Scientists: Grizzlies expand turf but still need protection
BILLINGS, Mont. — Grizzly bears are slowly expanding the turf where they roam in parts of the northern Rocky Mountains but need continued protections, according to government scientists who concluded that no other areas of the country would be suitable for reintroducing the fearsome predators.
The Fish and Wildlife Service on March 31 released its first assessment in almost a decade about the status of grizzly bears in the contiguous U.S. The bruins are shielded from hunting as a threatened species except in Alaska.
Grizzly populations grew over the past 10 years in two areas — the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, with more than 700 bears; and around Glacier National Park in Montana, which is home to more than 1,000 of the animals.
Grizzly numbers remain low in other parts of the Northern Rockies, and scientists said their focus is on bolstering those populations rather than reintroducing them elsewhere in the country.
The bears now occupy about 6% of their historical range in the contiguous U.S., up from 2% in 1975.
Conservationists and some university scientists have pushed to return bears to areas including Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and California’s Sierra Nevada.
The 368-page assessment makes no recommendation on the topic, but scientists looked at the possibility of bears in more areas as part of an examination of their remaining habitat.
That analysis showed grizzlies would be unable to sustain themselves in the San Juans, the Sierra Nevada or two other areas — Utah’s Uinta Mountains and New Mexico’s Mongollon Mountains.
In each case, officials said, bears would face the same challenge — not enough remote, protected public lands, high densities of humans and little chance of connecting with other bears populations to maintain healthy populations.
An estimated 50,000 grizzlies once inhabited western North America from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Plains. Hunting, commercial trapping and habitat loss wiped out most by the early 1900s. The bears were last seen in California in the 1920s and the last known grizzly in Colorado was killed by an elk hunter in 1979.
State’s oil, gas production up by 10% despite pandemic
CARLSBAD — New Mexico has reported that oil and gas production increased by more than 10% last year compared to the year before even as demands for fuel dropped during the coronavirus pandemic.
Data from the state’s oil conservation division showed the state produced about 370 million barrels of oil in 2020 compared to about 330 million barrels of oil produced in 2019, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported March 30.
Although last year produced the highest amount of oil since the division began tracking production in the 1970s, officials said rate of growth dropped from a 33% increase between 2018, which yielded about 250 million barrels of oil, and 2019.
New Mexico also produced about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, surpassing the 2001 record of 1.6 trillion cubic feet, according to data.
However, natural gas production growth also declined, increasing about 7% between 2019 and last year compared to 19% between 2018 and 2019.
An annual report by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association on revenue for the state by the industry said $2.8 billion was generated last year, including $1.4 billion for public education. The amount was second to the record $3.1 billion of state revenue generated in 2019.
City, state to curb confusion over alien events in Roswell
ROSWELL — Tourism officials in New Mexico have raised concerns about people confusing a UFO Festival with downtown alien-related events because of similar domain names searched online.
The 2021 Roswell UFO Festival will get a marketing boost after the New Mexico Department of Tourism approved it for its Strategic Events Recovery Readiness Initiative, a pilot program intended to help cultural events recover from the economic downfall cause by the pandemic, the Roswell Daily Record reported.
The program will provide a team of event experts who will give technical assistance and help gain sponsorships for the events and provide cooperative funds for advertising. However, the state has expressed concerns about the messaging since Roswell is also hosting its first annual Alien Fest.
City Manager Joe Neeb said the confusion is caused in part by online search results for the UFO Festival that frequently yield a website for Mainstreet Roswell’s Alien Fest — www.ufofestivalroswell.com. But the official UFO Festival website, which launched on April 1, is www.ufofestival.com.
MainStreet Roswell Executive Director Kathy Lay told the Roswell Daily Record that the Alien Fest is not a separate festival, but rather the name for activities focused on bringing visitors to downtown businesses.
A manager of the UFO Festival said the event will include outdoor movies, an electronic dance party and a concert.
Man sentenced for treasure cemetery dig in Yellowstone
CHEYENNE — A judge in Wyoming has sentenced a man to six months in prison for digging in a Yellowstone National Park cemetery in pursuit of a famous hidden treasure.
Wyoming U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl also ordered Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, on March 31 to serve six months of home detention and two years of probation, and to pay $31,566 in restitution.
Craythorn dug 17 holes and damaged a grave in the Fort Yellowstone cemetery in late 2019 and early 2020, prosecutors.
The cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places has at least 54 graves from 1888-1918, when the U.S. Army stationed soldiers in the area to protect the world’s first national park.
Craythorn pleaded guilty in January to illegally excavating or trafficking in archaeological resources and to damaging federal property.
Craythorn was seeking a treasure chest containing coins, gold and other valuables that Santa Fe, New Mexico, art and antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn stashed in the Rocky Mountain backcountry. Fenn published a book with a poem containing clues to where the treasure could be found.
For a decade, thousands of people roamed the Rockies in search of the treasure estimated to be worth at least $1 million.
Fenn announced in June the treasure had been found. He died in September at age 90 without saying who found the chest or specifically where.
A grandson of Fenn confirmed in December the finder was Jonathan “Jack” Stuef, 32, a medical student from Michigan. Fenn said before his death the treasure was in Wyoming but neither Stuef nor Fenn’s relatives have specified where.
State holiday declared to honor Native code talkers
PHOENIX — Arizona has a new state holiday.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill March 29 to honor Native Americans who used their language to transmit coded messages during World War II.
Arizona has recognized code talkers by proclamation and through legislation for years. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai makes Aug. 14 a state holiday. It will be observed on a Sunday when state offices already are closed.
While hundreds of Navajos were recruited as code talkers, about a dozen Hopis and members of other tribes also covertly sent wartime messages.
Peshlakai, who is Navajo, said it’s important that Arizonans remember their service and bravery. Less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers are still alive.
The Navajo Nation celebrates Aug. 14 as a tribal holiday, marking the date Japan announced it would surrender to the Allied forces.