High Plains Public Radio

HPPR Environment

Awareness:
geography
geology
hydrology (water, aquifers, rivers)
flora
fauna (wildlife)
climate
weather
ecosystems
climate change

Management & conservation
water conservation
soil conservation
wildlife protection
policies & regulations

bioquest.org

For a man who wrote easy-on-the-ear verse in line after line of iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare must spin in his grave to think he’s the reason millions of screeching, squabbling starlings swarm from shore to shore and border to border in America.

So who had the misguided idea to import these obnoxious creatures? In 1890 and 91, New Yorker Edward Schieffelin, a leader of the American Acclimatization Society, acted on a romantic notion to import examples of everything ever mentioned in a Shakespearian play to his hometown. Unfortunately, the bard included starlings in a scene in part one of Henry IV. That was the beginning of this cursed bird’s existence in the New World.

Texas A&M

A species of minnow that has eluded scientists for over a century has been found hiding out in West Texas, reports UPI.com. It all occurred thanks to a case of mistaken identity.

Notropis megalops, the West Texas shiner, closely resembles the Texas shiner, Notropis amabilis. But scientists at Texas A&M have examined the minnow’s DNA and confirmed the species distinction.

cpr.org

Yesterday we reported on a problem Texas is struggling with: The state has so much renewable energy these days that, when the flow slows it costs power companies a lot to ramp up fossil fuel energy again. This problem could be solved by renewable energy storage, the next frontier on the energy landscape.

Public Domain

Panhandle folks out for stroll last night were treated to a dust storm of Biblical proportions. Because of the darkness, no one really saw the magnitude of the thing. But you could feel its hugeness deep down in your soul, it seemed.

Candace Krebs / Ag Journal Online

The mild winter on the High Plains has changed to a dry and windy spring of unusual warmth. And the weather is wreaking havoc in various ways. For example, reports Ag Journal, a huge wildfire flared up across portions of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas last week. And wheat stripe rust was discovered in eastern Colorado, much earlier than expected. Stripe rust is a disease that can threaten wheat yields.

US Drought Monitor / myplainview.com

The encroaching drought situation in the Texas Panhandle is quickly becoming critical, says myplainview.com. The latest Water Weekly chart on soil moisture conditions, released Monday by the Texas Water Development Board, shows almost the entire Panhandle-South Plains region now under deficient soil moisture conditions.

Joe Amon / The Denver Post

In the wake of Colorado’s population and development boom, conservation groups scrambled to save 86,000 acres of undeveloped nature, reports The Denver Post. The land includes part of the 50,000-acre JE Ranch east of Trinidad in the Purgatoire River Valley. The deals were negotiated by the Nature Conservancy and Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust.

MBT Centennial: Ferruginous Hawk

Apr 5, 2016
www.blm.gov

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Ferruginous Hawk.

Michael Gabler / Wikimedia Commons

Up in Montana, the buffalo are back. After almost a century and a half, a herd of North American Bison will soon be welcomed back into Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation—the animal’s ancestral homeland.

As a symbol of their traditions, Blackfeet tribal leaders are welcoming the 89 bison to roam their 4,000 square mile reservation. In 2014, a treaty was signed among 11 tribes in the US and Canada to reinstate to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains regions. This program is one result of that treaty.

wypr.org

Oklahoma isn’t the only state where the controversial process known as “fracking” has resulted in fights between state and federal officials, and the oil and gas industry.

Water wells were recently found to be polluted in Wyoming, and watchdogs immediately pointed the finger at the state’s hydraulic fracturing operations. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has since released a report saying fracking likely played little role in the polluted water wells.

Tiffany Stecker / eenews.net

It took 10 million years for the Ogallala Aquifer to fill with water. Now, says a report on eenews.net, after just over a century of pumping and irrigation, a third of the Ogallala is gone, and its future is in grave danger. The Ogallala supplies water to almost 20 percent of the nation's wheat and cotton crops and cattle. But in Haskell County, in the southwest corner of Kansas, water levels have dropped 150 feet since 1950. And that’s just one of many bleak examples.

Valerie Mosley / Colorodoan

The debate over climate change has resulted in simmering tensions across the US for years. And this week the issue led to a showdown in the Colorado legislature, reports the Coloradoan. The tussle between Democrats and Republicans occurred over whether to pay for efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Health.com

Last week we reported on how snakes are coming out early this year in Colorado. Now myhighplains.com reports that sneezing and itchy, watery eyes have arrived in the Texas Panhandle earlier than expected. Amarillo has some of the worst pollen levels in the Southern states right now.

cpr.org

With the disappearance of America’s bees, a California tradition is changing, reports Colorado Public Radio. Beekeepers flock to California every spring to watch billions of honeybees pollinate the state's almond trees. But now, many almond growers are switching to a new breed of tree that grows what are known as Independence almonds. These almond trees are special because they’re self-pollinating. That’s good news for farmers, who spend lots of money hiring bees to pollinate their crop.

MBT Centennial: Sandhill Crane

Mar 28, 2016
Laura Erickson / Cornell University

This year, 2016, marks the centennial of the first Migratory Bird Treaty, which the United States signed with Great Britain on behalf of Canada. That treaty and the three that followed — with Japan, Russia and Mexico — form the cornerstones of our efforts to conserve migratory birds, like the Sandhill Crane.

Courtney Perry / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Beekeepers on the High Plains might want to keep an eye on a story to the north. Two beekeepers in Minnesota have received compensation from the state’s department of agriculture after their hives were destroyed. The hives were severely damaged last spring by toxic pesticides that had drifted off a neighboring cornfield, reports the Star Tribune.

Fort Morgan Times

Colorado saw a late snowstorm this week that shut down airports. But Colorado Plains Medical Center in Fort Morgan has already treated its first rattlesnake bite of the year, reports the Fort Morgan Times.

Last weekend a 12-year-old boy was bitten by a young rattlesnake in the basement of his grandparents' house in Orchard. Colorado Plains treated the patient with antivenin, and he was flown to a Denver hospital for further treatment.

agweb.com

Ag research has done a lot for the High Plains, but it’s not getting the recognition it deserves, according to a senior irrigation engineer at Texas A&M University. Thomas Marek says today’s irrigated agriculture is capable of producing 40 percent more grain with 90 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than in the past, reports agjournalonline.com.

Grant Gerlock / NET News/Harvest Public Media

On nights during Lent in Nebraska, the Friday night fish fry has become an annual tradition. And all of that frying uses up a lot of vegetable oil, which might be thrown out. But one enterprising Nebraskan had a better idea, reports netnebraska.org. At one recent fish fry, 800 people ate more than 200 pounds of fried fish.

KFOR.com

Officials in Oklahoma are now using advanced technology in an attempt to get ahead of the spate of earthquakes caused by fracking and wastewater disposal by oil and gas companies. The technology is much needed, as the third largest earthquake in state history was recorded last month.

New seismic sensors have now been put in place to locate and determine the size of the nearest fault line to the big quake’s location in Fairview, reports KFOR. The Oklahoma Geological Survey has also installed a broadband seismometer, an instrument that locates earthquake sources.

Kansas Sunflowers

Mar 24, 2016

    This week’s sojourn into our series honoring state flowers takes us along the highways, byways, and flatlands of the Sunflower State.  And we’ll renew our quest for an answer to one of botany’s intriguing mysteries. Sunflowers in Kansas can be regarded as a cash crop, a highlight of the flower garden, or one of the most colorful weeds along the roadways.  In any case, they’re a welcome sight. 

travelok.com

This spring is looking to be a dry one in Western Oklahoma, reports NewsOK.com. That’s bad news for ag producers in areas like Roger Mills County. Last spring, Roger Mills saw more rain in a few months than it often does in an entire year. But, unfortunately, the county hasn’t gotten much moisture since.

Migratory Bird Treaty (MBT) Centennial

Mar 22, 2016

Bird and habitat conservation organizations in 2016 will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first international treaty to extend protections to migratory birds.

colorado.com

After a year in Colorado with abundant rains, abnormally dry conditions have been creeping across southeast Colorado over the past several weeks, according to The Denver Post. Last July, Colorado was nearly devoid of any dehydration.

Phil Zimmerman

In last week’s column we visited about my recent five-day fishing trip with Cree River Lodge to the remote waters of northern Saskatchewan. This week, I’d like to recreate a typical day up there, if there is such a thing as “typical” in the most awesome part of the world.

Luke Clayton

On this week's show, I'm making chicken fried wild pork cutlets for a couple buddies coming over.  Take a listen, and give it try!

Jo-Anne McArthur / National Geographic

Every year rattlesnakes are taken from the wild on the High Plains and slaughtered in what are known as “rattlesnake roundups.” These events are promoted as fun for the whole family.

Texas Bluebonnets

Mar 15, 2016

Bluebonnets don’t bloom very long, but when they do they are the highlight of a trip to Texas.  We’ll look at ways to try and ‘grow your own’, giving them  lots of sun and not much water. But the best way to experience bluebonnets is to travel down to Central Texas in March and April and take in the native wildflowers as they carpet the roadways.

Kansas Geological Survey / Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

It has become known as the miracle May.

The spring was dry. Farmers were thinking it could be another drought disaster year. And then May came. The skies opened and anywhere between 6 and 12 inches fell in many areas of the state.

Landowner Restores Playa in New Mexico

Mar 15, 2016
USDA / NRCS

Today a playa-rehab success story. Eastern New Mexico rancher John Wood owns a 2,800-acre cow-calf operation about 40 miles north of Clovis. The land has a a 250-acre playa that was rehabbed with the help of The Nature Conservancy.

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