Environment

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.   

Douglas Forest Protective Association

The number of acres burned by wildfires across the U.S. so far this year is less than half the 10 year average.

Figures from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise show 865,030 acres have burned this year throughout the country. That’s just 44 percent of the 10-year average. The 25,096 fires are 70 percent of the average.

Nathan Rupert / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge says the government has until 2018 to come up with a long-delayed recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx in the Lower 48 states.

Wildlife advocates had asked the court to force faster action for the snow-loving big cats, which were added to the threatened species list in 2000.

But U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says in a Wednesday order that a January 2018 deadline proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reasonable.

Molloy also ordered the agency to submit semi-annual progress reports.

Rob Cruickshank / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has set up 3,000 traps in southwest Idaho and budgeted $400,000 to fight a Japanese beetle infestation.

Agency spokesman Lloyd Knight says the department is also treating areas with insecticides to prevent the beetles from multiplying.

The beetles attack more than 300 different ornamental and agricultural plants, as well as flowers and fruit.

The larvae are also destructive, feeding on grass roots and damaging lawns, golf courses and parks.

Japanese beetles started multiplying in the Boise area in 2011.

Matthew Podolsky

For the last 35 years, Al Larson has been helping bluebirds thrive in Idaho. He loves bluebirds. He’s known around birding circles as Idaho’s “bluebird man.” “That’s what they call me. I haven’t sprouted wings yet,” Larson chuckles.

Downtown Boise
Seth Lemmons / Flickr Creative Commons

Boise is getting hotter faster than almost any other city in the nation according to an Associated Press report, but the Northwest as a region isn't warming as quickly as other parts of the country.

This post was updated at 2:05 p.m. on June 6.

Firefighters in central Idaho have contained an 80-acre wildfire burning about 10 miles south of Stanley and expect to have it controlled on Sunday.

Gold Fire spokeswoman Julie Thomas says crews succeeded in getting a line around the fire Friday morning despite flames moving into downed lodgepole pine.

She says three hotshot crews along with six engines and two water tenders are working within the perimeter of the fire to make sure it's out.

U.S. Forest Service Road 210 remains closed.

Pages