Best of the West: Wildfires continue, Wyoming’s solar eclipse revenue bump, new drought measurement tool

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting December 11, 2017, that you don't want to miss. Photo: Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

The total solar eclipse that swept the West in August provided a huge economic boost to Wyoming, according to an economic impact study by the state’s tourism office. An estimated 261,100 people traveled to Wyoming to experience the event in the path of totality, spending $63.5 million over a five-day period. Some 75% of travelers were from outside the state, including many from neighboring Colorado.

“There were impacts in every single one of our counties across the state” said Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “That’s phenomenal when you have all of this new money being pumped into the economy.” Read a WGA roundup of the eclipse.

Historic wildfires continue: More than a week after the fourth-largest wildfire in state history began in southern California, firefighters continue to battle the blazes that have scorched more than 242,500 acres and has wiped out a portion of the state’s lemon and avocado harvests. In South Dakota, a wildfire burning in Custer State Park now covers more than 70 square miles, and is only 10% contained.    

Timber Transition: A report by Montana-based Headwaters Economics examines the decline of the timber industry in the West, and how counties have weathered the transition. Counties that fared best leveraged natural amenities, took an active and collaborative approach to planning, embraced adaptability, and took advantage of access to metropolitan markets. Read the success stories.   

Drought Data: Using NASA data, University of California-Irvine researchers have unveiled a new satellite-based drought severity measurement tool. The tool tracks changes in groundwater storage, which is helpful for drought monitoring and effective water management.

Slow Spending: State government spending has slowed, according to a survey released on Thursday. In the West, Alaska, New Mexico and North Dakota passed their third straight budgets with spending cuts due to a decline in energy revenues. Learn more about state spending trends.

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