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March for Science in Reno, Nev. on March 4, 2017. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

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On Wednesday, the Reno City Council unanimously signed off on a comprehensive 165-page plan outlining steps toward making the city more resistant to climate change. It was a significant step that came together with input from a broad section of community groups, urban planners and environmentalists. The report sets concrete goals in areas from food security to emissions. 

And it is a response to the threat that cities face from warming temperatures and changes in precipitation. Over the last half-century, Reno’s average annual temperature has increased nearly seven degrees. The report expects climate change to worsen wildfires and affect the snowpack, the primary source of the region’s drinking water. Those changing dynamics will likely have implications for air pollution, public health, water supplies and everyday livability. 

As a result, the report looks at mitigation and adaptation — emission reductions and climate resilience. The plan, supported by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, also got buy-in from a business community that sees an opportunity in clean energy jobs and a world that is increasingly looking for how governments are responding to climate change. The report notes that Moody’s now considers a municipality’s resilience to climate when assigning credit ratings. 

The full plan is online, but there are a couple of items worth highlighting. 

The report said the listed goals, taken together, look to progressively reduce emissions in three steps (28 percent by 2025, 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050). If that seems out-of-reach, it is worth noting that emissions for the city dropped an estimated 13.6 percent between 2008 and 2014 as the state has transitioned off of coal and worked to boost renewables. According to a greenhouse gas inventory in the report, energy remains the largest source of emissions, followed by the transportation sector.

In addition to pushing for a fuller transition to clean energy, the report identifies ways to tackle transportation pollution by reducing city fleet emissions, encouraging electric vehicles, and placing an emphasis more walkable neighborhoods. But the report goes beyond carbon emissions, looking at other areas to improve sustainability, such as reducing solid waste and watershed restoration.

A big reason climate change is felt worse by cities is because heat is often trapped in concrete and developed areas, creating what is known as an urban heat island. The report identifies increasing tree cover as a way to reduce that effect, reaching 10 percent canopy cover by 2036.

Since the global food system is a contributor to climate pollution, the plan seeks to improve food security and the local supply chain. This section contained one of the most striking statistics in the whole report: “Statewide, 1 in 8 people and 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger.” The report says food security is increasing in Washoe County, but it stresses that more work is needed.

After two years, the plan is done. Now the challenge will be to implement it. 

Here are some other stories I’m watching…

Rethinking Panaca: As of the second anniversary of the Panaca bombing last year, the motivations behind two powerful explosions that rattled the rural town continued to elude the sheriff and residents. It seemed that most people had moved on. The bombing never got much coverage outside of Nevada. The only casualty was the attacker Glenn Franklin Jones. It was in a small town.

That is where the new season of Bundyville picks up, but the podcast finds there was a lot more to the suicide bombing. Lurking underneath the surface was anti-government extremism. Through a records request, reporter Leah Sottile was able to piece together evidence showing that the bomber was influenced by Robert LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher who was shot by law enforcement during the Malheur standoff and was quickly turned into a martyr for the Patriot movement. Sifting through the pages of his journals, Sottile reported that Jones had invoked Finicum’s name over and over, as well as referencing Waco and Ruby Ridge. His writings also appeared to reveal that his initial aim was to raze a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office.

“What I found was much more than a workplace grievance,” she said in an interview. 

For the podcast, Sottile interviewed the Lincoln County sheriff who speculated that Jones, once a quiet resident of Panaca who was living in Kingman, Arizona at the time of the bombing, had been radicalized. 

It left the sheriff asking the question: “Where did this come from?”

There is a lot more to unpack, and I will in future stories. But I asked Sottile what to make of all this. Is this just a fringe movement? She said there is a tendency to look at anti-government extremist activities across the West and think: “Stop talking about the Bundys. Stop talking about these fringe people.” But, she added, “The bottom line is this is not an ideology that is going away.” 

The entire series is a tremendous piece of journalism about the American West and the federal government, reported with as much nuance and thought as the first season on Bundy Ranch. I can’t recommend it enough.

To the lowest bidder: On Tuesday, the BLM held a competitive auction for oil leases across 200 parcels spanning 389,334 acres in multiple counties. When the results came in, the BLM received bids on 15 parcels, according to its online sale results. Eleven of these parcels were sold at the minimum bid of $2 per acre, without competing offers. The new sale results line up with the trend I reported about earlier in the week. In other states, the BLM sells most of the acreage that if offers for oil and gas leasing. But in Nevada, it sells a fraction of what it offers — often at a bargain — and an even smaller fraction is ever developed. As one oil lease-holder said in my story: “Nevada has been a magnet for people with some really wild ideas.”

Jackpot bikepacking: An Idaho newspaper looks at the sport of bikepacking, which is exactly what it sounds like and is happening near Jackpot. I read it and want to go bikepacking now. 

Power in numbers: Utah activists are asking the state’s governor to push back against nuclear waste shipments, arguing that residents could be endangered if they live near freeways. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the move comes as New Mexico’s governor said she opposed storing spent nuclear fuel in her state, even on a temporary basis. “Clearly, it is critical that first responders in Utah be aware in advance of these shipments,” the Utah groups write in a letter. 

The BLM’s new leader: Ex-BLM officials and conservation groups are concerned that the new acting director of the agency, William Perry Pendley, could further open federal public land to industry, Bloomberg reports. In the past, Pendley has supported the transfer of federal land, although the agency said this week that it “adamantly opposes the idea.” A conservative attorney and a former president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, Pendley also represented Patch of Heaven, the Christian retreat in Nevada’s Amargosa Valley. The camp has been locked in a water rights dispute with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involving endangered species 

Wildfire risks:  A new project allows you to assess wildfire risk in states and small communities across the West. It allows users to plug in different towns to a database that looks at fire risk. The Arizona Republic article that goes along with it references Elko directly. It has the state’s third-highest wildfire hazard score. The newspaper did an impressive job. It’s worth reading.

Clips from the news:

  • Grasshoppers might spit on you, but they’re harmless. (KNPR)
  • Groups ask the BLM to analyze climate change in Nevada well permit (Press Release)
  • Las Vegas-area hiking comfortable under cover of darkness (Review-Journal)
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