Highlights and lowlights from Western state legislatures

Jun 28, 2024

Over the past five months, state legislatures in Western states have been engaged in a dizzying flurry of legislative activity, considering bills on land conservation, energy development, water conservation, and other related topics. In a new blog post, Center for Western Priorities Policy Director Rachael Hamby provides a highlight reel of state-level policy advances and setbacks from the 2024 legislative sessions.

Approaches to state-level land conservation policy vary widely. Colorado continued to show leadership on oil and gas regulation, wildlife habitat protection, and water conservation. Utah desperately tried to prop up fossil fuels while competing with Arizona to pass the most anti-federal government messaging bills. Most of New Mexico’s pro-conservation bills died in the extremely short budget session. Idaho and Wyoming managed to steer clear of the most damaging ideas, ending their sessions with mixed bags of policy outcomes for conservation.

Western states are likely to continue to respond to policy shifts and funding opportunities at the federal level, and the outcome of the upcoming election in November 2024 will only magnify those responses. The resurgence of anti-federal government extremist ideas, led by Arizona and Utah, may build and spread to other states as legislators dig through each others’ recycling bins to find anti-conservation bill ideas. But as Colorado has shown, another path is possible—one in which state policymakers align with voters in their states, who consistently express support for public lands and conservation, and demonstrate that state-level policy leadership can drive meaningful conservation outcomes in the West. Read the full 2024 Western states legislative wrap-up on CWP’s Westwise blog.

Happy Independence Day!

Look West will be taking next week off to celebrate the Fourth of July, and will be back in your inbox on Monday, July 8th.

Quick hits

U.S. moves to protect 28 million acres in Alaska from drilling, mining

New York Times | Washington Post | E&E News

Most Colorado oil and gas wells do not generate enough cash to ensure they will be cleaned up, study says

Colorado Sun

Investigation still in progress one year after railcars spilled molten asphalt into Yellowstone River

Montana Free Press

Former BLM chief has a plan for housing: Sell off public lands

E&E News

Law limiting new oil wells in California set to take effect after industry withdraws referendum

Associated Press | Los Angeles Times

Study finds small streams, recently stripped of protections, are a big deal

New York Times

As Colorado moose thrive, clashes with people rise

The Guardian

Appreciating unique landscapes in Arizona, Idaho, and Montana

Arizona Highways | Idaho Capital Sun | Flathead Beacon

Quote of the day

Only wealthy real estate developers and mining and oil and gas industries would benefit from the radical idea of selling off land that belongs to the American people.”

—Tony Carrk, Accountable.us, E&E News

Picture This

@mypubliclands

Our public lands are as diverse as the people who visit them.

These are places where everyone can feel welcome, enjoy nature, and feel safe and supported in the outdoors.

Together, we can build an inclusive outdoors where everyone has a voice, a role, and a sense of belonging on our shared lands. 🌈

@usinterior

📷 BLM photos
Red: Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area
Orange: A joshua tree silhouetted against the sunset
Yellow: A yellow wildflower
Green: A green lizard sunning itself on a leaf
Blue: Blue sky over the Bonneville Salt Flats
Indigo: A steller’s jay perches on a branch
Violet: Purple lupine

 

Feature image: Little Jacks Creek Wilderness in Idaho, Bureau of Land Management