Best of the West: Drought settles into Four Corners; National Parks traffic jam; wind energy booming in Wyoming

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The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 21, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Image: United States Drought Monitor

Drought has crept into swaths of the Southwest, with the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico experiencing “exceptional drought,” according to U.S. Drought Monitor. In Texas, some ranchers are faced with the difficult decision to sell their cattle when there isn’t enough grass to graze

“We’ve been on this pattern where conditions have dried out, we haven’t seen much relief through last summer or into the winter months and here we are going into the summer of 2018 with over two-thirds of the region already in drought,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska.

The impact of drought on crops, rangeland and groundwater is cause for concern across the West. The lack of moisture has resulted in stressed plant systems and lower yields and is even being compared to the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930s

Parks at their Limit? Outdoor recreation spending and visitation to national parks has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 331 million visits in 2017. The increase in traffic can create headaches, where many roads in popular parks such as Yellowstone are already at capacity. This Memorial Day Weekend, consider beating the crowd at one of these destinations off the beaten path, such as Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado.

Roadblock: A large mudslide shut down a major highway at the Nevada-California state line southeast of Lake Tahoe this week. No one was hurt in the slide triggered by heavy rain, although drivers were rerouted and some visitors to a nearby casino were evacuated. See photos of the cleanup.

Wind Boosts Wyoming: Wind energy is diversifying the income of some Wyoming farmers and ranchers that have installed turbines on their land. Use of the technology continues to climb and is expected to triple over the next five to seven years in the Cowboy State, but not without its controversy. Read more about the wind energy boom.

New Tool Could Help Native Trout: Laser technology developed by Montana State University researchers could help Yellowstone National Park managers combat an invasive fish contributing to the decline of native trout. Sending pulses of harmless, nonvisible light, the lasers can locate spawning groups of the invasive trout and help park managers determine where to target their capture efforts.

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