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Posts tagged: Montana

Western USDA Water Supply Forecast Tracks Melting Snowpack

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).  Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »

USDA Works with Other Groups to Restore one of Montana’s Largest Wetlands

NRCS and other partners are working to restore the wetlands located at the headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Montana. NRCS photo.

NRCS and other partners are working to restore the wetlands located at the headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Montana. NRCS photo.

The headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Madison Valley, Mont. serve as a perfect example of the benefits of implementing good conservation practices. Considered one of the largest wetland areas in Montana, O’Dell Creek was drained in the 1950s for land to raise livestock.  But now, ranchers, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other partners are restoring the wetland.

Historically grazed all year, the O’Dell Creek and Madison River floodplain provided abundant forage, flowing water and refuge from harsh weather. Over the years, the draining and livestock uses took a toll.

“I could see the degradation,” said Jeff Laszlo, one of the owners of Granger Ranches LP — where the creek is located.  “There was a decline in both the grass production of our river bottoms and the overall health of our riparian area. Although I really didn’t know what to do about it, I felt that there had to be a better way of managing and taking care of one of the ranch’s most important assets.” Read more »

Water Supply Forecast Shows Record Snow in Northern Parts of West, Parched in Southwest

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast.  Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »

Scientists Discover New Fish Species in the Upper Columbia River Basin

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)

U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., have identified a new species of fish—the cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). Although thousands of new species are described by scientists each year, only a small percentage of them are animal species, and even fewer are found in the United States, underscoring the importance of this discovery.

Freshwater sculpins, with their characteristic large heads and fins, are bottom dwellers that can be found in cold, fast-moving streams throughout North America. Biologists have long suspected that there were undescribed species of sculpins in the Upper Columbia River Basin, but lacked the tools to recognize them. Cedar sculpin populations were previously thought to be shorthead sculpin (Cottus confusus), an understandable misidentification given that sculpins are notoriously difficult to identify based on their physical features. Read more »

Bugs’ Life Not so Rosy Around Young Entomologist

Research Entomologist Justin Runyon is a winner of this year’s prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He studies the chemical reaction between insects and plants for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. (Montana State University/Kelly Gorham)

Research Entomologist Justin Runyon is a winner of this year’s prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He studies the chemical reaction between insects and plants for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. (Montana State University/Kelly Gorham)

It’s a wonder that Justin Runyon’s parents didn’t have insomnia. After all, who could sleep when the young bug enthusiast was throwing on floodlights outside the house in the middle of the night to attract and collect insects?

“Yes, my parents were very patient with me,” said Runyon, a research entomologist at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Runyon no longer needs to wake his parents to conduct his research – he has plenty of opportunity to do that at his lab in Bozeman, Mont., where he studies the chemical interaction between insects and plants. His work and accomplishments earned him this year’s prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The accolade is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Runyon was one of 102 recipients to receive the award this year. Read more »

Recent Forecast Shows Limited Water Supply in Westernmost States

Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)

Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)

Limited water supplies are predicted in many areas west of the Continental Divide, according to this year’s second forecast by the National Water and Climate Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Right now, snow measuring stations in California, Nevada and Oregon that currently don’t have any snow, and a full recovery isn’t likely, the center’s staff said.

USDA is partnering with states, including those in the West, to help mitigate the severe effects of drought on agriculture. Read more »