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News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Migratory mule deer in Wyoming closely time their movements to track the spring green-up, providing evidence of an underappreciated foraging benefit of migration, according to a new study from a team of researchers led by University of Wyoming and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Biologists have long understood that migration corridors are important for enabling animals to move between winter and summer ranges, but corridors themselves were not actually understood as habitat. However, this new research has documented that these economically and ecologically important game animals are not just moving from low-elevation winter range to high-elevation summer range. Rather, the daily movements of migratory mule deer are closely timed to track spring green-up, known as "surfing the green wave." The new results indicate deer's surfing includes stopping over at various points along the way, prolonging the animals' exposure to high-quality forage along the entire migration route. The findings are reported in a paper released to the public last week. The paper will be published in the June issue of the scientific journal Ecology Letters. "When we looked at the deer movement data and aligned it with the timing of spring green-up at each location, we were amazed," says Matt Kauffman, director of the Wyoming Migration Initiative, UW professor and USGS researcher at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. "These deer have an almost uncanny ability to keep pace with the spring timing of the greening. And that allows them to get the highest quality forage, when plants are first greening up. Their movements fit the predictions of the green wave hypothesis almost perfectly." The researchers gathered movement data from 99 adult female mule deer -- ranging from 2-12 years of age -- which migrate north in spring along the Wyoming Range, a productive mountain range in western Wyoming that is the southern extent of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The deer were fitted with GPS tracking collars that logged their locations every 1-5 hours. For three years, daily movements of deer during the spring migration were matched with dynamic maps (from remote sensing imagery) to determine how closely each deer's movements overlapped with the timing of early spring green-up, when the nutritional value of vegetation peaks. All deer showed evidence of green-wave surfing, and roughly one third of them perfectly matched their movements to the timing of green-up. Little is known about what makes one deer surf well and another surf poorly. The study found that the degree to which mule deer surfed the green wave along their migratory routes was unrelated to their age or body condition. Instead, how well deer surfed depended on the manner in which the spring green-up spread across the landscape. Mule deer surfed better when their migration routes had a longer green-up period, a more rapid rate of green-up, and when the timing of green-up progressed consecutively from winter to summer range. The researchers have dubbed this characterization of the green-up pattern the "greenscape." A route's greenscape was the primary factor determining how well individual deer surfed the green wave. "Viewing migration as a movement strategy driven by these resource waves challenges traditional concepts of migration," says Ellen Aikens, lead author and doctoral researcher in the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. "This research shows that management and future studies must consider how habitat along the migratory corridor influences movement and foraging as mule deer migrate." "The sophisticated analysis used here sets a new standard for work on migration of large herbivores. It is a very impressive coupling of extensive movement data with satellite data," says Atle Mysterud, professor at the University of Oslo. "It allows a new level of detail in separating out the behavioral and the landscape part of green-wave surfing." The study was conducted in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which is charged with managing Wyoming's big game migration corridors. The work is part of ongoing research that seeks to identify and map Wyoming's big-game migrations and understand the influence of development and climate change on this important behavior. It is funded, in part, by the USGS through the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative and the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The research was also supported by several sportsmen's groups in Wyoming and other state and federal agencies in the region. You can follow Wyoming's big-game herds during their spring migration. Check out the Wyoming Migration Initiative's Facebook page for weekly maps and updates.


Lendrum P.E.,Panthera | Elbroch L.M.,Panthera | Quigley H.,Panthera | Thompson D.J.,Wyoming Game and Fish | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Zoology | Year: 2014

Cougars Puma concolor are described as 'habitat generalists', but little is known about which ecological factors drive their home range selection. For example, how do resource distributions and inter-species competition with dominant competitors (i.e. wolves, Canis lupus) over such resources, influence the distributions of cougars on the landscape? We tracked cougars using Very High Frequency (VHF; 2001 to 2005) and GlobalPositioningSystem (GPS; 2006 to 2011) technology in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem (SYE) in northwestern Wyoming, USA. We tested whether data type (VHF vs. GPS), cougar sex, access to forests (refugia) or hunt opportunity explained the size of 50% and 95% kernel density estimator (KDE) home ranges. Second, we quantified attributes of cougar home ranges and tested whether they were different from attributes of the overall study area, to address the ecological question: Do cougars select home ranges based on the availability of refugia, hunt opportunity or some combination of the two? Cougar sex and data type proved significant predictors of home range size for both 95% and 50% KDEs, and the amount of forest partly explained the size of 50% KDEs. Cougar home ranges derived from VHF data were 1.4-1.9 times larger than home ranges derived from GPS data; however, home range attributes determined from VHF and GPS data were remarkably equivalent. Female cougars selected home ranges with higher hunt opportunity than males, supporting the assumption that females primarily select home ranges with suitable prey to sustain themselves and their young. All cougars selected home ranges further from known wolf packs, providing evidence for newly established competition between resident cougars and recolonizing wolves, but did not select home ranges with greater access to landscape refugia. Our results provided evidence that cougars in the SYE select home ranges that provide high hunting opportunity and a spatial buffer that mitigates potential conflicts with a dominant competitor. © 2014 The Zoological Society of London.


Mark Elbroch L.,Panthera | Lendrum P.E.,Panthera | Newby J.,Craighead Beringia South | Quigley H.,Panthera | Thompson D.J.,Wyoming Game and Fish
Zoological Studies | Year: 2015

Background: Niche differentiation may betray current, ongoing competition between two sympatric species or reflect evolutionary responses to historic competition that drove species apart. The best opportunity to test whether ongoing competition contributes to niche differentiation is to test for behavioral shifts by the subordinate competitor in controlled experiments in which the abundance of the dominant competitor is manipulated. Because these circumstances are difficult to coordinate in natural settings for wide-ranging species, researchers seize opportunities presented by species reintroductions. We tested for new competition between reintroduced wolves and resident cougars in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem to assess whether wolves might be impacting the realized niche of sympatric cougars. Results: Between 2002 and 2012, a period during which wolves increased from 15 to as high as 91 in the study area, cougars significantly increased the percentage of deer and decreased the percentage of elk in their diet in summer. Our top models explaining these changes identified elk availability, defined as the number of elk per wolf each year, as the strongest predictor of changing cougar prey selection. Both elk and deer were simultaneously declining in the system, though deer more quickly than elk, and wolf numbers increased exponentially during the same time frame. Therefore, we concluded that prey availability did not explain prey switching and that competition with wolves at least partially explained cougar prey switching from elk to deer. We also recorded 5 marked cougar kittens killed by wolves and 2 more that were killed by an undetermined predator. In addition, between 2005 and 2012, 9 adult cougars and 10 cougar kittens died of starvation, which may also be in part explained by competition with wolves. Conclusions: Direct interspecific predation and shifting cougar prey selection as wolves increased in the system provided evidence for competition between recolonizing wolves and resident cougars. Through competition, recolonizing wolves have impacted the realized niche of resident cougars in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem (SYE), and current resident cougars may now exhibit a realized niche more reflective of an era when these species were previously sympatric in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. © 2015 Elbroch et al.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.businesswire.com

GILLETTE, Wyo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD), one of the largest U.S. coal producers and the only pure-play Powder River Basin (“PRB”) coal company, today announced results for the fourth quarter and the full year 2016. Colin Marshall, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “In an improving environment, we were able to deliver a solid operational and financial performance in the fourth quarter. Our lower operating costs reflect the many cost control and efficiency initiatives we have put in place during the year and the benefit of increased shipments compared to the first half. During the quarter, we also exported coal for the first time in nearly a year and have now contracted 1.9 million tons to be shipped in the first half of 2017. At the same time, we renegotiated our port and rail agreements in late 2016 and early 2017 to significantly reduce our take-or-pay commitments. I am very proud of what was achieved by everyone at Cloud Peak Energy in 2016. It was a very challenging year during which we were able to improve our operations’ efficiency and flexibility while greatly strengthening our financial position and producing our best safety performance ever.” During 2016, of the Company’s approximately 1,200 full-time mine site employees, three suffered reportable injuries resulting in a full-year Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) All Injury Frequency Rate (“AIFR”) of 0.25, a decrease from the full-year 2015 AIFR rate of 0.91 and the lowest in the Company’s history. During 2016, there were 244 MSHA inspector days at the mine sites during which the Company was issued ten significant and substantial citations with assessments totaling $12,282. The Antelope Mine received the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Industry Reclamation Wildlife Stewardship Award and was recognized for its successful efforts to promote population numbers of Golden Eagles and other raptors through habitat enhancement and use of effective protection measures, including rescuing a young eaglet that was later released at the mine following rehabilitation. The Owned and Operated Mines segment comprises the results of mine site sales from the Company’s three mines primarily to its domestic utility customers and also to the Logistics and Related Activities segment. The increase in shipments experienced in the third quarter continued during the fourth quarter as natural gas stayed above $3.00 MMBtu and utilities increased their coal burn to meet winter demand. Many coal plants that were idle last winter, due to warm weather and low natural gas prices, have run consistently since the summer. This is now bringing down historically high utility stockpiles. The Company’s mines made great progress reducing their costs in the face of variable quarterly shipment rates. Revenue from the Owned and Operated Mines segment decreased 14 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the fourth quarter of 2015 due to fewer shipments and lower average realized prices per ton. Cost per ton was $8.96 for the fourth quarter of 2016 and $9.75 for the full year 2016; both were lower than for the equivalent periods in 2015. The cost reduction efforts implemented earlier in the year as well as continued lower diesel prices allowed the Company to reduce full-year unit costs in the face of 22 percent lower total shipments. The Logistics and Related Activities segment comprises the results of the Company’s logistics and transportation services to its domestic and international customers. The Company exported 0.4 million tons to Asian customers during the fourth quarter of 2016. This reflected the start-up of export shipments announced in the third quarter as a result of increased international thermal coal demand and pricing. Adjusted EBITDA includes take-or-pay payments pursuant to the Company’s rail and port agreements. The forward sales hedging program partially mitigated the impact of lower spot prices with a realized net gain of $1.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. There are no additional international coal hedges currently in place. The Company has amended its shipping agreements with Westshore Terminals and BNSF Railway to reduce take-or-pay commitments and shorten the term through 2018, which the parties can extend through 2019. In addition, Westshore has certain priority rights on throughput capacity in respect of any export shipments by Cloud Peak Energy through 2024. The Company has currently contracted 1.9 million tons to export in the first half of 2017 and is planning to export up to approximately 5 million tons during the full year, assuming continued demand and price support. Cash and cash equivalents as of December 31, 2016 were $83.7 million. For the full year, cash balance decreased by only $5.6 million. The cash inflow from operations totaled $48.7 million, while capital expenditures (excluding capitalized interest) used $33.6 million, which includes $7.4 million for the dragline move from the Cordero Rojo Mine to the Antelope Mine, which was completed in June 2016. The Company also used $26.6 million for refinancing activities related to the Credit Agreement amendment and Exchange Offers. At December 31, 2016, there were no borrowings outstanding under the A/R Securitization Program, which had an available borrowing capacity of $24 million. On January 31, 2017, the A/R Securitization Program was amended to extend the term to January 23, 2020, allow for the ability to issue letters of credit, and revise the combined maximum borrowing capacity, subject to terms and conditions, for both cash and letters of credit to $70 million. At December 31, 2016, the available borrowing capacity under the $400 million Credit Agreement was $332 million, which reflects $68 million of outstanding, undrawn letters of credit used as collateral for our reclamation bonds. We ended the year with total available liquidity of $440 million. Throughout 2016 and early 2017, the Company made considerable progress decreasing its obligations. As shown in the following tables, it reduced reclamation self-bonding obligations to $10 million by year end, completed Exchange Offers on its senior notes, and renegotiated the throughput contracts with Westshore and BNSF. Total reclamation bonding exposure was reduced by $167 million or 28 percent during 2016, reflecting the Company’s successful reclamation and updated state requirements. Approval from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was received in January 2017 of the Company’s application to reduce Antelope Mine’s required bond amount by an additional $25 million, which allows for the final $10 million of self-bonding to be removed. The Company’s $403 million in reclamation bonding requirements are now all covered by third-party surety providers. The Company’s Credit Agreement was amended to modify the financial covenants and increase the second-lien issuance capacity to enhance liquidity and enable the completed bond Exchange Offers in 2016. The Company exchanged over 75 percent of its 2019 and 2024 unsecured bonds into newly issued second lien 2021 notes, which reduced the outstanding bond liability by $91 million. The port and rail throughput agreements were amended and shortened to reduce the contractual take-or-pay commitments by $488 million over the remaining term of the agreements: During 2016, we continued to make progress with the potential development of the Big Metal and Youngs Creek non-federal coal deposits as part of the Spring Creek Complex. These deposits are adjacent to the Spring Creek Mine. The Spring Creek Complex has large amounts of high Btu coal that could be developed as one long-life mine using the existing Spring Creek Mine infrastructure. The permit amendment for the haul road to connect the deposits is being reviewed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and is currently expected to be approved this year. Baseline studies for the Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for Big Metal have been completed. The EIS process will start after the exercise of options for the Big Metal coal. Recent marketing efforts have been aimed at expanding the customer base for 9350 Btu Spring Creek coal as a foundation for development of the Spring Creek Complex. To that end, we have scheduled a significant test burn of Spring Creek coal at a major 8800 Btu coal customer plant, which has not previously burned Spring Creek coal. The Company is also in discussions for tests at additional plants that have also not previously burned Spring Creek coal. Shipments for the fourth quarter declined slightly to 5.6 million tons per month, from 5.7 million per month in the third quarter, as customers continued to take their contracted volumes. With natural gas prices around $3.00 MMBtu, many utilities increased their consumption of PRB coal as the economic dispatch of their coal units became more favorable. The latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) shows natural gas inventories have declined by 325 BCF, or 11.3 percent, due to winter heating demand and reduced production, compared to 2015 levels. Energy Ventures Analysis (“EVA”) estimates that PRB coal inventories at utilities closed the year at 86 million tons, a decline of 15 million tons or 15 percent from year-end 2015 levels. The extent to which winter heating demand extends into March and April and levels of summer cooling demand will impact natural gas prices and full-year 2017 coal burn and shipments. While PRB coal prices have increased from the low levels this time last year, they are not expected to increase significantly until utility stockpiles decline further. For 2017, the Company is planning to ship between 55 and 60 million tons and has current commitments to sell 54 million tons. Of this committed production, 53 million tons are under fixed-price contracts with a weighted-average price of $12.22 per ton. The approximately 8 million committed tons for 2017 that the Company priced during the fourth quarter of 2016 were at an average price of $11.55 per ton, in line with the prevailing prices at that time. The Company is currently contracted to sell 27 million tons in 2018. Of this committed production, 25 million tons are under fixed-price contracts with a weighted-average price of $12.55 per ton. Utilities have continued to delay contracting as they seek to maximize their ability to quickly switch burn between coal and natural gas. While this maximizes their flexibility, it could lead to strong price support for coal during periods of increased natural gas prices and electricity demand. “The current outlook for U.S. thermal coal producers is a lot brighter than it was this time last year. We are optimistic that the PRB could see demand growth by 20 to 30 million tons in 2017 compared to 2016 if gas prices remain above $3.00 MMBtu and we have a normal summer,” said Marshall. International thermal coal prices increased significantly during the second half of 2016 as China increased imports to offset declining domestic production levels. Government imposed production limits and years of low prices resulted in Chinese production declining by almost 321 million tonnes or 9 percent last year. Chinese 2016 thermal coal imports, which include Bituminous, Sub-bituminous, and Lignite coal, were up approximately 39 million tonnes or about 30 percent from 2015. Seaborne thermal coal prices rose rapidly in late 2016 as some coal was diverted to metallurgical customers and years of low prices and subsequent low investment reduced Indonesian and Australian producers’ ability to increase supply. Higher international prices allowed the Company to resume export sales and ship 0.4 million tons on three vessels during the fourth quarter of 2016. The Company currently has committed export sales of 1.9 million tons for the first half of 2017 and continues to receive strong interest from Asian customers for its Spring Creek coal and will seek to layer in sales for the remainder of this year as opportunities arise. International coal prices are expected to stabilize around current levels as increased demand from China and other countries is balanced by rising supply. “We experienced improvements in international pricing and domestic shipments during the second half of the year. We remain optimistic that domestic prices will improve as demand recovers from the lows seen in 2016. While 2017 will hold plenty of challenges, the actions we took in 2016 to control our costs and improve our financial position mean we are well placed to successfully manage through the current environment and prosper when it improves,” commented Marshall. The following table provides the current outlook and assumptions for selected 2017 consolidated financial and operational metrics: A conference call with management is scheduled at 5:00 p.m. ET on February 15, 2017 to review the results and current business conditions. The call will be webcast live over the Internet from www.cloudpeakenergy.com under “Investor Relations.” Participants should follow the instructions provided on the website for downloading and installing the audio applications necessary to join the webcast. Interested individuals also can access the live conference call via telephone at (855) 793-3260 (domestic) or (631) 485-4929 (international) and entering pass code 44803778. Following the live webcast, a replay will be available at the same URL on the website for seven days. A telephonic replay will also be available approximately two hours after the call and can be accessed by dialing (855) 859-2056 (domestic) or (404) 537-3406 (international) and entering pass code 44803778. The telephonic replay will be available for seven days. Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD) is headquartered in Wyoming and is one of the largest U.S. coal producers and the only pure-play Powder River Basin coal company. As one of the safest coal producers in the nation, Cloud Peak Energy mines low sulfur, subbituminous coal and provides logistics supply services. The Company owns and operates three surface coal mines in the PRB, the lowest cost major coal producing region in the nation. The Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines are located in Wyoming and the Spring Creek Mine is located in Montana. In 2016, Cloud Peak Energy shipped approximately 59 million tons from its three mines to customers located throughout the U.S. and around the world. Cloud Peak Energy also owns rights to substantial undeveloped coal and complementary surface assets in the Northern PRB, further building the Company’s long-term position to serve Asian export and domestic customers. With approximately 1,300 total employees, the Company is widely recognized for its exemplary performance in its safety and environmental programs. Cloud Peak Energy is a sustainable fuel supplier for approximately three percent of the nation’s electricity. This release and our related quarterly investor presentation contain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward-looking statements are not statements of historical facts and often contain words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “potential,” “seek,” “should,” “will,” “would,” or words of similar meaning. Forward-looking statements may include, for example: (1) our outlook for 2017 and future periods for Cloud Peak Energy, the Powder River Basin (“PRB”) and the industry in general; (2) our operational, financial and shipment guidance, including export shipments; (3) estimated thermal coal demand by domestic and Asian utilities; (4) coal stockpile and natural gas storage levels and the impacts on future demand and pricing; (5) our ability to sell additional tons in 2017 and future periods at improved, economic prices; (6) the impact of ongoing anti-coal regulatory and political developments, NGO activities and global climate change initiatives; (7) potential commercialization of carbon capture technologies for utilities; (8) the impact of competition from other domestic and international coal producers, natural gas supplies and other alternative sources of energy used to generate electricity; (9) the timing and extent of any sustained recovery for depressed coal industry conditions, domestically and internationally; (10) the impact of industry conditions on our financial performance, liquidity and compliance with the financial covenants in our Credit Agreement; (11) our ability to manage our take-or-pay exposure for currently committed port and rail capacity; (12) our future liquidity and access to sources of capital and credit to support our existing operations and growth opportunities, including our ability to renew or replace our credit facility before its early 2019 termination; (13) the impact of our hedging programs; (14) our ability to renew or obtain surety bonds to meet regulatory requirements; (15) our cost management efforts; (16) operational plans for our mines; (17) business development and growth initiatives; (18) our plans to acquire additional coal to maintain and extend our mine lives; (19) our estimates of the quality and quantity of economic coal associated with our development projects, the potential development of our Youngs Creek and other Northern PRB assets, and our potential exercise of options for Crow Tribal coal; (20) potential development of additional export terminal capacity and increased future access to existing or new capacity; (21) industry estimates of the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other third party sources; and (22) other statements regarding our current plans, strategies, expectations, beliefs, assumptions, estimates and prospects concerning our business, operating results, financial condition, industry, economic conditions, government regulations, energy policies and other matters that do not relate strictly to historical facts. These statements are subject to significant risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict and could cause actual results to differ materially and adversely from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. The following factors are among those that may cause actual results to differ materially and adversely from our forward-looking statements: (1) the timing and extent of any sustained recovery in the coal industry, domestically and internationally, and the impact of ongoing or further depressed industry conditions on our financial performance, liquidity and financial covenant compliance; (2) the prices we receive for our coal and logistics services, our ability to effectively execute our forward sales strategy, and changes in utility purchasing patterns resulting in decreased long term purchases of coal; (3) the timing of reductions or increases in customer coal inventories; (4) our ability to obtain new coal sales agreements on favorable terms, to resolve customer requests for reductions or deferrals, and to respond to any cancellations of their committed volumes on terms that preserve the amount and timing of our forecasted economic value; (5) the impact of increasingly variable and less predictable demand for thermal coal based on natural gas prices, summer cooling demand, winter heating demand, economic growth rates and other factors that impact overall demand for electricity; (6) our ability to efficiently and safely conduct our mining operations and to adjust our planned production levels to respond to market conditions and effectively manage the costs of our operations; (7) competition with other producers of coal and with traders and re-sellers of coal, including the current oversupply of thermal coal, the impacts of currency exchange rate fluctuations and the strong U.S. dollar, and government environmental, energy and tax policies and regulations that make foreign coal producers more competitive for international transactions; (8) the impact of coal industry bankruptcies on our competitive position relative to other companies who may emerge from bankruptcy with reduced leverage and potentially reduced operating costs; (9) competition with natural gas, wind, solar and other non-coal energy resources, which may continue to increase as a result of low domestic natural gas prices, the declining cost of renewables, and due to environmental, energy and tax policies, regulations, subsidies and other government actions that encourage or mandate use of alternative energy sources; (10) coal-fired power plant capacity and utilization, including the impact of climate change and other environmental regulations and initiatives, energy policies, political pressures, NGO activities, international treaties or agreements and other factors that may cause domestic and international electric utilities to continue to phase out or close existing coal-fired power plants, reduce or eliminate construction of any new coal-fired power plants, or reduce consumption of coal from the PRB; (11) the failure of economic, commercially available carbon capture technology to be developed and adopted by utilities in a timely manner; (12) the impact of “keep coal in the ground” campaigns and other well-funded, anti-coal initiatives by environmental activist groups and others targeting substantially all aspects of our industry; (13) our ability to offset declining U.S. demand for coal and achieve longer term growth in our business through our logistics revenue and export sales, including the significant impact of Chinese and Indian thermal coal import demand and production levels from other basins on overall seaborne coal prices; (14) railroad, export terminal and other transportation performance, costs and availability, including the availability of sufficient and reliable rail capacity to transport PRB coal, the development of future export terminal capacity and our ability to access capacity on commercially reasonable terms; (15) the impact of our rail and terminal take-or-pay commitments if we do not meet our required export shipment obligations; (16) weather conditions and weather-related damage that impact our mining operations, our customers, or transportation infrastructure; (17) operational, geological, equipment, permit, labor, and other risks inherent in surface coal mining; (18) future development or operating costs for our development projects exceeding our expectations; (19) our ability to successfully acquire coal and appropriate land access rights at economic prices and in a timely manner and our ability to effectively resolve issues with conflicting mineral development that may impact our mine plans; (20) the impact of asset impairment charges if required as a result of challenging industry conditions or other factors; (21) our plans and objectives for future operations and the development of additional coal reserves, including risks associated with acquisitions; (22) the impact of current and future environmental, health, safety, endangered species and other laws, regulations, treaties, executive orders, court decisions or governmental policies, or changes in interpretations thereof and third-party regulatory challenges, including additional requirements, uncertainties, costs, liabilities or restrictions adversely affecting the use, demand or price for coal, our mining operations or the logistics, transportation, or terminal industries; (23) the impact of required regulatory processes and approvals to lease coal and obtain permits for coal mining operations or to transport coal to domestic and foreign customers, including third-party legal challenges to regulatory approvals that are required for some or all of our current or planned mining activities and the recent moratorium on federal coal leasing or other unfavorable regulatory changes to the LBA and coal permitting processes; (24) any increases in rates or changes in regulatory interpretations or assessment methodologies with respect to royalties or severance and production taxes and the potential impact of associated interest and penalties, including the impact of recently finalized federal royalty rule changes for non-arm’s length sales; (25) inaccurately estimating the costs or timing of our reclamation and mine closure obligations and our assumptions underlying reclamation and mine closure obligations; (26) our ability to obtain required surety bonds and provide any associated collateral on commercially reasonable terms; (27) the availability of, disruptions in delivery or increases in pricing from third-party vendors of raw materials, capital equipment and consumables which are necessary for our operations, such as explosives, petroleum-based fuel, tires, steel, and rubber; (28) our assumptions concerning coal reserve estimates; (29) our relationships with, and other conditions affecting, our customers (including our largest customers who account for a significant portion of our total revenue) and other counterparties, including economic conditions and the credit performance and credit risks associated with our customers and other counterparties, such as traders, brokers, and lenders under our Credit Agreement and financial institutions with whom we maintain accounts or enter hedging arrangements; (30) the results of our hedging programs for domestic and international coal sales and diesel fuel costs and changes in the fair value of derivative financial instruments that are not accounted for as hedges; (31) the terms and restrictions of our indebtedness; (32) liquidity constraints, access to capital and credit markets and availability and costs of credit, surety bonds, letters of credit, and insurance, including risks resulting from the cost or unavailability of financing due to debt and equity capital and credit market conditions for the coal sector or in general, changes in our credit rating, our compliance with the covenants in our debt agreements, the increasing credit pressures on our industry due to industry conditions, or any demands for increased collateral by our surety bond providers; (33) volatility in the price of our common stock, including the impact of any delisting of our stock from the New York Stock Exchange if we fail to meet the minimum average closing price listing standard; (34) our liquidity, results of operations, and financial condition generally, including amounts of working capital that are available; (35) litigation and other contingent liabilities; (36) the authority of federal and state regulatory authorities to order any of our mines to be temporarily or permanently closed under certain circumstances; and (37) other risk factors or cautionary language described from time to time in the reports and registration statements we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those in Item 1A - Risk Factors in our most recent Form 10-K and any updates thereto in our Forms 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K. Additional factors, events or uncertainties that may emerge from time to time, or those that we currently deem to be immaterial, could cause our actual results to differ, and it is not possible for us to predict all of them. We make forward-looking statements based on currently available information, and we assume no obligation to, and expressly disclaim any obligation to, update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements made in this release or our related quarterly investor presentation, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. This release and our related presentation include the non-GAAP financial measure of Adjusted EBITDA (on a consolidated basis and for our reporting segments). Adjusted EBITDA is intended to provide additional information only and does not have any standard meaning prescribed by generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America. (“U.S. GAAP”). A quantitative reconciliation of historical net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA is found in the tables accompanying this release. EBITDA represents net income (loss) before: (1) interest income (expense) net, (2) income tax provision, (3) depreciation and depletion, and (4) amortization. Adjusted EBITDA represents EBITDA as further adjusted for accretion, which represents non-cash increases in asset retirement obligation liabilities resulting from the passage of time, and specifically identified items that management believes do not directly reflect our core operations. For the periods presented herein, the specifically identified items are: (1) adjustments to exclude the changes in the Tax Receivable Agreement, (2) adjustments for derivative financial instruments, excluding fair value mark-to-market gains or losses and including cash amounts received or paid, (3) adjustments to exclude non-cash impairment charges, (4) adjustments to exclude debt restructuring costs, and (5) adjustments to exclude the gain from the sale of our 50% non-operating interest in the Decker Mine in September 2014. We enter into certain derivative financial instruments such as put options that require the payment of premiums at contract inception. The reduction in the premium value over time is reflected in the mark-to-market gains or losses. Our calculation of Adjusted EBITDA does not include premiums paid for derivative financial instruments; either at contract inception, as these payments pertain to future settlement periods, or in the period of contract settlement, as the payment occurred in a preceding period. Because of the inherent uncertainty related to the items identified above, management does not believe it is able to provide a meaningful forecast of the comparable GAAP measures or reconciliation to any forecasted GAAP measure. Adjusted EBITDA is an additional tool intended to assist our management in comparing our performance on a consistent basis for purposes of business decision making by removing the impact of certain items that management believes do not directly reflect our core operations. Adjusted EBITDA is a metric intended to assist management in evaluating operating performance, comparing performance across periods, planning and forecasting future business operations and helping determine levels of operating and capital investments. Period-to-period comparisons of Adjusted EBITDA are intended to help our management identify and assess additional trends potentially impacting our company that may not be shown solely by period-to-period comparisons of net income (loss). Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA is also used as part of our incentive compensation program for our executive officers and others. We believe Adjusted EBITDA is also useful to investors, analysts and other external users of our consolidated financial statements in evaluating our operating performance from period to period and comparing our performance to similar operating results of other relevant companies. Adjusted EBITDA allows investors to measure a company’s operating performance without regard to items such as interest expense, taxes, depreciation and depletion, amortization and accretion and other specifically identified items that are not considered to directly reflect our core operations. Our management recognizes that using Adjusted EBITDA as a performance measure has inherent limitations as compared to net income (loss) or other GAAP financial measures, as this non-GAAP measure excludes certain items, including items that are recurring in nature, which may be meaningful to investors. As a result of these exclusions, Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered in isolation and does not purport to be an alternative to net income (loss) or other GAAP financial measures as a measure of our operating performance. Because not all companies use identical calculations, our presentation of Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures of other companies.


News Article | December 14, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Arid land bird populations are in decline around the vicinity of oil and gas wells in Wyoming -- but, not for the reasons you might initially think. While such development has encroached on and hindered nesting habitat for three types of sagebrush-obligate birds, predation of these birds has increased because rodent populations in the vicinity of oil and gas wells have increased, which has, in turn, increased nest predation. Anna Chalfoun, a University of Wyoming associate professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and assistant unit leader of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, and her graduate students have been studying and collecting data about three species -- the Brewer's sparrow, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher -- in Wyoming for seven years. These birds use sagebrush for cover to build their nests on the ground or low to the ground within the sagebrush. The study, which began seven years ago, has taken place at six sites in Jonah Field and six more at the Pinedale Anticline in western Wyoming. "We found the majority of nest predators at the nests are rodents. Rodents are more abundant where there is natural gas development," Chalfoun says. "We tested the hypothesis that rodents were more abundant surrounding gas fields because their main predators (raptors, coyotes and badgers) avoided gas fields, but our data did not support this idea." vLindsey Sanders, a UW master's student in zoology and physiology from Boulder Creek, Calif., conducted work on the above hypothesis, Chalfoun says. Besides mice, these rodents include two species of squirrels -- Uinta ground squirrels and the 13-striped ground squirrel. "We are now continuing to try to figure out why the rodents are in the natural gas development areas where there is (nesting) habitat loss," Chalfoun says. "We are seeing more rodents. We are not sure why they are drawn to those areas. Another hypothesis is that they are receiving food subsidies from the sometimes novel types of plants that establish in the reclaimed areas surrounding well pads and along pipeline scars." Sagebrush songbirds settled areas with more surrounding natural gas development, simultaneously or earlier than areas with less natural gas development. The birds settled there even though nest predation rates were higher. Their nesting period runs from May through late July. "Do songbirds prefer to settle in habitats that are not in gas fields? The answer is 'no,'" Chalfoun says. "Birds come from their wintering grounds just to breed. Songbirds apparently are not able to assess they are going to have higher nest predation there. "We've found that birds select sites with less energy development and lots of energy development at the same time. There's no pattern to settling areas with zero surrounding wells and areas that have tons of wells. As long as there are patches of significant sage, they are there. Yet, the birds are less successful at reproducing in gas well areas, suggesting these areas may be serving as ecological traps." Detection of most rodent species increased with natural gas development. One current hypothesis is that a number of sheds on property where natural gas fields exist have drawn in the rodents, who use the structures for protection, warmth and to build nests for their young. This behavior, in turn, may be attracting more predators of the rodents, Chalfoun says. "In places like the Jonah Field, there are lots of little sheds and structures," she says. "What if this is providing a source of rodents that depredate nests? If the infrastructure is harboring the rodents, do we go and put out traps?" From 2011-16, 93 percent of predation to Brewer's sparrows was caused by rodents. Of 44 predation events captured on infrared video camera, 24 were by deer mice. Chipmunks accounted for 11 nest deaths, while ground squirrels were responsible for six casualties. The loggerhead shrike, a type of bird, was responsible for the other three deaths. During the same time period, 60 percent of predation of 23 sage thrasher nest depredations caught on camera was caused by rodents, including deer mice (eight), chipmunks (eight) and ground squirrels (four). Badgers were responsible for six deaths and magpies two. A raccoon, loggerhead shrike, American kestrel, short-eared owl and northern harrier each accounted for one death. "I get jazzed to know what's going on," she says. "The mice are so aggressive. They sometimes suffocate and take the nestlings out one at a time. We've found the majority of nest predators at the nests are rodents. "We started this because state and federal agencies, such as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Geological Survey, were interested in the effects of habitat change on nongame species of wildlife," she says.v


News Article | March 26, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

A wolf pack killed a total of 19 elk in a suspected "surplus killing" in Wyoming. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has confirmed the tragic incident after it performed its investigation on site. The Details Of The 'Surplus Killing' The remains of the elk were found on Thursday morning at one of the department's feeding areas, near Bondurant, which is a community located at the southeast portion of Jackson. "We went and investigated it and it turned out to be a total of 19 that we found and documented," says regional wildlife supervisor John Lund. He adds that out of the 19 carcasses, 17 were calves and the remaining two were adult cows. Lund explains that a number of wolves arrived during the night and killed the elk. Authorities are stunned by the recent incident because such surplus killing is considered highly rare. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Mike Jimenez says wolves, unlike humans, do not consider killing as a sports activity. In fact, he was part of a team who conducted an eight year research that investigated elk feeding grounds. In general, wolves do not slay something that it would not eat. Lund attests to the rarity of the surplus killing by saying that one or two elf killings per night is quite common and is not really much of a big deal, but seeing 19 carcasses just after one night is fairly uncommon. The good thing about the situation is that authorities know which wolf pack was responsible for the killings. Lund says it is the pack that has been hitting the same feeding ground. As far as the team can tell, it is the so-called Rim Pack, which had about nine wolves. Unfortunately, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department does not have the authority to follow up the surplus killing. This is because only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the jurisdiction to enact on the problem. While the department is responsible for the management and supervision of the feeding grounds, the wolves are outside the scope of their responsibility.


News Article | January 4, 2016
Site: phys.org

The region's grizzlies have federal protections, but that could change in coming months, turning control over to the states. The AP obtained a draft agreement detailing the states' plans for the animals. The deal puts no limits on grizzly bear hunting outside a 19,300-square-mile management zone centered on Yellowstone National Park. Inside the zone, which includes wilderness and forest lands near the park, hunters in Wyoming would get a 58 percent share of the harvest, a reflection that it's home to the bulk of the region's bears. Montana would get 34 percent, and Idaho, 8 percent. The management zone has an estimated 717 grizzly bears. There is no estimate of how many live outside the area, although the number is increasing as they expand into new habitat, biologists say. Wildlife advocates say the bear population remains too small to withstand much hunting. That's a particular concern given the large numbers of bears already dying, including during surprise run-ins with hunters and after livestock attacks that prompt officials to trap and kill problem bears. In 2015, at least 59 Yellowstone-area grizzlies were believed to have been killed or trapped and removed by government agencies. That's the most since the animal received protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Despite the deaths, state officials say the grizzly population has recovered from excessive hunting and trapping that exterminated grizzlies across most of the U.S. in the early 1900s. The officials have increased pressure on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe in recent months to revoke the animal's threatened status. Directors of the three states' wildlife agencies told Ashe in a Dec. 4 letter that such a step was long overdue. "It is critically important that we capitalize on our tremendous progress and momentum ... by proceeding with a long overdue delisting" of bears from the threatened species list, the directors wrote. It was signed by Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener; and Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott. Montana wildlife activist Louisa Wilcox says the states' push for hunting ignores the many bears already dying of other causes. "You're not even hunting them, and you have this ongoing pileup of dead bears," Wilcox said. "Adding a hunt will drive down the population. It's exactly the wrong thing to do." Legal hunting of Yellowstone-area grizzlies last occurred in the 1970s. At least 58 bears were killed in Montana and Idaho in the five years leading up to a prohibition on hunting in 1975. Historical harvest figures for Idaho were not available. Any future hunts would be conservative and need approval from wildlife commissioners following a public comment period, said Quentin Kujala, chief of wildlife management for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The size of each harvest would be on a sliding scale, with the intention of keeping the bear population viable and avoiding the need to reinstate federal protections, Kujala said. More hunting would be possible when the population tops 675 bears, and hunting would be largely barred if the number falls below 600. "We're definitely not talking about a large number. We're not talking hundreds or anywhere near that," Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said. A decision on whether protections should be lifted is due early this year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Barring a successful court challenge, it would take approximately a year for such a rule to go into effect. The pending agreement between the states is not required for federal protections to be lifted, state officials said. Explore further: Grizzly bears still need protecting, US court rules


News Article | November 1, 2015
Site: phys.org

Most of the bears, which are a protected species under federal law, had killed livestock or had become habituated to human food sources, according to information posted on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team's website. There's no one specific reason for this year's increase, which comes after two years of relatively few grizzly bear euthanizations, said Frank van Manen, supervisory wildlife biologist and leader of the team. But factors that influence the situation include a larger population of bears pushing to the fringes of its core recovery area and a reduction in the availability of natural food sources. This year has seen relatively low whitebark pine cone production, van Manen said. The seeds of the cones are a great protein source found at high elevations, keeping bears away from more populated rural areas. In addition, it was a poor fall berry crop for chokecherries, another bear staple. "It's clear that a number of valuable food resources are in low supply this year," van Manen told The Billings Gazette (bit.ly/1XHm8Mz). Thirteen of the bears, the majority of them adult males captured in Wyoming, were euthanized for preying on livestock. That's out of a known 47 grizzly bears that have been killed or removed from the ecosystem in 2015. The other causes of death range from intraspecies killings by other bears to collisions with vehicles. In the past five years, including 2015, a total of 72 grizzly bears have been euthanized by managers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem after they killed cattle, destroyed property or became a nuisance by seeking food at homes and ranches. Just over half were removed for killing cattle and sheep. The 72 bears accounted for about one-third of all grizzly bear deaths in the ecosystem between 2011 and 2015. Daniel Thompson, large carnivore section specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said it's not unusual for management removals to climb and then recede. He pointed to 2010 as another busy year for biologists. That year, 15 bears were killed for repeated offenses, one was killed accidentally while being handled and six live bears were removed from the population. Eighteen other grizzlies were killed that year by hunters, homeowners or maliciously. "We have a high year like this, then it quiets down," Thompson said. Another reason for an increase in management removals is that there are simply more bears crowded into a confined area. Since bears need large home ranges and are territorial, young, old and female bears will often move to the fringes of prime habitat to avoid fights with large, dominant males. "Grizzly bears are moving into areas outside the recovery zone," van Manen said. "They are getting into more and more of those areas where the potential for conflicts are greater." The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem includes Yellowstone National Park and mountainous national forests in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho that border the park. The region encompasses about 9,200 square miles. Inside that boundary, the grizzly bear population was estimated last year at about 760 bears, which van Manen said is known to be an underestimate. Explore further: Of bears and berries: Return of wolves aids grizzly bears in Yellowstone


News Article | February 26, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Add this to the long list of problems caused by buzzing drones: Frightening 1,500 elk into stampeding at a time of year when too much stress can be deadly for the animals. This winter already is one for the books in western Wyoming. More than twice as much snowfall than usual has fallen in many areas, and more than 3 feet has accumulated at the National Elk Refuge in the scenic valley of Jackson Hole. Typically the National Elk Refuge provides a winter haven for elk. But on Monday, David A. Smart, 45, of Washington, D.C., got a $280 ticket for allegedly launching a drone from a highway pullout and flying it over hundreds of elk resting there. The device caused the elk to stampede half a mile through the snow. Smart was trying to film the animals and afterward was apologetic, refuge deputy manager Cris Dippel said Friday. Nonetheless, wildlife managers take animal harassment seriously. The federal crime of which Smart was accused, disturbing wildlife, is punishable by an up to $5,000 fine. The deep snow is a bane for animals, including bison hit by vehicles as they sought easier walking along plowed roads. Elk, moose, mule deer and antelope fatten up during green months so when winter hits they can subsist on less-nourishing forage often covered up by snow and ice. "It's a crucial time of year for those animals and they don't need to be burning up additional energy stores unnecessarily," said Doug Brimeyer, deputy wildlife division chief at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wyoming has several laws and regulations against harassing wildlife, including one that prohibits antler collecting during winter and part of the spring. Bull elk drop their antlers during late winter and early spring and too many avid antler collectors scaring elk with their snowmobiles prompted that state regulation in 2009. At the refuge, wildlife managers put out alfalfa pellets and other feed to help elk and bison survive the winter, a practice environmentalists worry could encourage disease. Chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease that causes elk and deer to lose weight and eventually die, has been slowly spreading into western Wyoming over the years. "The concern is if it is found on those feedgrounds, it could be exacerbated by the elk concentrated in those areas," said Chris Colligan with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "It's slowly creeping toward our fed elk populations." The state operates 22 other elk feedgrounds in western Wyoming. They serve to keep elk numbers up not just for the animals' sake but for the benefit of hunters and the millions of tourists who flock to the region every summer. "Anything we can do to afford those animals an edge to help them survive is pretty critical," said Brimeyer.


While such development has encroached on and hindered nesting habitat for three types of sagebrush-obligate birds, predation of these birds has increased because rodent populations in the vicinity of oil and gas wells have increased, which has, in turn, increased nest predation. Anna Chalfoun, a University of Wyoming associate professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and assistant unit leader of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, and her graduate students have been studying and collecting data about three species—the Brewer's sparrow, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher—in Wyoming for seven years. These birds use sagebrush for cover to build their nests on the ground or low to the ground within the sagebrush. The study, which began seven years ago, has taken place at six sites in Jonah Field and six more at the Pinedale Anticline in western Wyoming. "We found the majority of nest predators at the nests are rodents. Rodents are more abundant where there is natural gas development," Chalfoun says. "We tested the hypothesis that rodents were more abundant surrounding gas fields because their main predators (raptors, coyotes and badgers) avoided gas fields, but our data did not support this idea." vLindsey Sanders, a UW master's student in zoology and physiology from Boulder Creek, Calif., conducted work on the above hypothesis, Chalfoun says. Besides mice, these rodents include two species of squirrels—Uinta ground squirrels and the 13-striped ground squirrel. "We are now continuing to try to figure out why the rodents are in the natural gas development areas where there is (nesting) habitat loss," Chalfoun says. "We are seeing more rodents. We are not sure why they are drawn to those areas. Another hypothesis is that they are receiving food subsidies from the sometimes novel types of plants that establish in the reclaimed areas surrounding well pads and along pipeline scars." Sagebrush songbirds settled areas with more surrounding natural gas development, simultaneously or earlier than areas with less natural gas development. The birds settled there even though nest predation rates were higher. Their nesting period runs from May through late July. "Do songbirds prefer to settle in habitats that are not in gas fields? The answer is 'no,'" Chalfoun says. "Birds come from their wintering grounds just to breed. Songbirds apparently are not able to assess they are going to have higher nest predation there. "We've found that birds select sites with less energy development and lots of energy development at the same time. There's no pattern to settling areas with zero surrounding wells and areas that have tons of wells. As long as there are patches of significant sage, they are there. Yet, the birds are less successful at reproducing in gas well areas, suggesting these areas may be serving as ecological traps." Detection of most rodent species increased with natural gas development. One current hypothesis is that a number of sheds on property where natural gas fields exist have drawn in the rodents, who use the structures for protection, warmth and to build nests for their young. This behavior, in turn, may be attracting more predators of the rodents, Chalfoun says. "In places like the Jonah Field, there are lots of little sheds and structures," she says. "What if this is providing a source of rodents that depredate nests? If the infrastructure is harboring the rodents, do we go and put out traps?" From 2011-16, 93 percent of predation to Brewer's sparrows was caused by rodents. Of 44 predation events captured on infrared video camera, 24 were by deer mice. Chipmunks accounted for 11 nest deaths, while ground squirrels were responsible for six casualties. The loggerhead shrike, a type of bird, was responsible for the other three deaths. During the same time period, 60 percent of predation of 23 sage thrasher nest depredations caught on camera was caused by rodents, including deer mice (eight), chipmunks (eight) and ground squirrels (four). Badgers were responsible for six deaths and magpies two. A raccoon, loggerhead shrike, American kestrel, short-eared owl and northern harrier each accounted for one death. "I get jazzed to know what's going on," she says. "The mice are so aggressive. They sometimes suffocate and take the nestlings out one at a time. We've found the majority of nest predators at the nests are rodents. "We started this because state and federal agencies, such as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Geological Survey, were interested in the effects of habitat change on nongame species of wildlife," she says. Explore further: Can bird feeders do more harm than good?

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