Best of the West: Record wildfire spending, Montana’s solar boom, ancient art and best places to live

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting September 18, 2017, that you don't want to miss. Photo: Montana Public Radio

Wildfire season is winding down in western states, but costs to fight fires continue to add up. The U.S. Forest Service has spent a record $2 billion fighting wildfires this year, and Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon are feeling the economic impacts.  

Fires are impacting air quality and tourism in Montana, which has spent $378 million in state and federal funds battling blazes this year, making it the costliest on record for the state and renewing the issue of “fire borrowing”.

Wet weather aided firefighters in Idaho, where more than 500,000 acres were scorched. “I am not going to say that it’s over, but we’re getting toward the end of the season and it’s looking good” said Idaho State Forester David Groeschl. “I think everybody is breathing a little easier now with the moisture.”

Washington and Oregon have reduced the number of National Guardsmen on fire duty within their borders, but are already modifying tourism plans in response to the increasing overlap of wildfires and people. 

High Energy: Wind energy is on the rise in rural Wyoming, where new turbines are giving a boost to farmers and ranchers. In Montana, solar energy has quadrupled over the past year, and one Bozeman company is betting big on a new piece of solar technology for homes.

West is Best: Western states are often recognized for their healthy economies, affordability and quality of life. A new ranking by MONEY identified the 100 Best Places to Live in America, and it’s no surprise that ten of the top 20 are in the region. Men’s Health recently compiled a list of the country’s “sportiest cities”, which includes Anchorage, Alaska, among others in the West.   

Ancient Art: Slabs of native petroglyphs have a new home in Laramie, Wyoming. Stone blocks with carvings dating back hundreds of years had been sitting in a Cody museum storage facility for decades, and will soon be photographed and reassembled in 3-D for further examination.

On the Move: A University of Wyoming graduate spent ten years photographing animals migrating through Yellowstone National Park for a new book. Using remote cameras, the National Geographic Photography Fellow captured animals exhibiting normal migration behavior, rather than disrupting their natural patterns. See a selection of the photos.

Harvey and Irma Relief: For information on how you can support victims of recent natural disasters, visit this edition of Best of the West.  

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