total Phosphorus and Gran Acid Neutralizing Capacity (ANC). Preliminary results show that that pH levels are lower and nitrogen content higher during snowmelt than when the watershed is snow free. Samples taken from the inlet of the lake are higher in nutrient content than samples from the lake outlet, which have been diluted by lake water. This indicates that atmospheric pollution is stored in the snowpack, and flushed through the system with snowmelt. Shifting nutrient levels in alpine watersheds are potentially deleterious to fragile ecosystems and can degrade water quality for downstream users. With over 70% of water in the American west coming from snowpack, it is highly important to understand the factors influencing snowmelt water quality.

Wyoming's Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration is the longest big game

Joshua
Morse
Kroon G01
9:00am
Wyoming's Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration is the longest big game movement in the lower 48 states. The migration crosses multiple jurisdictions and land management regimens, as well as major highways, residential developments, and natural barriers. Recent advances in GPS monitoring have allowed biologists to map the path followed by migrating deer at a very fine scale, and this data has raised questions about whether and how to respond to the newly-documented migration in the policy arena. My research examines how a wide range of stakeholder communities, ranging from the energy industry to environmental NGOs, assign value to the migration and orient to the problems surrounding it. Over three months traveling along the migration corridor in southwestern Wyoming, I used semi- structured qualitative interviews, document analysis, and participant observation to map the social context underlying this resource management challenge. I found that multiple, competing and sometimes mutually-exclusive problem definitions exist in the stakeholder community surrounding the migration. Further, I found that each problem definition is supported by a specific range of value positions and advances a specific set of value claims. Crucially, while all four problem definitions were held across a wide range of stakeholder groups, awareness of the existence of competing problem definitions and value conflict was rarely voiced by study participants. I suggest that social context mapping could provide an avenue to explicitly address such conflicts at the onset of a conservation project.

Crude by Rail in Idaho: Existing Practices and Avenues for Regulation.

Kathryn
McConnell
Kroon G01
9:00am
Crude by Rail in Idaho: Existing Practices and Avenues for Regulation. The recent growth in domestic oil production is shifting the transportation of oil from pipelines and ships to railroads. Since the advent of 'crude by rail' around 2011, the number of oil train derailments has increased dramatically, often resulting in disastrous consequences for exposed communities and ecosystems. Upon derailment, highly combustible crude frequently spills - on some occasions exploding - resulting in water and soil contamination, infrastructural damage, and even human fatalities. This nascent landscape of oil transportation raises many policy and planning challenges for communities across the country, and there is still a limited understanding of what can be done to protect people and the environment from related risks. In the State of Idaho, BNSF and Union Pacific Railroads carry oil through the northern panhandle, traveling along rivers, over drinking water sources, and through isolated, rural communities. This research was conducted for the state's Department of Environmental Quality, with an aim to understand what state-level policies could be adopted to minimize the likelihood of oil spills, and to hold responsible parties accountable in spill scenarios. Semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and spatial analysis were used to answer questions pertaining to state taxation authority, emergency planning and response, and railroad routing.