Environment

Gray wolves are a controversial and polarizing animal in much of the American West. Wolves have slowly come back from extinction, forcing people to learn how to coexist with the cunning predator. One farmer is teaching his cattle to huddle together as bison do when threatened — there is safety in numbers.

A new independent review finds the federal government used uncertain science when it proposed taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list across the Lower 48.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Idaho Fish and Game officers and Garden City police tracked down and killed a mountain lion in Garden City Thursday.  The animal was shot along the Boise River Greenbelt in the Riverside subdivision around 5:30 p.m.

An eyewitness says the cougar was under his front porch. It ran from that location and the chase began.  Police, conservation officers and a houndsman tracked the animal through backyards and common areas in the subdivision.  They say they were hoping to tree the animal, tranquilize it and then move it to another location.

Idaho Transportation Department

“Avalanche Alley” will close at 6:00 p.m. Friday as a safety precaution. That’s the 12-mile stretch of Idaho 21 between Grandjean Junction and Banner Summit.  

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) reports the area received eight inches of snow Friday morning and more snowfall is expected Friday night and Saturday.

The area averages more than 250 inches of snow which brings 45-50 slides each year. About 90 percent of avalanches that affect Idaho highways happen on "Avalanche Alley."

The Northwest is finally getting a dose of the icy cold weather we've been hearing about this winter from the rest of the country.

At a 10,000-foot summit in Yosemite National Park, Frank Gehrke clicks into his cross-country skis and pushes off down a small embankment onto a meadow of crusty snow. He's California's chief of snow surveys, one of the most influential jobs in a state where snow and the water that comes from it are big currency. He's on his monthly visit to one of a dozen snowpack-measuring stations scattered across the high country of the Sierra Nevada.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Republicans in Congress say a 40-year-old law meant to protect animals and plants from extinction has become bogged down by litigation and needs to be updated.

A group of 13 GOP lawmakers released a report Tuesday detailing their proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, one of the nation's cornerstone environmental laws.

Proponents credit the act with staving off extinction for hundreds of species — from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale. President Richard Nixon signed it into law in December 1973.

Neil Paprocki

People in Idaho are seeing more raptors because golden eagles and red-tailed hawks aren't flying as far south for winter. That's according to a new study from Boise State University. The study authors say the change in migration habits means fewer of the birds of prey are being spotted in southern states.

drought, field, agriculture
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

Growers of sugar beets and potatoes in eight counties along southern Idaho's Snake River could be in jeopardy after a fish hatchery's complaint it isn't getting its fair share of water.

Idaho Department of Water Resources' director Gary Spackman signed an order Wednesday telling 2,300 water-right holders they'll have to shut down irrigation if they can't reach a compromise with Rangen Inc, a Hagerman-based fish farm.

wolf, wildlife, yellowstone
Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

Idaho wildlife managers called off a professional wolf hunter who has been killing predators inside a federal wilderness area.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Monday said it was halting the hunt after nine wolves were killed.

It had planned to keep hunter Gus Thoreson of Salmon in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness this winter as it sought reduce wolves and bolster low elk populations there.

Wolf advocates initially lost their bid for a court order to force Thoreson to quit hunting wolves from his base on U.S. Forest Service territory.

TheJesse / Flickr Creative Commons

Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho have agreed to draft a resolution describing what they'd like to see in a presidential proclamation designating a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.

Commissioners say they want to take additional comments from the public before drafting the resolution.

The Boulder-White Clouds is a 500,000 acre roadless area in east-central Idaho. Parts of those lands have been considered before for either monument or protected wilderness status.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

The federal government's management plan for protecting salmon and steelhead killed by federal dams in the Columbia River basin differs little from its earlier version and continues to rely heavily on habitat improvement. 

It's not something we often think about, but as we go about daily life, we're constantly shedding little flakes of skin. So are animals and fish.

Boise National Forest

Republican Sen. Mike Crapo says he expects wildfire funding legislation he introduced just before Christmas to get bipartisan support in Washington.

Crapo and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, introduced the legislation on December 19. If approved, it would bolster funding for the U.S. Forest Service.

At issue is the agency’s firefighting budget, which is regularly exhausted before a wildfire season ends. Funds from other parts of the agency’s budget are then used to cover additional costs. That money often comes from fire prevention budgets, which can make future fires worse.

Elk
GoCyclones / Flickr Creative Commons

Hunters and other interested parties have one more chance to comment on Idaho's proposed new elk management plan.

The state has spent the last several years working on a plan to replace the current version, which went into effect in 1999. Fish and Game's deer and elk program coordinator, Toby Boudreau, says the 15-year-old plan is now obsolete.

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

Yellowstone National Park administrators say shooting wild bison with vaccine-laced "biobullets" to prevent the spread of an animal disease would be too ineffective to justify the expense.

Tuesday's announcement means a program that has led to the periodic capture and slaughter of thousands of migrating bison will continue.

For more than a decade, wildlife officials have weighed shooting Yellowstone bison with absorbable, vaccine-laced bullets to prevent the spread of the disease brucellosis to livestock. The concept was supported by cattle ranchers.

AlistarHoward / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials with the National Weather Service have issued an avalanche warning for central Idaho's Sun Valley region, warning that both natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely.

The Times-News reports the warning will remain in effect until further notice for the Sawtooth, western Smoky and Soldier Mountains as well as for alpine terrain near Galena Summit.

The snowpack in the Mountain West this year is at just a small fraction of its normal level. In fact, 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of California, and there's little relief in sight. But water managers are trying to squeeze every last raindrop out of Mother Nature with a technology developed in the state more than 50 years ago: cloud seeding.

WaterArchives / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter aims to build billions of dollars in new or expanded Idaho dams, to capture more water in his state's drought-stricken southern desert for crops, cities and flushing endangered salmon to the sea.

He's asking lawmakers to give him $15 million down payment for, among other things, studying whether a new era of dam building make sense, given somebody will have to pay for it.

One project he's pushing, a new Weiser River dam, could be used for everything from flood control to electricity.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Some conservation groups are suing federal and state officials over Idaho's plan to track and kill wolves from two packs in central Idaho.

The lawsuit, filed by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and Wilderness Watch on Monday, asks the judge to stop the extermination immediately to give the case time to work through the courts.

Pages