Environment

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Monsanto Corporation has agreed to pay $600,000 in fines for hundreds of uncontrolled releases of dangerous chemicals at its phosphate plant in eastern Idaho.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced the agreement Thursday involving the company's facilities in Soda Springs.

Federal officials say the chemicals released are hazardous and can pose serious health risks to workers and the community.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened for comment a proposed plan to change the status of a herd of caribou in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington from endangered to threatened.

The agency on Tuesday opened the 30-day comment period based on new information.

The agency made the initial proposal last May after deciding to lump the small herd into the Southern Mountain Caribou population that has another 14 herds in Canada.

But Canadian officials recently determined those herds are faltering and should also be listed as endangered.

Flickr Creative Commons

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area are being cautioned that bears are out of hibernation and are hungry after their long rest.

Park officials are asking visitors to make noise and travel in groups of three or more. They should carry bear spray and know how to use it and always stay at least 100 yards from bears.

Typically, about half of adult male bears are out of their dens by mid-March, and females with their yearlings emerge shortly after that.

A coalition of conservation groups and the Nez Perce tribe are challenging the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The Idaho Conservation League and four other groups this month filed an objection with the federal agency as a first step in a potential lawsuit.

Terry R. Thomas / naturetrack.com

If you Google "snow geese" here are some of the headlines you'll find right now...

  • “Thousands of Snow Geese Fall Dead From Sky in Idaho” - Yahoo News
  • “2,000 Snow Geese Drop Dead From the Sky in Idaho” CNN
  • “2,000 Snow Geese Fall Dead ‘Out of the Sky’ in Idaho” – USA Today
  • “Basically, They Just Fell Out of the Sky’: 2,000 Snow Geese Found Dead in Idaho” – Washington Post
U.S. Forest Service

State and federal land managers are preparing to burn up to 30,977 acres across southwest Idaho to reduce excessive trees and brush that could contribute to larger wildfires later this year.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Lands are coordinating to manage the intentional fires.

Tony Cyphert / Flickr Creative Commons

The population of trumpeter swans that winters in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana was 26 percent larger this year than last year. This continues the dramatic comeback of a species that nearly disappeared from the lower 48 states due to hunting.

Jeff Knetter, the top migratory bird specialist at Idaho’s Fish and Game Department, says in 1968 there were fewer than 900 trumpeter swans in the Yellowstone area. And that was the last place they could be found outside Alaska and Canada.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr Creative Commons

About 750 acres in northern Idaho that's habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife has been preserved through a federal grant purchase.

The Spokesman-Review reports that a family last month sold the development rights to the land along the Kootenai River north of Bonners Ferry for $798,000.

The grant money through the federal Forest Legacy Program is intended to protect habitat for wildlife while also providing recreation for visitors and allowing logging to continue.

Aaron Maizlish / Flickr

Eleven biologists who study the greater sage grouse tell top federal officials the government isn't preparing to do enough to protect the ground-dwelling birds.

Greater sage grouse inhabit 11 states, including Idaho, and face federal protection because their numbers have declined dramatically over the past century.

In a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the 11 scientists say the federal government is abandoning science-based conservation of the birds.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal agencies will release more water to flow on the Boise River Friday.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers will increase flow from 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 750 cfs through the city of Boise.

Jeff Jones / Flickr Creative Commons

Warm temperatures in February have taken a toll on winter snowpack in the Cascade Mountains and other areas in the West.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said Wednesday that nearly a third of monitoring sites in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada reported the lowest snowpack ever measured as of March 1, and some sites didn't have snow.

Snowpack in Nevada, Utah and Idaho also fell farther below normal.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

The 27-page report released Tuesday calls for protecting areas most at risk by using veteran crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond quickly. The previous strategy didn't call for specific efforts to protect the habitat.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park | Flickr

Idaho officials say 19 wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.

Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game tells the Lewiston Tribune in Lewiston that elk numbers in the region have dropped dramatically over the past 26 years.

L.Hutton / Flickr Creative Commons

Oregon, Idaho, and Washington residents are among the top polluters in the nation when it comes to fine particle emissions from burning wood to heat homes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists Oregon, Idaho and Washington as seventh, eighth and ninth respectively in per capita emissions.

The three states share chilly climates, a tradition of wood burning, and lots of national forest land with easy access and where U.S. Forest Service managers appreciate the removing of some trees to reduce potential forest fires.

Former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus have filed a notice of their intent to sue the federal government over proposed shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel rods to Idaho.

The former governors sent the notice Thursday to the U.S. Department of Energy seeking to halt the shipments scheduled to arrive in June and December at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

Batt, a Republican, and Andrus, a Democrat, both fought commercial nuclear waste shipments culminating with a 1995 agreement banning them.

Dan Stahler / Yellowstone National Park | Flickr

Trappers killed 77 gray wolves in Montana during the 2014-2015 season that ended over the weekend.

That's down from the previous trapping season, when 87 wolves were killed.

To date, a total of 204 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers this winter. Montana's rifle hunting season for the animals ends March 15.

Idaho hunters and trappers have killed 205 wolves, as of Feb. 25.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Last month was the warmest February ever recorded in Boise.

The National Weather Service says the city broke records for average high temperatures, warmest average low temperatures and warmest average temperature. The region also received more rain than usual.

The average high temperature in Boise was 53.2 degrees. That broke a record set in 1992 by a half degree. The previous record for average lows was set in 1983. The previous record for warmest average temperature in a February was set in 1963.

Such records have been kept in Boise since 1940. 

Lonnie Hutson

An Idaho artist has immortalized the state’s native fish, in the hopes that his art will encourage people to protect local rivers.

The health of Idaho’s rivers was the catalyst for a new art exhibit of native fish on display at the College of Idaho’s Rosenthal Gallery of Art. Artist Lonnie Hutson lives 25 miles outside of Moscow. When he’s not making art, he’s a river outfitter. He says the two professions are closely linked.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

In the middle of working farms between the towns of Notus and Parma, the city of Boise owns a 49 acre field. In March the city plans to start construction there on a unique project to reduce phosphorus in the Boise and Snake Rivers. It's generally referred to as the Dixie Drain Project.

The site for the upcoming project is close enough to the Boise River that you can see the trees along its banks a little to the north.  In the other direction there’s a bluff that disappears into the horizon. But the key feature is the water that runs through the site and empties into the river.

Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington

The Idaho Department of Lands has proposed conservation practices to protect sage grouse from mining as well as oil and gas development. According to a department press release, the draft plan works with Gov. Butch Otter's outline for sage grouse protection.

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