Best of the West: Colorado implements wildfire solutions; Montana median income rising; agencies partner to prevent invasive mussels spread

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Sept. 24, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

Longer wildfire seasons and record-breaking destructive blazes are forcing many western residents to remain alert year-round. In Montana, one in eight homes built in the last 26 years in the western part of the state are in areas with high wildfire hazard.

"We're getting surprised not just by the time of a fire in terms of the time of year, but also fires going into areas that you wouldn't traditionally even think were wildfire prone," says Tom Cova, a wildfire evacuations expert and director of the University of Utah's Center for Natural and Technological Hazards.

One way to limit the impact of wildfire on at-risk communities is clear-cutting trees to create what are known as fire breaks. In Colorado, fire breaks have received resistance from homeowners pushing to preserve trees around their property, but lessons learned from the 1996 Buffalo Creek fire are encouraging more people to adopt the preemptive practice.

Fighting Mussels with Muscle: Multiple Montana agencies are partnering to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive mussels in the Flathead Valley via an emergency response plan. A three-day training was held to practice rapid-response to a worse-case scenario. Watch the WGA Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative Lake Tahoe workshop sessions focused on the impacts that nuisance species, pests and pathogens have on ecosystems, forests, rangelands, watersheds and infrastructure in the West.

Income Increase: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in Montana grew at the fastest rate in the nation in 2017. Median household income rose at 4.7% in the Treasure State last year, compared to 1.8% nationally.

New Wind Energy Projects in Wyoming: Two large wind energy projects proposed in Wyoming would generate 780 megawatts of electricity. Construction is expected to begin in 2020 in the south central part of the state. Learn how wind turbines work.

Tall Tale: A fossil of the oldest flowering tree in North America has been discovered in Utah. The record-breaking petrified log is six feet wide and 36 feet long, and probably stood about 170 feet tall when it was alive. According to paleobotanist Nan Crystal Arens, the discovery is “put-your-hands-on-it proof that those big trees were there.”

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