Environment

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Three earthquakes up to magnitude-4.2 and nearly a half-dozen aftershocks have jolted northern Idaho, with residents from Washington state to Montana saying they felt the tremors.

A Bonner County emergency dispatcher in Sandpoint said Friday morning that no injuries or damage were reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-4.1 quake hit first, around 7:32 p.m. Thursday. It was centered 30 miles northeast of Hayden.

Robin Bjork

An Idaho woman is studying the migration patterns of a rare bird in Central America. The three-wattled bellbird makes bell-like calls, and those sounds can travel half a mile. Some experts believe it’s the loudest bird in the world.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal authorities have made public the final management plan for six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments in southwestern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Monday published on the Federal Register the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Management Plan.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Agriculture Department has declared two northeast Nevada counties natural disaster areas due to the lingering drought with an emergency order that also makes emergency low-interest loans available to farmers, ranchers and businesses in parts of neighboring Idaho and Utah.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday declared Nevada's Elko and Eureka counties primary natural disaster areas. The disaster assistance that becomes available there also applies to contiguous counties in Utah — Box Elder and Tooele — and in Idaho's Cassia, Owyhee and Twin Falls counties.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

State biologists are telling the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission there is enough information to consider taking the gray wolf off the state endangered species list.

A draft status review was posted Tuesday on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website with materials for the commission's next meeting.

A final decision is not scheduled until August, but the commission is to make the first step in the process — deciding whether it has enough information to consider the issue - when it meets April 24 in Bend.

Tony Morris / Flickr Creative Commons

Government scientists say a warming climate could significantly reduce the amount of greater sage grouse habitat in portions of Wyoming, a key stronghold for the troubled bird species.

The chicken-sized grouse already has seen dramatic declines in recent decades due to disease, oil drilling, grazing and other factors.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists said a warming climate could become an even greater risk, reducing nesting habitat by 12 percent by 2050.

Images taken by the Thematic Mapper sensor onboard Landsat 5. Source: USGS Landsat Missions Gallery, Long Butte, Idaho Fire. / U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey

More than 7-million acres have burned in Idaho wildfires since 2004, and NASA satellites have captured how some of those fires have changed the regional landscape. 

Laura Gilmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Farmers in the Owyhee Basin are bracing for a very difficult summer season because this is the second year of an extreme drought.

The largely agricultural area along the border of Idaho and Oregon gets water from the Owyhee Reservoir, which is at just 27 percent of normal capacity. A dry and warm winter made replenishing the water supply difficult.

California Governor Jerry Brown ordered statewide mandatory water saving measures Wednesday. Water managers are preparing for drought in Oregon and Washington state as well.

In Nevada, federal wildlife officials have brokered a landmark conservation deal with a gold mining company that the government says could help protect thousands of acres of critical habitat for the greater sage grouse.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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