Best of the West: Largest active wildfire in Montana, noise pollution’s impact on wilderness, states combine forces to fight invasive mussels

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting July 24, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Despite a wet and snowy winter for much of the West, wildfires are sweeping the region resulting in significant damage.

In Montana, the Lodgepole Complex fire is the largest active wildfire currently burning in the U.S., and has scorched more than 270,000 acres. Firefighting crews from 34 states were deployed to battle the blaze, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a state of emergency order this week.

A dry lightning storm sparked 17 fires on Monday night in Wyoming. Although most have been contained, the danger isn’t over. Wyoming state forester Bill Crapser said, “we are just getting into what our traditional heavy fire season is, and it is continuing to dry out.”

And in California, destruction from the recent wildfire near Yosemite can be seen from space.

Dry conditions: Drought is taking a toll on farmers and ranchers in North Dakota and South Dakota, with some residents reporting the worst conditions in decades.  Gov. Doug Burgum declared a drought disaster in North Dakota, saying “these extreme drought conditions represent a serious economic hardship for our farmers, ranchers and the entire state, while also putting firefighters under considerable stress."

Power Up: Western utilities providers may join forces to provide services across the region, potentially lowering costs for individual households. The informal alliance of utilities, known as the Mountain West Transmission Group, is expected to apply to join the organization that handles the power grid in part or whole of 14 western states. Learn how much the average household could save annually.

Colorado State University researchers are studying human-caused “noise pollution” from highways, aircraft and industrial sources for its impact on animals and people. Millions of hours of acoustic recordings were collected from 492 sites across the country, and indicate that protected wildness areas, many of which are in western states, experience lower levels of noise pollution. View a map of ambient sound levels.

Invasive Species Eviction: Nebraska and South Dakota are collaborating to fight a common foe: invasive zebra mussels. Agencies in both states are partnering on educational campaigns and decontamination stations to prevent the spread of zebra mussels across borders. Read how joint enforcement of stricter laws and guidelines has helped slow the spread of the invasive species in the region.

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