HPPR Environment

Awareness:
geography
geology
hydrology (water, aquifers, rivers)
flora
fauna (wildlife)
climate
weather
ecosystems
climate change

Management & conservation
water conservation
soil conservation
wildlife protection
policies & regulations

Four large wildfires have broken out in Central Texas in just about a week. It’s part of a bad year for Texas fires, and climate researchers say the uptick in fires bears the fingerprints of climate change.

United States Drought Monitor

July rains brought most of western Kansas out of drought conditions. However, Colorado and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are still struggling with drought.

Strong rains in Garden City last weekend brought July’s total rainfall to 9.1 inches, making it the city’s second-wettest July on record. 

Mike Umscheid a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said Garden City has gotten three more inches of rain this year than its average. In contrast, Amarillo has gotten less than half its average.

Luke Clayton

Pork loin is one of the tastiest of cuts and Luke likes to slice the loin lengthwise and season it with cream cheese, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and then wrap it in bacon. Then the loin is exposed to some heavy hickory or plum wood smoke and 225 degrees in Luke's Smokin’ Tex electric Smoker www.smokinTex.com.

In about 4 hours, the loin will be cooked through and through.

Luke prefers allowing the loin to "rest" about 15 minutes and then he cuts the loin crosswise into "wheels" about one-inch thick.

Serve with some long grain/wild rice and a good toss salad. 

Our Turn At This Earth: A Soil Health Tour

Jul 26, 2018
Julene Bair

Gabe threw a drain spade into the bed of his pickup and invited me to hop in the passenger seat. I’d arrived at his North Dakota farm earlier that morning and was getting a crash course in the art and science of regenerative agriculture from one of its foremost practitioners. 

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, I’ll introduce you to a pair of donkeys who have captured my heart and brightened my commute along Highway 83 in southwest Kansas. The donkeys share a 15-acre pasture at the intersection of US Route 50, while providing a welcome bright spot where the fabled loneliest road meets the highway to nowhere.

Public Domain via Maxpixel

The arid climate of the American West appears to be marching eastward, according to climate experts.

As StateImpact reports, the phenomenon is partly due to rising temperatures, and also due to declining levels of winter precipitation.

The result? The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and Western Kansas are starting to look more and more like New Mexico and Colorado.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: You won't be able to see this Friday's epic lunar eclipse in person if you live in North America (aside from a very small portion of eastern Canada and parts of the eastern Caribbean).

But here's the good news: if you are almost anywhere else, you'll probably be able to see at least a portion of the event.

Prime viewing is in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East, eastern Europe and south Asia, based on a NASA map.

Wild Horses Being Impacted By Extreme Drought

Jul 24, 2018
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management

Harsh drought conditions in parts of Colorado and other states are pushing wild horses to the brink and spurring extreme measures to protect them.

As The Denver Post reports, water and food is being hauled to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona to aid wild horses in remote grazing areas where drought has caused dried up springs and vanishing vegetation.

From Texas Standard:

In the 1920s, archaeologists dug up a trove of ancient artifacts near Clovis, New Mexico. What humans had known about their past was changed forever. These artifacts were the oldest man-made objects found on the Western Hemisphere, and the discovery led to a theory that the first humans to set foot in the Americas did so around about 13,000 years ago, and that they made and used tools like the ones found near Clovis.

Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency this month has many in the renewable fuel industry hoping that federal agencies will get on the same page.

That’s because for the last few years, the EPA and the Department of Energy have been at odds, with taxpayer money creating a new biofuel industry that may not have the room to grow outside the lab.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

Southwest, north-central and south-central Kansas is under a high-risk warning for West Nile virus.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, portions of northwest, northeast and southeast Kansas are under a moderate-risk warning for the virus. That is based on historical data involving previous cases.

Public Domain via PXhere

The High Plains just finished a scorching week of high temperatures, with the heat setting records in many places. We’re seeing a bit of relief now, but don’t get used to it.

The National Weather Service isn’t ruling out more 100-degree days later in the summer on the south plains, and things will only worsen as global warming continues to take its toll.

With a heat wave sweeping the state, Texans' demand for power broke records two days in a row this week, prompting the state’s electric grid operator — which predicted the scenario months ago — to offer assurances that the electric sector “is doing what they can to keep the power on for consumers.”

You’ve probably noticed it’s been a hazy summer in Austin. And you may have heard that's because of massive clouds of dust blown across the ocean from Africa. That fact alone inspires awe.

But it turns out there is much more to these dust clouds than the distance they travel.

Luke Clayton

Sometimes it’s tough for older outdoor folks to not too adept to newer technology. Some of us have been kicking around the outdoors so long that we have abandoned tried and true products of past years for items we “thought” were advanced and more useful, only to find the older products really better served our purposes all along.

Public Domain via Pixabay

The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles will be experiencing sizzling sunshine and scorching hot temperatures this week, along with hazy skies. The reason? The deserts of Africa appear to be sending their dust in our direction.

According to USA Today, this week's hot haze is due to heavy winds in the Sahara Desert sending dust across an ocean, which is now settling across parts of Texas and the High Plains, and into eastern New Mexico.

Luke Clayton

TIME TO BEGIN PREPPING FOR BOW SEASON   

It’s amazing just how quickly seasons and, to an old hunter, HUNTING seasons, roll around. Whitetail archery season is less than three months away and now is the time to make sure all your equipment is in top-notch working order and that you can place that arrow where it needs to be when the moment of truth comes and that bruiser buck is within bow range. 

brownsranch.us

I love the wide-open, top-of-the-world feeling I get whenever I’m on the Great Plains. Last month, I was able to relish that feeling once again. After flying into Bismarck, North Dakota, I drove out to Gabe Brown’s 5,000-acre ranch and farm.

Gabe showed me to a chair on the porch of a one-room cabin he’d built for meetings with visitors. A prominent leader in the Soil Health movement, he told me that a group or an individual comes by almost every day to learn about his regenerative farming and grazing techniques.

“So tell me what you’re interested in,” he said.

I told him that until my family sold our western Kansas irrigated farm in 2006, we had done our part in depleting the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest source of groundwater in this country. That farm and others like it were continuing to drain the aquifer, which seemed wrong to me. For a long time, I’d been looking for some positive news to share about how the aquifer could be saved.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I thought I'd plant a seed of history about a favorite feat of flair from a former First Lady. I'm talking about the Highway Beautification Act, passed in 1965, which was a visionary project of Lady Bird Johnson. 

Public Domain via Maxpixel

If you grew up on the High Plains, you might have wondered in recent years where all the horny toads have gone.

The horned lizard is the state reptile of Texas, and for decades horned toads were a favorite plaything of High Plains kids. But these days, notes Texas Monthly, horny toads aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were.

From Texas Standard:

NASA says droughts are becoming more common, and will continue to be. If that's true, more lawsuits could follow. In the U.S., states are taking each other to court over what constitutes fair use of rivers and tributaries. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in Florida v. Georgia, settling  a long-running dispute over three river systems shared among Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The decision could have significant implications for Texas' water disputes with its neighbors.

Luke Clayton

As my fishing buddy Phil Zimmerman and I rounded the point and entered a small secluded cove on Iskwatikan Lake in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, we were both thinking BIG PIKE. Shallow shoreline water with standing vegetation dropping quickly into deeper water; this area had everything a big northern pike could want.

How High Plains States Could Be Impacted By China Tariffs

Jul 6, 2018
CC0 Creative Commons

The United States’ trade war with China could have long-lasting effects beyond the current growing season.

Today, China put tariffs on $34 billion worth of American imports in response to American tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Chinese, Canadian and Mexican tariffs will impact exports in High Plains states to varying degrees.

Creative Commons

With wildfires continuing to burn in Colorado, two laws are going into effect aimed at fighting and preventing them in the future. 

As The Denver Post reports, the penalties for leaving a campfire unattended or not fully extinguished in grasslands or a forest just became tougher under a new state law that went into effect Sunday. 

Under that law, violators will be hit with a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $750, six months in jail or both.

Our Turn At This Earth: Soil Health Movement

Jul 5, 2018
USDA National Resource Conservation Services

I had read something about a Montana farmer who was using sweet clover as a cover crop in his wheat. The details are long lost to me. He may have been inter-seeding the clover with the wheat, or establishing it over a season or two, then turning it under before he planted his cash crop. Whatever his method, the clover, being a legume, fixed nitrogen in the soil.

CC0 Creative Commons

The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma of magnitude 4.0 or higher is up significantly for the year 2018. However, the overall frequency of quakes is still on the decline.

As The Tulsa World reports, through the end of June this year, the Sooner State saw almost 100 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher. But that’s down from almost 150 during the same period last year.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll share a burst of color for your post-Fourth of July blues. I'll spend some time on an elegant flower I've enjoyed for years in my own garden, and it's also a big hit with the pollenators.

I'm talking about bee balm, which is indeed medicinal! Native Americans dried the tender leaves to brew herbal tea, and that practice also influenced early settlers who were dependent on black tea from England—and they found  it to be quite revolutionary (literally)!

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

Solar energy advocates protested Westar Energy’s latest rate proposal Thursday and are lobbying state regulators to deny it.

The proposal would create a separate billing class for people who install solar panels on their homes. The change could effectively increase a typical solar user’s bill by as much as 50 percent.

There’s a long-forbidden crop on the verge of legalization, one that’s versatile and could open up new markets for farmers: hemp.

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