Best of the West: Wildfire’s cost to a community; fast-growing western cities; invasive plants threaten landscapes  

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 28, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

A report by Headwaters Economics has calculated the staggering financial impact of wildfire on a community with case studies in Colorado, California, Arizona and Montana.

The report measured short-term costs and long-term damages, then estimated the total costs of five selected case studies. Short-term expenses can include suppression and evacuation services, and long-term damages, which can take years to fully manifest, may include landscape rehabilitation, lost business and tax revenues, and impacts to tourism. One example, the 2016 Loma Fire in California, burned 4,474 acres in Santa Clara County and cost $34,504,8080 total, or $2,029,695 per day.

The report also found that in the aftermath of wildfires, local communities bear the brunt of ongoing recovery, but that “elected officials and decisionmakers can take steps now in the planning and design of their communities to prevent devastating wildfire impacts in the future.” Download and read the full report.  

Cheatgrass Conundrum: A report by the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies identifies invasive plants and wildfires as major threats to western landscapes. The report also includes recommendations such as preventing the spread of fire-prone cheatgrass, restoring sagebrush ecosystems, and having native plant seeds available to restore burned areas.

Drought Continues: Disaster declarations were issued for seven Colorado counties due to drought, allowing qualified farmers to apply for emergency loans. In neighboring New Mexico, and Arizona, officials are closing National Forest areas indefinitely due to increased fire risk from drought. 

Sigh of Relief Follows Flooding: Near-record flooding of the Yellowstone River began to subside this week. The river reached up to 13.38 feet on Memorial Day in Billings, Montana, just shy of the 13.5-foot threshold for minor flood stage. View aerial photos of the high waters.  

Everything is Bigger in Texas: Seven of the top ten fastest growing large cities in the country are in western states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of those, three of the top five are in Texas, where San Antonio is adding more than 60 people per day on average. See if your hometown made the list.

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