Environment

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Whiskey complex, wildfires
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.

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.

Whiskey complex, wildfires
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.

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.

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.

Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho has long restricted cutting down trees along stream banks as a way to keep water cool for trout and a salmon. On July 1, an updated version of the so-called shade rule goes into effect.   

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