Environment

John Miller / AP Photo

Two federal agencies have approved a 2.4-mile-long open pit phosphate mine proposed by a Canadian company in southeastern Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service late last week issued separate decisions approving the plan by Calgary-based Agrium Inc.

The BLM manages the area where the mining will occur, while the Forest Service manages land that will receive waste materials.

Associated Press

Environmental groups are asking a federal court to halt 11 infrastructure projects on four lower Snake River dams in Washington state that could ultimately be removed if a pending review determines the dams need to come out in order to help salmon.

The 45-page notice filed late Monday in Portland, Oregon, estimates the cost of the projects at $110 million.

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

The Obama administration offered five possible plans Thursday for limiting mining on federal land in the West to protect the vulnerable greater sage grouse, but it isn't saying which it prefers.

The options range from banning new mining activity on about 15,000 square miles for up to 20 years to imposing no additional restrictions on mine locations.

The rules would affect sage grouse habitat on federal land in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

Ed Cannady / edcannadyphotography.com

A new book takes a unique look at Idaho’s wild places. Titled “Idaho Wilderness Considered,” the book is more than a field guide to the state’s backcountry. It includes personal journeys, political stories and historical snapshots of the wilderness character of Idaho.

Co-editor Murray Feldman says the book grew out of the Idaho Humanities Council’s two year-long reading and conversation series on wilderness. The catalyst was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014.

Dmitry.S. / Flickr

Federal authorities have announced the establishment of a 7,000-square-mile watershed conservation area in three states that includes major migration corridors for birds and mammals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday gave notice that it has established the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Its creation is part of a plan to protect wildlife habitat by buying perpetual conservation easements from willing private landowners.

Parolan Harahap / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill.

Friday's announcement follows a 2015 court order for the agency to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

The requirement would apply to hard rock mining, which includes mines for precious metals and other ores.

Yellowstone National Park, Bison, Lamar Valley
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Yellowstone National Park biologists say more than 900 wild bison would need to be killed or removed this winter to begin reducing the size of herds that spill into neighboring Montana.

The park has an estimated 5,500 bison, the highest number since at least 2000.

Park officials meet Thursday with state, tribal and U.S. Agriculture Department representatives to discuss options for managing the animals.

Biologists say 900 would need to be removed just to stabilize population growth.

Daniel Rowe / Flickr

A conservation group has filed a lawsuit contending the U.S. Forest Service is violating environmental laws by issuing grazing permits to central Idaho livestock growers with a long history of violating permit restrictions.

Western Watersheds Project in the lawsuit filed Wednesday says the Forest Service is issuing the permits knowing cattle grazers aren't following guidelines in the area that also includes the newly-formed White Clouds Wilderness.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s 60 miles across, mostly hidden from view and vital to the economy of Idaho. Much of the time, the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer gets little attention, even from people who rely on it every day. Without it, farmland would disappear and cities from Twin Falls to Rexburg would dry up. As we begin our series on water in Idaho, we take a closer look at the state’s largest “body” of water, hidden underneath the Snake River Plain.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Idaho Fish and Game researchers are testing a new method of fish population control. The idea is to use a female hormone that causes male-born fish to produce eggs when they mature.

By using a hormonal treatment on the fish, the biologists hope to create a monosex trout population that will eventually be unable to breed, which could keep unwanted fish populations at bay in streams around the state.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Managers of the Boise National Forest say one small section of their jurisdiction is in crisis. But that small section is the Bogus Basin Resort, which means addressing this crisis is urgent and difficult.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Last year’s massive Soda Fire burned more than 400 square miles of rangeland in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. That includes the food source for the area's three wild horse herds.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

A Boise State academic is studying what it takes for humans and large carnivores to live together in the same environment.

Neil Carter is an assistant professor at Boise State. His study tries to figure out how humans can successfully coexist with large carnivores, like bears, wolves and tigers.

He found that humans are already adapting to living with animals, as we encroach on their territory. But he also found that the animals are adapting, too, to changes brought by people.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Barber Dam in east Boise lost power one night in February of 2015. Once offline, the flow of water through the hydroelectic plant stopped – causing the river to run dry for about eight hours.

Simon Engel / Flickr

Last week, an Idaho environmental group accused a plastic bag producer of violating federal laws on reporting toxic waste.

Now the Idaho Conservation League says it was mistaken in its initial assessment. ICL says Novolex’s Jerome facility is in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We are pleased to say that Novolex has demonstrated to us that its Jerome facility was in compliance with EPA emission reporting requirements,” said Austin Hopkins, Conservation Assistant for the ICL.

Tom Jefferson

An Idaho filmmaker is part of a desperate battle to help save the world’s smallest cetacean.

Last June, we first told you about Matthew Podolsky and his documentary on an Idaho man who's spent 35 years helping the state's bluebirds. But lately, Podolsky has been filming a short documentary in Mexico, trying to save what’s often called “the Panda of the Sea.”

Sean Maxwell / Flickr Creative Commons

If you're looking for something to do Saturday and have an interest in eco-friendly homes, you should consider checking out the straw bale house being built in East Boise.

Brad Smith / Flickr

Honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate. For several years, scientists have been looking at a number of factors that may be influencing their survival. Now, a University of Idaho scientist has found a working model that may explain why honeybee colonies collapse.

UI professor Brian Dennis built a mathematical model that shows the size of the beehive may be the critical factor in colony collapse disorder. That’s when too many bees in a hive die or disappear and the hive falls apart.

Legislature Live screenshot

A packed meeting at the Idaho statehouse this afternoon focused on the hot topic of federal lands. The House and Senate resource committees convened to welcome speakers from Utah advocating that public lands be transferred from the federal government to Western states. The meeting did not include any public testimony.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Fewer than three percent of those polled said the environment should be the first priority of state lawmakers. That's according to a new survey from Boise State University – which 1,000 Idaho residents took part in a month ago. Those surveyed rate protecting the environment far below economic growth. Respondents were mostly split along party lines, with Democrats more likely to prioritize the environment over Republicans.

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