Associated Press

Travis S. / Flickr

Federal officials have released a plan to close about 30 square miles of grazing allotments to domestic sheep and goats in west-central Idaho to protect bighorn sheep from diseases.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's release of the final supplemental environmental impact statement closing three allotments starts a protest period that runs through June 19.

Two of the allotments are east of Riggins near the Salmon River and one is to the south along the Little Salmon River.

For the second year in a row, Idaho health officials say preliminary tests on dead ground squirrels south of Boise have come back positive for plague.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is still confirming the diagnosis, but officials are asking the public to be cautious.

A map of the infected area is a circle shape extending about 45 miles south from Boise to the Snake River. The boundary also extends over Interstate 84 but doesn't reach Mountain Home.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The new crop of bing cherries has been beset with growing problems this year that are reducing the size of the crop.

The Northwest's most popular cherry variety could be in short supply in 2016, after the five-state Cherry Commission on Wednesday lowered its outlook for the season to 18.3 million 20-pound boxes.

The Tri-City Herald reported that some farmers are warning that if conditions worsen, some bing orchards could go unpicked.

Bogus Basin Recreation Area

Idaho water managers say they will step up funding for a cloud seeding program that's already been credited with increasing the state's mountain snowpack.

The Capital Press reports that the Idaho Power Co. program releases silver iodine into the atmosphere, which helps ice form in the clouds and increases precipitation.

The cloud seeding began in 2003. Idaho Power estimates that the extra snowpack creates an average of 800,000 acre-feet of water, roughly the volume of the American Falls Reservoir. It generates enough hydro-power to supply 17,000 homes.

Steelhead
Matt Corsi / Idaho Fish and Game

The first attempt to delist one of the 13 species of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act has been denied by federal authorities.

The decision made public Thursday by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries cites concerns Snake River fall chinook wouldn't remain viable without continued protections.

An Alaska commercial fishing advocacy group called Chinook Futures Coalition requested the delisting in January 2015.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

For the first time, U.S. officials have sent firefighters to help battle a giant blaze in Canada that has destroyed parts of Fort McMurray in Alberta.

The National Interagency Fire Center says 100 firefighters flew out of in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday morning and another 100 left from Missoula, Montana.

Officials say the firefighters are from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.

The national YMCA has put its Twin Falls chapter on probation after finding widespread financial mismanagement at that branch.

The Times-News reports that a February assessment conducted by the national YMCA says the nonprofit organization's local board asked for help when it realized then-CEO Gary Ettenger was providing false financial information.

Ettenger stepped down in March. He could not be reached for comment.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

A coalition in southern Idaho hopes to turn Craters of the Moon National Monument into Idaho's first national park.

Butte County commissioner Rose Bernal told KIVI-TV that getting the monument national park status could provide a much-needed boost to the struggling local economy and draw tourists already headed to Yellowstone. But opponents fear a switch could lead to land use limitations.

Yellowstone National Park extends slightly into Idaho and Montana, but it's mostly in Wyoming.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

An Idaho Falls man is suing Idaho State University, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his Mormon faith.

The Post Register reports that Orin Duffin filed the lawsuit Friday. He says he was severely harassed while playing for the men's tennis team because of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

ISU spokesman Stuart Summers says school officials won't comment on the pending litigation.

Flickr Creative Commons

State officials say Idaho's unemployment rate in April dropped a tenth of a percent to 3.7 percent.

The Idaho Department of Labor in a news release Friday says job gains in construction, professional and business services, and education and health services helped drop the unemployment rate from the previous month.

The state agency says that based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho for the sixth consecutive month led the nation in percentage increase of jobs.

Total employment for Idaho grew by more than 1,900 to 777,780.

Extreme Medicine / Flickr Creative Commons

A group that helps wounded veterans climb mountains says a 30-year-old Boise native has become the first combat wounded veteran to summit Mount Everest.

The Heroes Project announced Thursday that retired U.S. Marine Corp Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville reached the 29,029-foot summit at 10:22 a.m. Mountain Time.

The group says it was the third attempt to reach the summit by the Boise High School graduate after previous tries in 2014 and 2015.

learning elementary student teacher
Alvin Trusty / Flickr Creative Commons

Experienced teachers in Idaho looking for a bonus will have to show their work just like their students under a new plan recently adopted by the Idaho State Board of Education.

Under the new state guidelines, teachers with at least eight years of experience will have to submit a portfolio documenting how they meet the standards required to receive a master teacher premium. These $4,000 bonuses won't go into effect until 2019, but the board wants to give enough time to teachers and school districts for preparation.

UGA College of Ag / Flickr

A federal judge has ordered Idaho to pay roughly a quarter million dollars in legal fees to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other groups who successfully sued the state over what they called the "ag-gag" law.

Idaho lawmakers passed the law making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agriculture operations in 2014 after the state's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their businesses.

FBI

Federal officials say an arrest warrant has been issued for a northern Idaho doctor found guilty of illegally distributing pain pills.

The FBI says 62-year-old Rafael L. W. Beier of Kingston skipped the verdict of his federal trial Tuesday and is considered armed and dangerous.

A federal jury found Beier guilty of 66 drug distribution and drug conspiracy charges. The verdict came on the second day of deliberations.

Authorities say that between 2012 and May 2014, Beier sold prescriptions for cash, meeting people at bars, parking lots, stores and in his office.

New York Canal
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho water regulators have ordered 160 eastern Idaho groundwater users to cut back their consumption.

The Post Register reports that the Idaho Department of Water Resources on Wednesday announced a curtailment order that will go into effect June 3 and will shift water rights over many upstream users to the Surface Water Coalition, a group of Magic Valley irrigators with senior water rights.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials in the central Idaho resort town of Ketchum are moving ahead with possibly installing three or four welcome signs.

The Ketchum City Council on Monday directed City Parks and Recreation Director Jen Smith to work with the Ketchum Arts Commission on potential designs.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that the council also wants to look into starting a fundraising campaign and a process for selecting an artist.

Councilman Baird Gourlay says he wants a sign where visitors can pull over and take photos.

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Senate Chambers Keough
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Two Idaho Supreme Court hopefuls are facing a runoff election with vote counting early Wednesday showing none of the top candidates having won more than 50 percent in Tuesday's primary.

Robyn Brody, an attorney from Rupert, and Curt McKenzie, a seven-term Republican state senator, were the top vote getters and are headed for a runoff in the November general election.

Authorities say an Idaho jail is no longer required to have federal oversight now that conditions have been improved.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the Canyon County jail has been under federal court oversight since the American Civil Liberties Union sued over what it called "indecent, cruel and inhumane" conditions there seven years ago.

Dept. of Defense

A military judge is delaying the start of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's military trial until February.

Col. Jeffrey Nance said during a pre-trial hearing Tuesday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina that delaying the court-martial from August should allow enough time to sort through access to classified documents by Bergdahl's defense team.

Nance also ordered military prosecutors to set up online access to court documents for news organizations covering the case of the soldier charged with desertion for leaving his combat outpost in Afghanistan and falling into Taliban hands.

Rocky Barker / Idaho Statesman

Federal officials are taking public comments on a plan to build about 400 miles of fire breaks in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon following last year's massive wildfire in the area.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says some of the fire breaks that follow road corridors have already been built on an emergency basis.

The agency is considering the environmental effects of creating more fuel breaks using mechanical and chemical treatments, plantings and targeted grazing.

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