Best of the West: Western states take on opioid crisis; drought’s impact on cattle; Alaska revives native language in schools

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 23, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

The opioid crisis has reached every corner of the country, and western states are feeling the impact and taking steps to address the issue.

A recent study from a U.S. Senate committee found opioid-overdose deaths have cost the state of Washington $34 billion in four years. The study was released to highlight proposed federal legislation that would support prevention, treatment and response. 

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval received an update from the state’s opioid task force working to build awareness about opioids, share information with other agencies through a new website, and better dispose of unused and out-of-date prescriptions. 

In Wyoming, overdose death rates are rising at the same rate as the national average, so highway patrol troopers are now carrying a drug that can help save overdose victims.

Western Governors will take on the issue during the WGA 2018 Annual Meeting (June 25-27) at a roundtable panel examining how western states are battling the epidemic. Register here.

Drought, Wildfires Testing the West: The impact of drought and wildfires on cattle has been devastating for farmers and ranchers. A shortage of hay in Colorado, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma has ranchers scrambling for feed, and in Oklahoma, an estimated 1,100 head of cattle have been lost in wildfires this year.  

Thirsty Trees: Forest thinning caused by wildfires during the past three decades in California is responsible for saving billions of gallons of water, according to research published in the journal Ecohydrology. Since trees use lots of water to carry out basic biological tasks, reducing their number allows more rainfall to flow into rivers and accumulate as groundwater. Learn more about the study.

Yup’ik Uptick: Alaska will offer immersion programs in the Alaska Native language Yup’ik in the state’s largest district this fall. Less than 50 years ago, policies required teachers to punish students for speaking their native language. Read about how native speakers are passing their skills to the next generation.

Mussel-Free Zone: The Mussel-Free Colorado Act was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper to provide stable funding for the state’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Program. Funding will be used for inspecting and decontaminating boats, as well as other efforts to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Read the latest outreach from Western Governors to the Department of Interior urging action on invasive mussels.

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