Environment

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. 

Oil companies in North Dakota are looking for the fastest and cheapest way to get their product to refineries, and they've set their sights on moving more of their product by rail to the Northwest.

There are six new oil terminals proposed for Washington state. Half of them could be built in the small communities around Grays Harbor, a bay on the Pacific coast about 50 miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River.

National Weather Service Boise

So far, February is turning out to be an unusually warm month in southern Idaho. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), temperatures for the first two weeks of the month have been 10 degrees above normal and have included two record-breaking high temperatures.

NWS Boise hydrologist Troy Lindquist says a wet and cooler spring would help the situation, and an early mountain snowmelt makes this year's water picture less sustainable.

Rob Swatski / Flickr Creative Commons

Spiders are out and about in Boise. University of Idaho entomologist Ed Bechinski says it's early for Idaho spiders to be out of hibernation (specifically in their case it's known as diapause).

But Bechinski isn’t surprised these arachnids are out. He says southwest Idaho's unseasonably warm temperatures are plenty to tell spiders that spring is here.

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

Spending on a government-sponsored initiative to help struggling sage grouse populations in the West is projected to exceed $750 million by 2018.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday the money will conserve an estimated 8 million acres of sage grouse habitat. Federal officials are more than halfway to that goal since starting the Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010.

The chicken-sized birds are found in 11 Western states. They're being considered for federal protections after their numbers plummeted in recent decades.

A House committee has advanced to the full Idaho House a bill aimed at eliminating federal Clean Water Act protections for suction dredges and also opening Wild and Scenic Rivers to the miners.

The bill before the House Resources and Conservation Committee on Wednesday narrowly avoided dying in committee amid constitutionality concerns with a first vote that ended in a 9-9 tie.

The committee than approved by voice vote sending the bill the full House but with an amendment.

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

A group of pro-wildlife organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday against two federal agencies over animal control operations in Idaho. The suit names the USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The court filing alleges:

Last Friday much of eastern Washington and Oregon was pelted with a dirty rain, but so far scientists do not agree on a cause.

MHall209 / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's $2.4 billion dairy industry is no longer at risk of losing its operating permits if caught illegally dumping waste into streams and waterways.

The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee approved new rules Tuesday that would no longer allow the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to revoke a dairy facility's permit if caught illegally discharging wastewater or sewage. Instead, dairies would face a fine up to $10,000.

The rules are in compliance of a law that Idaho Republican lawmakers passed in 2014.

Matt Woodard / Trout Unlimited

A unique group of conservationists, ranchers and miners was recently awarded a $430,000 federal grant to continue rehabilitation of a native Idaho trout. 

The project began in 2011, when the Yellowstone cutthroat trout was in decline on the Upper Blackfoot River in southeast Idaho. The native fish were getting caught in shallow ditches created by old irrigation systems used by area ranchers. The land sat on two tributaries of the Upper Blackfoot.

Miguel Vieira / Flickr Creative Commons

A committee of Idaho lawmakers tasked with looking at the possibility of acquiring federal lands - and putting them under state control - has issued a report to the full Legislature. 

The committee of nine  lawmakers and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney was formed as a way to explore sentiments on the issue, and to see if there’s a legitimate way for Idaho to take over control of federal land.

deq.idaho.gov

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) this week released several reports on important aquifers around the country. Idaho’s Snake River Plain Basin features in two of those reports. About a fifth of Idahoans rely on that aquifer as their only source of drinking water.

Government agriculture officials will kill up to 5,000 ducks, geese, chickens, pheasants and turkeys due to a bird flu outbreak at a hunting operation Washington's Okanogan county.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

Forty-four staffers who worked for U.S. Sen. Frank Church have sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to designate a national monument in central Idaho.

The letter dated Tuesday notes that the Idaho Democrat worked to preserve much of the state's wild areas during his 24 years in the Senate and that the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is named in his honor.

A plan by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho to designate a wilderness in the area has failed for years, though Simpson is working another effort.

wolf, wildlife, yellowstone
Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

This story was updated Jan. 23, 2015.

Idaho biologists say the number of wolves is likely declining, but their count of breeding pairs of wolves -- a key number used to measure the health of the state’s wolf population -- has actually gone up.

Initial estimates suggested the number of breeding pairs could be as low as 15. But Idaho Fish & Game biologist Jim Hayden said that they have been able to confirm at least 22 breeding pairs, up two from last year’s count.

Michael / Flickr Creative Commons

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is in Idaho. The virus is usually spread by wild waterfowl to domestic birds and has recently been found in Oregon, Washington, Utah, and California.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to remove Western juniper from a 1.5 million-acre area of public land in southwest Idaho to conserve sage grouse habitat.

BLM Boise District Manager Jim Fincher in a statement Friday says conserving habitat for sage grouse is a key method for improving an entire rangeland ecosystem.

The agency is hosting two public meetings to provide information about the plan in Owyhee County. The first is in Boise on Feb. 4 and the second in Murphy on Feb. 5.

Comments can also be sent to the agency by Feb. 20.

Dredging of the Lower Snake River started Monday after a delay of several weeks due to a court challenge.

Jason / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on plans to build a road and bring drilling equipment to a remote area of Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

American Independence Mines and Mineral Company wants to turn a profit on gold ore near Big Creek on the Payette National Forest.

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