Best of the West: Rising water in Montana and Washington; drone deliveries take off; safer corridor crossings for wildlife

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 14, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Image: Montana Public Radio

Rising temperatures and melting snowpack have led to flooding in Washington and Montana, forcing evacuations and emergency declarations.

In northeast and central Washington, residents are bracing for flooding expected to peak over the weekend. Crews filled thousands of sandbags after Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency late last week. “Continued higher temperatures are predicted to increase snow melt and cause additional flooding as rivers and streams continue to rise to record or near record levels,” said Gov. Inslee. See photos.

Floodwaters are at historic levels in western Montana, especially in Missoula. The state has been experiencing rising waters for weeks, and Gov. Steve Bullock declared a statewide flood emergency on May 2. “There’s still a lot of snow up there, so it’s likely this is not the last crest we’ll see,” said Marty Whitmore with the National Weather Service.

Drones Take Off: The Department of Transportation announced that 10 sites, six of which are in the West, have been selected to participate in a drone delivery pilot program. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks and San Diego, California made the list, see the others here. Also, the Interior Department plans to launch a drone program to aid in wildfire fighting operations.

Safe Passage: Creative solutions to the problem of wildlife and vehicle collisions are reducing accidents in Wyoming and California. Scientists discovered that covering reflectors with canvas material encourages deer to slow down before crossing, and construction of wildlife crossing bridges will protect mountain lions and potentially strengthen genetic diversity.

Plant Poaching: A booming black market for succulent plants is fueling theft in California. Now the state is cracking down on smugglers who dig up the popular plants and ship them to Asia, where they can fetch $50 apiece. In Arizona, Saguaro National Park has gone so far as to embed microchips into the large cacti to deter thieves.

Kilauea Volcano Update: An eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Thursday, May 17 sent a cloud of ash 30,000 into the air, and has forced some schools to close due to air quality concerns. Read our blog for additional information on the volcanic activity. 

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