Environment

Agriculture
12:23 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Why Boise Owns A 7 Square-Mile Farm (Hint: It's For Your Poop)

Ben Nydegger on one of five biosolids "bunkers" at Boise's 20 Miles South Farm.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Do you ever wonder where your poop goes when you flush the toilet? If you live in Boise, it ends up somewhere a little out of the ordinary. It goes to a place called 20 Mile South Farm, so named because it's 20 miles south of Boise.

“Everybody who flushes the toilet contributes to this fertilizer right here,” Says Ben Nydegger, Boise's biosolids program manager.

Biosolids is the industry term for the stuff he’s standing next to. It’s a dark-brown pile about three-feet-tall and roughly twice the area of an Olympic swimming pool.

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Columbia River
10:43 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Record Number Of Chinook Salmon Return To The Columbia River

Chinook salmon are one of four main salmon species to migrate to the Columbia River each year.
Credit Joe Parks / Flickr Creative Commons

The number of returning chinook salmon on the Columbia River has taken a dramatic upswing. Over the weekend, 107,000 chinook salmon climbed the fish ladder at Bonneville dam.

A spokeswoman with the Columbia Inter Tribal Fish Commission, Sara Thompson, says those numbers set a new record.

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Wildlife
5:45 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Groups Plan To Sue Over Feds' Wildlife-Killing Tactics In Idaho

File photo of a coyote

Four environmental groups said Monday they will sue the USDA's Wildlife Services program to stop what they call the unlawful killing of wildlife in Idaho.

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Wolverine
3:55 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming Support Wolverine Decision

Credit Roy Anderson / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State wildlife agency directors from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say they support the recent decision to deny endangered species protections to the rare wolverine.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew proposed protections last month, reversing its prior stance that climate change threatened the snow-loving animals in the Lower 48 states.

In a letter submitted Friday to major newspapers in the region, the three state directors applauded the move and wrote that wolverine populations are on the rebound.

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Environment
1:56 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Defense Department Detonates Explosives In Eastern Idaho Rock Bed

Credit Defense Threat Reduction Agency

Something unusual happened Thursday near Newdale in eastern Idaho. The Department of Defense detonated more than 200 pounds of explosives deep underground near the old Teton Dam site.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an anti-terrorism branch of the government founded in 1998, says it wanted to conduct the test to better understand how the specific rock type found in that area absorbs shock waves.

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Environment
9:50 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Work To Improve Salmon Habitat In Central Idaho Set To Begin

Credit Roger Tabor / USFWS Pacific

Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho have approved permits what will allow workers to improve fish passage on a key stream for chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that commissioners last week approved work expected to start this week on Pole Creek.

The creek is designated critical habitat for the fish.

The stream-alteration and flood plain conditional-use permit means a culvert on private property that impedes fish passage will be replaced with a bridge.

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Science
1:53 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

There's A Big Leak In America's Water Tower

Joe Giersch, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, studies stoneflies that live only in the melt from glaciers and snowpack in the northern Rockies.
Clint Muhlfeld USGS

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 5:29 pm

The northern arm of the Rocky Mountains is sometimes called "the crown of the continent," and its jewels are glaciers and snowfields that irrigate large parts of North America during spring thaw.

But the region is getting warmer, even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists now say warming is scrambling the complex relationship between water and nature and could threaten some species with extinction as well as bring hardship to ranchers and farmers already suffering from prolonged drought.

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Environment
4:19 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Winter Or Wildfires? See When Treasure Valley Air Is Most Polluted

See the interactive chart below.

The Treasure Valley has seen a handful of wildfire-induced hazy days this summer, but it's been nothing like 2012 or 2013 when big wildfires around the region brought smoke into Boise and surrounding communities, settling in the valleys and making it hard to breathe.

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Environment
6:13 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

EPA Says Idaho Must Clean Up The Air In The Silver Valley

File photo. Wood stoves are a major contributor to air pollution throughout the Northwest.

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 6:03 pm

The EPA has given the state of Idaho notice that a corner of the Idaho panhandle isn't meeting stricter new air quality standards. The agency intends to change that by forcing the state to reduce what are called “fine particulates” in the air.

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Environment
9:03 am
Wed August 20, 2014

North Idaho Set To Begin Negotiations Over Water Rights

Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

The state of Idaho is preparing to establish water rights in the northern part of the state. It's a relatively water-abundant area, not prone to the sort of conflicts that have erupted elsewhere like Oregon's Klamath Basin.

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Wildfires
1:50 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Bigger, Faster Air Tankers Help Forest Service Tackle Wildfires

A DC-10 firefighting aircraft drops fire retardant in northern California in 2008. As the Forest Service expands and modernizes its fleet of air tankers, it has recently added several DC-10s.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 9:47 am

In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.

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Environment
9:58 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Dredging On Docket For Managing Lower Snake River Sediment

Idaho's Clearwater River.
Credit J Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its final plan and environmental impact statement for managing sediment accumulation in the lower Snake and Clearwater rivers in northern Idaho.

The plan calls for dredging the navigation channel of the lower Snake River at the confluence of the Clearwater River as early as between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28 this winter.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that the agency has been working on the plan since 2005. The final plan is more than 3,900 pages and cost $16 million to prepare.

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Wildlife
5:51 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Triple Rescue And Rehab Ends Well For Lucky Ospreys

Rehabbed osprey flies away after its release Wednesday in Finley, Washington.
Andrea Berglin

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 6:23 pm

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

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Environment
10:20 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Canadian Mine Dam Break Could Threaten Northwest Salmon Fisheries

This aerial image shows Monday's Mount Polley dam break and some of the damage downstream.
Credit Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre

A dam break at a central British Columbia mine could threaten salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Polley is an open-pit copper and gold mine roughly 400 miles north of Seattle. A dam holding back water and silt leftover from the mining process broke Monday. It released enough material to fill more than 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Government regulators have not yet determined its content. But documents show it could contain sulfur, arsenic and mercury.

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Environment
5:21 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Holy Mackerel (Er, Sturgeon)! Giant Idaho Fish Weighs In At 470 Pounds

This 10-foot-long female sturgeon was caught on the Snake River. She was measured by Idaho Power biologists Clayton Waller and Chad Reininger.
Credit Courtesy Idaho Power

This, folks, is a 470-pound sturgeon that was recently reeled in, tagged, and released by Idaho Power. The 10-foot-long female was caught in Hells Canyon on the Snake River. Did we mention this fish is 75 years old? That means she was born in 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.

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Wildfires
10:00 am
Thu July 24, 2014

At More Than 9,000 Acres, The Whiskey Complex Fire Is 75 Percent Contained

A firefighter uses a drip torch along the South Fork Payette River Road.
Credit Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 10:00 a.m. July 24, 2014. 

The Whiskey Complex Fire burning in the Boise National Forest is now 75 percent contained.

The fire is estimated at 9,446 acres. The Forest Service says 851 people are staffing the fire, which is expected to be fully contained by July 28.

The voluntary evacuation order for 60 homes along the South Fork Road has been lifted, while the closure of the South Fork Payette River Road is still in effect. Access to that road is only available to fire crews and residents.

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Environment
6:30 am
Thu July 24, 2014

At Least One Idaho Wind Farm Has Been Scrapped Because Of Sage Grouse

A southeast Idaho wind farm
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The New York Times reports more than two dozen energy projects in the West have been scuttled because of sage grouse, at least one of those projects was supposed to be built in Idaho.

The sage grouse represents a much bigger challenge for states like Idaho than its turkey-like stature might suggest. The bird is considered an important part of the high desert ecosystem, but it's sensitive to man-made development and its numbers are declining.

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Wildfires
9:59 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Dry Conditions, Hot Weather Make Fighting Idaho's Whiskey Complex Wildfire A Challenge

Firefighters work to clear brush on the Boise National Forest as smoke from the Whiskey Complex hangs in the air.
Credit Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

Fire officials working to contain and control the Whiskey Complex wildfires burning near Garden Valley, Idaho say conditions on the ground are more like late August, not mid July. "This demonstrates how the very dry vegetation challenges the suppression efforts," spokesperson Dave Olson writes.

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Weather
1:40 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Is It Hot Enough In Idaho? Keep Cool And Save Money With These 9 Tips

The life-giving sun can sometimes be too much to take in an Idaho summer. We have ways you can cool your home down.
Credit photonut-mi / Flickr

The last few days have been scorchers, and the National Weather Service says the heat will continue at least into next week. Everyone is looking for ways to stay cool.

One spot that should always provide respite is your home. Idaho Power has these tips on how to keep your house cool, while saving a little money on air conditioning.

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Water
7:02 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Farmers Urge EPA To 'Ditch' Proposed Clean Water Act Revisions

Angela Bailey farms decorative trees and shrubs near Gresham, Oregon.

Water is a common and often contentious issue in the West. But now, farmers across the country are also riled up because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to revise the 1972 Clean Water Act.

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