Environment

irmiller / Flickr

Scientists say water quality in the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane river basins in northern Idaho and eastern Washington state is improving due to ongoing efforts cleaning up one of the nation's largest Superfund sites.

The United States Geological Survey in a report released Monday says concentrations of cadmium, lead and zinc decreased significantly since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began the cleanup process in the 1990s.

However, the study also found that the concentration in some streams is above what's considered toxic to aquatic organisms.

Dana Orlosky / Flickr

A decades old proposal to upgrade Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to a national park is getting new life.

The monument's superintendent, Dan Buckley, is proposing the upgrade and says he's briefed Idaho's congressional delegation. The move would ultimately require congressional approval.

Idaho is the only state in the West without a national park entirely within its borders.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute announced Monday that trace amounts of radioactivity from Fukushima have been detected off the West Coast.

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

The directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management say a listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act can be avoided.

Dan Ashe of Fish and Wildlife and Neil Kornze of BLM made the comments Thursday in Boise as some of the nation's top federal land managers and rangeland scientists gathered at a conference to find ways to protect sage grouse habitat from massive wildfires.

In the last decade huge swaths of sage brush range the birds depend on have been destroyed by wildfires that often involve fire-prone invasive plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency is testing out a new technique for keeping heavily-used river banks from eroding into the water.

Federal wild horse specialists from Idaho and Oregon have been trained in how to shoot birth control darts into the rumps of wild horses.

Idaho officials have approved a coho salmon fishing season on the Clearwater River following efforts by the Nez Perce Tribe to bring salmon back after they disappeared about 30 years ago.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday approved the sport fishing season that starts Friday and runs through Nov. 16.

Anglers will be allowed to keep two coho salmon per day and up to 10 for the monthlong season on portions of the Mainstem and Middle Fork Clearwater River.

Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park | Flickr Creative Commons

Federal land managers in Idaho project minimal environmental damage from allowing a predator hunting derby to take place in the north-eastern part of the state.

That’s the finding of an environmental assessment released Wednesday. It’s part of a controversy that started last winter when hunters competed to kill wolves and coyotes during a two-day event.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Three northern Idaho counties are creating strategies for containing an oil spill as more oil is moving through the inland Northwest on trains.

Trains carry crude oil from North Dakota across the Idaho Panhandle at least twice a day. They run along lakes and rivers, and sometimes cross right over the water.

That’s made local emergency response managers in Boundary, Bonner and Kootenai counties even more nervous about what would happen if a train derailed.

The Bonneville Power Administration will pay Idaho about $40 million over 10 years to protect wildlife habitat in southern Idaho.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced the agreement Tuesday that's part of the utility's requirement to mitigate impacts that hydropower projects in southern Idaho have on wildlife.

The money will be paid to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

About $22 million will be used for restoration, acquisition and stewardship of at least 13.5 square miles of land. Another $4 million will be used to administer the program over 10 years.

Dave Shumaker / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho is famous for its crystal clear rivers. But these days, the Snake River is not one of them.

The Snake is the state’s largest river and it makes southern Idaho’s agriculture economy possible. But that industry is also polluting the Snake

The U.S. Geological Survey uses words like ‘degraded’ and ‘impaired’ to describe parts of the river. Richard Manning calls the Snake “Idaho’s sewer system.”

Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. Sept. 22.

A small wildfire burning southeast of Cascade has grown to 75 acres. The Bull Fire is burning in a remote area on the Boise National Forest.

Forest officials say 115 firefighters are now working on the blaze.

No structures are threatened by the fire, but the forest has closed a handful of trails in the area.

It’s not clear what started the fire, its cause is under investigation.

This story was originally posted at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chinook Salmon
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.

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.

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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